Social media is more than a fact of life nowadays; it has become central to how the world works. More than 3 billion people use social media each month. It wasn’t long ago you needed to start a world war to get the attention of that many people. Now all you need is an internet connection.
I’ve been reliably informed we’re social animals, so it’s only natural for us to be diving head-first into this new communication space. Facebook now has over two billion active users, Instagram has one billion, Twitter 330 million. When they’re not being used to arrange revolutions, they’re often used as a space in which businesses and brands can reach their audience.
Businesses are right to be diving into this world, but they need to be wary of focusing too much on one channel. Social media is a fickle world. Kings today are forgotten tomorrow, and there’s only so much we can control. The fight for exposure online is best fought on multiple fronts.
At the Mercy of Circumstance
The catch of social media is it’s an historic opportunity to communicate, but you can lose your voice at any time. From YouTube to Pinterest we are all, ultimately, guests on someone else’s platform. All it takes is an algorithm update to ruin your site’s performance.
Remember FarmVille? The Zynga-backed game was on top of the world in 2010 with over 80 million active users a month… on Facebook. As Facebook shifted its priorities and limited Zynga’s access to its inner workings, FarmVille plummeted — and Zynga’s stock prices with it. I can’t say I personally lost much sleep over the demise of FarmVille, but the 520 Zynga employees laid off in 2013 probably did.
Or consider last year’s YouTube ‘Adpocalypse’, where revamped advert guidelines left channels reeling from revenue drops of well over 50%. The fallout continues a year later, with many top channels moving their community base to sites like Patreon in order to stay afloat.
Or consider Facebook’s recent move away from news towards friends and family has hit publishers hard, with some reporting 50% dips in traffic. Facebook gave a week’s notice of this change. Not much time to pivot strategy.
These are top-level examples, but the lessons are applicable all the way down. Being so reliant on social media puts people on edge, with every algorithm change prompting a fresh round of hand-wringing. Social media and content sharing websites are incredible, but overreliance can put you in a world of trouble.
Take Me Home
Social media channels often work best in orbit around a website, an opportunity to redirect interest to your turf. Send users back to your site. The difference between following an account and following a site is massive.
Sites are the one piece of ground on the internet that truly belongs to us. Everywhere else we are ultimately at the discretion of others. Social media channels limit you to their rules, whereas a site can be anything you want it to be. The onus is then on you to make a site worth caring about, which is a whole other ball game, but at least there you’re setting the rules.
Diversification is Key
Operating across multiple social media channels doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be an opportunity. Why limit yourself to one language when you could speak five? Every network has its own subtleties, its own cultures to contribute to.
Different channels are opportunities to share different aspects of a brand. Different networks lend themselves to different types of content. When you start to break down what different services specialize in it seems silly not to diversify your online presence:
- Visual (Instagram, Pinterest)
- Editorial (LinkedIn, Medium, Flipboard)
- Informative (Facebook)
- News (Twitter)
You don’t need to do the exact same thing on every social media account. Play to their strengths. Instagram is a visual medium, so use it to share the visual elements of what you do. Platforms like LinkedIn and Medium respond to intelligent copy, so use them to share your blog posts. Instagram users are unlikely to care about your essays, nor are Flipboard readers going to be interested in how your office looks in warm lighting. Tune in to the languages of the platforms.
This doesn’t apply to everyone of course. Individuals can and should do whatever they like, businesses and brands would do well to watch their step. Banking everything on the success of one outlet can reap its rewards, but the risk is a lot higher. Communicate what you do in different spheres to different audiences and long-term success becomes much more realistic