When it comes to social media, all platforms are definitely not created equal. Just because one business thrives on Pinterest doesn’t mean your company will enjoy similar success. Some businesses are better suited to Facebook than Twitter, while others fail spectacularly on Facebook but work well on Google+.
What makes one social media campaign a flop and another a hit often comes down to choosing the right platform. Trouble is, you may not hit upon the right platform right away or realize you've made a mistake until well into your campaign. When do you know it's time to jump to different social media?
Consumer activity is your best indicator of social media success. If consumers aren’t posting on your Facebook page, retweeting your messages or sharing your pinned images, you've got a problem.
Unfortunately, you can’t make a decision based on consumer activity immediately. Carving out a social media presence takes time. Give any campaign a few months to mature before worrying too much about traffic and consumer response. A campaign struggling to generate user interest after a year either needs altering or scrapping.
Your own actions often determine the health of your social media campaign. Any company acting as if social media is another form of direct advertising needs to reevaluate its campaign immediately. Social media users want connections and interesting information, not sales pitches.
Social media offers a chance to communicate with your customer base, listen to their concerns and feedback, and, most importantly, respond. If you’re not interested in regular conversations with your customers, social media isn't for you.
Know Your Audience
Telling marketers they need to know their audience is like telling someone they need to breathe; it’s so essential to success we do it without thinking. Social media is a relatively new medium, however, so it helps to step back and ask two important questions: does our audience use the platform and is the platform relevant to our business?
Consider a legal translation company. The business works with words for a living, as do most of their clients. As such, Pinterest would be a lousy choice for a social media platform. A Twitter account might work, but the concepts the company works with are complex and difficult to express in 140 characters or less.
Facebook, which allows for longer posts, offers a better fit, and the company can tap into a user base a billion strong. However, given the highly specialized nature of the translation business, a solid presence on LinkedIn might draw in more leads even though the user base is smaller.
The lesson? Just because a social media site is popular doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
Lack of Goals
A presence on a new social media site does you little good unless you can explain why your business needs that presence. Goals may include establishing brand reputation, increasing traffic to a home website, improving sales or generating leads. Without goals you cannot track your campaign’s success or failure.
I know, I know. Marketing 101, right? But many social media campaigns fail because, in the rush to adopt new and exciting platforms, companies rush in with poorly-established goals. The result is a virtual gold rush, where companies vie to stake claims without considering if they even need a presence on the platform.
Test, Evaluate, Retest
Some businesses make the mistake of assuming they need a presence on as many social media venues as possible. Trying to do so spreads your social media campaign too thin. Updating and monitoring multiple sites becomes time-consuming and confusing.
Instead, limit yourself to two platforms. A company might choose Facebook and Google+, because the two sites have similar formats, which allows for relatively easy comparisons. Set your goals and a timetable.
When the time comes to evaluate performance, you may find one venue greatly out-performs the other, in which case your decision is easy: dump the low performer and retain the more successful site.
You may find one platform performs well in one area, while the other offers different advantages. For instance, the Facebook campaign may show signs of high customer engagement, while the Google+ campaign generates more sales leads. The beauty of social media is you don’t have to choose. Focus the Facebook account on brand reputation and recognition, and keep Google+ generating sales.
In the worst-case scenario, neither venue meets your goals. Depending on circumstances this may mean re-evaluating how you present yourself on those sites or trying completely different venues.
Throughout the process, bear this last thought in mind. Social media is only valuable if it produces results. If it doesn’t, perhaps your business should explore other media.