Audience first; filters and hashtags second by @AmyFeldtmann

A few weeks ago, I sat in a room listening to a ‘social media expert’. Preceded by roughly 20 PowerPoint slides full of data and tips, they said ‘Twitter is dead, everyone is using Instagram, so use Instagram’. Well, they weren’t the expert’s exact words of course, but that was the big point being pushed to the audience. The expert was a very genuine person, full of passion and enthusiasm, but their comment pushed a button in me.

Let me explain.

I understand the recent data says Instagram is on a significant rise compared to other social media platforms. For example, trends from the end of 2013 say that Instagram gained 23 per cent growth in active users, compared to 9 per cent for LinkedIn, 6 per cent for Pinterest, and 2 per cent for Twitter(Source: GlobalWebIndex, an international marketing research firm, based these numbers on a survey of 170,000 users in 32 countries).

I’m not disputing those facts. I’m also not wanting to discuss (here) why each might have the associated growth figures.

The thing that I do want to discuss is the point told to said room: ‘use Instagram’. Why did this push a button in me? Because I think it focuses on the platform first, and not the audience first.

Call me old-fashioned, but in my university days, studying public relations, we were taught to put the audience first – primary audiences and secondary audiences were where every assignment started. We were told to research and understand how the audiences preferred to get information, and design the way the message would be delivered to them, including the selected channels, based on their preferences.

The ‘use Instagram’ advice is taking an approach of ‘Oh, look, that place is popular now, let’s go over there!’. I understand that for some businesses, the latest and fastest-growing platform will be the right fit for their audience but what if the people you want to talk to, your audience, aren’t over there? What if they happily stayed put where you already were?

Here are some quick things* to ponder about some of the platforms:

  • Pinterest: Used mainly by females – many, many females sharing images of food and drink; or dreaming and planning. Said to be dominated by rural American women into craft^. Excellent for driving traffic back to websites for online shopping.
  • Twitter: Discussion, interaction, debate. News people, media, journalists, writers, academics, comedians, politicians, people with something to say love it. Emergency services love it. Ellen loves it.
  • LinkedIn: Career-minded people, job-hunting people, studying people. It’s one giant interview room/lecture theatre/jobs-board.
  • Instagram: Around two-thirds of users female, mainly 18-34 year olds, living in urban locations, focus is on quality not quantity posts. With content being photos, great for showing places, products, people, and telling picture-based stories.

So while each platform varies in growth and numbers, it also varies in functionality, content type, and importantly, who it attracts – and this comes back to my point about audiences.

If you are planning your social media, think about who you are talking to (obviously), and then find where they go (which yes, could be more than one platform). There is no point shifting all of your focus to Instagram just because it is the current ‘thing’, if all of your audience is on Twitter, and that is where you have been talking with them up until now (it sounds obvious, but I did say my buttons were pushed). Absolutely try/use both platforms if that is right for you, but don’t ditch one because of research data that focuses on platforms, and not your audience.

So what would be my main message if I were doing that PowerPoint presentation with 20 slides? ‘Step one: Learn where your audience is, and go to them. The best social media platform is the one where your audience is’.

PS. If you would like to read a rather interesting article about why Twitter is not dead, by Slate’s Will Oremus, you can find it here.

*Descriptions are open to dispute; I’m simply trying to point out that different groups might choose different platforms, and the platforms can do different things. They aren’t all the same with a different name.

^ A 2012 Experian’s Digital Marketer report said Pinterest use is especially heavy in USA’s rural Midwest, Northwest, South East, correlating with high interest in hobbies and crafts. The audience for Pinterest in states such as Missouri, Utah, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa was twice or three times those states’ audience for other social networks and forums.

About the author

Amy Feldtmann is an Australian communications and marketing specialist (currently) calling the World’s Most Liveable City, Melbourne, home. She likes change and is always thinking how to improve things, while not losing sight of the basics. Amy loves sharing great photojournalism on Twitter, and you can follow her at @AmyFeldtmann (or on that fast-growing platform, Instagram, at @amyjoye)

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