The Right Content for the Right Channels
The wide array of social media channels are a blessing and a curse for businesses attempting to choose among them. Using social media to broaden your reach can be tricky, and depends almost entirely on how viral your content becomes.
Before jumping into the nearest social community, it is important to recognize that each platform has a distinct audience, culture, and architecture, and when taken together, determine how your content will be received and whether it will spread to increase your brand awareness.
We’re interested in a getting a grip on this spongy pseudo-science, deducing how these attributes can actually impact the viral spread of varying content types and formats.
The graphs below reflect our experience with this. What follows is a brief break-down of each social media channel and how we suppose its attributes will likely impact the reach of your message.
Click Image to Enlarge
The original hang out, Facebook is trying to straddle both sides of the fence as it attempts to woo marketers to its vast social playground. This has created a culture of mixed behavior as company pages and internal promotions fare better than display ads, perhaps as they are intertwined with the existing architecture of status updates and sharing. The popularity of images lifted Facebook to the top, and they still get the most viral traction. Consider Facebook a destination of immediate consumption – whether of a friend’s photo album or a redeemable business promotion – which explains why passive, informational resources here don’t fare as well when trying to spread you brand.
Additionally, your message is limited by the network of your earned “likes,” and even then, each post will only be distributed to a certain percentage of your followers. The architecture of Facebook requires additional funds before you can break through the wall of your limited network.
Twitter has evolved a lot from its simple hook of 140 characters. Its open nature has shaped an open culture, allowing for both broad access and targeted messaging to specific hashtag groups. With no restrictions on who you can follow and where you can post, the fate of your business’ message is really up to you. And the Twitter community (I refuse to say ‘Twitter-verse’) is reasonably open to content of any type, from cat pictures to overt business sales.
In short, say nearly whatever you want to whomever you want, with one main caveat – keep it brief. While you can link out to longer articles, the onsite culture does not support extended dialogue or substantive conversations (something Reddit does a lot better).
Almost like a social version of craigslist, Reddit is stripped of all artifice for the sake of the community. This rejection of glitz and spin is perhaps the first thing to know about Reddit – its onsite culture vilifies blatant marketing and it has a loyal, vocal populace.
That said, Reddit is a great place to get noticed as it is practically the lovechild of democracy, meritocracy, and oligarchy. Its crowd-sorting system of up-voting and down-voting content weeds out nonsense and gets the best stuff in front of millions of eyes, while the ability to freely post to specialized boards, called subreddits, allows for open, targeted messaging. In addition, the architecture of the site allows for ongoing, in-depth discussions, providing the space for long-form content.
There are Google+ haters and believers. Perhaps Google fell victim to its own sparkling reputation when people considered anything short of a total, instant usurpation of Facebook to be a failure. Expectations aside, Google+ is steadily growing, aided in large part by its automatic incorporation within other Google applications.
Blending the openness of Twitter with the social organization of Facebook, Google+ uses labeled circles that allow you to follow people without the need for reciprocity while also using their own version of hashtags to organize content. Additional features like communities, and hangouts provide many more attractive ways to communicate while staying onsite. As a social mash-up, the culture around Google+ is still taking shape, but as of now, it is open to content of various types and formats, and the reach of your message depends a lot on how you decide to organize and disseminate your content.
As the anti-social-network, LinkedIn has established itself as a great option for businesses to get down to brass tacks and leave all those duck faces and Farmville gamers behind. While it still has a broad use among job seekers to network and discover employment opportunities, it has matured into a resource for industry professionals to share ideas, ask questions, and stay current on new strategies, which in turn makes it a great place to distribute long-form articles.
As a professional networking site, LinkedIn is understandably less open than Twitter, including more barriers, and supporting a culture that attempts to reflect real-world connections. Consequentially, your posts will only reach your 1st degree connections or followers.
For broader reach, joining groups related to your business is perhaps the most effective thing to do. Engage other people involved in your industry and approach your groups as a wide-reaching, collaborative environment for getting better at your job. However, avoid blatant marketing techniques or selling strategies. This is a community of like-minded professionals that will bristle at being mistaken for a B2C forum.
As the name implies, Pinterest is the place to share interests and hobbies. It has a fluid architecture that promotes a culture of open sharing, which lessens the risk of annoying your friends or followers by forcing your content onto their news feeds.
Even with that benefit in mind, the format of Pinterest is centered around images, and long-form, dense content will not fare as well. And since the site defines itself around such a narrow objective, there is less room for marketing material beyond visually appealing references to your business.
While a misstep on Pinterest will damage your brand a lot less than a misstep on Reddit, it is still a good idea to emulate the very specific type of content that appears on Pinterest. Otherwise, your content will go unshared and make you appear out of touch.
Social Media Channels can be Industry-Sensitive
With all of the above in mind, social channels can vary in how they receive and respond to different industries. Chances are that no matter how attuned you are to the cultural and architectural nuances of each social network, a couple channels will eventually rise to the top as your most effective resources for reaching the online community.