Can we be honest for a moment? Maybe, as the kids say, “get real?” When you and your talent acquisition team started talking about social media, did you actually have a conversation as to why you needed social media, or did you just end up at “we need social media because we need it?” Or “we need social media because everyone else is doing it?”
It’s not a crime. It’s not even rare. We talk to lots of people looking to do social media who can’t really answer the “why” question. It’s not an easy question to answer. In fact, it might even be the wrong question to answer. Because unless you’ve got a lot of content to distribute, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”
No, you don’t need social media. You need content. Focusing on your social media strategy without worrying first about content is like building a network of high-end gas stations before anyone’s invented a car.
Remember, social media is a channel, not a strategy. It takes content and helps you get it in front of people with whom it might resonate, allowing them to engage with it and share it. That’s all social media does. But note that the first part of that process is “it takes content.” Without that content, what are you hoping people engage with? What will people be sharing?
You don’t need a social media strategy – you need a content strategy. Having a solid content strategy begets its own social strategy naturally in the same way that inventing affordable mass-produced cars will naturally beget support and supply systems like gas stations, garages, and high-end floor mat manufacturers. You don’t start by inventing the floor mat and hoping the car will come along to support your business.
Take a look at social media champs. Everyone’s favorite social media success story is Gary Vaynerchuk, who took a struggling wine store to multi-million dollar success with the help of social media. But that’s not right. He did it by building great content regularly, shooting cheap-o videos on wine and uploading them to the web every week. He was brash, goofy, opinionated and funny in these videos, all while providing helpful and useful information. He educated and entertained. Occasionally, he inspired. And in the end, you bought wine from his store in New Jersey and he became a millionaire.
It wasn’t social media that made this work. It was great content. Had Facebook and Twitter never been invented, people still would have found his videos, shared links via email, and the story would end up the same. The secret sauce is great content, not social media.
Why do you choose to follow a certain person or brand online and not others? Are you in love with the brand enough to listen to bad content over and over again? How many posts about things that don’t interest you will you read before you stop following? If you live in San Diego, how many posts about job openings in Washington, Chicago and Boston will you listen to before you give up and leave? The fact that you put content that didn’t resonate with your followers on social media didn’t suddenly make the content better. Social media isn’t fairy dust that makes useless content useful. Bad content on social is just an opportunity for more people to see that you produce bad content.
The level of content determines the complexity of your social media strategy. For example, if you have a lot of great content (white papers, videos, blog posts, stories, pictures, slideshows, conversations, etc.), your social strategy can be as simple as “we should put these online at semi-regular intervals.” Great content can easily be fed into a social media automation process and become a huge success.
But if you have almost no good content, you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to create the illusion of a silk purse made from that sow’s ear. You’ll be focusing on the smoke and mirrors instead of the thing itself. That is time far better spent on building the content, which just won’t need as much propping up.
So stop worrying about which social media channels you are on. Focus on your process for building great content. It will take you much farther.