If you’re a small business owner building a brand, you know the importance of social media as part of your marketing efforts. In today’s society, social media is the best way to get in front of your potential consumers to drive awareness and continue deepening their relationship with your brand to gently pull them along their consumer journey (For a refresher on this check out the previous article from Winter 2019, pg. 114) from awareness to interest to purchase to loyalty and beyond.

The key with social media, though, is how to get value while expending as little time as possible. With the proliferation of social media platforms and features within each platform, that quickly starts to feel impossible. Almost like the only way to capture the value from social media is to spend all of your time there, but who has time for that? Certainly not me, and I would guess not you or your team either. One of the keys to getting value out of social media is to strategically choose which platforms to invest in. And, no, the answer is not to be on all of the platforms equally or even at all.

So, let’s set your brand up for success and talk about how to choose social media platforms or streamline the platforms you’re already on. While you should absolutely own the social media handle for your brand name on every single platform that exists (see sidebar), you don’t have to be active on all of them. In fact, it’s smart to start small, get really good at one or two platforms and then expand your social media efforts over time rather than spreading yourself too thin and not really doing any of them well.

The key to picking platforms, as with all good marketing, is being strategic. So, before we even dive into specific platforms, I want you to pause and ponder these four topics:

First, do I know my own business and our goals well? Do I have a clear brand story and voice? Do I know what we’re trying to achieve as a company in the next 12 months?

Then, do I know my consumer? Who they are? What motivates them? What frustrates them? What do they use social media for and what are they looking for from a brand like ours?

Next, do I know our immediate and long-term objectives for social media, specifically? Knowing the goals you are trying to achieve is the only way you’ll pick the right marketing tactic for your objective. So, it’s important you get clear on why you even want to be on social media in the first place.

Lastly, are you familiar with the benefits of each social media platform? Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses. Being at least somewhat familiar with what those are will help you match up the right platform for your business, target consumer and objectives.

If you’re unclear on your answers to those first two topics, take a pause and think through those items before proceeding with social media at all. Otherwise you’ll be wasting time, money and energy without real strategic direction, which will lead to lackluster results.

On those last two topics, let’s briefly cover the benefits of a few popular social media platforms and which types of marketing objectives they’re best suited to help your brand achieve.

Now, before we jump in, I want to be clear. Almost all platforms have a way to help you reach almost any marketing objective. It’s in their best interest to make sure of that. However, I do believe that certain platforms are easier and more effective in certain areas for craft alcohol makers like you. What I’m suggesting here is that you lean in to the strengths of a social media platform to reach your objectives rather than trying to get its weaker capabilities to work harder for you. Use your own judgment, and if you think a certain platform is right for your brand and objectives, do some more research and find some case studies of others using it in that way to help you decide. Because remember… more is not better here.

For our purposes, we’re going to be talking about Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter. First, let’s get grounded on some basics. See table below.

It’s important to note a few things related to content type — because any time there’s a unique and specific format, a warning light should flash for you that says “more resources required.”

For example, the fact that only Facebook and Twitter allow you to post text-only content.

Or the image pins and video pins noted for Pinterest…these are different from standard images or videos. They have a unique look, non-standard dimensions and often have text overlain on top of the visuals.

Another example? Instagram is the only platform that calls for “vertical” videos specifically, and that’s important because it’s essentially telling you that you can’t just rip and reapply a video from another platform and expect it to work well on Instagram.

So how does this type of information help you start to decide on platforms? Well — if your target audience is primarily male, Pinterest is most likely not for you. Or, if you’re dead set on finding a way to make text-only content work, that narrows your choices down to Twitter and Facebook. Or, if creating unique content that you can’t reuse easily on other platforms sounds overwhelming given your resources, then creating video for Pinterest or Instagram may not be a top contender when resources are scarce.

But let’s layer on some additional information about these platforms that’s important. How do consumers actually use them? While this is not all-inclusive of every way consumers use each platform, it’s bringing to life the most common consumer use cases. See table above.

It’s important to think about how consumers actually use each platform while you decide what type of content you plan to share. If you’re all about sharing cocktail party ideas and recipes featuring your spirits, then Pinterest might be perfect for you. Or, if you have a lot of events and exciting news to share, maybe Facebook feels like a better fit.

Next, let’s talk about some of the downsides across platforms. Again, there are certainly other downsides beyond the ones I’m about to cover, but knowing what I do about craft makers and the way your businesses work, these are the downsides I want to make sure you’re aware of. See graph below.

