Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for Your Business – Phil Pallen
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As a business owner, it’s tempting to promote your brand on every social media platform, but it’s not always possible – and it might not be the best strategy, either. Brand strategist Phil Pallen shares his expertise to help you decide which platforms your businesses should focus on for maximum results.
Rich: My guest today is a personal branding expert and keynote speaker. His non-conventional approach to digital marketing and talent for social media has built him a global audience as a brand strategist. He has advised hundreds of brands from over 30 countries, including a shark on Shark Tank, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, politicians, and some of the most important names in entertainment.
A digital nomad, and a globe trotter, he has delivered speeches on five different continents, and frequently appears as an expert contributor in media outlets around the world, including CNN, Access Hollywood, and the Daily Mail.
Today he’s going to be helping us prioritize our social media platforms based on the type of business we’re in. I’m excited to be chatting with Phil Pallen. Phil, welcome to the podcast.
Phil: Thank you so much for having me. I’m equally excited to be here and to chat with you.
Rich: This is really good. I mean, I’m kind of throwing you out there without a net. We’re gonna see how you do. So I saw your presentation at Social Media Week Lima, and yes, the content was great. But I was really also taken by your slides, your layouts, and your design style. Now you work with clients on their brands, and it makes me wonder, is good design and an eye for branding something that one is born with, or is it something that one develops over time by working on it?
Phil: Oh, that’s a really good question. I think, I mean, what an unsatisfying answer for me to say, both. But let me elaborate.
I think it’s a combination of both. I think it’s maybe an eye for design, or an interest, or an appreciation for aesthetic initially, that would help or at least give you permission to focus on that in an aspect of building a business. But certainly, I’ll be the first to admit that every single project at least that I, or we’ve done together as a team, every single project I think ups the ante, raises the bar just a little more. And that definitely has a compounding effect.
I would say even just recently we were reflecting on a brand identity we presented about a week ago. The client loved it. I think I loved it even more than the client. Because I’m looking at it going, “I feel like this could win an award!” You know, there is something to be said that after doing something for 10 years, enjoying the work, and I think doing it well and doing it a little bit better pushing ourselves to a little bit better every single time, I think that does have a positive outcome. So yes, the answer is both.
Rich: It is not a disappointing answer any more than when somebody says, “What does a website cost” to me and I say, “It depends.”
Phil: It depends. Yeah.
Rich: So when we chatted earlier, we decided we’d do a breakdown of a few different types of businesses, and you would just kind of work through what platforms they should prioritize based on the type of businesses. So are you ready to go?
Phil: I’m ready to go.
Rich: All right, let’s do this. So let’s start with a business that provides bathroom remodeling services in say a specific geographic state, with a focus on shower replacement kits and shower wall panels. Go.
Phil: Love it. So this is the kind of business, so right away one of the first questions I would ask, is geography important in this business. And it sounds like from what you’ve described, yes, it’s important. So right away, I think about platforms where geography plays a factor in how people search and how people discover content.
So Instagram is visual. Instagram is something people do as a hobby or do to keep in touch with people, but they also go there for research. So I love the fact that this business could be tagging their own showroom or their own location. Or even instances of their work. Locations associated with work that they’ve done, either residential or commercial. Maybe it’d be weird if it was residential taking someone’s own address, commercial might work a little better for that. But I think having a physical location is super important. If they’ve got a showroom, then I would definitely look at Instagram, not just for the purpose of creating content either. It also needs to be like, sometimes we think too much, “Oh my God. We have to post on Instagram today” and “Oh my God, we have to post on Instagram tomorrow.” Well Instagram, and most social media platforms, are not really intended purely as a broadcast tool. No one really cares what you’re doing. Like, they don’t really care.
However, when we flip that up on its head and you use it more so as a tool for conversation, that’s even more exciting than posting a great picture of the shower head that you just installed. No one really cares. But if you were to think of your Instagram feed as almost like a mosaic or a portfolio of not just work that you’ve done, but maybe interesting questions you pose or instances where you show you know what’s happening in the world, current affairs, or industry knowledge, statistics, those are all examples. It’s a mix of all of those things. Maybe some visuals, maybe some quotes, maybe portfolio work. But ideally, you’re using Instagram to actually start conversations with people that live or interact in your area.
