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October 23, 2015

Cindy Penchina, President

When Not to Use Social MediaSocial media is often treated as a panacea – the one-stop solution for everything that ails your business. And I totally get why people think that way; Facebook has over a billion users, and Twitter over 300 million, all plugged in and ready to see your messaging. The law of averages just seems to demand that, with an audience that big, something is gonna get through. It’s the same logic that gives us Super Bowl ads – just in front of an audience that’s orders of magnitude larger. How is that not a great idea?

Because it’s not that simple, and ultimately, social media can’t always cure what ails you. There are definitely use cases where social media is exactly the wrong tool.

So let’s take a look at a few situations where a focus on social media marketing might not constitute shooting yourself in the foot, but isn’t really a heck of a lot better.

You’re not posting on the right channels.

On a macro level, well yes, of course they’re there. Law of averages. There’s bound to be someone interested in your services on Facebook; as of 2015, 73% of Americans use social media. But a full 87% of Americans are online, leaving 14% – an entire 45 million people (approximately the population of Argentina) – who aren’t using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – or any social media platform. And depending on your audience demographics and buyer personas, there’s a chance that they’re in that cohort.

Social media is an amazing tool – if your audience is there. But if they’re not, you’re wasting time, energy, and resources on shouting into the void. Just because you’re all about Facebook doesn’t mean it’s the best place to focus your efforts. So now’s the time to figure out if they’re scrolling through a Twitter feed, or if they’re just channel surfing.

You don’t know what content does and doesn’t work.

Is your business right for the sort of user engagement that makes social media effective? Social media as a mode of communication has to make sense, above all, to your audience; no matter how frequently you post about industrial lubricant, will your audience engage with that content? If all you want to do is post information about the thing you do and how you do it, you’re going to alienate what followers you do have and prevent new followers from showing up.

In order to transform a social media platform into something engaging that your ideal clients want to see, you have to keep an eye on who they are, just like in the previous section, and make sure you’re posting relevant content that interests them. By staying relevant to their interests, you give them a reason to tune in. By offering a service they’re interested in, you’re giving them a reason to listen.

But you’ve gotta have both.

You’re failing to commit to its success.

Social media isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” proposition. While that might have worked in Field of Dreams, in real life, you need to give people a reason to show up. And that means developing an active, attentive social media profile that’s worth their time. Too many businesses want to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach, building their profile, uploading a picture, and then, poof! They disappear. Because social media isn’t about collecting likes as if they’re Pokémon cards, but about building a channel of communication between a business and its customers.

A great social media profile is active, deliberate, and open – and requires an ongoing investment if it’s not going to turn into a flashing neon sign advertising little more than how terrible you are at new media. If you don’t have the interest in developing a social media profile that will actually generate value, it’s better to not have one at all.

You need a quick ROI.

Social media is lots of things – but quick isn’t one of them. You’d do well to banish from your thoughts that you’ll quickly get hundreds or thousands of followers ready and eager to listen to your messaging. Quick results like that belong to the Kardashians of the world. For the rest of us, it’s a long-term commitment that can sometimes feel like it’s getting us nowhere – but which we have to commit to if we want to see any success.

Social media is not going to get you quick conversions or easy sales, and it shouldn’t be expected to. Far too many businesses dedicate their social media accounts to posting sales, or using Twitter to troll anyone looking at buying, for example, a new refrigerator, and then get frustrated when these strategies somehow don’t magically increase sales. But why should they? Nobody came to their social media to be advertised at; they came to talk with their friends and read about their interests.

As long as you expect a quick turnaround, you’re never going to use it the way it needs to be used. And all you’ll succeed at is alienating your audience.

So if you’re going to use social media, make sure you’re using it right.

It takes dedication, commitment, and creativity to build a social media profile that works – but it’s not magic, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. As long as you’re willing to put in the right resources and give it time to work, your social platforms should generate exactly the value you need them too.

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