Why Brands Need to Tailor to Each Social Platform to Win

Opinion: Each social media platform plays by its own rules

Too many brands have a presence on social media for the sake of having a presence on social media stockcam/iStock

There are so many social media platforms out there in the world that brands can be forgiven for sometimes being confused about how to proceed.

To make it even more confusing, each social media platform plays by its own rules; what does well on Facebook might not do well on Twitter, and vice versa.

As a result, brands need to be aware of which types of content do well for them on various platforms, and to make sure that they don’t attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all strategy for social content.

From Facebook to Pinterest, each platform has its group of dedicated users. From a brand perspective, the point of being on multiple social platforms is to reach as wide a group as possible. Some customers might use Instagram as their platform of choice; others might choose to spend most of their time on Snapchat, musical.ly and so on.

Any company, then, that’s looking to spread its message far and wide should be on multiple platforms as much as possible.

But, needless to say, simply being present on a platform doesn’t translate to success. Brands need to be able to reach out to the people on each individual platform in a way that’s true to the platform’s community and norms.

For example, a brand that’s looking to use Twitter to reach its consumer base shouldn’t be posting long tweet threads, simply because that’s not how most people use Twitter. Similarly, companies that post and advertise on Facebook should be aware that the company’s algorithm currently favors video posts and use that to their advantage.

Think about how you yourself post on your own social media accounts (if you have them). Chances are, you’re not posting your pithy one-liners on Instagram or pictures of your avocado toast on Tumblr; instead, you’re posting them in places where they fit with the general tenor of the platform, such as Twitter or Snapchat.

Similarly, brands should recognize that some social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, are better-suited for responding to customer complaints than, say, Snapchat—and Snapchat is better-suited as a vehicle for raising brand awareness among millennials and Generation Z than Facebook.

Besides thinking about the type of content that will perform well on each platform, brands also need to think about the length and visual style of each soundbite.

Until recently, content on Snapchat was limited to 10 seconds, which meant that advertisers had to use all of their ingenuity to create short ads that would stick in users’ minds. In addition to being brief and engaging, content on Snapchat and Instagram Stories also has to be vertical, which adds an additional challenge to the creative team’s plate.

Tailoring content to each individual platform is a sign that a company knows what it’s doing and that it has a coherent social media strategy. Cross-posting—the practice of posting the same piece of content without modifications on each individual channel—is generally seen as being a poor use of one’s content and likely to cause more problems than it solves. No brand wants to be seen as the grandparent who hasn’t yet managed to get the hang of social media.

Finally, as other authors have noted, each social media platform has its own “subculture,” with different tones, language and even unique ways of using hashtags.

Too many brands have a presence on social media for the sake of having a presence on social media. The goal, ostensibly, of being on social media is to reach people where they are, but this means more than simply having a Facebook page or a throwaway ad on Snapchat.

Brands have to be able to engage people on those platforms, to be able to participate in the cultural conversation and to direct attention towards themselves in what is already a very crowded landscape.

There is no sympathy for brands that use social media badly. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been around long enough that the topic of best practices on each social media platform has been the subject of much e-ink.

The best way for brands to avoid this trap is to think about how people already interact on each platform, what the company’s goals are and how social media can be used to achieve them. Just as no advertiser would think of repurposing a print ad for a television spot, creative for social media has to abide by the norms set by users of each platform.

In order for brands to win, they have to play by the rules of the game.

Josh Ong is director of global marketing and communications at mobile tools provider Cheetah Mobile.