Is social media for you? 5 ways to find out

Not every audience is on Facebook or Twitter. Here’s how to find where yours is hiding.

My dad asked me if he should be on Twitter for his business, which involves liquidating furniture. I flat out told him no.

Not every audience is on Twitter. In fact, a lot of audiences aren’t on Twitter. A November 2010 study from the Pew Research Center estimates 8 percent of Americans use Twitter.

When you dig even deeper into the demographics, it becomes obvious that a lot of the prime audiences for my dad’s business—the people most likely to buy used furniture in quantity—aren’t spending their time on Twitter.

There is the argument that if he was willing to spend time building a Twitter following, he could probably get some business from the platform. But considering there are plenty of other social media fish in the sea, it’s not his best option.

Finding your best audience

There are incredible demographic numbers available for most social media platforms now. Pew Research, in its many incarnations, seems to have a new statistic about Internet use every day. It is relatively easy to find what sites your ideal audience uses regularly.

Reaching those people where they virtually live is crucial to any organization.

Here are five tips to do this.

1. Look at hard numbers, not just anecdotes.

There are a lot of social media “gurus” out there who are happy to give you their impression that social media is exclusively for the young and that they’ve seen campaigns by every type of business under the sun.

Numbers are not only more precise, they sometimes tell surprising stories. For example, the rapid rise in Facebook users who are female and older is due to grandmothers looking at photos of their grandbabies.

2. Don’t assume that social media is only Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

There are thousands of niche networking sites, industry forums and other opportunities to connect with a far more segmented audience than the big sites offer. Even MySpace is still in the running for very specific demographics.

3. Double check if social media is the best option for your target demographic.

Sure, there are centenarians that are blogging, but there is a reason medical commercials targeting senior citizens offer to send them a free VHS tape rather than connecting online. (Hat tip to Scott Stratten for that insight.) There are other demographics for which social media is an option, but not necessarily the best option.

Think about busy CEOs. How much time do you think most of them really spend on Twitter?

4. Don’t go for the hot new thing—unless your target audience is early adopters.

I still use my FriendFeed account, but it didn’t catch on the way a lot of social media early adopters hoped. There were a few businesses that invested time in building a presence on the site, but it hasn’t paid off the way that building the same presence on Facebook might have.

5. Start the conversation as soon as possible.

The moment you identify a particular social network as a potential place to reach your best audience, test the waters.

Set up a basic account and start interacting; how your audience uses a site will be just as important as the fact that they are actually on there in the first place.

The simple truth is that very few people spend all their time on all the different social media sites. Most of us congregate where similar people—in terms of demographics and industry and other details—wind up. This means you have to target your efforts to where the people you want to find actually are.

Thursday Bram offers content marketing and traditional writing services through Hyper Modern Consulting, and is the co-creator of Constructively Productive. A version of this article originally ran on Waxing Unlyrical.

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