It’s not healthy to eat stuffed crust pizza three times a day. Dogs get stressed out when we hug them. Beyoncé will never be your best friend.
Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just here to remind you that reality can be harsh. And the reality of working in social media is no exception. Every job has its challenges of course, but as we all continue to ride the rapidly-evolving rocket of social media there are a few harsh realities we need to face. The good news is that it’s not all bad news. Here are five harsh realities of social media along with ways to combat and overcome all of them.
Success will probably take longer than you think
No matter how many different Instagram hashtags you use or Tweets you send, you’re not going to organically gain thousands of followers in a month. Many of the brands that were early adopters of social media quickly gained huge followings and are still reaping the benefits today. However, social media is now saturated with businesses competing for attention and users are becoming increasingly selective about which businesses they decide to invite into their personal networks.
It’s going to take more than a handful of clever posts over the course of six weeks to start seeing the fruits of your labor. In fact, it might take years of creating and executing your social strategy (then tweaking it and executing it again…) before you really hit your stride. Remember, social media is all about community, and few communities are created overnight.
How to deal with it:
Be patient and consistent
Good things come to those who wait, they say (and by “they” I mean “my mother”). Success on social requires a long-term investment of time and energy, combined with equal amounts of patience and tenacity. Make sure you have a social media strategy you regularly review and analyze. Most importantly—stick with it. Don’t just hop on social media to yell loudly about your latest campaign for a week straight and then disappear for a few more months. Be consistent and give your efforts time to take root and be ready to manage expectations about how fast things should be happening.
A lot of people don’t care about what your brand has to say
Listen, we told you these would be “harsh” realities. But it’s important to face this fact head-on, because the sheer scale of social media can inflate expectations about the amount of engagement your brand should be pulling in. Once you stop naively believing that every single human on earth innately cares about what your brand has to say and should be liking your Facebook posts, you’ll be able to better focus on the people who actually do.
How to deal with it:
Find your fans and focus on them
Instead of trying to be all things to all people, focus on the people that actually matter to your business—your customers, prospects, and brand advocates. Look at the people who are already responding to your posts and come up with ways to strengthen those relationships and give them more of what they’re already enjoying.
Commit to better content
When people follow your business on social media they’re giving you the green light to participate in their carefully curated personal feed. So, picture what you post on social media showing up in between selfies of their best friend and thought-provoking quotes from people they admire. Is your post equally as valuable, engaging, or entertaining—or is it somewhat of a boring interlude? Worse, does it stand out as a blatant sales pitch? An easy way to constantly check for quality is to ask yourself: “would I follow our company on social if I didn’t work here?”
Here are some resources to help you create better social content:
Tips for improving your content curation strategy
Creating videos for Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram
Lessons from four unexpected brands killing it on Pinterest
Surprisingly popular things on YouTube and what you can learn from them
Social media will not effortlessly make your business a ton of money
Wouldn’t it be nice though? You post a few photos on Facebook and chat with a couple people on Twitter, then sit back and watch the dollars start rolling in. Unfortunately, social media doesn’t work that way (nor does any other type of marketing collateral or communication channel, really) and yet many still seem to expect it. Social media can help your business achieve a lot of things—it can even help generate leads that could eventually turn into cold hard cash—but it’s not a stand-alone investment just chugging along, generating a huge amount of perfectly attributable, easy-to-measure revenue for the business.
How to deal with it:
Align your social goals with business objectives
“How is social media helping us improve customer satisfaction?” is a much easier question to answer than “how much money are we making from social media?” Using social for a strategic purpose—one that aligns with real business challenges and objectives—is how you’ll be able to prove the impact it’s having on the bottom line.
Here are some business objectives you could aim to support through social:
Increasing web traffic
Generating and nurturing leads
Driving contest entries or signups
Improving customer satisfaction
Informing product research and development
Gathering competitive intelligence
Increasing brand awareness
Start measuring the metrics that really matter
If your social media goals are aligned to real business objectives, only reporting on the number of likes and comments your last Instagram post received isn’t going to prove much. The type of metrics that really matter are the ones that help you demonstrate the real value of your efforts on social.
For example, instead of only reporting on how many people click on the links you share on social, you should be tracking your click-through with bounce rate. This is the number of people who clicked on a link you shared on social, arrived at your website or blog, and then left without consuming any other content. Track this metric in comparison to other sources of web traffic, and if your social media bounce rate is lower than those other sources, you can prove that you’re targeting the right people on social and the traffic you’re driving is more valuable to the business.
For more ideas on what social metrics to track (and how to track them), check out this post.
Harsh Reality No. 4:
You might have to pay to play
Social media is no longer the wild frontier it once was. The organic reach that businesses were first enjoying on social has declined thanks to the sheer amount of content now being created and the way social networks like Facebook are choosing to curate the content their users see. Allocating some dollars for promoted campaigns and social ads is the best way to ensure your content makes as big of an impact as possible.
How to deal with it:
Give social ads a shot
There’s a big misconception that paying for promoted posts and ads on social is something only reserved for the brands with the biggest wallets. You’d be surprised how far your money can go, especially if you’ve done a good job targeting your campaign to reach the right audience. Here are some resources to help:
How to advertise on Instagram for businesses
How to launch your first Twitter ad campaign
Tips and tricks for getting the most out of LinkedIn ads
Facebook advertising: 3 strategies to drive traffic, leads, and purchases
It’s a bigger job than you might think
“So you get paid to Tweet all day?” is a question you should never, ever, ask anyone who works in social media (here are four more, by the way). Because the reality is that helping a business be successful on social takes a lot more work than many people give it credit for. It requires solid writing skills with rigorous editorial oversight, short and long term strategic alignment with other business areas, and the ability to effectively interpret and analyze data. If you’re thinking that could be three different jobs for three different human beings, you’re right—but few businesses are lucky enough to have full-fledged social media teams at their disposal. And even finding one person who is equal parts creative and strategic who will also be the right culture fit can be challenging.
How to deal with it:
Invest in the right people
Have a clear idea of the social media skill set that is most important for your business, and make sure your job posting thoroughly communicates what you’re looking for.
Take advantage of education and training opportunities