Each of the major social networking services appeal to broadly different audiences. The most important first step of social media marketing is to identify which social network holds the most strategic benefit for your business. Marketing on social networks that don’t attract the kind of user your product or service appeals to is a huge waste of time and money.

Work out who your main customer is—their age, gender, affluence—and then identify which social network’s user-base most closely matches this profile. Below, we’ve provided a brief overview of the kind of user drawn to each of the major social networks and the industries that are most successful in marketing there.

Pinterest


Pinterest’s audience skews heavily female and is an intensely visual-oriented social network. It’s often used to collect ideas and inspiration for visually important projects, such as weddings, home renovations, and interior re-decorating. Businesses that sell visually aesthetic products targeted towards women should be marketing on Pinterest. Examples include flowers/floristry, fashion, home decor, wedding essentials, beauty, travel, and fine dining.


Tumblr


Tumblr’s audience is quite young, with roughly half its users between the age of 16 and 24. Subsequently, Tumblr users don’t have a lot of money (only 8% earn above 75k a year), but much of their income is disposable.

Products and services that are relatively inexpensive and appeal to self-expressive teens and young adults are a good match for Tumblr. Brands selling fashion, video games, media (books, music, television), and junk food tend to do well on Tumblr.


Facebook


Facebook has a reputation as the social network for old people. While the social network’s popularity among teens is falling as the existing users grow older, Facebook’s audience still skews young. Somewhat surprisingly, Facebook’s audience is also more wealthy and better educated than most of the non-professional social networks.

Facebook’s great strength—from a marketing perspective—is the sheer size of its user base, and the amount of user information it collects. Targeting specific demographics on Facebook is easier and more accurate than any other social network, so you can use it to sell almost anything. Unfortunately, reaching potential customers organically (for free) is extremely challenging. Facebook doesn’t like to show content from brands unless those brands are paying to be there.


Twitter


Twitter can be used for both customer engagement and directly promoting products. It’s effective as a support channel, answering customer questions, responding to reviews, contributing to industry discussions, etc. Once you’ve built up a strong audience, Twitter can also be a great (free) way of sharing news, promotions, and updates with your customers.

Like most social networks, Twitter’s audience tends to be young. Females dominate among teen Twitter users, but overall most users are male. Industries that do well on Twitter include software/apps, web services, pre-packaged food, journalism, comedy, and junk food.


Instagram


Instagram, much like Pinterest, is a highly visual social network where aesthetically-pleasing brands most succeed. Demographically, Instagram’s users heavily skew young, female, educated, and affluent. Industries that thrive on Instagram include health and beauty, fitness, food and dining, fashion, lifestyle, and travel.


Closing Thoughts

You may have noticed that all of the social networks mentioned attract users on the younger end of the age spectrum. Even Facebook, the “oldest” social network, only reaches about 55% of over-65s. That’s millions of potential customers who aren’t engaged with social media at all.

Furthermore, the return on investment for social media advertising is somewhat below traditional channels like television, radio, and (decreasingly) print. It’s important to remember that, for most businesses, social marketing should only comprise a small portion of your overall marketing mix.

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