Social media has, no doubt, solidified its place in the marketing communications mix, but knowing and applying that fact are two entirely different things. Within the larger omni-channel marketing mix, social media can seem trivial and even cursory. However, as short-lived as a post, Tweet, or Snapchat may appear, an effective social media branding strategy can leave lasting impressions on brand perceptions, engagement and loyalty. After all, a single bad review today can be a crisis tomorrow. While a happy customer may tell nine people about a positive brand experience, an angry customer is likely to tell 16.

So, how do you effectively utilize and pick the right social media platforms that will enhance your brand image and generate positive customer experiences to grow your business?

Here are three things you should know, do, and consider when building a social media branding strategy for your business:

Set a Foundation

The cornerstone to any good social media branding strategy is your customer. Understanding your customer sets the foundation for your social media branding strategy and helps you establish your objectives for using social media.

So, before you start creating an account for every social media platform out there, ask yourself what your purpose is for being online – do you want to increase sales? Gain exposure? Generate more leads? Whatever your aim, it affects what social media channels are right for you and your business, and will help you ultimately reach that desired result. The demographics of your target market will also impact the makeup of your social media network. Take note of their age, gender, and other defining characteristics, to identify the social sites that have a user-base that matches your buyer personas.

Get to Know the Building Blocks

Now that you’ve set a clear and concrete goal and have a solid understanding of your ideal consumer, it’s finally time to consider your options. Let’s take a look at a few of your choices, and how those platforms can be better suited to certain companies and business objectives. Below, are the top five most popular social media platforms in the United States, and insights into each to consider when designing a your omni-channel social media network.

1) Facebook

  • Remains the most popular and most active social media site with more than twice as many active users than its runner up
  • Predominantly female; 83% female vs. 75% male of online users
  • Over 50 million businesses use Facebook Business Pages
  • 77% of B2C companies have captured a lead through Facebook
  • Most widely used across all age demographics with 64% of Americans 12+ using the social site
  • Best for: B2C/B2B. Building and improving brand awareness by reaching a wide audience of potential brand advocates.

2) Twitter

3) LinkedIn

  • 40% of B2B professionals say LinkedIn is a critical part of their research when considering new technologies and services to purchase
  • 65% of B2B companies say they’ve acquired a customer leveraging LinkedIn
  • 94% B2B organizations utilize LinkedIn in their content marketing strategy
  • Best for: B2B; Establishing thought-leadership and long-form content to increase lead generation and build professional relationships

4) Pinterest

  • 93% of Pinterest users have utilized the platform to plan or make purchases
  • Pinterest drives 5% of all retail website referral traffic
  • Pinterest is five times better at driving in-store sales than any other platform
  • 87% of Pinterest users say that they have made a purchase decision because of Pinterest
  • Best for: B2C. Increasing sales and driving inbound traffic through social discovery and shared content

5) Instagram

  • 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35
  • 53% of Instagram users follow brands
  • Leads all social media channels in per-follower interactions and engagement rates
  • Best for: B2C. Building a brand and establishing a brand image through highly visual and engaging content

Start Small & Build Up

Lastly, be realistic and recognize that finding the right social media mix will a be a process of trial and error. Start small, monitor what’s working and what’s not, and respond accordingly to build a successful online presence that works for your business.