Going Social: Size Doesn’t Matter, Sizing Up Your Audience Does

Social MediaBigger isn’t always better. Sure, Facebook has more than a billion users worldwide, but that doesn’t mean you will find it useful for your brand.

What about all these smaller networks popping up? Are you frozen by FOMO (fear of missing out)? Or even worse, are you creating a presence for your business on all these sites just because of this fear?

When social sites pop up like prairie dogs (and they will continue to do so), the important factors on whether you join in stay the same. Ask yourself:

  1. Is my target audience on this site and engaging?
  2. Are people talking about my brand or similar brands here?
  3. Do I have valuable, relevant content to provide which will engage my target audience?
  4. Do I have the resources to manage effective participation on this site?

Whether your company is large or small, you might find a niche network is the perfect place for you. Let’s take a look at some of the sites you might consider.

If you can provide content that is very visual in nature, consider using:


Pinterest is like a pinboard for various ideas, tasks, recommendations, and more. It’s more about curation than creation, and works best with very visual concepts and products. Lifestyle brands and tourism do very well here. Also, the Today Show has an impressive presence as well.

Types of businesses that fit:

Retail, fashion, restaurants, food products & services, photography, graphic design, interior design, architecture, lifestyle brands, tourism, magazines.

Brands doing a good job:

HGTV, Whole Foods, Men’s Health, Martha Stewart, Better Homes & Gardens, West Elm, Bergdorf Goodman, The Today Show, Travel Channel.


Instagram is all about photos- taking them and sharing them while on the go. This mobile photo-sharing app is now available on iPhone and Android phones. Brands can participate in two ways:

  1. Create and maintain a brand channel.
  2. Encourage user participation related to your brand through hashtags.

You can run contests, source images, and more. Levi’s ran an open casting call for models by asking Instagram users to tag their photos with #IAmLevis.

Types of businesses that fit:

Lifestyle brands, fashion, retail, travel, tourism, news.

Brands doing a good job:

Maersk, Puma, Ann Taylor, General Electric, Sharpie, Washington Post, Starbucks.

Keep in mind, just because your industry does not fall into the typical user’s realm doesn’t mean you can’t use Instagram. Look at GE and Maersk. You wouldn’t expect to find them here, but both are doing a great job. GE has its own Instagram channel and Maersk engages users by asking them to take Maersk-related pictures and tag the photos #Maersk.

If you have quirky or creative content to share, interact in more than 140 characters:


Tumblr is a place to tell another story about your brand—a different, more fun side. This is not the place for a corporate blog, but it could be a place for a corporation to show a more personal and creative side to your brand. Get creative. The audience here is younger. This is not your grandfather’s blog site. Combine compelling copy with visuals that pop or entertain.

Types of businesses that fit:

Fashion, retail, entertainment, publishers, broadcast media.

Brands doing a good job:

Target, The Today Show, The Atlantic, Bergdorf Goodman, Rolling Stone magazine, Coca-Cola.

Brick and mortar – Location based:


Users of foursquare use their mobile phones to check in to locations, find out where their friends are, read and write recommendations, save money and unlock rewards.

The History Channel, though not a brick-and-mortar business, actually does a great job engaging its almost 300,000 followers. Users can check in and get historical info on sites they are in or near.

Types of businesses that fit:

Local shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, universities, libraries, cities.

Brands doing a good job:

Starbucks, The History Channel, MTV, New York Times, Bravo.

Foursquare is planning changes for 2012.


SCVNGR is very similar to foursquare, only with added gamification. This mobile app does a little more to engage users at the site of contact. You check in at participating locations and then complete challenges to unlock rewards and savings. Brands can get very creative with the games, challenges and rewards they offer.

Different from foursquare, SCVNGR incorporates a mobile payment app that allows consumers to create and use their own, unique QR code to pay at participating merchants.

Types of businesses that fit:

Restaurants, universities, museums, cities, local shops, tourism, sports teams, retail.

Brands doing a good job:

GameStop, American Eagle, Buffalo Wild Wings, Smithsonian museums, Dunkin Donuts, Clarkson University, University of California-Santa Barbara.

Some final tips

There are many more social sites out there and more will keep coming. Remember your important questions to ask (above) before joining any. And keep this in mind.

The “unfriending” trend is on the rise. People are trying to focus their online communities more and make their interaction and time spent more meaningful. This means smaller, more focused niche networks are gaining in appeal.

Your participation should be driven by the questions discussed above. Audience size is not the most important driver. Audience demographics are. If your customers aren’t using that network, chances are neither should you. You should’t have to struggle with ways your brand can participate – that’s another sign you can divert your attention to another path.

Remember, just because it’s a niche network doesn’t mean it’s YOUR niche.


For more info on choosing social media channels, read Which Social Media Channels Should Your Business Use?


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