It's a well known fact that if you try to juggle too many balls at once, you're going to start dropping some after a while. Probably sooner rather than later.
With Social Media, it's incredibly tempting to try and be everywhere at once and satisfy everyone's desires for more attention and engagement from the masses, but we all know that it's never a good idea to impulsively fall into temptation.
There are a number of ways that social media is able to help companies build stronger relationships with their customers (and their industries at large), but with every positive that we list it is important to also consider the downside. Here are four ways to trim your social media strategy down to one that is not only easy to manage, but also incredibly powerful and bringing a lot of value back to your company.
By the time we're done going through this list, you'll see that when it comes to social media strategy, less can be more.
1. You Can't Reach Everyone
Photo Credit: Scott Cresswell
Research tells us that we have to use every social media channel in order to reach the dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of target demographics that our brands need to succeed. We get on Facebook for women between 30-55, and on Google+ for the early-adopters and geeks that will give us better technical feedback. We post to Twitter more than a dozen times a day in order to look like we're as active as the celebrities that most Twitter users follow religiously, and on Instagram we use 11 #hashtags to increase the chances of being found.
If you're a small business owner (especially of the startup variety), then keeping up with all of this, and keeping up well, might actually do more to harm your brand than good.
Think about it this way: if your target market is latina women between the ages of 25-35, then what value do you get from spending two hours a week managing your Google+ page, staying active in the communities there, and actively promoting it through your other marketing channels? Probably very little, if any at all, because that demographic is not well established there.
The argument could be made that it's just as important for brands to create demand as it is for them to fulfill the demand that already exists, but for startup businesses that should not be a major goal, or even a minor one. You need to be in front of people that will provide the most feedback and contribute the most to increasing the value, and profits, of your product offerings. Reaching for fringe groups on low-activity social networks is not going to help with that at all.
Which brings me to my next point:
2. Your Time is Valuable and Limited
Photo Credit: Nick
There is a simple illustration that can be made to show how important it is to recognize the value of your time. In 2013, 36% of inbound marketing professionals (which many startup founders put an emphasis on) spent more than 11 hours a week managing their social networks. If we set an hourly wage at $25 (which is low compared to some "social media experts" charging $250/hour), then those employees are getting paid $275/week to engage with your community.
Generally, social media should serve three main purposes:
Building/Strengthening the BrandDriving Sales/ConversionsIncreasing Presence
Ultimately, the first and last points there should always lead to the second point. If your brand's strengthened image isn't creating more sales and profits for your company, then you may have problems other than social media marketing.
For small businesses, it would be much more valuable to get in front of, and stay in front of, the people that are most likely to become loyal fans and customers for the long term. You need repeat business, or at least referral business, in order to grow your business (customer churn is one of the biggest reasons why companies fail). If your social media efforts aren't putting you in continual conversations with the people you want to sell to, or at least getting you better connected with industry leaders (and enhancing your image of being an expert yourself), then your efforts are hardly going to be worth that extra $275/week.
You may, in fact, be losing money each week as your wheels are spinning. Don't spend 5 minutes posting something on Twitter just because you have to, do it because it will increase the value of your company.
Just because you're busy doesn't mean you're working well. You might be an absolute Twitter monster, with hundreds of retweets and thousands of new followers coming every day, but if you don't have a product built and ready to sell what good is any of it?
3. What Image is Your Brand Portraying?
Photo Credit: assillo
Every social network has different demographics, and so every network also requires a different approach in order to have the most effect. If you're on Ello trying to reach baby boomers with the same tactics that you use on Twitter, you're going to have a difficult time achieving your engagement goals. This splits focus, waters-down the message, and distracts from the vision.
More importantly, though, it can give the wrong impression to your visitors and followers about what you stand for. Imagine telling your customers that you are dedicated to extremely high quality products that take a bit more effort to produce, but you push out 10+ updates every day to your social networks that create more noise than value? You've essentially become an ad spammer that people ignore, and now they don't see your actions lining up with your mission.
In a similar fashion, it's easy to want to post an update just for the sake of posting... something. As Tesco found out in 2013, and many other brands over the years, beware of setting up your messages ahead of time to be sent out automatically. The message might seem innocent from your own perspective, but could have much deeper meaning to everyone else.
Stick to saying something of value, and you'll not only reduce noise, you'll reduce the chance that you or your social media managers will say something stupid.
4. With Fewer Variables, You Can Find More Valuable Data
This tip goes along with #2 up above. First, a short rant:
Do you really need to know how many native German-speakers living in France are retweeting your messages around midnight if your target market is college students in Denver? Stop spending money on expensive statistics tracking data, and actually track the data that you need. If you don't have any sales, you don't need to compare your company's brand recognition to the competitor - you need to get sales.
I am currently in the process with my company of doing intense research on our future products, potential market reach, and target demographics. In doing this research, there is one very important thing that I am keeping in mind: Only track the data that will give me the answers that I need to make important business decisions.
There is a strategy to the types of questions that I'm asking, and there should also be a strategy to the frequency and types of messages that you send out on social media channels.
Instead of spending the time creating and posting half-baked messages on four or five different networks, write one update each day, customized for the individual network and the communities that make their home at those networks. Then watch how people respond. There is no real need to copy and paste the same message to all of your social network accounts all of the time, and you're missing out on a golden opportunity if you do.
In all of Buffer App's blog posts about how to increase your activity on social media, one thing I really like is how they break down every single network with how to optimize your updates for each network individually. If you reduce the number of updates you post and focus on testing those updates on each network while making minute changes to achieve better results within their respective communities, then you will inevitably hit a gold mine of information that you can actually use to make your company more profitable.
There's no "One Size Fits All"
Photo Credit: Stephan van Es
Most importantly, I think it's important to remember that with social media, and the complexity of the communities that the internet allows us to connect with, there is no one single way to have the greatest positive affect for your business. You need to try a lot of things, watch the response from the types of people you want to connect the most with, and make changes over time.
Any marketing professional that believes they're going to take their strategies from a previous employer and bring you success is probably delusional. Your company, including the vision you have for your company and the culture that permeates your team, are entirely different than any other company out there.
Actually, that's a pretty good thing to publicize right there. Tell people why you're different, show them how you're different, and watch as the customers that connect the most with what you believe in find their way to you. Don't just take a cookie-cutter approach. Do what's right.