If you were to ask someone in 2005 if they enjoyed “social media,” they might have happily responded that “Yes, People magazine keeps them up-to-date…” on all their favorite celebrities.
Of course, this was only a year after Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, and a platform curiously named “Twitter” was still a year in the making. In 2005, only 5 percent of Americans used social media, compared with nearly 70 percent today.
As marketers have learned, social media is a force to be reckoned with. Companies of all sizes devote entire departments or at least considerable resources to fostering their social media presence. They grapple with the same vexing question: Are we using social media effectively?
As websites taught us, pitfalls become obvious over time
As business websites demonstrated, it takes about 10 years to develop “best practices.” After all, it took time for websites to be tested and evaluated – and maybe restructured as a result – because it takes time for research to be executed, cautionary tales to be culled and new means of tracking and assessing data to be developed.
For social media, this progression has been further complicated by the arrival of new platforms, creating a ripple effect on all the others. (LinkedIn was launched in 2003; YouTube in 2005; and Instagram and Pinterest in 2010.)
Social media is not yet in its “adolescent stage” of development, but enough time has passed for certain social media pitfalls to become too obvious to ignore. So if you’re conscious of how many followers you have – because really, isn’t everyone keeping track? – it may be “tune-up time” to ensure that you’re using social media effectively.
Respond to most common social media pitfalls
To approach a social media tune-up with precision, you have to know some of the more common social media pitfalls. A Hubspot survey revealed four key insights:
- Insight 1: A majority of consumers (84 percent) expect companies to have a social media presence on Facebook, followed by Twitter (64 percent).
- The tune-up tweak: The first part is easy: develop a presence on Facebook. The numbers are too staggering to dispute: nearly eight in 10 online adults regularly turn to Facebook for entertainment and news, according to the Pew Research Center. The second part isn’t quite as straightforward (so be sure to read Insight 2). The center also found that among online adults: 32 percent use Instagram, 31 percent use Pinterest, 29 percent use LinkedIn and 24 percent use Twitter.
- Insight 2: Consumers expect companies to be active on roughly three platforms.
- The tune-up tweak: Target your platforms carefully, just as you would with any other marketing initiative. Using social media effectively dictates a purposeful presence on fewer platforms than a lackluster presence on every single one. It’s unlikely that every social platform is “right” for your business anyway. Pinterest, for example, appeals overwhelmingly to women; Instagram “talks” to people under the age 44.
- Insight 3: Consumers dislike “parroted” content (or content that is copied and pasted across multiple social media platforms).
- The tune-up tweak: Of all social media pitfalls, this one can irritate consumers, so take the time to optimize content for each platform. It makes sense to do so; your LinkedIn followers and Instagram followers probably possess different buyer personas. These followers should be addressed differently, too. And don’t forget insight 2; if you want people to follow you on more than one platform, you should give them an incentive to do so.
- Insight 4: Consumers want to engage with a company (or a brand) on a personal level.
- The tune-up tweak: Downplay hype and overt promotion, which can be off-putting. Many consumers are savvy; they understand that businesses use social media to promote their products or services. But using social media effectively also dictates a relational, conversational approach to even the briefest communique.
One word underscores all of these tune-up tweaks: research, which takes time and effort to execute properly. As websites also taught marketers, research is necessary and worthwhile – and constantly evolving.