Currently the most-used social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Each of these has unique features, strengths and weaknesses so it is important to choose the right platform for what you want to achieve. Below is a breakdown of each of these platforms and some information on how to get started
Best for: Engagement. You can engage with your audience in a variety of ways from creating groups and events to posting a range of media that users can share and comment on. You can also display information permanently on your Facebook page such as contact details or drop-in times. The platform has a wide range of features that lend themselves to a diverse mix of users from large businesses to casual individual users.
Not so good for: Organic reach. Facebook has become very much a ‘pay to play’ platform and posts that aren’t boosted or promoted have a very limited reach meaning that many of your followers might not even see what you are posting. Facebook also seems to have fallen out of favour with younger social media users who tend to prefer more immediate and visual platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
How to get started:
- Navigate to https://www.facebook.com in your web browser.
- Enter your personal information and desired password, then click ‘Sign Up’.
- The ‘Welcome to Facebook’ page will appear. From here, you’ll be able to search for people you know on Facebook, learn more about your privacy settings, and upload a profile picture.
- Before you can access all of Facebook’s features, you’ll need to confirm your email address. To do this, sign in to your email account, open the confirmation message from Facebook, and click ‘Confirm Your Account’.
- Search for your friends, family or colleagues by typing their name into the search bar at the top and clicking on the ‘Add Friend’ button to follow them. Their updates will now appear in your timeline.
For more information, check out Getting Started on Facebook
Best for: Widespread reach and visibility. Using popular hashtags in your posts can make them visible to a huge audience across the world and in turn, you can easily access information by searching hashtags. Your followers can easily favourite your posts and retweet your messages to their followers, which leads to high levels of engagement. It’s a great source of information and allows you to stay on top of current events.
Not so good for: Lengthy posts. You are restricted to 140 characters, which can be challenging especially if you need to include links and lots of information. It’s also very fast moving so if you are promoting an event, for example, you really need to post regularly to make sure that you reach your audience. Tweets can quickly become buried especially at busy times.
How to get started:
- Navigate to https://twitter.com/ in your web browser.
- Click ‘Sign up for Twitter’ and enter your full name, phone number, and a password.
- In order to verify your phone number, we will send you an SMS text message with a code. Enter the verification code in the box provided.
- You will then be asked to select a username (usernames are unique identifiers on Twitter) — type your own or choose one we’ve suggested. We’ll tell you if the username you want is available.
- After signing up, follow a handful of accounts to create a customised stream of information on your home timeline. Following means you’ll get that user’s Tweets on your Twitter home timeline. You can unfollow anyone at any time.
- You can search for accounts by typing a name into the search bar or by clicking on the ‘Who to Follow’ tab for recommendations.
For more information, check out Getting Started on Twitter
Best for: Visuals. Instagram is basically a photo-sharing app so it’s a great place to promote events and products. It’s also one of the fastest growing social media platforms (especially with Millennials) in terms of both number of users and amount of engagement.
Not so good for: User-freedom. The platform is quite restrictive. You can only post images or video (no text-only posts) and you have to use a mobile device to post rather than your PC or laptop.
How to get started:
- Navigate to https://www.instagram.com/ in your web browser.
- Sign up for an Instagram account and choose a username that clearly identifies you.
- Add a profile photo and a short bio explaining who you are.
- Use and search tags to connect with your audience. For example, if you like cats, type #Cats into the search bar to find fellow cat lovers to follow.
For more information, check out Getting Started on Instagram
Best for: Engaging with a younger audience. Snapchat provides multiple methods of communication, including picture and video sharing, ‘story’ posts, text, voice and video messaging and voice and video calls. The fun, fleeting nature of the app has seen it’s popularity grow massively with pre-teens and Millennials. It’s a great tool to use if you are at an event such as graduation or an open day as you can build up a ‘story’ in photographs and video that documents the day so users can feel as though they are there with you.
Not so good for: Longevity. Content disappears after a few seconds.
How to get started:
- On your phone or mobile device, go to your app store and download the free app
- Launch Snapchat from your Home screen.
- Enter your name and tap ‘Sign Up’.
- Pick a username and password
- Enter your email address.
- You can either add friends manually by going to ‘Add Friends’ and entering their username or by scanning their ‘chatcode’ from their phone screen with your camera.
For more information, check out Getting Started on Snapchat
Social media management tools
Social media management tools really can make your life easier, especially if you need to update and oversee several different accounts. We’ve listed the most common services below.
TweetDeck is fantastic for managing your Twitter account(s). You can personalise your view so you can see everything that you need at a glance across several different accounts if you wish, including only posts featuring a specific hashtag. You can also schedule posts to go out at specific times and across multiple accounts; this is really useful if you are going to be out of the office.
Hootsuite is a similar platform but with the added benefit of incorporating all of your social media accounts, not just Twitter
Another useful app is ‘If This Then That’ (IFTT) as it allows you to ‘partner’ social media platforms so that a post to Instagram, for example, will also post to Twitter. You can use it with a huge range of services including all of the main social media platforms. You can browse the most popular pairings or ‘recipes’ or create your own.
Advice: Keep it simple. Don’t feel you have to be present on every social media platform. It is best to use one or two platforms regularly and build a good following on those rather than spread yourself too thinly over lots of different platforms