If you are an entrepreneur and pay any attention to the business-coach elites - or have paid any attention at all over the last decade - you will recognize that we've been collectively beaten about the head over the importance of an online, social presence. It would be difficult to find any real advice out there saying that it might actually be better not to utilize any or all of the free or nearly free platforms to promote your product, business or self for that matter. However, for many despite knowing that they should do something, most don't know where to start or are quickly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content needed to keep the social machine chugging along.
There are a few different takes on this. For some, it's an all or nothing game. Post everyday, every hour, every minute to every channel. Yet for others its more strategic, pick a platform or two and go nuts. And for many more still it is a "what's a tweet?" scenario. But who is right? The short answer is, it depends.
Once you make the decision to go social, I think most people tend to jump in with both feet. Especially if you are doing so as a small business owner or as a zealous marketing person with a product to sell. It makes sense though, right? Most platforms - the biggies anyway - are free or next to free to get started, the barrier to entry is low and they are quick and easy to set up. So why not? Like a pack of roving Pokemon, we want to catch em' all! However, this approach doesn't take long to become a little overwhelming.
For the brief moment that you have yourself convinced that the masses are waiting at the gates to 'like,' '❤️' or 'follow' you, it can be a lot of fun. Pretty exciting even. But when the cold reality reveals itself that you didn't even need a gate because there was no one waiting there to begin with, it can quickly become a little discouraging. Despite what you think you know, the first key to building your social presence is to understand that it really is an exercise in patience. You have to convince the aforementioned masses why they should give a shit about you first and that is not done overnight. It takes time.
Keeping up with the Joneses… or the Vaynerchuks
Outside of the Kanye Wests of the world or other ultra-famous folks with built-in audiences it's unlikely your social feeds will sprout wings from day one. But as simple as it sounds, the best way to really get things moving is to feed the beast on the reg. Consistency is the second key, and it's integral to your success.
But just how consistent is consistent. This is a fuzzy one and can vary greatly by strategy, motivation, and creativity. If you are a fan of the hard-driving and super-social Gary Vaynerchuk, he has advocated for 5 to 25 pieces of content per day across all channels. WTF!?
If you follow him online, you'll know that he definitely practices what he preaches. I've never seen anyone so prolific. He has dedicated massive amounts of energy to developing his personal brand, especially in the last few years, and his method surely works. By generating crazy amounts of content - much providing real value to consumers - he has managed to build a steam-engine locomotive which is burning white-hot and careening down the tracks at a simply ludicrous clip. Vaynerchuk has built infrastructure for maintaining this juggernaut and it's certainly possible for others to do the same, but it requires extraordinary amounts of time, energy and commitment of resources to pull off.
Others have found tremendous success in social without employing Vayner's absolutely herculean war machine however, and that is great news for the rest of us. Now don't take me wrong, I am a big advocate of hard work, grit, and shooting for the stars, so if you want to make GaryVee your bar to live up to socially, go nuts. But be aware that he is a very tough act to follow, and really depending on what you are trying to do it might not be the right approach anyhow.
A perfect example of this is LinkedIn master, speaker, and author is espresso-fueled entrepreneur, Michaela Alexis. Michaela is one of the most popular faces on LinkedIn - the social platform for professionals - and while that platform isn't as consumer focused as some she's found a fit. Michaela, in knowing her audience, focused her efforts initially on this single channel to achieve incredible notoriety on the network, later supplementing with additional platforms to fill in gaps. In discussing this topic with her recently, she had this to say:
"I invested fully in learning the LinkedIn platform over the past two years. I started using Instagram more when I recognized a need to fill in the gaps of my story with more behind the scenes stuff, and to talk openly about things like beauty, style, food etc. To this day, I don't really have plans to expand beyond that, but I do share relevant content from both LinkedIn and IG onto Facebook, and I have a YouTube channel that hosts my LinkedIn training vids.
Do only what you can!"
Michaela's approach is refreshing and a real-life example of how choosing the appropriate channel, rather than indiscriminately spewing your message across all available options, can be a powerful way to build your brand.
Furthermore, I like the bit at the end. "Do only what you can." Not trying to be too passive as it's important to keep up that hustle, but for an older generation of entrepreneurs - or anyone really - who has not spent a lot of time on social media, it is easy to be intimidated by or dismissive of it. That is further compounded by the overwhelming idea that you simply must post to every channel if you hope to be relevant. That stops many before they start. The point I'm trying to make is to be honest about what you can and can't do - work hard and do as much as you can - but it's also OK if you can't do it all.
As important as it can be to choose the right platform or platforms to publish to, it's equally as important that you understand the differences between them and your audience on each when it comes to crafting content for distribution. Our third key is to know thy audience.
The example above of LinkedIn is a good one. LinkedIn is primarily used by professionals to find work and network while Facebook is much more consumer centric so you might rethink pitching your widget there. Twitter might skew a little older, Snapchat a little younger, and of course those generalizations can vary greatly depending on the audience you've cultivated on each. It's complicated I know, but with that in mind I spoke with personal branding and growth strategist, consultant and host of the Beyond Influential podcast, Brittany Krystle Hoffman on the subject:
"Where the content mainly lives is a function of your brand goals. You need to respect the platform, but there is always a way to take a piece of content and tweak it for the platforms your audience is on. You also need to take into account if the audiences on those platforms are the same or if they are different. That comes down to knowing your audience and who you are trying to reach."
Did I mention that Brittany is former brand manager and growth hacker for the previously mentioned Gary Vaynerchuk and was a content producer for his company Vayner Media? She knows a thing or two about doing this sort of thing en masse. Check out her podcast and her fun video with Michaela Alexis about how to efficiently create a week's social content quickly and easily. It's worth checking out. Click here to watch it.
The moral of the story in marketing generally, but in social media specifically, is to know who you are talking to before you start spouting off online. Make sure your message is targeted and offers real value to those who consume what you espouse and you will find yourself quickly - but not too quickly, patience remember - developing a dedicated audience who will support you, your product or service now and in the future.
Special thanks to Michaela Alexis and Brittany Krystle Hoffman for their input on this article. It's a massive subject and this article only scrapes the surface's surface. For more information, follow those two on the platform of your choice and continue to up your game, socially speaking.
All this social media talk has me wondering what tips and tricks you employ in your own business or personal branding adventure. Share them won't you? Here in the comments or feel free to join me on the socials to take this conversation wherever the audience most suited to hear it can get involved - I am @ryanroghaar on Medium, Twitter and Instagram.