The first question many business owners ask me these days is “Which social platforms should I be using?” They’re told they need to get into social media for marketing, and the first thing they want to do is pick a platform. However, that’s really putting the cart before the horse. Here are four reasons why selecting social platforms FIRST is NOT a good idea:
1. Your audience might not be there: If you’re planning a newspaper ad campaign, you wouldn’t pick a publication your audience doesn’t read, right? That would be a waste of money. The same thing applies to social media. Before you decide on which platform to use, you need to do some research on who your ideal clients are and where they like to hang out online, and carefully compare that to the demographics on social platforms. Grasping at straws doesn’t work in traditional marketing, and it doesn’t work in social either. It’s all about building relationships. Getting in front of the right people at the right time and in the right media is essential before you can start to build those relationships.
On the flip side of this coin, shunning a certain platform because of preconceived notions about it isn’t a good idea either. I’ve had clients tell me from the outset (before we’ve had a chance to do any research into their target market), that they refuse to use XYZ platform. When asked why, they usually answer with an emotional, gut reaction or misinformation such as: “Nothing but garbage there,” or “I just hate it,” or “Who cares what people had for breakfast?” The said platform might turn out to be the best solution for them in the long run, but they discount it before they do the proper research and throw away a potentially valuable opportunity.
2. You don’t have a cohesive plan yet: In my last article, Does Planning a Marketing Strategy Make You Sick?? I talked a bit about why planning a social media marketing strategy is so important. You’ve probably heard the old adage: “Without a plan, you plan to fail,” and there’s a lot of truth in that. About 90 percent of all small businesses fail within the first ten years, and the biggest reason is lack of adequate planning. You wouldn’t think of climbing a rock face without a firm plan and a map for how to get from A to B. Professional climbers study the landscape, take note of their abilities (and those of their partners) and decide which route to take before they start breaking out the equipment. In fact, the type of equipment they use DEPENDS on that type of in-depth planning. Do the same for your social media marketing, and pick your equipment (platforms) last.
3. Insufficient content: Do you have a website that’s a little thin? Don’t blog regularly or send out a newsletter? Then don’t jump into a social platform just yet. You need to enrich your website with regular, customer-centric content in order to feed any social platform. The “If You Build It, They Will Come,” scenario only works in the movies. You need to regularly produce the kind of rich content people are looking for when thinking of making a buying decision. If someone lucks into your Facebook page or Twitter profile, the first place they’ll want to look for deeper content is your website. Make a good investment there, because brochure-style website that isn’t customer-friendly or information rich won’t cut it. Make sure you have a plan in place for adding and changing content regularly. A blog is great for this, and so are special reports, videos, case studies or other led generating content. Your website is your “social hub,” so make sure it’s strong and solid.
4. Lack of resources for manning the platform properly: It takes a horse to pull a cart, fuel to run an engine, and people’s time to operate a social platform. That time might be yours, an employee’s or someone to whom you outsource the job—but somebody’s got to do it—and time is money. Social media isn’t free in the sense that your time isn’t free. Some platforms take more time than others to monitor and use, so here again, it all comes down to your plan. I’ve seen companies get really ambitious about using several platforms at once, but they have unrealistic expectations about how much time and/or money it takes to run them properly, and they quickly become frustrated with the results. So picking your platforms should be one of the last things in your strategy, because you’ll need to match the platform(s) to your available resources.
To recap, don’t succumb to the knee-jerk reaction of trying to get your social cart before your horse. Think about your audience, work out your plan, enrich the content that will feed that plan, and make sure you have the necessary resources in place. Do those things BEFORE you pick a social platform, and you’ll be much happier with your results.
Need help formulating your social media marketing plan? Check out my upcoming book, Solving the Social Media Puzzle: 7 Simple Steps to Planning a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Business.