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Stop Treating Social Media Content Like Spinning Plates

wobbling-spinning platesDrum roll please, as we welcome to the stage The Amazing Brando and his spinning social media plates!” (Cue polite ripple of applause, followed by a cheesy organ rendition of “Baby Elephant Walk.”) 

“The more plates The Amazing Brando spins, the greater the applause. Until… Oh no! Quora just crashed to the floor! And Pinterest is beginning to look wobbly! 

“The audience gasps as Brando manages to set YouTube spinning again with a hurried “unboxing” video on his smartphone. They clap as a few quick @replies save Twitter for a few more spins. And then LinkedIn crashes to the floor. No longer impressed, the audience wonders when the clowns will be back.” 

OK, I think I’ve stretched the analogy enough. Yet many businesses still spin plates by tackling too many social media content networks without the time and resources to do so effectively.

Does your business really need to be on six, seven or eight social networks? Really? The more networks you use, the less effective you’re likely to be. Instead of amplifying your content, you may be killing it.

Before you can reap genuine benefits from a network, you’ll need to put in many hours of building and nurturing an audience. Thousands of followers won’t appear overnight just because your new eBook is ready to “go viral.”

You need to earn the necessary status, trust, and authority-attracting followers along the way, before your carefully cultivated audience will happily share and interact with your content in meaningful numbers. But this takes time and effort — you’ll have to share, talk, and participate on their terms, their topics, and their content. Then, multiply that effort by each network your brand decides to use.

Having an audience on one network might give you a head start on another, but not by much. Being “big on Twitter” won’t help when you join that industry LinkedIn group. You’re back to square one.

No wonder I get “stabby” when some simplistic marketing wünderkind blogs about how social media marketing is free and easy. Time costs, even when it’s your own. Content costs, even if you produce it yourself.

There is no one-size-fits-all

It might seem more efficient to create one piece of content and then use it across all your social networks — spinning many plates with a single push. Many brands attempt this, posting the same white paper URL or even the same carefully scripted, generic update to all channels.

By doing so, you’re short-changing both your social media content and the various audiences you’ve cultivated in each network. Not only do different social networks suit different content types and formats; the demographics, expectations and interests of the audiences may differ, as well.

Is your typical YouTube follower interested in the same content as someone subscribed to your Pinterest boards?

A half-hour video might fail on Twitter because it’s such a rapid-fire, short-form medium. But share the same video to Facebook and your followers may be more willing to give it the time and attention.

Instead of trying a one-format-fits-all approach, reinvent your content with each network in mind. Break out key information and display it in the most suitable format — an article for the blog; a video for YouTube; an infographic for Pinterest; a slideshow for SlideShare (and by extension, LinkedIn), and so on.

Tailoring your content strategy for each network means more production time, more budget, more planning. But by designing each piece of social media content to suit the strengths of your chosen networks, you’ll achieve better results.

Choose your networks wisely

The recent Edison Research report, The Social Habit 2012, included plenty of stats demonstrating the dominance of Facebook:

  • One in three social media users now actively follows brands.
  • 79 percent of them do so on Facebook.
  • 47 percent also identified Facebook as the network with the most influence on their purchasing decisions — far ahead of any other network.

But despite the hype, Facebook is not the default choice for social media marketers. Such general stats, encompassing every vertical and every demographic, mean absolutely nothing when it comes to what’s right for your business, your customers, and your social media content strategy.

So whenever a client or a manager approaches me with, “We want a Facebook page,” I die a little inside. It’s an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked. Hey, it may even be the right answer. But who’s to know until the right questions are asked, like:

  • Who are you trying to reach, and how do they use this network?
  • What content types are you trying to distribute? Is this network the best way to do so or are there more effective channels?
  • What action do you want people to take? (Hint: “liking” your page is a pretty low goal to set. You’ve motivated a noncommittal action that took less than a second. Then what?)

The wrong network will erode resources and attention from those that already are working well for you. And once adopted, if results from the new network are disappointing, there will no doubt be pressure from above to divert more time and resources to get that plate spinning.

Choose your plates wisely, and spin them well. And only spin more plates when you have the time, resources (people), and budget to do so without so much as a wobble or a chip.

For more guidance on leveraging the power of social media communities with your content efforts, read “Capturing Community,” by Michael Silverman.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to CMI’squarterly magazine.

Cover image via Bigstock