While many of us remember a time before smartphones, smart watches, and social media, there is a generation that has no such experience. Today the majority of adults in America have active social media accounts. We’re getting social on the highly popular Facebook and Twitter, or the picture and video centered Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. LinkedIn has found its niche with adults who want to stay connected professionally, and it helps highlight and build your strengths, making connections centered around your career. Pinterest is a way to display or share a wide variety of ideas, using photographs with links to various websites.
According to Pew Research Center, as of 2016, overall a higher percentage of women use social media. Also, 18-29 is the biggest market on all social media accounts, accounting for about 86% of users. This is likely due to their experience growing up as social media came on the scene, and blossomed through their support and usage. Many older generations are increasing their usage of social media, especially the 30-49 age range, with 80% being users. Even the 50-64 age range is coming in at 64% users, with a steady increase, while younger age ranges have started to taper off.
It is important to understand what audiences are best reached, and how, with various forms of social media. Each brand has found a unique way to connect people around the world. Many brands are even offering similar features to keep people interested in using their services. Notifications, ads, live video features, filters, and followers are all common threads among Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube. There are many factors that draw a specific market to the various social media brands. It is important to look at the payoff, and in some cases the costs, to reach a particular audience on the various social media platforms.

Facebook – The Social Network

Most are familiar with the creation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg while he was in college at Harvard in 2004. Originally designed solely for college students, Facebook is by far the most popular and utilized social media platform, beating Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Facebook users are close when it comes to gender, with approximately 68% of Americans having a Facebook account. With its expansion from college students to a more diverse market, users range in age from adolescents to adults in their 70s and 80s. Grandchildren and grandparents, or great grandparents, are all using Facebook to share photos, videos, and warm wishes. Facebook is also a useful platform for corporations and small businesses. The ability to “share” a post broadens the reach to each “friend” a user has on their profile.
Facebook has found a niche in marketing, with ad targeting options for business accounts. This helps a company reach a broad audience, which they can specify by age range, gender, interest, demographics, and location. The tracking of users is beneficial for reaching a specific audience, whether broad or narrow. They have an entire business sector with multiple resources to walk you through how to reach your target audience, and cost guidelines to help with staying within your advertisement budget. Facebook makes it simple to calculate the cost versus potential outreach, as well as tips on the best strategies to use for their brand.
Many users follow a variety of pages outside of “friends” such as family members, colleagues, and old friends. This often includes favorite clothing, accessory, or product brands. In addition, many follow news outlets – local, national, and global – which may provide secondary marketing. According to Pew Research Center, 76% of Facebook users check their Facebook account daily. This is the highest percentage of all forms of social media, and many of those users likely check their account multiple times a day.

Connecting the World Through Photos: Instagram

“A picture says a thousand words,” can sum up the exciting world of Instagram. Rather than long written posts, Instagram centers on photos, and videos, to share a moment, idea, product, joke, or inspiration. 28% of Americans use Instagram, with 51% of these checking their account daily. Like Facebook, that often includes checking the account multiple times a day. 38% of Instagram users are females, and 26% are men.
You will notice that many female users are spokeswomen, or supporters of products, and advertise on their personal pages. The main categories are fitness, makeup products, clothing, shoes, and accessories, which with having a business account, can significantly expand a brand’s audience. By sending products to highly viewed users, one can build customer relations, and avoid only using advertising through Instagram sponsored ads.
Like other social media brands, Instagram uses hashtags and location tags, so users can search by their interest or location to see people or businesses that match their interests or location. Recently, Instagram added a “stories” feature, that allows people to see videos and photos that will eventually go away, rather than stay on a page to be accessed at a later time. Their ads feature multiple visual options such as still photo ads, video ads, “carousel” ads, and stories ads. According to their business sector, a business profile is free to start, and gives you ideas to reach a specific audience. To best utilize Instagram and gain a following, you will need unique, eye catching visuals and easy to follow content.