So think also about using or searching for hashtags that are based on your geography. Also filter. Use Instagram search and filter by location and have a look at some of the businesses or restaurants or chambers of commerce or maybe events. You could actually go and see who is active and who is engaging in these little pockets on the platform. And that’s a really good idea to get eyeballs onto what you’re creating. If you lead with a compliment, hey, I really love landscape. Maybe if someone just invested in new landscape, give them a compliment. “Wow. This landscaping looks fantastic.” Then they go to you and say, “Oh wow, I’m actually looking for a bathroom remodel.” That’s an example of how Instagram right away feels like a platform that could be useful because it does have a geographical element to it.
Rich: Now I was scanning through your Instagram account, which is excellent. I recommend everybody go to it. We’ll link to it in the show notes. But I did notice that you have a real mix of content on it. Like you’ve got some photos, you’ve got some quotes, you’ve got some little, short videos or Reels showing people how to do different things or think about different things.
So when you’re talking about using Instagram for conversation not just as a portfolio, are you thinking of it as a way to start a conversation by posing a question? Like, what bathroom in your house needs the most upgrading, which is a terrible question, but I’m just, you know, spit balling here or is it more about going to some other places, businesses, perhaps who have Instagram accounts locally responding to the things that they’re saying, or is it a little bit of both?
Phil: Little bit of both again, unsatisfying answer, but it’s both, Rich. It’s both. So I love the idea of the first example you gave where you pose a question. And it doesn’t actually have to be the question written in the photo that you’re posting, but it could be in the caption. It could be a little bit of a carousel, this or this, you know, make it really easy for people to answer. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to respond or engage.
One example we see all the time, it’s not relevant in this business, but if someone is about to launch a book, they’ll post four different book covers and they want your opinion. They don’t actually want your opinion, they’re actually just promoting their book. But people have strong opinions on book covers, hairstyles, shower heads, which one would you choose – gold or silver? Keep it really simple. That’s a good way to target, obviously, the people that are already following you.
But the second example you gave, which is actually going and starting a conversation, showing up in the comments, engaging, showing up, replying to people’s stories or business account stories is really great. Because then you get into their direct message into their inbox. And Instagram sees that as a relationship established. If you’re DM’ing with someone, then there’s a good chance reciprocally if both are active on Stories, that other person or that other user is gonna see your stories as well.
Finally, jumping on the Instagram lives and being present and being active and interacting is another great example of engagement. All of those. So that second part, that first part is we satisfy the audience we already have for the most part and other people might discover it if they get shared. The second part is, let’s get in front of new eyeballs. So both are important.
Rich: And I really like the idea of keeping those questions simple or keeping the answers simple by just showing a couple of different shower heads or a couple of different wall panels and asking people which one they prefer.
And yes, I did that trick with the four book covers for my book when I launched it back in 2018 or whenever it was. So thanks for calling me out on that.
Phil: We’ve all done it. I did it, too. I called myself out.
Rich: So the other thing is, before we move on to the next business, Instagram sounds like your priority, and it might be for the other businesses too. We don’t know yet, but are there other ones. Like when you say about the location being a priority, I’ve heard that TikTok has a strong predilection for showing local content no matter what you’ve already liked. So would TikTok be another one that you might look at?
Phil: Definitely. I think it’s really important to think about where your audience is, what are their priorities, where are they showing up? Obviously, we have to think about that as marketers, also as small business owners, entrepreneurs, whatever we are, we probably wear a number of hats. So you need to think about where your audience likes to show up, but you also have to think about where do you enjoy creating content? And a lot of times we don’t give that as much weight as we should. We are so focused on going on one or two or three platforms because that’s where our audience is. In 2022 and beyond, your audience is everywhere. You cannot make a strong case to me that you shouldn’t be on TikTok because that’s where the demographic is too young on TikTok. The demographic is so widespread that your audience is literally on any of the popular social media platform tools.
So you really need to think about, okay, where am I gonna create? And how’s that gonna be sustainable? You ideally should get some amount of joy in creating on that platform. Otherwise, it’s gonna feel like taking out the garbage and it probably is gonna be garbage.
