A Surprisingly Realistic View of the Positives and Negatives of Our Over-Hyped Social Media Culture
I promise you, this article will spare you nothing to explain the truth about properly choosing Social Media for your business. If you don’t want a reality check then leave this page now.
There are a lot of social media options out there. I’m sure you’ve heard of quite a few Social Media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, YouTube, Digg, Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Delicious… And on and on the list goes. Chances are, you participate in more than one. Or at least, you feel compelled to participate in more than one. Social media seems to be taking over our lives – for better and for worse. It’s important that you make strategic choices with which ones you join.
You should have realistic expectations before joining a social media platform. Otherwise you’ll buy into the hype and overwhelm your life with too many platforms. You only have so many hours in your day. The last thing you want is to mismanage your time and then lose yourself. As an entrepreneur, manager, director, leader, spouse, parent, or human-being, your most important task is choosing the task that efficiently uses your time.
Look, I’m being philosophical here for a very good reason. Choosing the right social media platform has everything to do with what you value. How do you want to spend your time? What do you want to accomplish with your life? What goals do you have? Once you answer those questions, then we can answer the more mundane one: Will social media help you accomplish your goals effectively?
The Truth About Social Media
There’s a lot of hype about social media. As an intelligent person, you know very well that it isn’t all true. So what is the truth? Here’s my own take on the truth:
- There are over 2 billion people on the combined major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and Linkedin). You will only be one voice in over 2 billion. On the other hand, there is an opportunity that can’t be ignored.
- Social media is a tool, not a lifestyle, philosophy, or necessity.
- Social media is definitely useful for businesses. It has a place in your tool kit. However, it isn’t a tool to be used to solve every problem.
- Social media is here to stay – it is not a fad. Accept it.
- A social media platform might be free to join, but there’s nothing free about your time and effort.
You might be thinking that I sound awfully anti-social-media for an Internet marketing professional. In truth, I’m not pro or anti. It’s a tool. A tool. You can’t be pro or anti “screwdriver.” It’s a tool! We’ve got to use the right tool for the job. ‘Simple’ as that.
Determining the Right Social Media Platform for You
There’s 2 big questions you need to answer before even considering which social media platform(s) you should use.
1) What do you want to get out of social media? If you have one business goal in mind, then it becomes easier to determine which social media platform to use. Or, at least, whether the platform is working for you. Some common goals are:
- Raise brand awareness
- Increase business sales
- Improve customer/client loyalty
- Gather market and brand perception data
2) What do you have to put into social media? Obviously, you know that just joining a social media platform won’t do you any good at all. You have to actually use it too. This means you’ll need to take inventory on what you can commit to your social media presence. Things you’ll need to consider:
- Amount of time available
- Type of content to generate
- Message to put “out there”
- Promotions, events, coupons, and/or special offers you’re willing to provide
Once you know what you want to accomplish and what you have available to use… You’ll need to know whether it’s all worth it. Pick your metrics for success. devEdge Internet Marketing is a HUGE fan of scientific measurement and setting performance goals. The only way you can justify the cost of anything is if you measure the results. So what will be your measurements? Number of fans? Amount of interactions? Leads and sales increases from Social Media sources? Something else?
Be sure you know what your metrics are. Then don’t hesitate to halt a campaign that is failing to meet requirements. Put your resources and time to good use. It’s OK to be ruthless about this.
Which Social Media Platforms to Use for Your Business
Here’s a synopsis on 4 of the major platforms’ strengths and weaknesses:
Facebook – Largest user-base of all the social media platforms. Relies heavily on friends sharing to their friends sharing to their friends and so on. In other words, the platform is a little more closed off than the others. It’s not easy to directly contact a stranger or enter into their lives. Because of it’s “exclusive” friend nature, people are more resistant to liking a page or becoming a friend (if they don’t really know you). It seems people use their likes and friends to define themselves a little bit. Which actually makes them stronger supporters of you – loyalty on Facebook is quite high. If you have a strong consumer brand that people identify with then Facebook is a must. If you already have a large support of friends, a fan page on facebook can also start off very well. Obtaining more “Likes” beyond your friends becomes more challenging than other platforms simply because it can be difficult to reach outside of your group of friends without paying for it. Those likes though, if obtained genuinely, will be extremely loyal to you.
Twitter – People are more extroverted and open on Twitter. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from reaching out to a complete stranger. Or having a complete stranger speak to you. In fact, you don’t even need to be a follower or following someone to speak to them. Additionally, the use of hashtags allow you to engage wide audiences that would be interested in your tweet topics. People tend to follow, unfollow, retweet, and reply quite freely on Twitter. This all makes engaging new audiences fairly easy. However, loyalty on Twitter is quite low. Often, people will follow thousands of others on Twitter. Which means that you’ll need to tweet a lot in order for the chance to even be seen on other peoples news feeds. Twitter will limit your tweets to 140 characters – so learn to be concise!
Google+ – In theory, this platform is almost a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter. Users on this platform can easily circle you and start receiving your public updates. People you’re following are easy to segment into different “circles.” So you can post updates to different circles that would appeal to those friends (makes friend retention is easier). Of course, they still need to have circled you in order to receive your updates. Fortunately, people you know, even loosely, will probably circle you back on Google+. It’s also pretty easy to find pages that appeal to your interests and follow them. Unfortunately, Google+ doesn’t seem to have a lot of activity. You can try it out to see if it works for you, but it probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
Linkedin – On this platform you network with other professionals. Usually a connection occurs with someone you’ve already met under professional circumstances. People will rarely connect with a complete stranger. It is a great place to find qualified job seekers and stay in touch with other professionals. It’s very good for B2B (business to business). If you’re a B2C (business to consumer) it’s more useful for connecting with the people who might help your business or send referrals your way. Additionally, Linkedin has a “Groups” feature that allow users to discuss topics in an (often) open forum. Participating in groups that share your areas of interest allows you to network and connect with strangers. It can be tough to find really good groups though. There’s a lot of junk in the most popular forums, so you may have to invest a lot of time finding the groups that work best for you. Speaking of junk, Linkedin allows strangers to email you. While this feature isn’t super-abused (probably because you have to pay Linkedin in order to do it), it happens.
Drawing the Proverbial Line
Social Media has a cost. Whether you hire a professional social media expert, perform the work yourself, or somewhere in between… Social media has a cost. In the end, it’s up to you to take responsibility for the time, resources, and effort you put into social media. Just remember, no matter what the business world tells you, that you can choose which platforms to use or even whether you’ll use social media at all. As a business, the results must justify the costs.
There are plenty of other social media platforms out there. What’s your opinion on them? Would you have given a different synopsis for the above social media platforms? Please leave your comments below and let us know what you think.