So you’ve decided to get your health organization onto social media. But there are so many! How do you choose between Facebook and Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram, Pinterest and Foursquare?
In this post I’ll discuss how the demographics of your target audience can help you decide where to focus your efforts.
If you want to reach: absolutely everyone
Facebook is the number one social media site for American adults, with 71% of Internet users (1). And while Facebook hasn’t seen the same user growth in the past few years as some of the other social media sites, it has seen substantial growth in the 65+ age group (1). Just because someone joined Facebook to see pictures of their grandkids doesn’t mean that they won’t use the rest of the site.
Another thing to note is that most people who use other social media sites also use Facebook. So while other social media is growing, users aren’t replacing Facebook but rather are augmenting their social media experience (1).
There is a downside to the diversity and volume of people who will find you on Facebook: some of them may not like your organization, your cause, or your mission, and may post argumentative comments on your posts. While discussion is good, you will need to have a thick-skinned moderator to prevent flame wars and block threatening commenters. This won’t happen to every organization, or on every post, but unchecked, nasty comments can drive away the people you are trying to reach (2).
If you want to reach: college-educated job seekers
The LinkedIn user base is much more focused than Facebook. LinkedIn users are generally college-educated urban professionals (1). That makes sense, since LinkedIn is primarily a professional social media site, rather than a ‘fun’ social media site. LinkedIn has also seen substantial growth in the number of women users, so it is not longer quite so male-dominated.
The challenge of LinkedIn is that many of the users still consider it a job-searching site, rather than a form of social media. Thus you will have more success reaching users if your organization does hire educated professionals (rather than relying solely on volunteers).
If you want to reach: Google employees
Really, there are only two reasons for your organization to have a Google+ page. First, having a Google+ page will improve your rankings on a Google search. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important part of online marketing, and this is an easy way to do it (at least for Google searches).
The second reason to use Google+ is if you are trying to reach Google employees. Honestly, it just never really took off with people outside of Google (and Google employees were required to use it for several years).
So by all means, make a Google+ page for your organization, link it to your website, and keep it up to date. But don’t expect it to drive a lot of traffic or get a lot of followers.
Other social media sites:
While you should concentrate on the big social media sites, don’t discount the less managed or more niche sites. If your target audience shares a very specific set of characteristics, you might find that they have already grouped themselves. Here are two examples:
If you want to reach: Fiber artists (yarn crafters)
Ravelry – This is, first and foremost, a yarn website. Primarily, Ravelry is a place to share knitting and crochet patterns, projects and yarn. But inside the groups there are tight-knit (ha) communities. If someone in your organization is a member of Ravelry already, and your specific health topic is one that comes up frequently, you might consider asking that person to post a link to your organization’s website. Don’t create a profile just to do this, as it will be interpreted as spamming. But if you have someone willing to put their Ravelry account on the line, and your organization is relevant, this can be a good way to access people who might not have otherwise encountered your site.
If you want to reach: The tech savvy
Reddit – Reddit is going through some very hard times right now, but it can be a good place to find out what the Internet at large has to say about a specific health topic. Reddit consists of topic-specific sub-reddits of user-generated content. This can be links to articles, or questions posted by users. Sub-reddits are maintained by moderators (users who volunteer to keep the conversations free of spam and generally on-track). Be aware that reddit has some really awful (racists, sexist, just plain nasty) sub-reddits, so read several posts in a sub-reddit to get a feel for the nature of the community before you put your organization’s name out there.
Once you know who your target audience is, you can use your social media time more efficiently by meeting them in the places they already gather.
- Social Media Update 2014. Pew Research Center. (http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/01/PI_SocialMediaUpdate20144.pdf)
- Social Media for Social Good. Heather Mansfield, 2012.