So I really like Instagram. Obviously, it’s got its challenges and right now it’s not honestly doing a great job up against TikTok. Which they’re being now very much accused of basically ripping absolutely everything off that TikTok is doing. And I feel like that’s an accurate assessment. For me, TikTok is not a platform that I find easy to create on. It’s not rehearsed, it’s not production value. It’s hold your phone up, talk, say something that people are gonna find interesting or exciting so they watch it again and maybe they share it or save it.
I had one TikTok that went viral. Beyond that, I don’t get a lot of pleasure creating on the platform. I actually find it kind of stressful. And yet. I know I’ve got clients and I, and my business partner, Lauren, absolutely loves TikTok. She posts four times a day and absolutely loves it almost as if it’s a hobby. I’m like, great, then you handle that and you give the advice to our clients on TikTok.
For me, I love YouTube would be my favorite. Instagram would definitely be probably second. I also love Pinterest. So I think the point here that I’m making to you is yes, think about where your audience is, but remember my nasally voice in your head saying, “your audience is everywhere”. So actually give some weight to where you enjoy creating and give yourself some time and space to figure that out and try a few platforms. There are many.
Rich: It’s very good advice, because I know that a lot of marketers love Stories, talk about how important they are. And honestly, I hate creating them and I hate watching them. So I will probably never be good at them. I just need to find places where I do enjoy creating content. And there are plenty of those places.
Phil: Yeah. And I get we feel this pressure also, for those of us that would specialize in digital marketing or have that within the portfolio of services that we offer as a business, we feel this additional pressure that if we’re in the position to give someone advice, then we should be doing it as well. And I think it’s just the threshold, like we’re beyond it being possible unless we’re Gary Vee with an entire content creation team following us around. I think we’re beyond the threshold where it’s possible for you to be really good on 10 platforms.
For years I said rather than being average on ten, be really good on three. And I would really add nowadays to that advice and I would say, better yet be a superstar on one. Really focus on one. You know what, the truth is I am focused on one social media platform and that is YouTube. I might go a week or two without posting on Instagram. Could that hinder my growth? Potentially. Am I less worried about growing on Instagram than I am on YouTube? Yes, Because YouTube for me fits in a little more with my business. I make money even as a small channel starting two and a half years ago. I make money in lots of ways monthly in advertising brand collaborations.
So I create a lot of free content for people to consume, but the way I monetize it is by partnering with brands, apps, tools. You would’ve seen this on my Instagram. I love posting about cool things and those brands and software startups, they pay me to review and try out their tools and recommend them. And that totally fits in with how I like to create. I love YouTube, it’s a little bit more polished, it’s snappy, but it’s produced. And back in the day that’s actually what I studied. I went to school for broadcast journalism back in the day. And so it more aligns with what I enjoy creating. And it’s important in my business.
Rich: I love when people 20 years younger than me talk about back in the day. But anyways, I digress. Let’s move on to this second company that I have in mind. And this company is a food tour company. I’m sure you’ve seen companies like this around. They basically are offering walking and dining experiences. Obviously, there again is a geographic area here. They tend to go to restaurants that are a little bit more ethnic, a little more authentic, a little bit more off the beaten path than you might get if you’re getting off of a senior bus tour.
Phil: So I think we should make a rule that I’m not allowed to choose the same platform.
Rich: I love that. You can say, I would choose Instagram, but here’s my second choice.
Phil: Yeah. I might choose Instagram here, but I think, but I don’t really wanna talk about Instagram anymore. Let’s talk about something new. Let’s talk about Pinterest. Because you know, Pinterest is really exciting. It’s really unique in the social media platform landscape, because it’s the one tool where it’s encouraged to get off. You go on Instagram, you go on YouTube, it is hard to find a hyperlink. YouTube is a little more easy to put them in a description, but you cannot hyperlink them on screen unless it’s your own website and it’s been verified, et cetera. They make you jump through all these hoops on Instagram.
