Separate Learning and Exploring for Stronger Social Media Strategies

You have probably heard – and lived by – the phrase, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In entrepreneurship and marketing, this too often means a propensity to stick with what is working (the bird in the hand) rather than investing in potential future benefits (the two in the bush). Consider, for instance, the social media marketing platform that has offered your company a successful method for advertising your business. You’ve probably invested considerable time to get to where you are with successful digital marketing, and it can be tempting to continue your innovations on a small scale, within this same platform.

Here is my main reason why this isn’t a good strategy: consider Periscope. Consider MySpace. Consider the varying successes of so many recent platforms, from Pinterest to LinkedIn, with various different demographics of social media users. Most likely, the “next big thing” won’t be the platform you are already using.

However, you don’t have to “randomly” use time researching new social media sites and strategies. Instead, use the following method to create an excellent approach to innovation that will balance learning and exploration during your investigations. Recognize that not every result will be stronger than your current platform, but over time, you are likely to be able to roll with the changes in social media marketing much more effectively than your competition!

First: Understand the Benefits of Set Blocks of Time

Before you begin diving into the “internet rabbit hole” of social media marketing options, recognize that your time is valuable and, while you want to make great choices, you also don’t want to end up spending dozens of hours learning about platforms only to throw your hands up and say, “oh, who can ever pick?”

This strategy relies on allocating blocks of time: this could be an afternoon an evening if that is what you have, or more likely a longer but still defined amount of time to each step. Think about the Pareto Principle: it states that 80% of the value of a project/effort/work task is often achieved in the first 20% of the time/resources allocated. This means that you then spend the last 80% of the time and resources chasing after a much more meager set of results, the 20%. In researching new platforms, it is a virtue to choose the 80% as “good enough” and move to the next step in the process. You’ll be able to debrief and decide if, for instance, these blocks of time need to be longer or shorter, after the process is complete.

Devote a Block of Time to Big-Picture Trend Analysis

The first block of time will most likely be the shortest. This is where you start reading up on what the latest social media platforms are. If you are already a person who reads a lot of trend pieces, you may be able to skip this or fold it into your daily news reading. The goal is to know a good amount about established social media platforms, what are the latest “upstarts” that are making a splash, and what major players are starting to wane a bit. Try to focus in on the target demographics of each social platform: are the people who would be drawn to your business coming to or leaving this social media site?

Even if it feels like there is still so much more to learn, when this time is up, pick the next best social media platform, the one you think has a chance of outperforming your go-to, standard social media platform.

Devote a Block of Time to A Deep Dive on a New Platform

With your selection, begin learning as much as you can about the platform, specifically the following:

  • How do users interact with this social platform? Studies often reveal whether viewers scroll, click through sites, or some other behavior as they interact with a social media site.
  • What free and paid advertising options are available? What do people tend to like most and least about advertising on this site?
  • What are the most successful accounts on this site doing that others can’t quite emulate? What are the keys to success here?

This, too, can be an endless pursuit: there is always something else to scroll through on a social media platform! However, when you come to the end of the platform deep-dive block of time, cut yourself off. Now is time to formulate a plan.

Devote a “Trial Period” and Trial Budget to Utilizing That Platform

Based on what you’ve seen, create a trial period for participating on the site and a trial marketing budget, if applicable. Write out specifically what goals you’d like to accomplish, what amount of interactions and increasing velocity of interactions you’d like to see over the trial period, and any other metrics that the social platform affords you.

Make sure that your business team knows that almost no platform will show, in one trial period, the consistent results of their established, beloved social media platform. That fact should be accounted for in your calculations; the new site needs to show promise and potential, not vastly outperform the past site.

Once you’ve done this, you simply have to implement your plan: create an account, interact and reach out to attract past loyal customers as well as potential new leads, and use advertising strategically to reach new prospects and convert sales. You’ll find that, even across platforms, strategic thinking is usually similar in all digital marketing.

After the Trial Period, Debrief and Decide: Move on or Stay?

Once the experiment is done, assemble as much data as you can, and get together with your team to decide: were the objectives met? Were different but equally positive outcomes reached? Did the platform perform in a lackluster way? Be honest with yourselves: you don’t have to stick with a new platform just to prove you’ve diversified your marketing! You should stay if it is helpful and has promise; those platforms could eventually double your sales, so start to incorporate really successful platforms into your overall strategy.

The great thing about this process is that you can do it over and over, learning more about your company’s needs and the world of social media marketing every time. Constant iteration and innovation has been integral to the formation of social media; let iteration and innovation guide your marketing efforts too!

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