When Choosing an Online Platform, Always Ask This

Sometimes it feels like we hear about a hot new trend online every day. There are new social networks, new apps, new services… And with so many options online to help grow your business or nonprofit, choosing the best online platform can seem like a tough decision.

When you’re looking at online platforms for your company, it’s important to consider the audience you’re trying to reach, your goals, and your company’s culture. But it can also be really helpful to ask another question, too: are you trying to discover new customers or nurture the relationships you already have?

Here’s a look at how different networks, sites, and apps can help you reach the people you want.

Strengthening your existing connections

Since the early days of social media, everyone’s talked about what it meant to be a “friend” with someone. Should you accept that friend request from the high school classmate you haven’t seen in 10 years, or the person you saw at a party once?

Social networks have matured a lot over time, but many still rely on those connections at their core. On Facebook, you’ll usually only see posts from people and companies you’ve “friended” or followed. Twitter generally does the same thing.

These kinds of feeds aren’t just about social networks. On the Poshmark marketplace, for example, you’ll see a constant stream of clothes and items that the people you’ve followed have shared – both their closets and other picks they’ve found.

If you have a strong customer base, these kinds of platforms can be great; they allow you to reach the people you already know without having to scream through a megaphone to a bunch of people who don’t know you. It’s a great way to build your brand and relationships, too. As people see more updates from you, they’ll have a better sense of who you are. That kind of connection can be really important as you grow your company.

Discovering new customers

Meanwhile, if you swipe through videos on TikTok, most of what you watch will be from creators you’ve never seen. The algorithm behind TikTok (and on Instagram’s TikTok knockoff feature, Reels) constantly discovers new content it thinks you’d enjoy.

Apps like TikTok are a great opportunity to expand your network and discover new customers. Some creators rack up millions of followers from their videos – and often in a lot less time than building an audience in more traditional ways.

Platforms that rely on search are a great place for discovery, too. Pinterest can put your visual content in front of fresh eyes, and selling on Etsy can help customers searching for a certain kind of product find what you sell. For service-based businesses, directories like Angi or HomeAdvisor can help create new connections.

The reality: most platforms are a mix

At the end of the day, most online platforms aren’t completely either/or when it comes to discovery or nurture. On Twitter, for example, hashtags let users find new content about topics that interest them. And many creators have built loyal follower bases using nothing but TikTok, where people are excited to see new videos from their favorites.

There’s also always a way to hack the system with paid advertising. You can almost always reach the people you want even on the most connection-based networks like Facebook. And digital marketing tools often let you target your audience with some pretty crazy precision.

Whatever your approach, make sure to ask yourself about your goals before you stake out new territory online. No matter what you want to accomplish, the possibilities are endless!

Photo by Valentin Antonucci from Pexels

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