There's no shortage of blog posts out there that'll tell you which social media channels you need to be on right now, but the short answer is this: you really need to be on the channels where your audience hangs out - which can mean something sort of complicated.
It could mean that you need to be on every major channel in some way, big or small. It could mean that the content you create for Facebook is vastly different from the content you create for email blasts. It could mean that you are on different channels at different points in the sales cycle or for different kinds of digital campaigns.
Here's what it doesn't mean:
- You need to be on every channel equally.
- You only need to be on _____ channel because it's the only one that matters.
- You need to be on ______ channel because it's the hot new mobile app.
There isn't an easy mathematical solution to deciding which channels to create content for. Knowing where your brand and content need to be requires more than just knowing what channels are popular right now. It requires a deep investigation into the kinds of interactions your brand wants, a thorough understanding of who your audience is, along with insights into how and why they make decisions.
Know Your Channels - The 3Ms
One very useful way to evaluate a digital channel is to look at it through the lens of the 3Ms: Is it meaningful to your audience? Is it manageable for your team? And is what happens there measurable for your campaign?
- Meaningful: Is the channel you've selected meaningful to your audience? Is the content you'll create for that channel meaningful? Identify the channel's strengths and major audience segments, and determine if those align with your brand. If they don't align, your presence and content there will ring false, both internally and with your target audience.
- Manageable: Are you already juggling too many channels for the amount of staff you have? It's a bad marketing move to announce your presence on a new channel and then disappear because you don't have a team to manage it. When evaluating whether or not a channel is appropriate for you, investigate whether you'd need to create entirely new content for it and if you can handle that, or if you already have content that is adaptable to the channel.
- Measurable: Is the value of that channel measurable? This might be the hardest thing to determine. Some channels, like Twitter, have proprietary analytics features. Some you can measure via other reporting platforms. But others might have value that isn't immediately measurable. Are you willing to forgo measurement to be on the channel? Perhaps. But it takes some consideration to know that.
Kinds of Channels
Gini Dietrich's PESO model is one of the most current and useful ways to understand the kinds of channels available to you. It divides channels into four main sectors - paid, earned, shared, and owned - a taxonomy that can be helpful when you're looking at where you've been and where to go next. You might find your organization is heavy in paid and shared channels, but lacking in leveraging the owned and earned channels. You also might find some areas of overlap where you can maximize the reach of your content because it's useful across channels.
Source: Gini Dietrich's Spin Sucks post
Here's a breakdown of the kinds of channels:
- Paid: These channels include paid ads on Facebook and Twitter, any kind of lead gen your team is doing, and sponsored content of any kind. In more traditional marketing, this segment would include print ads or commercials.
- Earned: This is publicity for your organization that you don't pay for, meaning press releases you send that get written up on other sites, mentions by bloggers or other influencers, and basically anywhere you get your name in print. Think old school journalism and PR via digital channels.
- Shared: Shared media includes social media channels where you grow a following. Many organizations already use this as a main source of communications, but it's useful to look at how much you're leveraging it. Are your organization's major moves always posted across your social channels? Does your following engage with your posts on social channels?
- Owned: Owned media usually lives on your website or blog, and includes any content you create yourself - blog posts, original videos, infographics, research write-ups, case studies, etc. As content marketing (using your original owned media to engage an audience) grows, an investment in your owned media is becoming very important in digital marketing.
Don't get confused if your strategy lives in the overlaps of these segments. A brand story video that you pay to promote on Facebook exists in the overlap of paid and owned. A relationship with a digital influencer who tells their audience about your brand is part shared and part earned.
Let Personas Dictate Channels and Let Channels Dictate Content
A thorough knowledge of your audience personas will reveal which channels you need to be on. A millennial audience member who is looking to switch careers and wants a volunteer-to-part-time gig will probably be looking more at LinkedIn and Facebook for those opportunities, and probably not Twitter or your own blog. Knowing which channels to focus your campaign on can be helpful in knowing what content to create.
Content creation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Perhaps the most important thing about channel knowledge is the guidance it provides for your content. Once you've decided on channels that are appropriate for your personas, you can use all of that information (the persona preferences and the kind of content that does well on that channel) to write the perfect blog post, create the most engaging video, or craft the most shareable tweets.