Know your social media potential

5 May

According to Edison Research and Arbitron (sourced on Convince and Convert):

51% of Americans use Facebook
8% use Twitter
4% use location-based services (eg, Foursquare)
(Americans 12+, 2011 data)

Assuming your B2C business has a diverse customer base that is not significantly more likely to be active in social media, some thoughts about social media initiatives fall out of this data.

You must have the raw customer numbers to justify devoting resources to social media. How many customers do you have? This is your potential social media audience. I’m assuming no-one (outside of the ad industry) is going to follow/‘like’ you unless they are a customer – why would they?* You can tweet every hour for a year, and not expect more than 8% of your current customer base to follow you.

Put potential audience before the potential of the platform. Foursquare offers a great opportunity for driving traffic, frequency, and loyalty. But is the investment in this tactic worth it when the potential is 4% of your customers? Could that Foursquare program you’re planning be adapted to something on Facebook?

You must have a valid reason for using Twitter over Facebook. You might personally prefer using Twitter. You might argue Twitter is better for giving regular updates than Facebook. But in making that choice, you are limiting your potential audience from half your customers to less than one in ten (unless you can effectively use both platforms).

The reason why national brands are more likely to use and be successful with social media isn’t big budgets but big audiences. They can afford to run a social media promotion – like the Foursquare promotion that Domino’s did in their 600+ UK stores which received 9,617 check-ins. At that rate, a local pizza shop running the same promotion would get 16 check-ins. And the investment in building the Foursquare program could very well be similar.

Based on this data, I think that the vast majority of local B2C businesses should concentrate their social media efforts on Facebook.

PS – but, you say, people are more likely to follow businesses on Twitter than Facebook. True, but the research shows 25% of people follow a brand on Facebook vs 5% on Twitter. Still a big spread.

PS2 – but, what if you are using social media to bring in new customers? the same rationale applies – do you want to talk to a potential 51% of the market on Facebook, or 8% on Twitter?

*yes, in theory, you should be providing valuable/interesting information that would appeal to customers or not – but really, non-customer fans have got to be a small minority. Ask someone who doesn’t work in the industry how many consumer brands they haven’t bought that they follow/‘like’.

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5 Responses to “Know your social media potential”

  1. Reg May 5, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Good notes, Shane — thanks for the thinking. I’d add that it’s not always WHAT social medium (or media) you choose to work in, but HOW you leverage it. Can’t argue that Facebook has the best penetration overall, but depending on your business needs, message and strategy, Twitter — or even LinkedIn — can be incredibly powerful tools, e.g. for generating leads, making targeted messages, connecting, etc.

    8% on Twitter may be small numbers, but if you can find the right, RELEVANT audience there, it can be good. And if, say, a Vancouver Island company is looking for a good agency partner, it might well tap LinkedIn for leads and ideas — do you know where Copeland ranks when you do a geo-search for agencies, i.e. is there an optimized LinkedIn profile for Copeland?

    I’m no expert on this, but I just attended a webinar this morning on the topic, and monetizing and generating leads through social media were key topics: #smli with Sean Malarkey and Lewis Howes — some good debate and discussion but I was quite enlightened by how much Twitter and LinkedIn can be — and are — leveraged by businesses — ESPECIALLY small businesses and consultants.

    Interesting stuff — thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. sgoth May 5, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks for your comments Reg. Yes, I think each SM platform offers a somewhat unique audience and somewhat unique communication opportunities, but weighing that against the huge difference in overall usage (51% vs 8%) has me more interested in going for the biggest audience even if my targeting is less than perfect. Like you say, it’s more how you use the platforms than which one you pick.

    I didn’t mention LinkedIn in this post because I wanted to contain the scope to B2C. You’re right though, lots of B2B opportunity on LinkedIn.

  3. Brad May 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Some very good points Shane.
    I think a lot of businesses eager to jump on the social media bandwagon often try to spread themselves out across the many platforms – ignoring the statistics you mentioned. They can’t/don’t put the full effort needed into each platform.
    This can lead to, for example, a Twitter account that hasn’t tweeted in 6 months. I think having no Twitter account at all looks better than a ghost account that hasn’t put the effort in for 6 months.

  4. Reg May 5, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Great points, Shane and Brad. Certainly wouldn’t advocate spreading oneself to thin. Just didn’t want to miss other opportunities, or assuming that penetration stats alone should drive the decision on which SM platform to be on, if you only have time/resources for 1. That said, and especially given the point about B2C, FB is certainly an obvious bet — just still a fan of reviewing all options in light of one’s business, goals and strategy (and making sure you have these latter 2 clarified!) before diving in.

  5. sgoth May 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Brad. The post was really talking about local businesses, most of which don’t have the resources to maintain three or four different profiles, like you say. Totally agree, better to do one well than have inactive (worse, unresponsive) profiles sitting there. It’s like being comatose at a dinner party. Might as well stay home!

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