Social media has been called many things: fake, inspiring, consumerist, relationship-building, influential, detrimental. But despite the many criticisms and praises thrown its way, one thing remains true: social media is powerful. For those of us who use social media, whether personally or professionally, posting impactful material that hits people the way we want it to is complicated.
As many tips and tricks as there are for running successful social accounts, there are just as many misconceptions about what social media is. Below you’ll find some of the most important - and least talked about - hard truths about what we can really expect from social media, and how to make it work for you.
1. Social media is not a magical marketing fix.
We’ve seen this more times than we can count: startups or small businesses believe that social media will do all the hard work for them, and they will be selling in the thousands come Christmas. This is simply not true; there is no such thing as “build it and they will come” in the world of social media unless you already have half a million followers. And it won’t do anything for a product no one wants or a badly set up funnel. Think of social media as the cherry on top - if the ice cream sundae isn’t there, it’s just a lonely cherry.
2. The likelihood of going viral is almost zero.
The truth is that going viral is incredibly rare and never predictable. If you’re basing your entire business plan on going viral, kiss your expected ROIs goodbye. Think instead of each social media post as a new sentence in the story of you. With consistency, authenticity, and high-quality content, social media provides the opportunity to establish yourself in the minds of your target audience as the go-to company in your field.
3. You need a social media strategy.
Social media is no longer a casual way to sell your products. It’s a full-blown mini-economy, and posting on the fly won’t cut it anymore. Facebook has capitalized on their platforms as marketplaces, and unless you have a crystal clear strategy behind what you’re posting, you won’t be reaching your consumers anytime soon. To boil it down to the very basics, you need to:
- Define your target audience.
- Identify the main message you want that target audience to understand.
- Produce consistent content.
- Curate high-quality photos or graphics.
These four things are the key ingredients to making any platform actually work for your business. And the trick to this? The strategy for each platform will look different; there is no one size fits all.
4. Choose quality over quantity.
It’s far more effective to have a handful of strategic, high-quality posts each week than three posts a day with no clear overarching message or with badly edited photos. Everything you post needs to be a thoughtful reflection of your values and story. For a company account, the aesthetic and tone you set on social media needs to match the experience consumers have with your website, with your employees, and with your products. If you’re an influencer, or on your way to becoming one, your account needs to mirror what it would be like to sit down and chat face to face. When people do meet you, they will feel like they already know you. Quality content builds trust with your audience, encourages engagement, and builds social proof.
5. It’s not a numbers game anymore.
As Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, famously said: all you need are 1000 loyal fans and you will find success. There is no point in speaking to the masses if they aren’t going to be interested in your product. The best way to ensure the longevity of your company is to seek out those 1000 ride or die folks who will remain loyal for years to come.
6. Each post is an experiment.
Think of social media as a never-ending experiment to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We have long since left the days of chronological timelines in the dust, now replaced by elusive and ever-changing algorithms. This, paired with an unpredictable world and slow but steady shifts in consumer needs, means that what works today might not work tomorrow. It’s important to always stay flexible, creative, and on-brand in order to curate content that serves your target audience as best as possible.