As a freelancer or agency, you need to think carefully about which social media platforms you want to be - and can be - active on. After all, your resources aren't unlimited. In this article, I'll give you some facts, figures and tools to help you decide which social media platform is best for your business. From the classics to Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, Clubhouse and more.
In my previous article, I described the basics of how to find the right social media platforms for your business. There are plenty of important factors to consider here, including:
- Who you are trying to reach
- What your objective is
- Which media formats are suitable for you
- What you can achieve on the different platforms
- What fits to you and the services or products you offer
In other words, you need to know as much as possible about your target groups. On the other hand, you also need to be able to assess what different social media networks actually offer, what character they have and which users you'll find there. And that's exactly what this article is all about.
Business networks: LinkedIn and Xing
LinkedIn and Xing (the latter being popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland) are the only examples in this article that see themselves as social networks specifically for professional use and in B2B. These are at the top of the list because I believe they offer the greatest potential for most freelancers and agencies.
The main advantage of these professional networks is the context. Users already expect content here that revolves around professional life in some form. Private matters tend to take place on the fringes - if at all. Talking about oneself and one's own expertise is therefore normal. Networking is to be expected.
But bear in mind that doesn't give you a free pass to post aimlessly about yourself and reach out to every person with a standard meaningless text. Try and resist the temptation to do this! You should definitely think about what you want to post and why it's relevant for your target audience. Furthermore, you should consciously build up your network, pay attention to sustainability and respect other people's time. Despite this warning, you won't always stand out negatively if you talk about yourself, your work and your skills on LinkedIn or Xing.
LinkedIn has established itself as the international business network. In Europe, it now has over 200 million users - more than in its home country, the USA. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH), the figure is 14 million. Xing is still ahead in these three countries with around 19 million users. It's clear that such figures alone aren't particularly meaningful, however. The engagement rates seem to be higher on LinkedIn in general. If your target market is the DACH region, for example, you'd usually need to be active on both platforms. If you're not just focused on the DACH region, you can concentrate fully on LinkedIn.
An interesting tool on LinkedIn is the Social Selling Index. It offers support for all those who would also like to use the network to win new customers. In four categories, you can find out how your profile and your activities compare to your industry and your contacts. Of course, you shouldn't take this information as gospel. But it can give you good ideas. If you want to go even deeper, you can use paid tools such as the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to help you find and contact suitable potential customers.
Xing has a different character to LinkedIn. Posting articles on one's own profile or a company page, for example, isn't really the focus of this platform. Activity rather takes place in the approximately 85,000 groups. Groups are a great way to connect with like-minded people, exchange ideas and, quite incidentally, prove your expertise or learn something new.
Personal networks: Facebook, Instagram & Co.
But life doesn't just revolve around work - or at least it shouldn't. There's a range of social networks that are primarily for private and personal use. While direct selling and advertising might not go down as well on personal social platforms, they can still play an important role in your marketing.
After all, people still prefer to communicate with people. Plus, our decisions are often based more on irrational and emotional reasons than we give ourselves credit for (see behavioral economics). An agency or freelancer should therefore be personable to their target audience and appear trustworthy. And that's exactly what you can achieve on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Co.
Don't underestimate the power of direct referrals. If your network knows what you're working on and where your skills lie, they're more likely to recommend you once they see appropriate content. Let's take a closer look at some of the social media networks:
Facebook is especially useful thanks to its huge number of groups. You can also use your own profile page for your professional content from time to time. This is especially true if you keep your posts primarily personal and don't try to be a salesperson. Things you can share well with your contacts include your achievements, new projects, new insights, ideas and thoughts from your industry.
Of course, you can also create a Facebook page for yourself as a freelancer or agency. It's just generally more difficult to achieve considerable reach with pages.
Facebook Ads for beginners
The range of available content formats is enormous. While everything used to revolve around square photos, there's now the very successful Stories format, Reels inspired by TikTok, Guides for places, products or posts and IGTV for longer videos.
