This essay originally was published on January 19, 2023, with the email subject line "CT No.151: The social media channel–brand fit questionnaire."

Source: Doug Ray, Three Ships Media

In 2012, a meme called Social Media Explained With Donuts circulated online and at professional marketing meetups and conferences. In the original version of the meme, Doug Ray of Three Ships Media explained how to use the popular social media networks of the time. Looking at these services now, many of which are dead and buried, it’s clear that we’re due for version 2.0.

So much can change in a decade. No one is “checking in” on Foursquare. Google finally admitted that Google+ pulled the plug in 2019. LastFM is far from the go-to listening platform, if it ever was. And Instagram’s utility as a tool of business and pleasure has far surpassed its hipster origins as a home for vintage photo collections.

Fast forward to the present where frequently changing social algorithms, upticks in bot commentary, and complaints of low engagement rates leave us to question if social media is a waste of effort for our business. What makes it all worth it?

Some social content is the digital equivalent of the garbage island, but it’s undeniable that social media evolved into an ecosystem of powerful tools that produce measurable impact on both brand marketing and the bottom line. It’s not often you hear about a wildly successful business that isn’t using any form of social media.

But which constellation of social channels is the key to making your business wildly successful? Where should you be spending your precious time and energy to grow your brand awareness on social media?

Not sure where to begin? Enter in the Social Media Explained 2.0, featuring the common complaints surrounding today’s channels and how they can keep your audience coming back day after day.

The kombucha tester’s 2023 social media dilemmas

I don’t have time to make short-form videos. New trends? Platform data mining that I can’t access? No thanks.

But viral trends usually start on TikTok before they make it to other platforms. 

If I wanted to post videos, I'd join TikTok. What happened to just posting photos?

The introduction of Reels helped my profile reach more people than my photos ever did. 

Are businesses even using this anymore, or is it just turning into an influencer-first TikTok?

My brand is targeting Gen Z, so it might be worth testing custom filters or interest-based video content. 

I’m getting no engagement. Is it even worth my time to post? 

At least Facebook groups are still hanging on. I can use my group to continue building community among my audience. 

If I don’t have time for short videos, what makes you think I have time for longform video and YouTube shorts?

If I do spend time making YouTube videos, I can splice them up into multiple short video clips to use on other channels.

This doesn’t give me immediate results. Am I also supposed to be pinning video content?

At least Pinterest drives actively engaged traffic to evergreen content. I can just repin the same images month after month. 

What’s going on over here? Can we all get on the same page if we’re still using this or if Elon has fully driven it into the ground?

At least the ability to reply directly to your target audience with publicly visible conversation threads helps get my brand name out. 

Is this where we’re going when we leave Twitter or am I wasting time trying to make this work for business?

Maybe I should try to see if their server-based organization model can help me reach my target audience. 

There’s buzz around using BeReal for business. Is this a PR nightmare or worth the risk for authentic connection?

Maybe showing the uncurated version of our business will help better explain what it's like to work with us. 

Those are the players of the present day, but much like the donut meme, check back in a decade. Take note: even though a platform is relevant, it doesn’t mean that investing in it as a content distribution channel will produce results worth the time and resources spent.

To narrow it down, I’ll focus on the channels that would help your business grow if you started a new account today, from scratch. Based on recent business changes, in most cases, this would rule out:

  • Twitter, despite the great success of the creators who built engaged communities during its heyday;
  • Snapchat, which is only a worthwhile venture for influencers of younger audiences;
  • Mastodon, which was never designed for marketing purposes and will likely never fill that role, and
  • BeReal, which is still in the development phase in terms of how businesses can leverage their offerings.

Which social channels will help your brand thrive?

Unlike the multiple choice quizzes in a teen magazine where “Mostly As” means you‘ll marry Pedro Pascal and “Mostly Bs” gets you Ryan Gosling, choosing your social media approach is not a one-size-fits-all answer, but rather a self-guided reflection.

If you’re serious about putting your social media efforts where they matter, open up a Google Doc (or grab a pen and paper if you’re feeling old-school) and get ready to write, because we’re about to work through questions to determine which social media channels will drive results for your business.

When you choose the right ones, creating content and measuring results comes with less skepticism and more reassurance.

The social media channel–brand fit questionnaire

  1. What are your goals? Are you looking for direct product sales, promoting your or your employees’ charm, seeking to start a conversation with your audience, or just trying to keep users informed about what’s new?
  2. How can you best portray your offering to your audience? Is it through visual displays, verbal explanations, or a combination of both? If you weren't there to explain it, how would your audience understand it?
  3. Do you offer a physical product? Instagram and Pinterest are excellent channels for showcasing product photography.
  4. Do you typically see more success when you provide an explanation of how to use your product(s)? Product demonstrations can spark conversation on TikTok or even on Instagram or Facebook Reels.
  5. Are you running a service-based business and know your audience responds positively to seeing evidence of the results they can expect? Or a retail business that strives to convey the craftsmanship of the products you sell? If your customers want to see real-use examples before they buy, you may see the greatest brand awareness generated from Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest by sharing photos or videos of what products or results you’ve produced for clients.
  6. Does background information on the work that goes into your offers better boost the confidence your client needs before spending money? Then, short-form video on Instagram and TikTok will help you demonstrate your processes and what the client experience of working together is like.
  7. Do you consider your business an industry leader who executes on big ideas explained with long-form stories? If you rely heavily on user case studies, and reviews from past clients, using channels receptive to longform content — such as LinkedIn or YouTube — would be a great way to showcase the results your clients can expect in both written and video form.
  8. Consider further: If my ideal customer were here, would I be demonstrating or describing what I offer? Your answer will guide your decision: should you focus on more visual channels like Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, or storytelling channels like LinkedIn, TikTok and YouTube?

Who is your audience, and what are their behaviors?

Think beyond age, location, and gender demographics. Consider your audience’s content consumption behaviors and use of search.

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