Social media is no longer the territory of the millennial. Today, consumers ranging from 14 to 65+ and beyond (to infinity!!) are active across the various platforms on a daily basis. In the current climate it wouldn’t be out of order to assume that your audience is using social media in one way or another, and the question more often becomes which platform is the best tool to deliver your key messages to the various segments of your audience. That said, if you aren’t sure if social media is a key channel for you or your client, a few simple steps will help you quickly assess.

1. Build a character profile of your current audience
Understanding who your audience is should always be the first step. This profiling goes beyond whether your consumers are male or female, their age bracket and whether they are ‘ABC1’. Instead consider their behaviour and motivators, the other brands you imagine they may engage with online or in store. Where do they shop and what do they aspire to? Current social targeting capabilities mean that you can drill right down to these descriptors, and having a clear picture will impact your ability to gauge the extent of their online presence.

2. Look to the competition
Chances are you’ve identified your competition already, and if they are on social attempting to engage with consumers, you can learn quite a lot based on their successes. Ask yourself these questions:

a. Do they have considerable followings?
b. Do a lot of users engage with their content?
c. Which platforms are they utilizing and where do they seem to have the most success?
d. Are a lot of users getting in touch on social for product education, queries,
complaints or clarifications?

While a lack of social success among your competitors shouldn’t be interpreted as a surefire sign to stay offline, an abundance of success is a sign that your target audience is active and that it is time for you to claim your piece of the pie!

3. A little hashtag search goes a long way
Instagram is a great place to start some research. Searching for anyone hash tagging your product name, your competitors or any related search terms can tell you quickly if your target consumer is active on the platform. You may be surprised to find that dozens, hundreds, even thousands of consumers have created content in association with your brand on Instagram and the only obstacle to engaging with them further is your absence!

4. Facebook is a targeting wonderland
Of all the platforms, Facebook currently provides businesses with the most detailed and comprehensive targeting capabilities. Using their advertising platform, you can get a clear picture of the size of your audience and the social advertising spend you will need to reach them. Sit down with someone who understands how to use Facebook’s Advert Manager, and be sure to bring your consumer profiles along. After entering all your parameters, Facebook will provide you with the estimated audience: the number of active users who fit your character profile. These users all represent potential consumers, brand enthusiasts, ambassadors, and lifelong devotees. If you aren’t on social, you’ll never be able to nurture your relationship with them.

5. When all else fails, be brave
You will quickly learn that the brave brands are the ones who manage to build authentic, loyal and highly engaged followings. After all, there are millions of conversations happening at any given moment, so finding a way to stand out is essential. While it may seem daunting, remember that social is a perfect place to test and learn, to find out what resonates with your target market, so don’t be afraid to take reasonable risks and be bold.

Once you’ve established if your target audience is online, it’s time to hone your social tone of voice, channel strategy, and content plan. Avoid treating your social platforms as direct marketing tools. Users engage with brands who have something relevant to say, who comment on trending topics and aren’t afraid to express their own ethos. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that social media isn’t a platform built to simply drive sales, and that conversations are often just as valuable as conversions.

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