Getting a grip on your social media
By Robin Carver

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Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Blogger — Is your head spinning yet? With so many social media options it can be hard to pick and choose which options to use. Some of you might be thinking, "Shouldn't I use them all? Don't my customers expect me to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel and be accessible everywhere on the Web?"

While rattling off a 140-character post or uploading a photo seems easy enough, when you are on six different social media outlets, it can be pretty time consuming. The trick with social media is two-fold:
  1. Knowing where your customers are spending most of their time online

  2. Knowing the strengths and opportunities of various social media outlets
INDUSTRY PULSE

What social media site fits your organization best?
  • 1. Facebook
  • 2. Twitter
  • 3. Pinterest
  • 4. Instagram
  • 5. Tumblr
Taking that a step further, understanding how people, specifically your customers, use social media will help you rein in the time you spend online.

So what separates one social medium from another? Looking at what each medium can do and how the medium has expanded based on usage gives us clues as to what are the medium's strengths.

Facebook started out as a way to keep track of what your friends were doing at any given point during the day. It has evolved where people can comment on statuses, like statuses, post pictures, play games, send messages and chat with each other.

Likewise, Twitter was also a way of keeping up with important people while keeping statuses (tweets) shorter and simpler, much like a text message. Using hashtags, people can connect with others who share similar interests and view instantaneous photos (twit pics).

Sites like Tumblr and Instagram use photos to tell a story or promote and event or idea. While YouTube uses video for a variety of entertainment or educational opportunities.

Once you have learned the strengths and opportunites of various social media outlets, you need to find out how people use those outlets. Below is a graph with the top-five social networks of 2012. By studying what types of people predominately use each medium, you can figure out where your customers are spending time online.

Information based on a Pew Study published Feb. 14.
Based on the information from the chart, what social media outlet are you over- or underusing to get your message out there?

Think about your customers for a minute. If you currently serve primarily women (or would like to serve more women), Facebook is a great way to reach them, but that may be too broad. Using a more specific social medium as a primary medium might be more efficient.

For example, a store in a suburban area that tends to have more family purchases might use a Pinterest campaign to reach its target audience, while a store in an urban area with a large, young Latino population might use an Instagram campaign. Both media use photos as a way of increasing interest about a topic. Yet both outlets use photos in different ways and reach different audiences. And both stores could use Facebook as a supporting medium to complement the primary social medium.

Now that you have a better working knowledge of some social media platforms, I challenge you to take a look at your social media. Find out what works for you based on the customers in your store and focus one or two social media outlets. Spend an hour each day working and monitoring each social medium, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Robin Carver works for Prock Operations, Inc. in St. James, Mo., doing marketing and public relations work. Carver has a bachelor's degree in journalism, emphasis in advertising, from Arkansas State University and a master's degree in integrated marketing communication from Drury University.