Many social media options exist for strategic communicators to deliver messages, and for companies to brand itself. A few options available include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. Focusing on Facebook and Instagram specifically, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with each platform.
With Facebook, there are many ways a company can benefit from using this site. Recent statistics indicate Facebook exceeds two-billion users. Instagram is at about 800-million. This provides companies with incredible reach potential. On Facebook, people use their real-names and have personal connections which lend to sharing and can help from a credibility perspective. Instagram has less personal “real-life” connections, aliases are common-place and profile information is often fabricated. On Facebook, business can target users based on profile information, engage and ask questions, provide links, schedule posts for optimal effectiveness and add eye-catching visuals. Facebook also has a solid website and mobile platform, whereas Instagram is primarily a mobile destination. On Instagram, there isn’t as much of an emphasis on sharing and re-posting the way you’d find on Facebook. However, there is an opportunity to use stunning visuals and short-videos. People “read” on Facebook, but they visit to Instagram to “see.”
From a business perspective, a downside is that people don’t use social media to view advertisements. Ad placement on Facebook is easy to ignore. On Instagram, ads are integrated on the feed in a way that makes it natural to view. Ideally, both sites can be used for engagement to build relationships with target audiences by posting relevant content. While many possible benefits exist, there are also many ways social media can stand to hurt a business. For instance, there is pressure to actively use the platform. Having infrequent posts can be considered even worse than not having a page at all from a branding perspective. Also, you are giving content to each site your business is active on. For some businesses, this takes away from the time and dedication spent on developing its own company site. A business shouldn’t drive traffic to another platform for its products and services. More content on social media can translate to less e-newsletter sign-ups, less reporters utilizing its newsroom, less target audience web traffic and ultimately, less backend data it has access to. Social media should be used as a tool to drive people to the company website and events.
Another disadvantage is lost control of the message. People start to share and change the message, leave comments, create memes and so forth. Social media also forces public customer service because you have direct communication with reporters and your audiences. There is pressure to respond to items expeditiously, and during times of crisis – there is an incredibly fast pace. Analytics is an area that served as an advantage primarily for Facebook, but now the playing field is almost even. Facebook has distinctive business profiles that allowed advertisers and businesses access to promotional tools and additional information on traffic (number of visitors, time spent, links clicked, gender) etc. This information is now available on business profiles in Instagram.