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Choosing the right social media platform for your business

From Twitter’s changes under Elon Musk to new opportunities on platforms like Discord and Reddit, picking a social platform can be tricky.

Photo by Sumaid pal Singh Bakshi on Unsplash
Photo by Sumaid pal Singh Bakshi on Unsplash

In the not-so-distant past, using social media for your business was relatively straightforward — you had your LinkedIn presence so customers and prospective hires could find you, and maybe you had a Facebook page if you wanted to connect with customers. And maybe if you were really adventurous, you had a Twitter account where customers could post messages to or about you. Your social media staff could monitor the stream to see if there were any customer service or marketing disasters bubbling up.

Since then, the marketplace has changed dramatically — if you’re not sure which platform to use (and many companies aren’t), here’s how and why they are being used, and some of the things you need to know in order to make a decision.

Twitter’s transformation under Elon Musk

When Elon Musk decided to buy Twitter (now called X) in 2022 for $44 billion, some were optimistic about what he might do to improve the platform, but so far the results have been mixed at best. He fired a lot of the trust and safety team, whose job it was to keep the social network free of hate speech and disinformation, and that means there are more and more tweets from racist ideologues.

Related content: Social media algorithm markers for 2024

Many advertisers have fled as a result, and few have returned. The main thing to think about with respect to using X Is whether that is the kind of environment you want your employees or your business to be a part of. If they are still using the platform, many are probably in “listen only” mode where they keep an eye out for anything important, but don’t engage.

Exploring the fediverse as an alternative

One alternative is what some call the “fediverse,” whose growth has been accelerated by the ongoing implosion of X. The fediverse is a collection of social apps that are built around open-source technology, all of which do what is called “federating,” which means that their content can be shared across a variety of different apps and services. One popular open-source Twitter replacement is Mastodon. After Musk took over Twitter, the number of users of Mastodon grew rapidly, as more people decided to look elsewhere for their social media hit. The growth has slowed, but there are still an estimated 8 million users of Mastodon, although that pales in comparison to X’s 250 million users. 

So should your business be using these federated tools? That depends. They take a bit more time to figure out, but if your business is technology-related, it might be worth considering, since Mastodon tends to attract the nerdy set. One interesting option is a Twitter replacement that Meta launched in 2023 called Threads, which grew rapidly after its launch — so rapidly that it became the fastest-growing new app in history, adding about 100 million users in just five days.

Meta’s Threads and its role in the fediverse

When Threads was launched, Meta announced that it planned to integrate Threads with the fediverse, and it has done exactly that. In March, it introduced a test of federation, allowing users of Mastodon to follow Threads accounts from inside a Mastodon app.

Businesses that rely on or are interested in sharing news are taking a wait-and-see attitude to Threads, because the platform has made it clear that it is not interested in attracting users who are looking for news, political or otherwise. News items aren’t specifically blocked (as they are on Facebook in Canada, as a result of Meta’s opposition to Bill C-18, a news licensing law) but they won’t be promoted.

TikTok’s rapid growth

What Meta is going for with Threads is light entertainment, and that’s because it is trying to compete with TikTok. So should your business be using TikTok? Again, it depends on what your business is and what you are trying to achieve with your social media marketing.

Businesses that are doing the best on TikTok tend to be those that share short, funny videos — it’s okay to include a brand name or a pitch provided it is short and funny. And in many cases, what businesses and entrepreneurs are looking for is brand awareness rather than specific actions. One thing to remember, however, is that TikTok content changes so rapidly that each post only has a limited lifespan, so you need to commit to posting similar content on a daily basis, if not more often. 

Then there’s the issue of TikTok’s ownership. Whether you should care about it being controlled by the Chinese government is up to you, but the US government recently passed a law that will force its owner, Bytedance, to sell it or be banned from the US, and while that is playing out it could cause a certain amount of unpredictability.

Alternative options for niche audiences

Some businesses are having success with a discussion app called Discord, which allows companies or individuals to build a community of like-minded people who can provide feedback or just chat. Historically, the topics that have done the best on Discord are related to either gaming or cryptocurrency, but the marketplace for the app does seem to be broadening. Likewise, some businesses have had some success engaging on Reddit, which has carved out a user base of about 200 million by focusing on different micro communities based on different topics, known as subreddits.

Facebook still exists, of course, but in most cases your business is likely to get more engagement from the platform if your products or services cater to people over the age of 40 and even 50, since that is the core market for the app. If that is your target demographic, then it is probably worth either keeping your page up or investing in trying to build a community around the site. 

In every case, before you rush off to try another new social app that is the “in thing,” try to think about what you are trying to achieve and then determine whether it’s worth your time and effort. You don’t have to be everywhere. Save your energy for things that will make a difference.

Mathew Ingram
Written By

Mathew Ingram is a veteran journalist and technology writer whose work focuses on the intersection between media, technology and culture. He is endlessly fascinated by the changes that the internet and the mobile and social web have produced — and are continuing to produce — in the way that we behave towards each other, the way we consume information and the way we see the world around us.

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