The Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Social Media Channels for B2C

In a now digitally vast world, marketers have an over whelming amount of digital channels to work with to enable them to target and engage with the right audiences for their products and services. But as is often the case, too much choice can ruin what could the perfect recipe for success. That is why we have decided to look at the pros and cons of each of the popular, and some less well known, digital channels available to businesses, and have highlighted which ones are the most appropriate and useful for B2C companies.


  • Direct contact with audience
  • Useful for product development (e.g. Marmite)

  • Your fans may be unhappy when you’re not at work and share widely (e.g. Virgin Trains)


  • Promote help and support
  •  Great for monitoring campaigns (#hashtags)

  • Engagement it limited to 140 characters
  • Fast paced nature can make reaching large audiences hard


  •  Pages and posts often show up in organic searches

  • Users only spend an average of 12 minutes per day looking at their ‘stream’
  • Isn’t as popular as Facebook or Twitter for social use


  • Product image pins and re-pins drive more sales than any other channel
  • New business pages rolled out Nov 2012

  • If you don’t have visual based business it can be hard to find content to pin
  • Majority of users are women (72%-97%)


With more than 1 billion worldwide users, it is hard to deny that Facebook is an essential network for B2C companies to be at the very least considering.

Business pages are the official way for companies to get their message across on Facebook, with status updates, images, and third party apps such as ‘fan of the month’ and other fun bits and bobs used to drive engagement along the way.

One of the main benefits of Facebook above all other social networks is the direct contact. It levels the playing field between the company and the customer, allowing them to converse like two equals, and allowing the company to gain useful and honest feedback from their audience.

This direct contact has come in handy for many businesses on Facebook, as they have been able to leverage this to create campaigns that both engage their audience on the highest possible level and give them the best possible means of gaining feedback to use when creating future products and services. Marmite’s ‘Marmarati’ campaign, in which they asked Marmite lovers to show their appreciation for the brown stuff in order to gain a chance to be part of an elite secret group for Marmite lovers, who would then get to try new product samples and help develop new product lines for the brand.

One of the main cons of Facebook, or indeed any social media channel to an extent, is that it isn’t a 9-5 resource for your customers. People use Facebook all hours of the day and night, weekdays and weekends, without a thought for office hours. You know you can’t be there 24/7, so you need to make this clear to your customers so that if they don’t receive a timely reply to their comments or messages they don’t assume you are ignoring them.

Virgin Trains are just one good example of how companies can get around this and make it clear to customers when they should expect service. On the V-Trains Facebook page, the welcome message reads: “Welcome to our official Virgin Trains Facebook page. We’ll be here to chat 08:00-20:00 - 7 days a week.” It’s simple and to the point, and customers appreciate being given this information.


The fast and instantaneous nature of the micro-blog is both its main strength and weakness. In one respect people like the quick paced real time snippets of information, thoughts, opinions, images, etc. But on the other hand, for a business this can be a major downfall, as trying to grab the attention of followers at such a rapid rate requires extra cunning and creativity. But hey, we love a challenge right?

Starbucks (@Starbucksuk) knew just how to get the attention of their followers and more besides with their #FreeStarbucks campaign in March 2012, which created 5.12 million impressions across Twitter in the space of a day. By tweeting the campaign’s hashtag, Twitter users could claim a free latte from opening til noon on 14th March 2012 from any UK Starbucks establishment. According to Starbucks figures, the hashtag was tweeted 25,000 times and they gave away 350,000 free lattes overall.

But moving on from the bad points, Twitter is also a very useful tool for B2C companies, as it is free, with over 200 million active users, meaning as long as you have the initiative to grab their attention, you have a potentially huge reach.

One of the main benefits of Twitter is being able to use hashtags not only to create engaging campaigns but also to monitor to a certain extent the amount of engagement. Even if people don’t tweet your company directly, search your brand name or popular hashtags you have used in campaigns to see just how many people are talking about your brand and what they have to say.

This takes us into the other main benefit of Twitter, being able to promote help and support. It’s one of the best customer service tools as you can find people who are having issues with your products and services, who may not be letting you know directly, and tweet them some advice or support.

You may also find that people will tweet you directly for support, as it’s an instant and easy way to get in touch with companies instead of hanging on hold to call centres or waiting days for replies to emails.


It may not be the favourite social network, but Google+ is growing in popularity with a surprising 135 million people active ‘in the stream’ (G+’s version of the news feed).

The fact is the network’s growing popularity with businesses is due to its parent, Google. Because it's owned by the world’s largest search giant, you can expect that your page and posts are much more likely to appear in organic searches on Google for relevant keywords, so if only for the SEO benefits it is worth considering.

The downside is that when it comes to actually getting people’s attention in the stream, it’s not quite on par with Facebook or even Twitter yet in terms of social use. Users typically spend just 12 minutes a day in the stream, which only gives you a very small window to catch their attention, and the jumbled layout of the stream doesn’t go in your favour either.

But that isn’t to say that is can’t be a valuable source for marketing. It just means, like on Twitter, you have to get creative in order to catch your audience’s attention. The Android Google+ page is a great example of this. They have found the most engaging content is videos and infographics, and the odd app promotion goes a long way with their tech hungry audience.

And the key to getting engagement with content? Post regularly. Nasa’s Google+ page updates between 5 and 15 times every day, which is a lot compared with the average 4-6 updates for Facebook, but with such a small window of opportunity in a fast moving stream, you have to keep it fresh and flowing to get exposure.


Pinterest drives more product sales than any other social media channel, with a report in October 2012 stating that 69% of consumers find an item they want to buy on Pinterest, compared with 40% on Facebook.

The new business pages were rolled out in November 2012, as Pinterest was soon recognised as the 'go to' place for product sales. The features for businesses selling products are great, with the pricing banners being tagged as one of the main boosts to sales as Pinterest becomes almost like an ecommerce home from home for online businesses.

One of the main downfalls of Pinterest is also a major advantage for some businesses. The fact that between 72% and 97% of Pinterest users are female might stamp it out as an option for some businesses, but even businesses with a primarily or entirely male audience can leverage these percentages to their advantage. For example a men’s wear retailer can use Pinterest to target wives/girlfriends who often buy clothing for their partners.

Another downfall of Pinterest is that it works best if you have a product/visual based business. But like all the other downfalls, there is always a way around it if you get creative! Take British Midlands International’s ‘Pinterest Lottery’ campaign. The UK airlines company picked fans and people who re-pinned their pins at random and gave them free trips to locations all over the world.

There are many more social media channels, and all bring their own strengths and weaknesses to individual businesses and their campaigns. For B2C, running creative campaigns on at least one of the above channels will enable you to reach the right audience for your business. B2B company? Don’t worry, we will be running through the pros and cons of channels for you too, coming up soon!  

If you like this story, do share and tweet me @annmariehanlon, and share with me your own thoughts on these campaigns and others!

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