Has the use of social media in business finally come of age? I’d like to think so.
I get the feeling that when speaking to business owners about using social media, I don’t see the same “bulldog chewing a wasp” grimace that I used to. There seems to be a more receptive attitude, and more of an acceptance of opportunities that a social media presence can bring to many companies.
I think that there exists a growing realization that, actually, maybe there is some value being brought to the table after all. That perhaps this whole social media thing isn’t just some hippie trend, and that maybe getting on board might be worth doing after all.
Alternatively, the reason may also be that companies are seeing how some forward-thinking competitors investing in social media a few years ago are now reaping the benefits. No-one wants to miss the bus, right?
Dipping Your Toe In The Social Media Water
If there’s one question that we seem to get asked more than any other when it comes to a business getting their feet wet in the world of social media, it’s how many social media channels should they be on.
And this is where many organizations get it wrong. Because the action of creating a social media presence is perceived as being “free” (generally speaking, that is), there’s a temptation for a company to be everywhere, to try everything and “see what sticks.”
Which is probably the fastest way of falling over with all of this.
One of the reasons that there are so many social media channels out there is precisely because there isn’t a single “one size fits all” network. Moreover, judicious and selective deployment of the most appropriate social media channels (as part of a wider inbound marketing initiative, complete with rule-of-engagement plan and content strategy) is an imperative prerequisite to social media success – now more than ever.
A couple of years ago, most of us exploring social media deployment were taking a “suck-it-and-see” approach. Try something, see how it worked (or didn’t), rinse and repeat. These early stages could be seen as an inevitable part of social media’s “rite of passage” prior to its systematic inclusion within a company’s marketing activities. However, spreading oneself too thinly across too wide a social media landscape today offers less concession when getting things wrong, and brings with it a set of problems that can work against the good intentions that were there in the first place.
The temptation is to implement by replication. If in doubt look at how the biggest, most successful companies are doing it – and ape their actions. The problem with such thinking is that many huge brands are on every social media network you can think of (and many that you’ve never even heard of). Sure, there are the Facebook pages to “like” and the Twitter accounts to “follow”. But what about Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Posterous, Flickr, FourSquare, Yelp, Vine – and the hundreds of others?
So, on how many social media channels should your business be present?
Less Is More
The answer is definitely not all of them, and most probably not even most of them.
Most companies are looking for their social media presence to help increase sales, and/or offer better customer service. In other words: directed to new and existing customers. It therefore follows that the social media channels where your company should be present are the social media channels that your target audience frequents.
So if you’re a B2B manufacturer making industrial widgets that are sold in their millions to companies that make bathroom fittings, it’s a fair bet that the business people you’re looking to connect with don’t expect (or even want) to see your brand in their Facebook timeline.
If you’re looking to enhance your customer service, then it’s more the likely that the real-time conversational nature of Twitter is going to benefit your brand. Not only for addressing the issues of your customers, but also from the marketing implications of being seen as reactive and helpful.
If you’re a consumer brand then Facebook, Pinterest and/or Instagram may be on your list.
Regardless of what social media channel(s) you opt for, the more important audience deliverable is a frequent and proactive (and useful) presence as far as your audience is concerned. Nothing smells worse than (for example) a company Twitter account that hasn’t been updated in a month. Don’t have time to update a particular social media channel, and can’t increase resources accordingly? Then you shouldn’t be on it.
Implementing a social mindset within the organization is already a major task for most companies, regardless of size. By biting off more than you can chew by setting-up too many social channels will inevitably lead to disappointment and missed opportunities. Far better to do a few – or maybe just one – really well, than deliver a sub-par presence across too many.
While the rules of engagement are still being defined, and will doubtless continue to evolve and change, what’s imperative is remembering why you’re on social media in the first place: the delivery of an enhanced brand experience.