As marketers, it’s only natural that we want to be everywhere all of the time. It’s in our blood. Unfortunately for many small business marketers, this is just not a realistic option. In years past, budget constraints usually kept us focused like a laser beam on whichever channels worked efficiently for our business. Today, in a world that is awash with low or no-cost digital marketing opportunities, budget constraints can become secondary to the most valuable commodity of all — time.
Of these low or no-cost opportunities, social media is perhaps the most alluring, but also potentially the easiest in which to get bogged down. I have always called this “social media saturation.” It’s the point where a marketer simply cannot add another social site to their roster due to time or budget constraints, yet feel like they are missing out on potential customers by not doing so.
How Marketers are Dealing with Social Media Saturation
Small business marketers and sole proprietors are especially susceptible to social media saturation. They cannot afford an army of interns or PR reps to constantly engage potential customers via a seemingly endless list of social media sites. So, how are those small business marketers dealing with this problem?
The Wrong Way (Doing it All) - Some have spread themselves very thin across numerous social media sites and have become stymied by the fact that their social media efforts fail to move the needle in an appreciable way. You have certainly seen this ‘strategy’ in action; the Twitter feed last updated two months ago, the Tumblr blog with a single post from late last year, and the Flickr gallery with three photos of the company picnic. The marketer sees the results of their efforts, throws their hands up in the air, and exclaims, “Social media doesn’t work!” I would counter with the notion that spreading a social media presence too thin isn’t social marketing at all. It’s low-value advertising.
The Wrong Way (Doing Nothing) - Others, believe it or not, have given up on social media entirely. One website owner I know who enjoys significant monthly organic search engine traffic recently closed all of his company’s social media accounts, one of which had just under 1,500 followers! You read that right. Closed. I told him he was crazy. He told me he didn’t have enough time in the day to properly monitor social media and the return on his efforts were nominal. Okay, but I still think he’s at least one notch past crazy.
The Right Way: Create a Sustainable Social Media Presence
Social media marketing is not an all or nothing prospect. Developing a sustainable, high-quality social media presence should be your goal, not trying to keep up with the mega-marketers who have the aforementioned PR resources at their disposal. Instead, focus your efforts on three or four channels that offer the greatest return for your business. Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are the “Big 5” right now for business marketers (but don’t discount Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, and StumbleUpon). Industry-specific social media portals have also picked up significantly over the past several years as marketers seek out like-minded people who have already been where the marketer would like to go.
Here’s the Takeaway
Take a moment to sit back, analyze which social media sites are benefiting your business, decide how best to engage those social channels, and run with it. Here are a few things to consider when determining which social sites will serve your business best.
Traffic and Sales – Does the social media outlet send converting traffic to your website and/or dollars to your bottom line? Some types of businesses will do very well on one social media site and not so well on another. For example, Pinterest can be great for businesses that have visually appealing products (cars, food, fashion, etc.) but be lackluster for others (manufacturing, SaaS, accountants, etc.). Of course, your mileage may vary.
Have You Given it Enough Time? – Building a social following is not easy for the small business marketer. Have you given the social media portal enough time? Have you cross-promoted your social media presence by integrating it with your other marketing channels?
Is Your Social Presence Creating Cheerleaders? – Is the social media outlet producing ‘cheerleaders’ for your business? Word of mouth is still powerful and what is social media besides digital word of mouth? If a particular set of social media sites are helping you build cheerleaders for your brand, you may want to focus your efforts on those outlets.
Customer Service Interaction – Do your current customers interact with your social media presence in a positive way? Does having a social media presence reduce your customer service costs? On a related note, can your business tap social media for customer training, community-powered technical support, or other non-marketing tasks?
Community Engagement – Social media really shines when you can develop one-on-one conversations with customers, prospects, and fellow members of your industry. Are you sending out one-way communications to an unresponsive audience? If so, you may want to take a closer look at what drives engagement on that particular site.
Are Your Customers Migrating? – Active social media users can be nomads, migrating from one social site to the next as trends dictate. Are your customers migrating towards certain social media sites? For example, when Google+ opened to the public it quickly gained a certain level of acceptance among technically inclined users (engineers, developers, designers, etc.). Meanwhile, other demographics completely ignored the new platform.
Is the Social Site Going to Stick Around? – This one can be tough to determine. Think about how many social media sites have risen to Internet dominance only to fade away with breathtaking speed or failed to gain traction despite having major backing. Sites like MySpace, admittedly still very popular in certain circles; Ping, Apple’s invisible entry to social media; Digg, once the king of social bookmarking; and Second Life, once the scene of a digital real estate gold rush, are all examples. That said, if a new social site emerges don’t be afraid to give it a try, but also don’t be afraid to regulate it to the back burner and continue focusing on sites which are already providing your business with a return.
Are There Cross-Channel Tools Available? – Are there tools available that combine your preferred social media site(s) with other marketing channels for simple one-touch cross-channel updating and engagement? If so, you can save time by adopting these tools rather than visiting social sites one-by-one.
Do You Enjoy Doing It? – Last but not least, do you enjoy interacting with the people, brands, and businesses on a particular social media site? If you enjoy it, it will show when you share content, create posts, make status updates, and interact with the community.
Naturally, for every guideline and rule there is an exception. We welcome your tips and insights on dealing with social media saturation in the comments. How do you choose which social sites to focus on? Do you try to hit them all? Has your strategy been successful? Let us know!