Can you name any of the singles MC Hammer put out after the ubiquitous U Can’t Touch This?
How about anything from the Baha Men that wasn’t Who Let The Dogs Out?
Did Right Said Fred release anything after I’m Too Sexy?
I’m being a little mean to Hammer (he did have a bit of success with Too Legit to Quit and Pumps and a Bump) but his meteoric rise and fall is a good lesson to any brand out there trying to make inroads in the social media space.
Blasting your way to social media fame might be fun, but sustaining it is not.
The sustainable social media approach
If you think about the relationships you have in your personal lives, which ones are usually the strongest?
Actually, let’s get even more specific that that.
Are you more likely to trust someone you’ve just met or someone you’ve known for five years?
It takes a sustained period of time and effort to develop relationships with your online audiences so while doing big things to get their attention is great, it is more important (in my opinion) to focus on the long-term game.
This may seem like common sense to the more seasoned social media pros out there, but I still see people and brands who think social media is about just doing cool stuff.
Cool stuff has its place, but not at the (complete) expense of meaningful engagement.
The one-hit wonder syndrome
I think brands often get dazzled by mini-campaigns agencies run that generate engagement with their communities.
Then, they ask for a similar campaign, don’t get the same results and then ask why it didn’t work this time around.
Well, the simple truth is that those mini-campaigns, are normally punctuated by an incentive (usually a prize) which attracts a certain type of fan, but not a necessarily sustainable one.
The same goes for video content which is designed to ‘go viral’ – again, it’ll get you noticed, but can you serve up content of that quality regularly? If you can’t, you’ll lose a big portion of the audience you spent so much money trying to attract.
Achieving the best of both worlds isn’t easy, and is often not what people want to hear, but it is the most responsible advice you can give.
A simple planning model
The chart below outlines a basic way a brand / organisation could shape their social media marketing efforts to have a genuinely useful business impact.
The number of ‘peaks’ (campaigns) in a 12-month period will depend on the size of the organisation (and community) in question, but just like traditional media, doing too much in the social space can generate fatigue too.
The orange bar along the bottom doesn’t really do the ‘relevant and riveting ongoing conversations’ role justice either (note to self: make that bigger and more powerful in my next presentation).
DOs and DONTs of sustainable social media
- Be consistently useful – nothing generates trust more than someone who makes your life easier / better at sustained intervals.
- Spend time beyond your profiles – have you ever commented on a another Facebook page as a page owner? Have you ever commented on a blog post as a representative of your brand? Instead of focusing on what you’re going to put out focus on how you can put back.
- Space out your big splashes – running a couple of competitions a year is great, but running 20 is probably a bit excessive.
- Treat your community members like human beings – this might seem like another obvious one, but mistaking them for numbers as opposed to people is a sure fire way to stunt your social media growth (and relationships)
- Posting for the sake of it – this is quickly becoming one of my biggest social media turn offs. Content planning and calendars are great, but scheduling posts just to reach a pre-determined limit won’t get you the best results. Only share truly unmissable content.
- Chase social media fame – your communities know when you are creating content for them as opposed to chasing new audiences. While growth is important, alienating your most ardent supporters is not worth the five minutes of viral fame.
- Be everywhere – trying to be everywhere your stakeholders are, especially as a smaller business, is clearly unsustainable both online and offline. Do a few things well, as opposed to lots of things to varying standards.
I’ve said on many occasions, to many people, the sustainable approach to social media is very much against my natural inclination (I tend to like doing big things and rocking the boat).
But, while an element of creativity and innovation is paramount to business, marketing and media success, so is a good dose common sense…mixed with a little drop of patience.
As the old saying goes, sometimes less is (actually) more.