While I pride myself on the expertise that our social media agency now provides, we've certainly experienced a steep learning curve to get to this point. Back in late 2011 the "right way" to get results on social sites was very much something that people were experimenting with rather than were able to state with any certainty. And so it was for us.
With that said, here are three things I wish I'd known about social media effectiveness from the outset:
1. Email lists and social media followers / fans complement each other
This is a mistake I really kick myself for making, since an earlier business of mine was built on the foundations of having a massive responsive email subscriber list. Yet I was blind-sided when setting up Social-Hire. My thinking was that gaining social media followers was the modern day equivalent of building an email subscriber list. The two were interchangeable, or one was superseding the other. And so for a long time we generated a strong and growing audience of readers and prospects, for whom the only means of signing up for Social-Hire was via our social accounts.
Big mistake. What I know now - and have put to good use on client campaigns - is that social media messages reinforce email marketing messages. Sharing resources, insights, promotions - whatever it is you have to get out in the marketplace - will be far more effectively achieved if you expose your audience to the message across numerous media as opposed to just one. Sadly by the time I realised this we'd missed out on 18 months of email subscriber growth. Don't make the same mistake!
2. Be wary of the herd mentality
In our earliest days, my focus was undoubtedly on building our LinkedIn network more than all others. This was essentially because recruiters were converging there - and having initially focused on serving the recruitment industry I didn't intend to miss out in the land grab. The only problem with this was that it just ignored the reality. Facebook was then (and is all the more today) the social site where our target audience could most cost-effectively be reached. Twitter, meanwhile, was the site where it was easiest to strike up business conversations and forge new relationships fast. Fortunately we realised this quickly and re-prioritised to concentrate instead on building our Twitter networks.
When I see recruiters today who are slow to react to the downtrend in LinkedIn results that they're seeing, I'm reminded of this mistake. Just because it's the accepted wisdom that businesses in your industry need to be on XYZ social site, that may or may not hold up under closer scrutiny. Never take a decision based on point of views and gut instinct when there's hard data readily available that could prove or disprove this. Have a browse on Google for the latest stats from Pew Internet if you want to discover how much each social site is really being used.
3. Engage rather than promote
This one is less something I wish I'd done differently - and more one I'm glad I got the guidance early on that meant I never fell into the trap. I'm talking here about the huge gulf in results that you'll see with a business that prioritises promoting on social media vs. one that focuses on engagement.
Essentially, most tangible business results you're likely to see from identifying your ideal prospects and engaging them on social media - rather than using it as a medium to promote your wares to that same audience. There are exceptions of course (Note: Bonus Lesson - no two social media strategies are the same!). But by and large, if you show me a business that's disappointed with the results it's getting on social media I'll almost certainly show you in turn a company that's being overly promotional and not genuinely engaging.
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