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Five Reasons You Shouldn't Ignore (Insert Name of Shiny New Social Media Platform Here)

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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.

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  • by Robert Gilmour Mon Apr 9, 2012 via blog

    It would be far easier to write 'five reasons why you should not get excited about ()'

  • by Dave Cutler Mon Apr 9, 2012 via blog

    Robert,

    I think it's the natural inclination of too many folks to automatically compose that list in their head. The goal of this post was to give the opposite perspective.

    Dave

  • by Dave Van de Walle Mon Apr 9, 2012 via blog

    Disagree - and I think this is what's wrong with the "Social Media Industry." What's wrong with finding out business objectives first, then figuring out what shiny object MIGHT help?

    Lots of businesses don't need Twitter. I know businesses that get 90% of their leads from Angie's List - and the other 10% from referrals. Try to talk them into an Instagram "strategy." (And, before last week, your Instagram strategy would ignore every single Android user.)

    http://area224.com/your-fill-in-the-blanks-social-media-bandwagon-blog-post/

    I don't know...I'd rather help business owners solve problems than try to force my favorite tool down their throat.

  • by Ann Handley Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    My take here is that Dave isn't advocating anything more than experimentation and curiosity -- testing out new platforms and digging around the new ground a little, and being open to new opportunities.

    Sometimes that ground can be particularly fertile, and sometimes not. But in either case, there's not a lot of harm in testing things out.

    I do agree with Dave Van de Walle's perspective here, about matching platforms to business objectives. But sometimes, that's not apparent until you poke around a little. In other words, I don't see the two perspectives of the two Daves as necessarily contradictory!

  • by Harry Hallman Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    Most of the clients I work with depend on me to make the best suggestions for their use of social media. In my case it is important for me to experiment with new social media platforms so I can make the correct suggestions. My clients, however, do not want to spend their time experimenting. They simple do not have the time to spare and they don't particularly like screwing around on the Internet.

    So if Dave is suggesting that marketing professionals experiment, I agree. If he thinks businesses should spend the time to play with every new platform I believe he is mistaken. Contrary to many people's belief, social media is not free. You have to pay someone or SPEND your own time creating effective social media.

  • by Dave Cutler Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    Funny, I was going to say something similar. I'm not sure if Dave and I are really in disagreement. I would never try to force a tool down someone's throat based on personal preference and as I said above, each business (and their audience) is unique and therefore must discover which platform works best for them and helps them to achieve their business objectives.

  • by Dave Cutler Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    Harry,

    Obviously, as I alluded to above, businesses don't generally have an abundance of time to spend experimenting with social media. It's important for marketing professionals like yourself to make informed recommendations. That being said, not all small businesses owners have someone like that at their disposal. As I said at the end of the post, I'd never expect anyone to implement every new platform. However, I would recommend that they examine them before immediately dismissing them.

    Dave

  • by Jane Finette Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for this super interesting post, however, I would have to humbly disagree.

    The latest shiny social network should not always be followed or even experimented with without bearing this in mind:

    # 1. I would urge one to *always* consider what one expects to achieve from engaging on a social network. Is it for brand building, user engagement, driving leads or customer support etc?
    Different social networks are often better suited to different types of engagement e.g. e.g. Facebook for user engagement, twitter for influencers and support, Linked in for B2B and Pinterest for media / e-commerce.

    Try to understand this network first and research whether its going to be worth your while. Dont just do it because you think everyone else is.

    # 2. Ask oneself how much time and resource does one have to grow, nurture and manage a social network, or multiple social networks? It takes a considerable amount of time to make social media work, and by adding more and more networks the work load can vastly increase.

    Experimentation is good, but also think for the mid-term. How will I manage, how will I spread my time? You cant ask someone for dinner and not give them something to eat. Engaging socially takes time no matter what people say.

    Dave, your article is great - but I would always remind people to (i) understand what you want / hope to achieve from social media and (ii) how much extra time you have to commit if the social network does take off. Otherwise, one could have the situation where one is on every social network out there, however, none of them are really working.

  • by Dave Cutler Tue Apr 10, 2012 via blog

    Jane,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. You make some excellent points.

    1. I agree. There should be a tangible benefit to engaging on a social network. I was trying to outline some of the reasons to consider additional networks that might otherwise be dismissed. It's never a good idea to rush into anything without giving proper advanced consideration to goals, approach etc. I'd certainly never suggest that a business adopt a new platform simply because everyone else is using it.

    2. As I mentioned in the post, having the time to commit to these platforms is often the biggest barrier. You make a great point that though that it's important to also forecast the potential requirements should the platform take off.

    I don't disagree with anything you've said. As I wrote at the close of the post, I'd caution against blindly adopting every new platform. As you alluded to, this can diminish the effectiveness of each individual network. However, I think people are often too quick to dismiss the shiny new platform when a strategic approach to adopting it could prove to be greatly beneficial.

    Dave

  • by Jennifer Thu Apr 12, 2012 via blog

    This is exactly the way I feel, I try and take a look at the new social media platforms coming out even if I don't exactly "get them". Because there might come a time when I'll have to know about them. Of course, there are some social media platforms (Jumo for example) that I lost interest in right away and have not checked in a while. Besides that, I try to at least keep up on reading what is new with social media platforms and what updates have been made. I don't spend a lot of time on places where I don't have a professional presence which is key when trying out new platforms.

  • by Dave Cutler Fri Apr 13, 2012 via blog

    Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing. I think that's definitely a healthy approach. Have a great weekend!

    Dave

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