Still, I mean, they’ve expanded a little bit. You can put a little sticker on your story that no one clicks, you can have your link in bio. We’ve got some other tools to help you with that, but Instagram doesn’t want you leaving. In fact, Instagram users don’t really want to leave. They’re there to consume on Instagram, and to get them off is actually kind of tough. You gotta give ’em a really good reason.
Rich: It’s like a casino, you cannot find the exit.
Phil: Exactly. It’s exactly. I may steal that analogy for a talk. Thank you.
But Pinterest, I find exciting for this particular business. I think just blogging in general, maybe would be step one. Which is writing, creating, showing thought leadership, showing that you know what’s up in your industry. I’m talking recipes, I’m talking coverage of local events, ideas for travel, packing lists, worksheets. There’s so many cool, juicy possibilities for content creation in this particular business.
I would say Pinterest is of most interest to me because people go to Pinterest to find answers, particularly lifestyle things. So workouts, recipes, even business advice you’ll find on Pinterest. I would say to focus on creating good content on their website that will hopefully get picked up SEO, search, Google. But then to pepper throughout Pinterest, a combination of curated collections created by other people mixed in with your own what we would call a ‘rich pin’. That’s a good name, isn’t it? That’s a good name. A ‘rich pin’ means it’s got, you know, it’s set up to forward people to a particular place on your website for more. And I think, yeah, recipes, lifestyle. That would be definitely a platform I would prioritize.
Rich: That’s really interesting, because of course, I mean, I like social media. But you know, I’ve been doing this long enough that there was no social media really when I started. So I was an SEO guy before I became a social media guy. And the idea of creating this content that would attract people who might be going to that area, whether it’s in Miami or Austin or wherever it might be, that’s the kind of stuff that I would be thinking about.
And I know that when we do the Agents of Change conference, we had a list of the 20 restaurants that you should check out while you’re in town. And there have been many times when we are the first organic result after like Trip Advisor and Yelp. So it’s like we’re number three. In fact, it’s the most popular page on our website. Which is unfortunate in some ways, but regardless, it’s still bringing traffic to us. It’s still a popular page. And you could, even though there are Yelps and Trip Advisors and all that out there, you could really start to find some niches talking about restaurants that people don’t usually go to or parks that people don’t usually go toward. You know, just whatever it is, if your mission is to bring people less touristy areas of a city that are deserving of discovery. So I can see a lot of that. Yes.
And then leveraging Pinterest, like you said, because I’ve never really used Pinterest to search for ideas for a vacation, but certainly other people do. So that would be a really fantastic way of just kind of leveraging that content you’re already creating for your website and SEO. Great idea.
Phil: A hundred percent. Yeah. Well, I wanted to choose one that maybe gets talked about less. But I think it’s one that’s really exciting and people often forget, or they don’t prioritize, because they’re so focused on other social media platforms that are maybe more shiny objects and necessarily useful in their business. So I like to sometimes talk about those.
Rich: The nice thing about Pinterest is there is not that treadmill vibe, like there is on a lot of other social media sites. Where you can spend a few weeks creating content and it probably could take you through the rest of the year, because things don’t turn over the way they do on other channels. So it’s an interesting approach for sure.
Phil: Well, and then what happens when that content dies, which on most social media platforms it does. I mean, a post that’s a week old on Instagram, who is looking at something a week after you posted? Almost no one.
Rich: Maybe your ex who wants to get back together with you.
Phil: Maybe, if they’re scrolling back through your profile to see what you’ve been doing, but that is a very low number. And yet Rich, right now, I can tell you if I log into my email platform, there is a video – and not every video is a hit, not every video is a viral hit – but there is a video of mine on YouTube called, “Three Free Apps for Content Creation”. This video sends me between 50 to 70 email subscribers a day, and the video’s almost two years old.
Rich: All right. Quick side note. So how are you taking your video viewers and convincing them to sign up for your email newsletter?
Phil: I say in the first 30 seconds of the video, I wish I had been really strategic about, but it’s by chance that I mentioned this freebie that I had made, because it felt like it fit with what I was talking about in the topic. But I say in the first 30 seconds, “By the way, I’ve got a freebie that you can download that’ll give you a hundred evergreen content ideas for free. It’s really simple link is the description below. That’s my way of saying thanks for hanging out today. Move on to the video content really quick, really snobby, quick little visual of it. First line in the description. So people don’t miss it. And it’s still old faithful. I’m telling you it’s almost 400,000 views. It sends me between 50 and 70 a day, and that rarely fluctuates. It’s incredible.
