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Instagram is Sexy, But Does Your Audience Actively Use It?

Are we focused on social media platforms with hardly any users?

… making decisions on where to build audience for brands based on buzz, instead of fact??

SSocial Media Strategy: Instagram is sexy, but does your audience use it? Don't make blind decisions.ocial media is fantastic – but choosing the right platforms to focus your effort is critical. Otherwise, you are speaking to an invisible audience.

The truth

The marketing industry overflows with massive hype about social media – but is it worth the time investment? Which platform(s) do you choose for your business? How do you decide where to prioritize your time when you have a presence on multiple platforms? How do you know which ones to drop, if you are trying to maintain too many and your staff (or budget) are overwhelmed?

These are questions your social media strategy should address. These decisions must be based on fact, not guesswork or industry buzz, which is what is happening all too frequently.

It’s time to start talking about active users, not accounts. There’s a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE.

Where do I focus my efforts?

My general rule-of-thumb is this: what target market am I trying to reach and what percentage of my target audience actively uses the platform? If it’s less than ten percent, do I have enough resources to make it worthwhile, or will it be a waste of energy and money?

With a simple Google or Pinterest search, amazing research is available in seconds. This is especially easy if your audience is segmented by age or trade verticals.

Here’s an example. Say I’m trying to reach seniors for a retirement product. Everyone is buzzing about Instagram and Pinterest – but are they worth building an audience there? Do seniors use them? Are they just opening an account, or do they actively use the platform? A search for “senior demographics social media” brought up this incredibly helpful infographic.


(Used with permission.)
Used with permission from Heidi Cohen.


It turns out that TWO PERCENT of seniors use Instagram. I don’t care how much buzz there is about the platform and how fun or sexy it is – I’m not willing to invest the time required to be successful on Instagram if I’m only reaching a tiny audience percentage.

I’d rather do something with better odds of success. Something that reaches more people using the same amount of time.

Pinterest is in a similar fix, with only four percent of my senior audience present. No thanks. It’s not a good fit for that particular client to reach that demographic. They have limited budget and a part-time community manager, and it wouldn’t be a good use of that manager’s time.

(Frankly, anything with potential reach of less than ten percent is questionable, in my opinion, but it depends on the goal.)

I totally dismiss the YouTube statistics as irrelevant, because most people watch videos on YouTube without logging in, so the statistics are not an accurate snapshot of real usage for anyone, much less that specific demographic.

I would need better data to make a decision, but do I really care since the volume of search competes with Google? Nope. YouTube is the second largest search engine globally. With audience and reach that huge, YouTube should be a part of EVERY social media strategy regardless of demographics. Ignoring it would be like ignoring SEO and the importance of Google.

If you are making decisions where to focus your PR efforts, the most important starting point is to identify where your audience hangs out.

Otherwise, your visibility efforts won’t help the business grow. You’re speaking to an invisible audience.

It’s like paying travel and hospitality costs to fly across the country, only to find out there is one seat taken at the event. You spent thousands to reach one person.


When audience usage doesn’t matter

Should data always steer your decision? It depends on the size of your business and the resulting budget or staff resources. Larger businesses can afford to invest in a social media platform to reach smaller segments of their audience or customer base.

If I had a full-time community manager, for example, I might launch Instagram campaigns simply because that audience IS small. I can rise above the noise for that small percentage because fewer brands have jumped in. It’s new enough that it’s a clean playground, so I can create visibility faster with the small segment than I can reach a larger segment on a bigger platform. It’s a conscious decision, weighing risk against cost.

Either way, no matter what size your business might  be – ignore the buzz and dig deep enough to understand your audience before making social media decisions. Don’t fly blind.


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