Which Social Media Channels Are Right for my Small Business?

It’s generally accepted that businesses need to be active on social media in order to reach and connect with existing and potential customers.  But creating, maintaining and engaging on all channels can be overwhelming, especially for small businesses. If you’re new to business, new to social media or simply feeling stressed trying keep up, there’s good news. You don’t have to do it all! That’s right, ignore the growing number of active social media platforms, and focus on the ones that truly improve your business.

But of the hundreds of platforms that exist already, how do you know which ones work for your business? To start, focus only on the ones you hear about every day: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit and Pinterest. Then, follow these steps to decide where to spend your time to get the most out of social media.

Picture your ideal customer

The first step in finding where your customers spend their time is to figure out who they are. Who is already engaged with your brand and what do they have in common? What habits do they keep as far as shopping, communicating and spending their free time? Write down everything you know about the people you want to reach with your business, and be as detailed as possible. 

Do your research

Now that you have your ideal customer, or persona, it’s time to find out where they spend their time. There are countless resources that can help you identify the demographic breakdown of each popular channel. To start, this article from Social Media Week compares each channel by age, gender and habits.

A few examples:

  • Instagram is primarily women and 90% of users are under the age of 35
  • Pinterest users are more evenly distributed among the 18-64 year-olds and are 10% more likely to make an ecommerce purchase than users on other channel

  • Reddit is 67% male and 64% are under the age of 30

This article from Sprout Social breaks down each platform by gender, location, education, household income and more.

Note: If you already have accounts set up and want to learn more about your current audience, use the free tools within each platform to gather some information. They’re available within any admin account and are called “Insights” or “Analytics,” depending on the platform. 

Play around & do some testing

Once you’ve done some research and identified your audience, it’s time to give it a try. Pick one or two platforms and start posting. See how you like it. Does it feel like you’re able to accurately represent your brand and connect with customers? Make a list of things you don’t like or don’t understand about the platform. Read up on changes to rules or layout (Facebook is always changing!) and test out different methods of posting. Then, hop over to view your website analytics to see if people are clicking through to visit.

From here you can decide what feels comfortable or natural for you and your brand. Some businesses are a better match for Facebook with longer posts and live videos.  Others, such as florists, photographers and yoga instructors, have beautiful visual content, that is well suited for Instagram.   Twitter might be more appropriate for businesses that frequent events or have a need to communicate about news as it’s happening.

While the research and data certainly matter, a successful social media strategy is one you’ll actually implement. Starting a Twitter account you’ll never post to isn’t going to do your business any good. Find what works for you and your team.

Let the rest go

There will always be a new platform or a new feature. There will always be updates to best practices on when, how and what to post. But you have a business to run! Use the platforms that get the most return on investment (time and $) and feel the most natural for your brand. Don’t bother keeping up with the Joneses. Do your research, set your strategy and then go with it. As with all marketing, social media takes time. One post won’t have people running in the door, buying everything off the shelves. Rather than jumping from platform to platform, hoping for a magic spell, give yourself time to build up an audience and then see where you are. In six or eight months, revisit what’s working, where your audience is now and adjust your strategy.

Need more help?

If you want to learn more, there are so many great resources available for free. Social media management tools like Buffer, Hootsuite and Sprout Social all have useful blogs and always up-to-date tips about each platform. For a personalized social media strategy session, email me.


Maggie Christ is a digital marketing strategist and freelance writer in Richmond, VA. Find more of her work and connect on LinkedIn.