I recently met an owner of retail stores in the Greater Boston area. Having successfully implemented social networks and mobile platforms for her stores, I asked if she planned to create an Instagram account for the brand.
She said that she’d considered it then asked, “Why should I?” My initial response was “Why not?” When she couldn’t immediately answer, I seized the opportunity and outlined why it made sense for her to try out Instagram.
The reasons to consider trying Instagram are the same reasons to consider trying almost any shiny new social media platform that emerges. Here are a few reasons for exploring new platforms.
1. Just because
Each business is as different as its audience is. Discovering which platform (be it Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, or Foursquare) best lets a company or brand speak to its target demographic is a process of trial and error. That shiny new platform you keep reading about---and secretly keep hoping is a flash in the pan---just might be incredibly beneficial. So, why rob yourself of an opportunity to improve your business’s bottom line? Put another way: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
2. Not everything worth using requires a lot of your time
As you read this, you may be asking yourself where you will find the time to explore these new platforms---especially when you’re already spread too thin. One of the biggest obstacles I face in convincing clients to adopt new platforms or channels is time, which is in short supply for most small businesses. A business's primary social networks (Twitter and Facebook) bring with them weighty and time-consuming expectations regarding the frequency of posts and immediacy of response.
I have good news for you: Many other popular platforms don’t require heavy demands on your time. Consider Instagram, the enormously popular photo-sharing app, which has more than 27 million registered users. Instagram requires very little time, yet it can be an effective marketing tool. Similarly, Pinterest can be managed without a significant time investment.
3. Cut through the clutter
Your customers are overwhelmed with a ridiculous amount of messages every day. Even your biggest supporters, who follow you across various channels, can miss an update due to the tidal wave of communication crashing upon them daily.
People don't follow a huge number of accounts on new networks, however, so it's easier to have your message heard on them. Some folks say your approach to social media interactions should be like how you’d act at a dinner party. If that's so, then adopting newer platforms is like taking a break from the oversized dinner party---where everyone is shouting over each other---and making an appearance at a smaller gathering, where each guest can be heard.
4. Tell your story in a different fashion
Sometimes, forms of communication can lose their effectiveness over time. An audience (even an engaged one) can grow too accustomed---and immune---to your regular updates.
Awareness may not necessarily be the issue. Instead, catching your target audience by surprise and showing them something unexpected can effectively reach them. I’ll give you an example from personal experience. Although I’m a hockey fan living in Boston and had received countless notifications about the annual Beanpot tournament through various channels, I didn't take action. Shortly before the Beanpot, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw the following picture from the TD Garden account (the host of the tournament).
The picture made me stop and look closely at it. The photo was outside my expectations about messages regarding the tournament, and it compelled me to take action.
Though the adoption of a new platform won’t always be the driving force behind moving the needle in your social media efforts, a new platform lets you speak to your customers in a new way, which may resonate strongly with them.
Remember, however, to maintain a consistent message. You have the opportunity to tell your story in a different fashion, but be sure that the story remains the same.
5. Fish in a different pond
Don't assume that active users of one social network are also users of another channel. Some folks prefer one network over others. So, while you may successfully engage with prospective and existing customers on Facebook or Twitter, you may be leaving money on the table elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to take your fishing rod to a different location. You might be surprised by what you’ll catch by using the same bait that left you empty-handed on another network the day before.
Just the other day, I was doing research on behalf of a food brand and discovered that its biggest advocate had posted dozens of pictures of the company's products and talked about them a great deal on Instagram. We sent the fan a box of free samples as thanks for being such a great customer and promoting the product. He shared a picture of the package, which drew the attention of his many followers, who became interested in learning where they could order some of their own. We began interacting once I created the brand's Instagram account. Then I asked the fan for his Twitter handle to acknowledge his efforts. He informed me that he didn’t use Twitter. This is just one example that illustrates the potential for missed opportunities should you choose to ignore the shiny new platforms.
To be clear, I’m by no means advocating that you adopt every new platform. I’m merely suggesting that you take a closer look at emerging platforms rather than summarily dismissing them. Social media-savvy businesses should always strive to establish a presence wherever their customers can be found and speak to them in the language of their preferred platforms.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Online Chatting)
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Dave Cutler is a Boston-based blogger and social media consultant. You can read his blog by visiting http://CutlerDave.com and follow him on Twitter at @CutlerDave.