Google Plus is where the action is. Wait, actually it’s Instagram! No, you completely forgot about Pinterest. Oops, you’re late to the Vine game.
If you think the number of social media channels has become overwhelming, you’re not alone. Just a quick snapshot from NameChk and you’ll see all of the possible social sites where you may be tempted to have a business presence.
Make no mistake, we’re in a time when having a social presence is expected. And businesses can gain major advantage by being involved in the conversations happening across the web, about their brands and industries. The “help economy” is about companies being valuable even to non-customers, beyond their products and services.
So does your business need Pinterest? Or Instagram? More importantly, can you develop heuristics or a framework that will help you make that decision for every future social network?
The success of your business depends on you saying no to things. Especially shiny new things. This includes not getting distracted every time you read a case study about a company who’s capitalizing on a new platform. Keep a couple of things in mind:
First, you don’t have to be everywhere. Two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies (those who should, by definition, have resources to devote to customer engagement) don’t have a corporate blog.
Second, you don’t have to stick with a channel. Of those Fortune 500 companies who don’t blog, many of them started, but abandoned the plan. Fail fast. That’s OK. Nobody rails on scientists who move on after a failed experiment. And choosing social media channels for business is often experimental—especially in new channels.
Content-Centric Social Media Perspectives
How do you pick which social media channels to invest in? Do you go by what’s popular or new? Where your existing customers are? Where your potential customers are? Do you follow your competitors’ lead? Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.
The business doesn’t revolve around the social network. Social networks revolve around you. Your social presence and success on any given social network is only as good as the material you have to work with and conversations you’re able to generate and participate in. With this in mind, it’s critical to assess up-front whether you have the kind of content assets necessary to thrive in any available channel. Beyond that, this content has to drive meaningful business value or you’ll have an unsustainable social media strategy with no real leverage within the company.
Content “Natural Resources” & Unique Content Asset Production
A unique content asset is any type of content you currently produce or have the capacity to produce that would be considered both valuable and hopefully irreplicable within your industry. Doing an audit of your unique content assets involves identifying the type of content you can realistically produce and distribute, given your unique sets of “natural resources”:
- Organizational assets/Partnerships
And since each social network is media-constrained, you can break out your content assets by media type, like this.
Resources are well-adapted for certain kinds of assets. Your location (building, city, area) may lend itself well to images and video that can be leveraged for distribution and community engagement. Your location may also mean access to certain experts or businesses you can interview or collaborate with to create text-based content. These all represent sources of competitive content advantage, leading to greater visibility along with customer and community growth online.
Assuming you do a full inventory of all possible content categories you can then rank the content by quality and alignment with business and branding. What does this mean? Some content has a high potential to drive more interest and business within your community. Some does not. There’s usually a trade-off between high-interest and high business-driving relevancy, so you should balance type.
Your #1 question for social channel selection: Which channels are best capable of taking full advantage of the best unique content assets we have? Do these social channels provide enough incremental value (and do we have enough capacity) to justify adding them to the current social properties we’re invested in? Or are we better off treating this as an experimental channel and testing it for a few weeks before deleting it?
The benefit to adopting a content-oriented approach to selecting social channels is that it prevents you from investing in places where you can’t differentiate yourself or gain a meaningful ROI. It keeps you from getting “shiny social media syndrome.”
One final note: new channels may emerge that appear to have a lot of potential, but don’t necessarily provide access to new audiences, new content delivery advantages, etc. Google Plus had this challenge (in terms of market perception). How should a company evaluate this kind of channel?
One perspective says there are first-mover advantages for all channel participants. But this doesn’t mean you choose a new social media channel and shift your entire online strategy to support it. Short-term experimentation is an option. Using the channel for basic content distribution is an option.
Mini Case: Choosing Posterous Over Tumblr
What do you do when a couple of new channels seem to provide the exact same opportunities for your content assets?
A few years ago, we were selecting a more informal blogging platform to share some content. In the early days, there appeared to be no clear advantage of choosing Tumblr vs. Posterous. We went with Posterous. Posterous ended up shutting down its blogging platform while Tumblr grew to enormity and ubiquity.
We learned that we made a bad pick, but it wasn’t due to bad decision making. It makes a lot more sense to focus strategically on one platform than it would have to split efforts and distribute the same content on both Tumblr and Posterous. Do yourself a favor and be selective.
Final Thoughts on Strategy
As you plan your social channel strategy, you should always try to drive qualified traffic to your website, where people can be introduced to your business and offerings. There comes a point when the payoff from investing in an additional social media channel is less than the payoff from investing in the development of other non-social traffic channels.