How do you know what the really big, fascinating questions are?
That’s a loaded question in and of itself, to be sure.
But still, I’m asking because sometimes we run across a Big Question that boils down to that most annoying answer: it depends.
We Have to Make a Choice
As a professional communicator, as a content strategist, as a marketer, I try to be familiar with #allthesocialthings. Most of them, anyway.
I do have a personal preference, along with work-related ones.
Professionally, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter.
It functions as a news feed, but not a well-structured one. It’s a torrent of content.
There are spurts of amazing engagement, such as the #PRStudChat, but they can be few and far between.
On the whole, I admit I find it difficult to identify Twitter value from a business perspective.
Which is the point, right?
From a strategic point-of-view, social activity needs to beget value.
By extension, as all of these channels mature, and others pop up, we do have to pick and choose.
Where are we going to spend our time online?
Which is how this week’s question came to be.
Social media is ever-present, even if we can’t be.
There’s a lot to do day-in and day-out.
Blog posts to read, to write.
Projects to pitch, activate, and measure.
If you had to choose (and you do):
What social network do you spend the most time on, and why?
Like I mentioned earlier, the pearl of wisdom—the insight—garnered from our high volume of responses is that, for the most part, it does depend.
But let’s see what our respondents had to say.
Favorite Social Network: Go Where Your Audience is
Andrew Selepak says you need to focus on your customers, wherever they happen to be:
Companies don’t need to develop a marketing strategy for every new social media platform that comes out.
Most companies, particularly many small businesses, don’t even need to be on all of the social media platforms that are currently out there. Social media marketing is a fulltime job, and if you are running a small business, even with automation, it can take up a lot of your time if you are trying to post on all of the social media channels.
Businesses owners either start to spend too much time on their social media marketing to be on all of the platforms, or they try to reuse the same content across all platforms, and not all content works on all platforms.
The best thing for a business to do is to determine where their current customers are online, and where their potential customers may be online, and then focus on those channels.
If your customers are all on Facebook, concentrate your marketing there. If they are looking at how-to YouTube videos, focus there.
While it is still important to engage in social listening on the major platforms, it might not be worth a company’s limited time and resources to be engaged in content creation on all of the platforms.
Businesses should focus on the customers and not what some marketing guru tells them is the next big platform.
When a new platform comes out, unless you are a tech company, you aren’t going to find your customers there, and you will only be wasting time.
Favorite Social Network: Instagram
While there’s never been any denying Instagram’s popularity, the continuing success of Instagram Stories and the recent expansion of advertising opportunities has made it abundantly clear that it’s a good time to be using Instagram for business.
Note: Is it ironic that one of the best Instagram accounts, in my opinion, belongs to Twitter (with posts such as “How to Make Banana Bread with Chrissy Teigen”)?
From Garrett Smith:
I’m dedicating a large chunk of social media efforts into Instagram for two reasons.
With the recent update from Facebook to move away from business/media and focus the users’ news feed on friends/family, this will lower the engagement for business pages.
It shouldn’t be left completely alone, but we need to focus our efforts on Instagram that doesn’t have a restriction like that.
Secondly, I see Instagram as a better platform for how people want to receive information. Videos are growing quickly, and Instagram is just that, images and video. I’m working on Instagram and think it’s the best new platform out there for businesses to reach their audience
Hailley Griffis battled between Twitter and Instagram (she also has a Gini-Dietrich-signed copy of Spin Sucks in her possession! A true fan):
I use Twitter a lot for relationship building with reporters and keeping up with the latest news. Twitter has long been my favorite, and I think it’s here to stay.
For Instagram, I think I spend more time on it because it’s mostly friends, family, and influencers in my feed.
Instagram is much more of a personal social network for me; it’s what Facebook is trying to be with the feed algorithm changes.
Social Media and Lifestyle
Kathleen Hessert’s channel of choice reflects her day-to-day tempo:
Twitter because its rhythm matches my lifestyle and my ever curious need to know.
Gayle Carson goes with what’s easiest for her. We also love the fact that her title is Chief SOB (spunky old broad):
I have to admit I don’t like any of the networks but spend the most amount of time on FB because I find it the easiest and the one that has groups I can tap into. Also, notifications pop up on my computer, so I don’t even to think about checking in.
Favorite Social Network: Twitter + 1
Many (most) respondents provided more than one favorite social network, but in a majority of cases, Twitter was part of the package.
Cindy Leung has different use-cases for her faves:
Twitter is where I get my news, but Instagram is where I get art inspiration and check up on what everyone is up to.
