Why your social media marketing isn’t working (and how to fix it)

It’s no secret that the latest trend in marketing is to get the word out via social media. Many businesses these days have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (the big 3) and the more niche platforms like LinkedIn, Pinterest and Youtube. In fact, if you listen to some people, you need to have a full-blown presence on all of these platforms to compete and find your customers.

That’s a total lie.

Think of a social media success story, like James May. He had a pretty good career on TV, then moved to Amazon Prime with his co-hosts of The Grand Tour but when lockdown hit, he became a YouTube star, too. He makes great cooking videos on the Food Tribe channel. But when was the last time you saw him on Pinterest?

When did you last see Mrs. Hinch on YouTube?

When did Kim Kardashian ever go on Facebook to talk to fans?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

The most successful businesses master one platform at a time.

Let’s take an example. Imagine you’re running a cake company. You make incredible cakes and want to share these with the world. Your product is brilliant, by the way (we’re not looking at product problems today).

Your friend Dave tells you they saw a great cake photo on Facebook the other day and that Facebook pages are absolutely the best way to market cakes, in fact, he tells you that you’d be a fool not to leverage the world’s biggest social media platform. But you don’t know how to reach people on Facebook who aren’t your friends/family (who already see your posts).

Your other friend Chelsey points out Pinterest is the site for photos, and she loves looking at cakes on there. She shows you pretty boards she’s made from other people’s cake photos. You’re not quite sure that this translates to sales for them, but any exposure is good, right?

Then you read an article from a marketing “guru” which says you are ABSOLUTELY leaving MONEY ON THE TABLE unless you’re on Facebook, Pinterest, MeWe and YouTube because all of these platforms are driving sales to your business and you need to get on all of them RIGHT NOW (and, what a surprise, they can help you… for $3,000 per hour). Your cakes are damn good, but you’d have to sell a lot of them to recoup the expenses on that kind of consulting fee.

Confused, you go to a local crafting initiative conference and the person running the conference (who works for the public sector and doesn’t know anything about marketing or cakes) tells you all about why you need to be on TikTok because her fifteen-year-old has been raving about it. But you know fifteen-year-olds aren’t your cake shop’s core audience!

Is your mind boggled yet?

Sometimes I wonder if these people are giving bad advice on purpose or because they just don’t know what they are talking about. It’s probably a bit of both.

See, the real truth about social media marketing is most businesses are spending so much time chasing their tail doing every single platform (badly) that they have lost sight of the purpose of it all. They try to keep on top of posting daily on all these platforms, then they get burned out with it, and drop back to posting once a week. They see zero traction, the followers don’t come to them, and they decide social media doesn’t work. Or they accept mediocre results, like 10 new followers a year (half of which are just bots).

What happens then? They tell everyone that social media just doesn’t work for their product because it’s too new, too unique, too different, too cowbell. Whatever excuse they’ve built up in their mind, their new mission is to convince everyone around them that SM doesn’t work… because they are trying to convince themselves.

I bet you know someone like that. Maybe you’re like that. Angry? No, you’re fired up. Good. You should be. Because social media doesn’t have to be this pit of time and money. Chuck the beliefs that are holding you back and make a commitment to yourself that today’s the day you take action.

So I’m going to ask a hard question. What is the point of your social media strategy?

I asked this at a conference of indie authors and got these answers. Do any of them resonate with you?

What is the point of your social media strategy?

“To gain exposure.” — Janet, 42.

“To be in all the places my customers are.” — Asha, 30.

“To show my business is modern by keeping on top of new technology” — Derek, 58.

“To share posts and business news” — Ann, 63.

“To sell, sell, sell!” — Latfia, 24.

This isn’t the sort of question where there are no wrong answers. And all of the above answers are wrong. They miss the point. Without a clear goal for your social media strategy, it will never take off. Thinking you need to spread yourself thinly and get onto every platform is going to mean you spend all your time online, feeling like you are marketing, when you aren’t.

There is only one purpose for your social media strategy. Until your strategy has met this goal, everything you do on SM should be for this one reason:

Your social media strategy needs to build you a tribe.

That’s it. That’s all it does.

What is a tribe? A following made up of people who are interested in your product/business and existing customers. Your tribe are the people who share your posts, engage with you and reply to your posts.

Your tribe are your fans, not your prospects. This is something people easily confuse. On some platforms, such as Twitter, it can seem like you have a lot of reach when you don’t. If you have lots of page likes or Twitter follows, but no likes or retweets or shares on your posts, then what you actually have are a lot of prospective clients (prospects). Now it’s up to you to convert them.

Tribes usually hang out in one place. Don’t worry about missing all the prospects who hang out elsewhere. The best way to achieve real growth is by targeted marketing work on social media. Choose one platform. Focus on it with a laser-like intensity. When that one has hit your marketing goals, move to another platform if you want, and focus on that.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have accounts everywhere, but pick one account at a time to work on with a growth mindset. That way, you can measure the results and really connect with your prospects. If one platform isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to put it aside and go to another. For one client, I ended up abandoning their Facebook page in favor of Instagram because that was better suited to their business.

So let’s go in depth about how to build a social media tribe. Choose your platform, in the coming weeks I’m going to cover all of these:

How to build a tribe on YouTube

How to build a tribe on Facebook

How to build a tribe on Twitter

How to build a tribe on Instagram

How to build a tribe on LinkedIn

How to build a tribe on MeWe

How do I choose a platform?

Twitter is good for words and especially hot topics. Instagram and Pinterest are good for photos (not other graphics). Facebook is good for long-running conversations. YouTube and TikTok are video platforms. MeWe is good for people whose content is too out-there for the other sites. LinkedIn is strictly for business users in work mode. If you’re really stuck, just pick one at random.

Every time you want to post something, or share someone else’s post, or make a sassy comment about an election, you need to ask yourself, “will this build my tribe or divide it?”

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