And like I said I didn’t know the video was gonna do super well. The video is very similar to a lot of my others. There are certain topics I know I can talk about. That’ll get more views tomorrow. I’ll publish one on Instagram updates and I do it monthly. Not that I necessarily care or you’re, or feel particularly riveted to talk about Instagram’s updates, but people want to know. And that’s how I get a lot of people into my funnel because I talk a lot about other tools and apps and stuff, and that is relevant to that audience.
So, yeah, but that’s one of the reasons I love Pinterest and YouTube is that content doesn’t die. Even LinkedIn is better than Instagram. Instagram is probably the worst for content.
Rich: Twitter is the worst.
Phil: Twitter is definitely the worst. You’re right.
Rich: But Instagram is close. When we were at Social Media Week Lima, I was actually surprised that so many of the speakers told you to DM them on Instagram or follow them on Instagram, the way that we used to say that about Twitter 10 years ago.
Rich: It basically has become Twitter for right now.
Rich: Yeah. Even Kim Garst was up there saying the same thing. And that was when it kind of resonated with me. I’m like, oh, and that’s when I found all these people trying to DM me on my Twitter. I’m like, oh, I should probably pay attention to them. Anyway.
All right. So last business. Now I know that there are a lot of other agency owners who tune into this podcast. So let’s go with a digital agency. And so it’s obviously gonna be a B2B company, but whether you want this imaginary company to focus on design branding, marketing, advertising, PR, I’ll leave that to you. You can even decide if this agency focuses on B2B business or B2C business or both. And I know you do love. The “or both” as a possible answer.
Phil: I do love the “or both”. So we’re choosing a platform. This is our last business? This is our last business. Where do we prioritize? Honestly, I would say YouTube, I would say YouTube. And I know we’ve talked a lot about it in this particular conversation. It is my bias because it’s become an important part of my business. But regardless of the variables that you’ve outlined, people use YouTube more so for search than they do as a quote “social media” platform. And I think the thought leadership, the search value, the video component, although it does freak people out, that kind of directness that in combination is so much value. The evergreen potential for content, the lifetime that your content can have. I would say to create content that specifically answers people’s questions, that’s the strategy for YouTube.
Don’t worry about fussing with a fancy camera or lighting. I’d say if anything, make sure you have a good microphone, because if you don’t sound good people won’t watch it. If you don’t look good, people will still watch it. But if you don’t sound good, they will switch to something else. But some of my best performing videos are literally questions that I screenshotted in the moment from my inbox, email, Instagram, Twitter, there are questions that people have asked me and right before I answer them, I go in my head, my marketer mind goes, wait a second, grab this and put it somewhere useful.
I have a little folder where I keep all the questions that people ask me. And I refer to that when I’m making new courses, when I’m coming up with material for presentations, because it’s actually what people are wondering. It’s proof of concept. So I would say a YouTube strategy would be my focus and there are a lot of other cool opportunities that can spin off from that. But imagine one client finds you because, and respects you right off the bat because they learn from you. It’s the best dynamic that you can create versus. You know, trying to do a pitch to a cold contact. It’s the difference is incredible. So
Rich: I love the fact that you write down these emails or screen capture them, because it reminds me back in the day, when blogging was something that you were supposed to be doing at least three times a week instead of spending a month crafting it and getting all the right images and getting expert quotes and all the other stuff you’re supposed to do these days in the competitive world of SEO, I would literally just go to my email or wait for something to come in. And somebody would be like, “Rich, I don’t understand how to do this in Google analytics”, or “I don’t understand what a meta description is”. And I would literally just blog it as a Dear Abby style post. That’s what I called it. I would generalize it. I would come up with some kind of snarky name for the person who’s asking me the question, and then I would post it and I’d go back to the original person and I’d say, Hey listen, your question was so good. I actually turned it into a Q A blog post and I’d send it to them. Then I got away from that. But I think that you’re right. It still works, and it would work great on video too.
