Last week, social media analytics firm Socialbakers released new data confirming what many business owners have long suspected: Brands get significantly higher engagement on Instagram than on Facebook.

The research broke down engagement on the two platforms across five categories: media, community, celebrities, entertainment, and brands. On Instagram, brands had the second-highest level of engagement among the five, behind only celebrities. On Facebook, however, brands ranked dead last.

Do the results suggest companies should curtail their Facebook efforts and go all-in on Instagram? And how do other popular social media platforms stack up? Inc. spoke with Socialbakers chief product evangelist Moses Velasco to get the real lessons behind the numbers. Here are his three top takeaways for small businesses:

1. Don't delete your Facebook page.

Facebook may not have stellar engagement statistics for brands, but engagement is only one piece of the puzzle. "I think you still obviously need a balance between Facebook and Instagram to build awareness, community, and to communicate your culture or your ethos or your values," Velasco says.

Though Instagram may have much better engagement statistics, Facebook has a far larger user base: almost two billion, compared with Instagram's 700 million. Those kinds of numbers matter when you're building awareness and community around your startup, so abandoning your Facebook page isn't prudent.

2. Use the same platforms as your audience.

When it comes to deciding which social network to prioritize, look to your audience. Instagram appeals to younger generations, which Velasco calls "more socially acceptive." Facebook appeals more to older users, who tend to view content without engaging with it.

The same concept applies to other social networks, though Velasco isn't sold on how useful they are for startups. Snapchat, he says, provides less bang for your buck than Instagram, due to its smaller number of users (roughly 165 million) and less effective influencer marketing.

Similarly: "I don't see the paid activity on Twitter really being a big advantage for small to medium-sized businesses these days," he says. Twitter's user base increasingly is migrating to Instagram--and, to a lesser degree, Snapchat and Pinterest.

3. Take advantage of being small while you still can.

You've likely heard this before, but it remains true: Agility is your friend. Startups are able to experiment across social media platforms in ways that large corporations, with their red tape and layers of hierarchy, can't. There's also more data now--both historical and real-time--than there's ever been to help you analyze the performance of your company and your competitors, and the health of the industry at large.

Velasco stresses the importance of using modern strategies that level the playing field with competitors that have larger budgets. For example, he says, Facebook Live video can work as well as an expensive TV spot--with the added bonus of feeling "authentic." And micro-influencers--minor celebrities with large social media followings--can be cheaper and more effective than influencers with greater name recognition, because of their specific industry knowledge.

Published on: May 25, 2017