The answers to the first questions is simple. We use social media because humans have a basic desire to connect with one another, and social media is a convenient and accessible way to make these connections.

Today, almost everyone utilises some form of social media. And if that is where your target market spends a large proportion of their time, it goes without saying that your business should have a presence.

Social media is an easy way to build brand resilience, create awareness of your goods or services and deliver content to a broad audience.

But before launching into the social media world, a business must ask itself which platform is the most appropriate for them. Here is a quick run-down of the platforms available:

Facebook

Established in 2004, Facebook has 1.23 billion active members, of which 14 million are Australian (pretty amazing given that our population is currently 24 million). People use Facebook mainly for social purposes, for instance posting baby photos, organising personal events, or communicating within closed community groups.

Twitter

Established in 2006, Twitter is just taking off in the Australian market. Internationally it has 32 million users, of which 2.79 million are Australian. Twitter is mostly used to subscribe to influencers, such as news outlets, celebrities and big brands. According to the Twitter blog, 72% of consumers will purchase from a brand if they follow them on Twitter.

YouTube

Established in 2005, YouTube is often not thought of as a social medium. However, the content published on YouTube is user-generated, so it most certainly is. We have all heard the terminology ‘viral campaign’ and seen videos of cats.

LinkedIn

Established in 2002, LinkedIn is a professional networking program useful for displaying your business, looking for a new job or advertising a position. It is an online resume and a way to display your professional services. LinkedIn is in the must have category for businesses.

Google+

Established 2011, not many consumers are on Google+, as I am not sure if anyone can figure out what it is for and how it works. Saying that, a lot of businesses are getting on board as it has obvious connections with Google rankings. It is more business driven than driven by the consumer. I have not come across any businesses in Australia who have asked me to build a social plan around Google+, as yet.

SnapChat

Established in 2011, I predict SnapChat as the next big thing for business (now that our 21-year-old intern has given me the complete run-down). Known as the ‘sexting’ tool of Gen Z, SnapChat has excellent potential for marketing purposes, especially in the hospitality industry. It allows users to send a short image or video that can be viewed for up to 10 seconds, and has 2 million Australian users monthly.

Instagram

Established in 2010, Instagram has an estimated 5 million Australian users. It is a medium where images are posted with a couple of inspirational hashtags, and is primarily used by 18-29-year-olds. See super-fit Kayla_Itsines–an Australian with 4.4 million followers.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what is available, businesses should consider where their customers are, and why they are there. For example, customers would be on Facebook for personal connections. Is it appropriate for you to reach your customers in their personal domain? The answer is yes if you sell personal products, such as clothing or beauty products. But if you are an accountant, the answer is probably no.

Once you establish which medium is the most appropriate, you need to use the medium as a channel to deliver your message. I advise the leaders of businesses to create personal Twitter profiles to complement the company account. The company Twitter account is about legitimacy and reputation of the brand; consumers want to hear from the CEO directly. The messages should be personal but don’t have to give away any private information. Rather, the company Twitter account provides an insight into the type of person who runs the company, creating an excellent marketing opportunity for the business.

Social media will expand your audience and will ultimately increase your bottom line when used in a smart and appropriate way. Just ensure you plan and consider a strategy before getting started.