Part of my job as a communications consultant is to advise clients on their social media strategy.
Thankfully, even ten-plus years into the social media revolution, this is easy:
More often than not the answer is simply “have one.”
While even the smallest companies out there now see the business value of being active on at least one social media channel, often they lack the expertise or bandwidth to put in the work necessary to build their digital presence there, let alone to do it well.
This is good – it means job security for consultants like me.
More fundamentally, I believe that businesses (and people) should focus on their core competencies and try to outsource activities outside of their primary expertise whenever possible.
The problem I see creeping in more and more today among brands with regard to social media today is two-fold:
- They want to try everything at once; and
- They love the shiny new platforms, and dream that early adoption there could bring them outsized results.
Here’s a better strategy: Try one platform at a time (see my last post). Get your feet wet.
The quickest road to mediocrity is to try to build a social media presence on several platforms at once.
For the vast majority of my corporate clients, the early networks still reign supreme: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. If you have a particularly environmental or international focus, possibly add Instagram.
Today, I liked to highlight the social media platforms your brand can most likely ignore.
5 Social Media Platforms Your Brand Can Ignore
Note – there are always exceptions, but in my decade of experience with dozens of corporate, non-profit, and government clients I’ve never been asked about, let alone helped implement, a social media strategy for the following:
SlideShare, the presentation and slide deck hosting service now owned by LinkedIn, was first established in 2006 and was briefly popular among content marketers around 2011-2012.
Early adopters believed by producing quality slide decks on this channel, you could grow your following just as you could on any other social media following.
Notable active brands on SlideShare include IBM, NASA, The White House, and Hewlett Packard.
The problem for brands considering SlideShare is that producing quality PowerPoint decks is difficult and time-consuming – to do so consistently arguably takes more work than writing (via blogs), shooting gorgeous photographs for Instagram, or even scripting, shooting, and editing short YouTube or (very short) Vine videos.
The platform is also hindered by its small user base. The website has about 38 million registered users and gets about 70 million unique videos a month.
That may sound like a lot, until you consider that user base is dwarfed by the monthly active users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.
Furthermore, as a user, I consider SlideShare a phenomenal resource for PowerPoint design inspiration and a quick tutorial or refresher course on certain topics.
But never once have I noticed a creator’s name and looked them up, much less sought out their other work. So as a direct branding tool, its value is negligible.
LinkedIn was right to buy SlideShare, as its slide decks can be seamlessly shown on LinkedIn user profiles to showcase aspects of their portfolio.
But, as wonderful a resource as it is, SlideShare has never once come up in discussions of social media channels that could benefit my clients.
Snapchat is so hot right now that it’s made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek twice in the last six months.
As the platform du jour among the post Millennial set (i.e., 14-25 year-olds), some very big brands are desperate to establish a following on this platform simply because that’s where today’s teens – the next generation of consumers – are.
Here’s why I think it still doesn’t matter for the vast majority of brands:
1) It still skews too young.
Unless you’re a consumer brand geared towards teens, your customers aren’t there.
2) It’s labor-intensive.
Snapchat’s primary hook is that videos posted there disappear after 24 hours. That means, in order to develop a solid following, you have to post daily.
Far better to practice your video skills on more permanent platforms like Facebook or YouTube first before spending those resources on ephemeral content for Snapchat.
Unless you have already built a following and/or mastered the other half dozen or so major social media channels, I just don’t see the value of investing time and money in Snapchat.
Micro-blogging platform Tumblr was one of the first free blogging platforms to take off, and it remains popular with young users both for its community and for its scrappy aesthetic.
An innovative feature of the platform is its social sharing capabilities via reblogging.
Today, Tumblr hosts more than 307 million blogs, with more than 46 million new posts created daily.
So why do I not recommend it as a platform for brands or small businesses?
1) The demographic still skews young.
2) More than 20 percent of Tumblr content is pornographic, making it a risky platform for some family-friendly brands.
3) It’s now corporately-owned, having been bought by search engine giant Yahoo! in 2013. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Tumblr owes much of its early popularity to its renegade and DIY aesthetic. It’s hard to claim such views when you’re owned by an internet behemoth.
4) Brands would do better posting to Medium, a newer, more adult and professionalized social blogging platform.
This is partly my bias because I come from the older generation of consultants who were trained to communicate primarily through words rather than pictures.
This mindset is changing (and rightfully so). After all, a picture really is worth 1,000 words.
But the reality is, with just a few exceptions, most companies, non-profits and brands don’t lend themselves to consistently beautiful visuals.
National Geographic – Gorgeous photos of nature worldwide.
FedEx – as with National Geographic, the private carrier’s worldwide reach easily lends itself to images from various countries. Besides, who doesn’t like receiving packages?
Saturday Night Live – yes – an incredible roster of stars past and present and costumes that instantly evoke their classic skits make this account worth following.
For more on brands who have made best use of Instagram, see this post from HubSpot.
The bottom line is unless your brand is inherently artistic, worldwide, fashion- or nature-based, it probably doesn’t lend itself to the gorgeous visuals that do well on Instagram.
See my separate post about Vine’s recent decline, but this micro-video platform’s failings includes:
- It skews young
- It’s labor-intensive
- It’s losing active users monthly
I’m currently reading #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness by digital marketing luminary Gary Vaynerchuk. Published this spring as a compilation of his best advice offered over hundreds of episodes of his YouTube show, it’s really informative and worth the read.
However, I disagree with Vaynerchuk’s fundamental premise – that marketers should take a chance and work to establish themselves on hot new social media platforms, because the rewards and fame granted to early adopters on successful platforms far outweigh the risks.
Here’s the flaw with that – 80 percent (or more) of the new social media platforms won’t succeed.
And even if they do, they won’t achieve true returns of scale for brands until we already know what the winners are.
Further, from a practical perspective, good luck convincing a major corporate client’s board to approve the investment in a nascent platform.
For good or ill, major brands remain risk-averse.
The good news is, most of them still have not yet maximized their presence on such major platforms as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter.
Until they do so, attempting to branch out into other platforms, including those five social networks listed above, is a waste of resources.