What has stayed is the focus on visual content. Of course, this works especially well for topics and industries that are, by nature, visual e.g. fashion. But the platform can also be used by web developers. You could use the story feature to publish short how-tos or show good examples of certain aspects. Or give a look behind the scenes of your work. In the guides, you could present useful posts you've published yourself or saved from other profiles.
Each profile can be converted into a "Business Profile". In return, you get better statistics and can offer direct contact on your profile. At the same time, there are no direct disadvantages for the reach of your content. Besides, with an Instagram business profile, you still have the same possibilities and functions as a private person. This option only has advantages for you.
YouTube is a hybrid between a visual search engine and a social network. On the one hand, you can create a profile and collect subscribers who follow your activities directly. On the other hand, your videos can still be found weeks, months or even years later. This is an advantage that should not be underestimated compared to many other platforms on the social web.
If you're not too shy in front of the camera, I'd definitely recommend being active on YouTube. You don't have to be a polished masterpiece either. Videos explaining topics and how-to guides are a good idea. They show your expertise and, ideally, make you look competent and trustworthy. If you're still feeling insecure, my advice is to practice, practice, practice. Many successful YouTube channels today started small and humble. As long as you know what you're talking about and can communicate it well, the rest will come over time.
For the beginning, you can create your videos with relatively few resources. Your smartphone, a tripod and perhaps a ring light are enough. Alternatively, you can start with a (good) webcam. The potential reach is enormous. According to studies, up to 65 percent of the population aged 14 and older use this platform.
Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, Clubhouse and more....
Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest and even more so the still very new audio app Clubhouse are niche offerings among the social media platforms. Each of these platforms has a very clear focus and explaining every one in detail would go far beyond the scope of this article.
They can each have interesting potential and are especially suitable if you "feel like doing it". That's right, social media can also just be fun. Even if this article is mainly about how you can use these platforms professionally, we shouldn't forget the fun aspect.
Don't forget what was mentioned at the beginning of this article: you'll only be able to actively maintain a few profiles. And these should also include ones you actually enjoy using. Your followers will notice the difference.
Tools for social media analysis
Another basis for your decision should be concrete numbers from two perspectives:
- How successful is what you've been doing up to now?
- How successful are others in your industry?
For the first point, the biggest challenge is finding the right numbers to measure your success. As I wrote in my article on content KPIs, the really interesting statistics are often the hardest to extract. While you can easily see at a glance whether you've lost or gained followers, what does that really mean for the success of your business? First of all, it means next to nothing.
The click rate on a social media post is more interesting. The social networks often provide you with such stats free of charge. Thanks to UTM parameters and a suitable web analytics tool, you can, for example, additionally track how many whitepaper downloads have come about via your post on LinkedIn. That's not a bad start at all.
For the second point, the competitor analysis, it's even more difficult to get hold of reliable figures. Because you'll only ever see the numbers that are made public. You see the followers (moderately interesting) and can get an idea of the interaction rate by looking at how many likes and comments there are (a bit more interesting). Unfortunately, you won't ever see how much revenue has ultimately been generated.
With this restriction in mind, you can start your analysis with tools like the free Talkwalker search. You can use it, for example, to see how much response your competition's hashtag action has achieved or who is talking about you on the social web. Other examples are mention, quintly or Fanpagekarma. Such comprehensive services can sometimes be too expensive for individual freelancers. The calculation is obviously different if you plan to use them in parallel for your customers
My conclusion on social media platforms
Of course, business social media platforms LinkedIn and Xing are often recommended first when it comes to using social networks for business. This is especially true in the B2B sector and also makes sense. But I'd like to emphasize one more point already mentioned above: platforms like Facebook or Instagram can work just as well for you. People still talk about their work, their successes and their plans on these personal social networks too.
At the same time, you shouldn't underestimate how important the human side is when it comes to business decisions. If you also keep an eye on how successful your activities really are, it will pay off for you sooner or later.