It’s impossible for a person — or even a company — to keep up with the constantly shifting platforms that make up our social media world today. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed by social media change, espcially if you can get your head around some fundamental truths about how the web works.
Let’s look at a few ideas that serve as a calming effect for the social media hurricane. These are broad generalizations — there are no cookie-cutter solutions for every business. But I think these ideas can at least help you view social media marketing as a more manageable endeavor no matter what kind of business you’re in.
Take a deep breath now. Let’s calm your social media nerves …
1. This changes everything. Well, no it doesn’t.
One reaction I often hear from people is that they feel paralyzed from even starting with social media because it is so very different from the way they are accustomed to doing business.
If that means, “this is different than taking out an ad in the newspaper,” you are correct. It is. But if you mean it has different implications regarding how we connect with people, well I would say “no.”
In my classes and speeches I often lead off with a slide of my grandfather, who was a plumber in Pittsburgh for 50 years. He worked with his customers much the same way businesses have connected to people for hundreds of years:
- People bought from him because they knew him and trusted him.
- He created fair value and if he made a mistake, he corrected it right away.
- My grandfather didn’t hide behind jingles and PR spin. He knew the only thing he had was his word of mouth reputation and he had to protect that fiercely.
- He also knew that networking with business leaders could open new doors … and he did what he could to focus on relationships, not leads.
- He recognized that there was a social aspect to business. He was fun to be with and funny. He was well-read and interesting. People looked forward to seeing him.
So you see, social media hasn’t changed everything. I could argue that it has changed nothing, except that it helps us focus on the human elements of marketing that really matter. How do you work with customers in real-life? Do that.
2. “I can’t keep up with all the change”
If you’re not on Meerkat, Blab, or Kik you might feel stressed because you’re missing out, but the fact of the matter is, that’s not where most of the people are any way.
Let’s look at 2015 data on where most B2B marketers and B2C marketers are spending their budgets:
In this 2015 data from Social Media Examiner, we see that the major social media platforms used by B2B and B2C are roughly the same. The green and red arrows indicate if usage was up or down over 2014. So here are the top five networks being populated by marketers:
If you looked at this list three years, ago, these five platforms were still the most popular choices. How much has really changed? How much time should you devote to studying and adopting something new?
For some businesses — a lot. If you are appealing specifically to millennials, you better understand Instagram and Snapchat. If you are in the luxury goods market, or travel, you better understand Pinterest. But even those platforms are 2-3 years old now.
Of course it’s critically important to have a marketing strategy before you start diving into platforms.
My overarching point is, the social media landscape is NOT changing that rapidly. Most people are still spending time in the top five places. So concentrate on those. And I would probably substitute Instagram for Google+ in my top five destinations, but that’s another story.
3. Maybe you don’t have to be an early adopter
As we see, it takes time for a social platform to rise to the top of the marketing food chain. While we are fed a steady stream of hype on the latest and greatest new apps, many struggle with the fear of being left out. The fact is, you can ignore almost every new app and still be fine.
A lot of people look at the annual SXSW conference as the place where the hottest new platform is crowned each year. Here are the red-hot platforms from the last few years:
Where are these platforms today? Have they become mainstream channels? Have they lived up to the hype? No.
Are they still useful to some businesses? Yes, of course they are. Could you have an advantage being an early adopter? It’s possible, but if you’re spending all your time learning the shiny new thing, are you taking energy and resources away from the stuff that is really impacting your business?
Why be an early adopter? Let other people figure it out and then catch up in those rare instances (like Pinterest) when something catches on fire and stays hot. Again, there is no cookie-cutter recommendation for everybody but it is something to think about.
4. Focus on the fuel
No matter what type of business you are in, your focus must be on the quality, rich content for your business before you ever start trying to master Facebook or Twitter.
In general, the rich content that fuels social media would be:
- A blog
- A video series
- A podcast
- Photographic or illustrations
How do you determine which is best for you? Look at your compamny culture, competitors and resources:
- What fits the personality of your business best?
- Which one is the best match for your available resources?
- What are you trying to achieve? For example, if you have to teach people how to use your product, videos might be best.
- What are your competitors doing? If they have saturated your niche with blog-related content, maybe you could try a video series or podcast.
- Where are your customers? What channels do they prefer?
Developing a rich, valuable. and consistent content stream should come before embarking on a distribution strategy.
5. Pick one and do it well
Once you have a content source and you’re focused on a list of possible channels, knowing where to start can still seem overwhelming. I wrote a post recently with a simple model to help you determine what social media platform fits best with the resources of your business.
The best strategy is pick one social network at a time and master it. Trying to do everything well is probably a recipe for doing nothing well, so start with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever is most important to your business and spend the time it takes to do it well.
Even as you start to focus on one channel you will probably get stuck here and there. There are lots of great resources out there who are eager to help you with the social media platforms that they love.
With a little effort, you can find help with Facebook ads, Google Analytics, building an audience on Twitter or whatever your current goal might be. I hesitate to list people myself because I don;t want to hurt any feelings if I overlook somebody great and I don’t want to overwhelm an unsuspecting friend!
But don’t be afraid to tap into trusted resources. In general, people are really nice and helpful on the web.
So there are a few opportunities to change your mindset and deal with the frenetic pace on the social web. How are you doing out there? Why not check in below in the comment section?
Illustration: That’s a great blue heron near my home.