For Facebook, growing your following and driving engagement organically is harder than ever due to the way the Facebook algorithm works and the prevalence of brands using paid advertising on Facebook. It’s possible, but I want you to be aware that most people today who are really successful on Facebook are most likely investing in advertising.

Instagram, on the other hand, is challenging because there are such high standards for beautiful aesthetics with images and videos. There’s also the double-edged sword of the constant rollout of new features and benefits on Instagram. As marketers, we love them because they provide us new and exciting ways to reach our audiences, but we also hate them because it’s something else we’re required to learn and potentially have to work into our social media strategy.

Pinterest tends to be a bit resource intensive and best for very specific use cases. Often related to design, art, food/drink and clothing. As we mentioned before, there’s also a more limited reach to men here given the platform’s demographics.

YouTube is also resource intensive to be able to create videos of high enough quality and frequency to really stand out and capture the attention of users. Being a “YouTube Creator” has become an industry of its own, so expecting great results from publishing to YouTube casually shouldn’t be expected.

Lastly, Twitter has the smallest character limits allowed despite it having doubled somewhat recently from 140 to 280. It’s a real art to be able to distill a great marketing message or story down to 280 characters including hashtags so people can actually find it. Unless you have a massive following and are using hashtags like a rock star, this platform also has limited reach simply because a tweet gets more than half of its engagement within 24 minutes of posting. So, unless a lot of your followers or people looking at the hashtags you’re using are online during that 24-minute window, the value of your tweet falls off rapidly.

As a whole, I would also say that Instagram and Pinterest are still the easiest to grow your audience organically while the other three really require some paid advertising or otherwise dedicated resources to quickly and effectively grow an account from scratch.

All right, let’s bring this home with some examples of the types of high-level objectives each platform is best suited for. Remember, we want to lean into each platform’s strengths, minimize our effort and maximize our odds of achieving our objectives. See table below.

Of course, all of these platforms will drive awareness to some degree, but Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are frankly the best at getting your brand and story out there. Facebook and Instagram are also superior for building and maintaining relationships with others.

While all social media platforms provide education and entertainment, each platform has its own strengths due to the focus and features of the platform and how consumers have come to use each platform. Keep in mind that this edu-tainment bucket is an important one, because this is often where you are providing value to your audience for free as a part of building the relationship.

When it comes to generating leads, once you’ve developed the relationship, Facebook excels above others at driving traffic to physical locations and events, whereas Instagram and Pinterest tend to do better at driving web traffic and online sales.

Lastly is customer service. You can and should be prepared to handle customer service promptly on any social media platform you are active on, but in my opinion Twitter and Facebook are best set up for customer service support and the most widely used by consumers.

So where do we go from here? Well, it’s time for you to think through all of this and start making some decisions! Every brand is different and that means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. That being said, I want to leave you with a few of my own personal thoughts from working with craft makers on social media.

To start, YouTube and Pinterest have some unique specifications, skills and a higher degree of resources needed to succeed. If cocktail making or some other instructional content is a big part of your content strategy and driving website traffic and/or online sales are among your objectives, then go for it.

When it comes to Twitter, I would say don’t waste any time creating unique content for Twitter. It’s just not a good use of your resources for our industry. Simply use it as a megaphone for the content you post on other platforms. Shrink it down to 280 characters, research and use hashtags, and put your “breaking news” hat on as a marketer. Just remember that to excel on Twitter, it’s a high-volume game—even if you have great content. So, if you’re not tweeting two to three times per day, you likely won’t see huge growth in followers or engagement here.

That leaves us with Facebook and Instagram. If starting with two feels like too much at first, that’s okay. Just compare what you know about your brand and business goals, your consumer, your social media objectives and, now, each platform and pick one to focus on.

Now, you may be asking… what about some of these newer platforms, like TikTok? Whenever there are new platforms, it can be beneficial to start using them early. If you’re not sure about a platform because you don’t actually use it yourself, now is the perfect time to put yourself in your consumers’ shoes and open up a personal account to truly understand how it works. Start playing around and seeing what your friends and competitors are doing there. Immerse yourself, then put your strategic marketer hat on and assess the platform.

Evaluate all platforms against your brand’s objectives, consumers and resources before chasing that new shiny social media penny to save yourself time, money and energy. Then start driving better results from your social media efforts across all social media platforms.