February 6, 2017

The Importance of Understanding a Social Media Network

Chris Jones, Digital Marketing Manager

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who was charged to create social profiles for his employer. He was full of energy and ready to jump full steam into launching Facebook and LinkedIn pages. One of his colleagues suggested that he start an Instagram profile for their business because none of their competitors were on Instagram—and it could be a unique way to stand out from the competition.

On the surface, this is a great suggestion. A business needs to look for any way to stand out from their competitors, particularly if there is a unique entry point for their product or service. The promise of a “free” outlet to connect directly with consumers is the promise and premise attraction for many businesses to consider social networks as a viable means of advertising in the first place. This promise is even more attractive if your competitors have left a vacancy that you can easily occupy.

On a similar note, there is a constant desire for brands to be on a social network as it matures in an effort to establish an audience before the network truly figures out how to monetize their audiences. This is a similar concept to what Gary Vaynerchuk describes as “arbitrage.” In short, what small gains can you obtain from efforts where others aren’t paying attention? A more recent example of this is Snapchat. Originally derided as a network for disappearing photos of compromising composition, many businesses passed on the network as a serious entry point for community—but some businesses, such as Taco Bell, really dug in their heels and established a fantastic community on the platform.

While Vaynerchuk takes a mentality that you can join a network, ride the wave, and jump off if necessary, I tend to take a more long-term approach. Particularly considering that many of our clients at Blakely + Company, a Colorado Springs marketing agency, are pillars of a very tight-knit community. Social networks hold a great promise, not of personifying a brand, but in allowing legitimate connections when businesses embrace the benefit of a two-way conversation.

Through this lens, when someone asks me whether or not they should join a network, I ask the following questions.

What’s your goal?

Without a goal, you’re doomed to mediocrity. Are you hoping to increase Brand Awareness? Drive traffic to the site Increase sales? Set a goal and create a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine what success and failure looks like. Don’t confuse vanity metrics such as Page Likes as the end-goal.

Is your audience on the network, or will they be on the network in the near future?

An imperative question that almost always gets skipped over when determining the course of action. For example, I once worked with a brand that wanted to reach women, 50+. At the time, Snapchat was in its infancy and was almost exclusively a network of teens, but it was the hot new network that people were talking about. As a result, it was suggested that we jump into the network and designate significant resources to the project. The fact is, at the time, our audience wasn’t on the network. In 2017, it’s a different story, but you must keep a laser-like focus on network shifts to determine when it makes sense to devote resources to a specific project.

Do you have the resources to create fantastic content that is worth sharing?

It’s easy to get caught up in a fear of missing out on what’s next—particularly when there is something new every day—but it helps to have a plan and stick to it. Constantly re-evaluate the landscape and adjust course accordingly. If you’re ever not sure about whether or not you should make a move, reach out to me on Twitter, I’m happy to help.