Using Social Media – Where to get the most bounce for the ounce

I had the opportunity to talk to HubSpot CEO Darmesh Shah at Boston’s WebInno a few weeks ago and put him on the spot by asking which tool in the social media universe provides the biggest bang for the buck, or more bounce for the ounce as they said in the 1950s. Darmesh didn’t even pause for a second before he gave me his one word answer: “blogging”.

Indeed, blogging is huge. Darmesh noted (and I am paraphrasing here) that blogging is the basis for all other activity which a business does on the web. But is that it? Just because you know which is the most powerful weapon in the king’s arsenal, doesn’t mean that the other tools don’t work. Right? Clearly we don’t want to (nor should we) all run en masse and shut down our other social media accounts. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube et al are out there and clearly people use them. And in fact, many of the correct rules and etiquette of posting to these other social media sites are ditto for blogging. So, if you know how to write good blogs then you have a good set of instructions for how to write good content for other social media. But the main question still lingers of how do you, as a social media strategist, evaluate where you should put your time? If, as Nielsen estimated in 2011, social media reached 80 percent of US internet users, then you have to be part of the social media ethos. But which social media do you dive into?

Matt McGee writes in his well considered blog Small Business Search Marketing that, “[t]here are a ton of choices when it comes to using social media; what matters most is that find your customers on social media and interact with them where they are”. So, while everyone and their dog has a Facebook account and it’s a pretty good bet that you should have one of those, what do you do after you have your account set up? How do you know what social media your customers are using? Well, simply put, you just need to ask ‘em. Make it a point that every time a customer walks into the store to tell them about your Facebook page. Then, have a conversation with your customers and ask them what other types of media they are plugged into. If they are the blog reading type, then you ought to start blogging. If they are the Twitter types, then start Tweeting. If they are the strictly email type, then stick to email. The point is that there is not one answer to the question of what type of social media to use.  Yes, you can use website analytics later, but you have a real easy way to start if you just begin talking to your customers.

So, if you are a career coach then you need blogging to provide your audience with information on how to better approach a job search. If you are selling wine then Tweets might be perfect for letting your audience know about new wines you are tasting or that are arriving at the store. If you are selling fashion then Pinterest and Facebook are perfect for posting new items and starting a conversation regarding customers’ reactions to the items. Clearly, each of these mediums is awesome for the particular audience at hand. Blogging is useful in some instances, but not in all. There is still a conversation that you want to have with your customers in between blogs and these other social media outlets are perfect forums for that conversation.

Well, if all social media can be equally effective in given circumstances then why are some social media campaigns just plain lousy? Unlike Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, unhappy (read, unsuccessful) campaigns are not failed for their own unique reasons. The reason why Facebook pages or Twitter tweets or Pinterest posts become ineffective is the same reason why blogs become ineffective. According to a report done by Exact Target, the reason why customers disengaged from companies they had originally followed was largely because the company posted to its Facebook page too frequently or because its wall (or Tweet stream) was becoming too crowded, or (and this is really huge) the content became repetitive or boring. Let me rewrite that phrase and put it in red just in case you misread it the first time:  the content became repetitive or boring.

Now clearly this doesn’t explain all the reasons for why people got annoyed with social media streams. Yes, there were other answers to why people left. And, no matter how hard you try, you won’t get everyone to love you. But the frequency of the response about repetitive content becoming an annoyance should be a real loud call to your social media ears. The clear cardinal rule is no matter where you put your company’s digital footprint, don’t be boring. In case you were wondering how to not be boring, here are some rules to follow:

(1)   Don’t just use your Twitter account to reference your blog articles. Keep it fresh by using lots of cool content and interacting with other users

(2)   Use Facebook as a place to start a conversation. Don’t just post a comment referencing your blog. Post content that invites commentary. Photos, according to Web Liquid (a digital marketing company) are the most effective form of interaction. Photos trounced links when it came to customer engagement

(3)   Read a new book that has come out on a relevant topic in your field and write your reaction to the book in a blog post, using your own unique spin

(4)   Pinterest is still a relatively new tool but the message here is the same as with these other media tools. Provide unique content that will start a conversation.

So, with that little lesson in hand, I urge you to go out and be original. Life is too short to be boring. Go paint your (internet) town red.

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