A few days ago I was on a conference call where a participant said “Social media has made it harder to reach people.” My left eyebrow immediately shot to the ceiling. I got the point – that people are connected 24-7 now, and it’s hard to attract attention – but it still seemed like an incomplete statement. It is actually much easier to reach people using social media, but it’s hard to know who, when, where, and why they respond.
I thought about the reasons that social tools have made it ‘harder’, and how they translate directly into problems that we, as marketers, can solve.
Next, I want to talk about how to solve them. But instead of offering ‘10 Tips’, I want to open a discussion across LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, where you can offer your own ideas for how to cut through the firehose of social media. They can be proven ideas that work for you and your business, or they can be theoretical. I’m looking for ways to solve this problem of increased reach and decreased attention.
Why has social media made it harder to reach people?
First, everyone has a preferred platform. As a marketer, we find it frustrating to hear a colleague tell us “You’ve gotta get on Shareski, it’s the fastest growing network for Gen Y professionals.” But these networks are out there, and it’s impossible to keep up with them. If you’re not in marketing or sales, you can use your Twitter account and not feel bad about using little else. Or you use Facebook for Grandma, Twitter for friends and LinkedIn for work.
The problem: Where is the best place for a marketer to sell you life insurance? You know we’ve gotta try.
Second, people behave differently on social networks. Some people are glued to Facebook for half of their waking hours, which means they must be gluttons for ads, but they’re using only one app and really don’t want to be bothered. Some people post photos of sporting goods to Pinterest, but don’t like to buy anything online. Some people seem to tweet all day long, but actually just link to items they’re viewing elsewhere and never check their feeds. Of course, some people like to hold court on some platforms while they only drop by occasionally on others.
The problem: How can marketers know who are the lifers on different social networks, and who are just stopping by?
Third, there’s a ton of competition for your content. To get your stuff seen on just about any social platform, you have to wedge your material between baby pictures, photoshopped memes, narcissistic humblebragging, political rants and current news, not to mention game app updates. Some people flock to certain types of content while ignoring the rest. Marketers have taken a few different approaches: mimic the types of content that people share most often, directly engage with users by commenting and replying; or raise the shock value by using increasingly provocative images and titles.
The problem: What methods can marketers use to cut through all that noise and reach people who are interested in their content?
Fourth, social communities follow different societal rules. We’ve all seen hashtags in Facebook posts, which means someone is tweeting and posted to Facebook as an afterthought. In Google+, hashtags are used for searching and organizing, like they are in Twitter, so it’s no big deal. Since a Google+ update can hold more text and even rudimentary code, users can share more complex ideas. LinkedIn is optimized for business collaboration, and you’re expected to have an agenda when dealing with people there, which would just be weird on Facebook.
The problem: What can marketers do to manage their own behavior on the different platforms, to increase their value and avoid looking like a noob?
Four problems. I think that’s quite enough to spark conversation. During the discussion, you may think of many other problems and solutions. I’m really hoping to gain some insight myself, so in the spirit of open debate, I’m going to let the conversation brew and boil over, and I will respond one week from today.