Hashtag Twitter

Thanks to Twitter, many have stopped calling # the “pound” or “number sign”; instead it will forever be known as the “hashtag” symbol. Twitter started as a written way to share ideas, information, jokes, news, and riddles. The unique nature of Twitter relies on words, put together and published to followers, or the world if your account isn’t private, as a “tweet.” Originally Twitter limited each tweet to a frustrating 140 characters each. Now, with the expansion of emojis, you can use the small pictures without effecting your character limit.
Many politicians and celebrities turn to twitter to share their opinions and ideas. We have all seen, either on Twitter itself, or in the media, a famous person’s tweet being scrutinized, sometimes for the fact that it is considered outrageous, or for grammatical errors, or both. It is important to be concise and careful about what you tweet, considering how the message will be received by those reading it.
Twitter has around 21% of United States adults as users, with a higher rate being college educated and in the 18-29 range. Like Facebook, Twitter offers ads, and has some unique offerings as far as reaching a more specific target audience. Due to the ability to search common hashtags, someone could find your business or product by searching a popular or even very specific hashtag. This enhances their ad targeting by looking at user behavior, interest, geography, and keyword search.
Their advertising options are not as user-friendly as Facebook, and do not offer pricing options until you have set out a marketing strategy. The resources for success are not as thorough as the support and resources Facebook provides before signing up for their services. However, they seem to have a unique niche with the emphasis on written communication, and focus more on reaching a global audience, with language and global marketing strategies. Also, with the right team, outlook, and strategies, you could build a large following on Twitter without relying so heavily on their advertising options. The beloved “retweet” can cause others to share your post multiple times.

High Earners and College Graduates – LinkedIn

LinkedIn has found its place in the social media world by targeting college graduates, or soon-to-be graduates, and professionals in the career world. LinkedIn is used by 25% of American adults, with most users being college graduates. LinkedIn is free to use, and connects you to jobs, helps build and confirm your professional skills, and connects you to other professionals in your field. Like social media in general, most users are young adults.
LinkedIn is geared specifically to building your business with quality employees, or for workers seeking to expand their network and career. LinkedIn features LinkedIn Premium which requires a fee to use. With a Premium Account, employers can find quality employees and grow sales for their company. For those seeking employment, it offers additional features to connect you with people, services, and employers within your field.

Female Dominated Pinterest

Although females are the majority of all social media users, the male/female gap is the widest for Pinterest. Women Pinterest users more than double that of male users. With 26% of Americans having active Pinterest accounts, they are mainly women, and have been since Pinterest began. Pinterest users rarely create their own content, rather they share and “pin” pictures and links on their “boards.” Many users enjoy creating “boards” with a theme, such as recipes, styles, fitness, and wedding ideas.
Pinterest offers board ideas, but users can also create their own board themes, as well as maintain private boards. Pinterest encourages “Promoted Pins,” which is their form of a marketing strategy for business. Like Instagram, Pinterest is highly visual, with pins being an eye-catching photograph. If a user clicks on the photograph, the pin is designed to take them to the website where the product or idea is featured.

Videos, Ads, and Promotions – YouTube Audiences

Although there are many, many more social media brands and audiences, YouTube finds itself in a world of its own. YouTube is based on videos; from tutorials, to bloopers, entertainment or old television, to practical jokes. YouTube has projected singers, comedians, and those with an inspirational story. Many of today’s youth dream of becoming a “YouTube Sensation.”
Most videos begin with an ad, which you can often skip after watching for 5-25 seconds. YouTube ads seem to be the online version of a television commercial or radio advertisement. Their logic is to pair advertisements with original content videos that have multiple “hits,” or views. If you have helpful ideas, advice, or tutorials, you could create a large following on YouTube. You will need video and editing equipment if you are seeking a professional image.
Each social media platform has found a unique niche, but they all depend on regular users. The more users they can obtain and keep, the broader the audience they reach, and their advertisers can reach. Although younger generations and females are the majority of social media users, older markets are jumping on board as technology expands and becomes easier to use. When considering which social media outlets to use to reach your targeted audience, one must consider the cost and benefits each offers, as well as their resources to reach your intended demographics.

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About the Author: Donna Amos

I believe you can achieve anything you truly want to achieve. “It might sound trite, but time and time again, I’ve seen it happen with my clients. They overcome the fear of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure to creating profitable exciting businesses. My clients do great work, and sometimes it only takes someone else believing in them to give them the confidence to step out and take the chance.”