Exchange: How to navigate the maze of social media platforms

Our latest Exchange debate explored how to choose the right social media channel for your needs.

The ever growing choice of social media platforms can be seen as a blessing, or a curse, for communicators. We asked a panel of industry experts for their tips on how to choose the right one for your brand.

Today's debate, chaired by Helen Dunne, Editor CorpComms Magazine, included a great panel; Alex Pearmain, Director, Brands2Life, Gareth Davies, Head of Studio D UK Waggener Edstrom, Stephen Steele, Head of Digital Engagement, The National Deaf Children's Society and Thomas Knorpp, Digital Media Manager, Sainsbury's.

The debate opened with agreement that a pragmatic approach is best when deciding, from the huge range available, which social channel is the most appropriate; "You need to ask yourself if you're prepared for the platforms you want to launch and if you have the expertise and internal resources to dedicate to it?"

One panel member said they overcome the challenge of limited resources, a common issue for non-profit organisations, by ensuring that they always bring social media decisions back to their business objectives rather than just jumping on the latest trends. The overriding advice from the panel was to avoid doing things simply because they have worked for a competitor, to bear in mind that some platforms simply won't work for you and be creative with the resources you already have.

Audience listening and insight was raised next and was a point revisited by the panel throughout the debate. Social media platforms present you with a huge range of data which you should utilise to gain an understanding of your target audience; "Identify and tap into any emotional attachment your audience may have with your brand" advised one panel member.

Twitter was noted as being great for monitoring your audience and also for responding to opportunities that come from mentions of your brand and competitors. The consensus from the panel was that rather than just talking at your audience you can easily raise awareness of your brand by simply joining relevant conversations that your target audience can relate to.

Understanding your audience will also help you determine which content will work on which channel; "Make choices about the platforms you use based upon the size of the audience, and levels of engagement there." Content won't always be successful across all platforms. Twitter was cited as being best used to respond to news and cultural events and for instant "irreverent brand engagement". The panel warned that these types of posts often won't translate as well on Facebook where your core fan audience is likely to engage.

The debate closed with some great questions from the floor, one of which asked: If you could only use one social platform, which would it be? Twitter was a popular choice, described as the "front door to the internet" and a good way to monitor the temperature of consumers. Other plus points were the fast-paced, responsive culture of the platform and the ease of joining conversations, following trends and gaining immediate audience insights. Only one panel member opted for Facebook, often the platform of choice for charities and brands looking to build long-term rather than instant relationships with their audience, which can be established through Facebook groups.

You can read extended coverage of the discussion in the next edition of CorpComms Magazine.

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Claire Melly
Head of Marketing, UK & Ireland

Call me +44 (0)20 3130 7424