From Sarah Carson:
I like LinkedIn to research companies and Twitter to research industry trends.
I use both to prep for conversations with individuals (prospects, interviews, new colleagues).
PR Dream Team member Anne Deanovic puts Instagram above Twitter, but only slightly:
Instagram. Many of my clients are food-related, and so their content does best on IG, but also I am able to keep up with what media and influencers are talking about, especially through Stories.
Twitter is a close second and very valuable for news and monitoring outlets/individuals, but I’ve found that politics has taken over – and foodies (and others) have flocked to IG.
Twitter Appeal Fading?
Alternatively, Mary Deming Barber notes that the times are changing:
Facebook because it seems to be where everyone is. But I think that may change this year too. Twitter seems to have fallen quite a bit.
Lukas Treu agrees:
It used to be Twitter for me, but the appeal has faded to some extent. I find myself mostly using it for live event discussions whereas I used to be active in sharing industry content, attending Twitter chats and other professional pursuits.
Now I have a pretty dichotomized approach… professional posts/research happens on LinkedIn, and personal family/friend sharing is mostly on Facebook/Instagram.
Favorite Social Network: Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone
Susan Cellura has her favorite social network, but admits she needs to test the waters so she can tell her clients’ stories where they need to be:
Facebook, BUT I’m trying to do more on Instagram.
My clients are corporate, but I believe they still have stories that can be told visually, even if the company has doubts.
Favorite Social Network: #Allthesocials
Howie Goldfarb has thoughts on most of the social channels:
I spend much less time on social than I used too.
Twitter is still 65 percent because it’s where I go to talk directly with people but for posting tweets/content it’s effectiveness is very weak.
I log into Snapchat daily. It’s great for sharing video clips between friends, and they go away from public view. Not a good platform for brands and they changed the UI in bad ways (I rarely see location filters). If MTV, Billabong, Rhianna, and Vans can’t make it work it’s not good for brands.
Lastly Instagram and Facebook I use a few times a week but post maybe 2x a month.
I think social is fading with nothing new really and trying to get in the 25 mins a day most people spend is tough, but maybe the AI assistants will bring something new.
Sunny Hunt‘s response resonated:
I’m actually spending a lot of time in private Slack workspaces.
More curated content, less crap.
In the “true” social world, I split my time pretty equally between Twitter (leaning heavily on curated lists), Facebook, and LinkedIn (currently fine tuning my feed and disconnecting and “hiding” a lot of people).
My social usage has been highly attuned towards curation vs. a fire hose, thanks to the anxiety-inducing year of 2017.
Happy Birthday (Week) Laura Petrolino:
And, because her birthday was this week, we will let Laura weigh in:
Personally, Instagram. The least for both personal and professional is Twitter (I hate Twitter).
And the Answer is…
Despite how long many of these social networks have been around, advances in technology, changes in user behavior, advertising practices, and a need for better storytelling understandably keeps social platform popularity in flux.
Personal preference is, of course, important, and it can’t help but inform our professional social network usage.
Client preference is also important, however, as the thought leaders and experts in this space, PR, marketing and content professionals need to keep everyone abreast of the trends and algorithmic changes that affect how we can engage on a given channel.
And, ultimately, the trump card is going to be decided by the audiences themselves.
You might love Instagram, but if your audience is on YouTube (we’re surprised, by the way, that YouTubers, Redditors and Pinterestings/Pinterestors (?) didn’t make the mix) you need to be there as well.
So, what’s your favorite social network? It depends, right?
We Have Skillz
Last April, we asked readers about their thoughts on “the most important PR skills to master to be successful in the next three years, and why?”
Those answers ranged from “being good in a crisis,” to writing.
And those are good answers. Those are the “right” answers.
But… what got people into PR and marketing in the first place?
Maybe I’m wrong, but being good in a crisis in your formative years probably didn’t lead throngs of people to the PR industry.
Being a good writer didn’t push people into marketing.
I liked writing.
And I thought I was good at it, so I went into journalism.
I slogged away at that for years.
That said, many journalists and great writers I know would NOT be good content strategists, PR practitioners, or marketers.
Being a good writer is what sets me apart, sometimes, but it’s not my most valued skill for being in this industry.
I’m good with people. I have a strategic mind and, most importantly IMO, I am eager and able to keep learning.
There isn’t one answer, clearly, so let’s find out what the rest of you think.
Next week’s Big Question is:
What do you think your most valuable PR/marketing skill is?
You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).