Is Social Media Really That Important for Your Business?
Terms like "engagement", "SEO" and "trending" are part of the lexicon now, but are they really that important?
If you're an entrepreneur with a business of any size, you're too painfully aware of your digital footprint. You're made to sweat over the traffic numbers to your site, stare blankly at graphs and charts generated by WordPress or Google that seem to hold the value of your fledgling company in their pixelated, metaphorical hands.
Maybe your company isn't new at all. Perhaps you were a few years off retirement when Covid struck, forcing you to adapt quickly or risk losing it all. In either scenario, the outcome is no doubt much the same.
You turned to social media to help save or grow your business.
Fair enough. Over half the world's population has a social media account after all. That also certainly seems like the logical thing to do right now, given the post-pandemic situation. It doesn't take a brilliant business tactician to recognize the sense in expanding an online presence. But what can social media really do for your business?
Before we go any further, we ought to define what we mean by "social media". Sure there are the self-proclaimed social media giants (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) but it takes the form of any kind of interactive, profile-requiring online media. That could be your blog with a comments section. It might be your YouTube channel or podcast page. Anything really where you create content and others can publicly comment on it.
Most entrepreneurs put resources into their business' social media platforms because it boosts awareness of your brand or product. It probably does, but as business owners, we need to get smart about what social media is really doing for us.
A lot of CEOs don't feel like they have the time to learn how algorithms work or what hashtags are appropriate for their content. They outsource this, whether internally or through consultants and freelancers, because the idea of trying to "learn Klingon" fills them with despair.
The world of social media is rife with complexity, jargon and ever-changing strategy.
The disconnect comes when you've sat down with your preferred content management agency, said a bunch of stuff that sounds like it means "the graph points upwards" and left it at that. You probably bandied around the term "SEO", waving it at said prospective contractor like some kind of diploma, but do you understand what it means?
This seems like as good a place as any to unpack SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in simple terms and be realistic about what it can do. It is so important to reframe SEO as being what it really is: a best practice.
So many entrepreneurs and business owners to this day see SEO as a magic password. In their eyes, it's like putting a cheat code into a video game that enables you to win with greater ease and expediency. And who can blame them?! It's been sold like that for so long, but here's the truth: It doesn't work like that. Anyone who tells you that it does is just trying to make a fast buck off you.
For most, SEO is kind of like putting a magnet beside a compass.
You need to take a longer-term approach to SEO. By consistently creating regular content that is engaging for its intended audience and contains researched keywords, long-tail keywords and properly assigned formatting, you are teasing the needle of the imaginary compass, pointing it your way.
There is a compounding effect to all this. In the early days, it's going to feel like a lot of work for little result, and this is where a huge majority come unstuck. Again, heads full of the "magic password" narrative: Business owners expect to see changes overnight. They want consistent growth from day one, forgetting that we're talking about media. Media that has to reach an audience.
You can't forget the social aspect of social media.
As any great playwright or filmmaker will tell you — you have to know who your audience is. All too often, we abdicate that responsibility to the assumed authority of Facebook or Google's vast databases and algorithms. We allocate budget to Facebook ads and research trending topics, but we forget to make content for anyone. Or rather we do, and that's the problem: We make it for anyone.
Think about the type of content you find engaging. Who is your ideal client? What sort of thing are they likely to be reading or watching and how can you generate content that offers them something new, informative and exciting, but that also holds their attention?
It all comes back to intention.
As with any facet of your business, the intention behind it requires scrutiny and understanding by all. Unclear or "misaligned" intentions will produce random outcomes. If you say to your content team or external content contractor that you want content just to make numbers go up on a graph, you're not setting clear enough intentions.
It's very easy to get into the headspace of a business owner, thinking of your employees as being on a need-to-know basis only, but they're people too. If they don't have the full picture, they can't deliver. Simple as that.
Nail down your goals and intentions. Why do you want that to happen? What is the desired outcome? Sure, you may want more clients and higher revenue. But what kind of clients? Why is growing your social media engagement going to attract the kind of clients you want, and why is it a good place to spread awareness about your particular services?
To assume a one-size-fits-all approach and then complain when you get mixed results is to completely miss the point. As an entrepreneur and a person, you are the sole architect of your reality. You must accept full responsibility for that — otherwise, you are abdicating your power.
All too often we hire contractors and consultants with a mindset that we don't have to engage in the process any more than this because we threw money at someone. Then we check out, come back in a month and complain that revenue isn't through the roof.
You need to own every aspect of your business. If something isn't working, don't pass the buck. Set better intentions. When it comes to your social media strategy, figure out what you want from it.
- Does your product/service/brand even lend itself to social media, and if so, how?
- What kind of community do you want to create and how will you serve them?
- What do you need in place to consistently provide high-quality content for the long term?
That last point is key: You must see this as a long-term strategy, throughout which you must remain consistent and focused on your long-term goal. "Giving it a go" will simply produce mixed results at best, and probably just cost you money. In fact, it will do worse than that — it will harm your reputation.
So many websites have a blog page that serves as nothing but a literary graveyard. There will be four or five consistent posts, and then nothing. That's worse than having no blog at all because what it tells visitors to your site is that you don't have a vision.
Don't get caught up in the "vanity metrics". The number of views or subscribers doesn't mean that your strategy is working. You can have thousands of subscribers, but if they're not engaging with what you're offering them, algorithms will know this and not promote your material to others who might. You can fake view counts on Youtube videos, for example, but if these are paid for clicks they won't watch the whole thing. This drags down your average watch-time and watch hours, telling youtube that your content isn't being engaged with.
Get your intentions clear. Take the time to understand social media and what it can do for your brand and then set out a long-term strategy. Once you have that, you'll be resourced to go to content management agencies or consultants and find the right one to deliver it. Or you'll know who to hire in.
Focus on who you want in your online community and be of service to them as best you can. Once you gather momentum and the snowball effect takes hold, there's a whole planet for you to talk to, engage and do business with.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
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