So, besides the Q&A style question, is there any type of content that you would also consider doing if you were, of course you are an agency or a consultant, so what are there other styles of content you might throw into the mix, or would you really just focus in on that Q&A style?
Phil: I would experiment. I don’t necessarily know the answer for what will hit or what will take off for an agency. I don’t know what will take off for anyone. But I think the best advice I received is to experiment with the different types of content that you have. I think it’s tough to just Put up a full episode of a podcast on YouTube, but I’ve taken podcast episodes and cut them down to the meat for about 10 minutes, and those have done well without any video component. Those have done well. And some of them have not done well, but some of them have.
Anytime I’m answering a question that people are looking, if my video ranks, it will do well. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s going to rank, I’ll use tools like TubeBuddy, a great one. They have a keyword explorer feature that I really like and it’s helped me. I guess more of the story is, you don’t know until you try. So I would say try a variety of styles. I would say I’ve definitely, I think 10 minutes is a great length. Little more, a little less, totally fine. It’s a great length on YouTube. It’s also a great length for the creator. To have to create a video that’s longer than that can feel a little bit laborious. So if you can aim for 10 minutes, I think three to five points that you want to cover. Point and then elaborate on it. Ideally you incorporate a story, throw up a visual, very simple.
What other styles… I mean, don’t get too fancy would be my advice, especially in the early days, do not get too fancy. You know, I don’t necessarily make videos at the same quality that I enjoy consuming them, I will say that. But I’m at peace with that. I think my videos, after 184 videos in two and a half years, they certainly look better now than they did in the early days. But I can’t let perfectionist stop me from posting and being active. It’s the fact that I show up once, ideally twice a week, with new content that hopefully does well – might not do well – but all of this adds up. The growth happens when you show up and the business opportunities happen regardless of how good your video looks. So I would say if you can get over that kind of perfectionism that a lot of us are plagued with and you experiment with different styles, I think you’ll land on something.
Rich: Excellent advice. Phil, this has been absolutely great. Loved having this conversation with you. For people who want to learn more, follow you online, where can we send them?
Phil: Sure! Philpallen.co is a good home base. I have over 60 personal branding and company or startup projects on there in nine different categories. The place where I probably send you the specific page would be philpallen.co/freebies. I have over 10 really useful, well designed – because I know you appreciate design – freebies there, from the one I mentioned “100 Evergreen Content Ideas”, a personal brand statement formula worksheet, archetypes, Instagram growth. All of it is there. We put our heart and soul into those so that it’s useful for someone just to be able to download it and work away on their brands.
We have a podcast as well, currently on vacation. My tonsils are coming out in a few days, so we took a little break over the summer, but we will be back. That’s called Brand Therapy. I have 175 episodes archived that are also evergreen and easy for people to check out. I would say that’s maybe where I would go. And Instagram is where you called me out now. Instagram is where you can DM me if you took the time to listen, to say hello, and I appreciate the opportunity to come on here and chat with you. I’ve loved it.
Rich: Absolutely. And we’ll have those links, of course, in the show notes. And you also have some online courses, because I spent quite a bit of time at your website today. And so you’ve got three courses that looked really intriguing to me. What are those right now?
Phil: Thank you. Those were my Pandemic projects. So the time that I used to spend on airplanes flying around the world speaking, I was stuck in a studio apartment in Mexico City and made courses. Basically three topics that people asked me the most about, content strategy, email marketing, and Instagram marketing. I launched three courses that in one hour of prerecorded video and resources, gives people much better materials than I could give you if I was hired one on one by someone on those topics. That was kind of my goal was to have somewhere to send people that were needing support in those areas. And that’s exactly what those courses do.
Rich: Awesome. Definitely you will want to check those out. Phil, great catching up with you. Thanks so much for coming by today.
Phil: Thank you. I appreciate you.
Phil Pallen has advised hundreds of businesses on how to build a successful brand. One look at his Instagram is proof that he knows what he’s talking about! Check out his website for valuable freebies to help your brand excel, and his blog and podcast are both full of advice and tips that will elevate your own brand.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.