Why Social Media Can't Stand Alone
As social media networks have popped up, grown, and become part of our social structure, I have noticed a trend in creative industries that has me pulling my hair out a little. I know of people and brands that have decided to toss aside having their own website for the free and convenient platforms available on social media. I know of a record company that told a band, "Nah, you don't need a website, just use a Facebook page." Um, no. A resounding NO.
Why? Why should creative types, or small business bootstrappers still maintain a website when their audiences' eyeballs are on socials and those platforms are free?
You own absolutely NOTHING on your social media networks. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
If Facebook were to go offline tomorrow or decide that none of your fans could even see your page without you paying, how would you let people know what you're up to or what you're selling? When you tweet, you are hoping and strategizing that your followers will happen to catch your tidbit of info. When you Instagram, you are hoping your followers think your picture is cool or pretty enough to like, and maybe even follow a link.
Social media networks will become more and more of our daily lives and be the only medium besides actual word of mouth that people use to make decisions about how to spend their money and who to give their attention. The mistake brands make is in thinking they have any right to, or own anything about their social media profiles.
In the spring of 2014, Facebook made a huge algorithm change that sent waves of hate and discontent through the marketing world. After years and years of providing a free platform for brands to acquire, interact, and sell to their customers, Facebook had decided it was time to collect. Businesses were aghast. "But they are MY fans!" Um, no, they're not. They are Facebook users that have entered into an agreement with Facebook, not you.
The only parts of your business that are yours are your website, logo, tagline, graphics (if these are trademarked), proprietary goods, and your email list. These are the building blocks of every sale and relationship you will have. If you look at the fine print on any of these social networks, you might find that by agreeing to their terms of service you are giving them the right to use your logo and content. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. Most brands choose to give up some level of autonomy in order to play the social media game, whether they know it or not.
A social media strategy is essential for brands at this point, but it is a layer that cannot stand on its own.
Email marketing has fallen into, then out of, then back into favor. In the days of AOL email, people were excited to get email - it was novel and new. Then, as inboxes filled up with "Buy Now!" and "Special Offer!" emails, people became overwhelmed and irritated with every marketer out trying to get clicks. Now the pendulum has swung back - sort of. Social media networks are so inundated with information and algorithms, businesses have realized email is one of the only ways to actually make sure (or close to sure) that your customer sees you.
The difference is now email marketing needs to be more strategic, less pushy, and above all offer tons and tons of value.
Your social media strategy should aim towards providing engaging and valuable content first (not selling), and then funneling your fans and followers to your website and email list to find out more.
In other words, social media is the cocktail hour, your website is the main course, and your email newsletter/campaign is dessert.
Here's how it should go, to use what I know best - how a band should be using social media.
- An Instagram picture is posted of one of the band members getting ready to go out on the road. The post verbiage is authentic and heartfelt about what going on the road is like and what the fans mean to them. There are no "Buy tickets here!" or "Download the latest album now!" messages at all. The link in the profile is a trackable link that goes directly to their tour dates.
- The fan is redirected to the mobile-friendly website listing all the upcoming dates with show and ticket info. They decide to buy a ticket - woo hoo! (The band should be able to capture these emails from the ticket vendor - if you don't get this info from the vendor you need to fix this ASAP.)
- After purchase, they receive a thank you email with a coupon or offer for merch to get ready for the show, and a form to leave their social handles for a possible shoutout from the band on Twitter.
- They buy a t-shirt and follow the band on Twitter.
- A band member tweets a 10-second clip of them personally thanking that fan and saying they'll see them at the show. They just made that fan's day and a customer for life! They can't do this for every ticket purchaser, but even once every day or two would put some serious bucks in the brand equity bank.
Did you imagine this whole interaction and how it all flows seamlessly and authentically? Of course, not every site visitor is going to buy a ticket - but that's the goal, so your socials should serve to send people to where you can best serve them and build that relationship. Social network posts should serve fans who want to know more and them feeling an emotional connection - they don't want to feel they're being sold to by a used car salesman.
Having a clear, easy to navigate, and updated website is essential to building that customer relationship. It should be setup in a way that effortlessly guides them through your sales funnel to not only provide them with incredible value, but give them a reason to allow you into their inbox.
There are endless tidbits to check and tweak in a website - from making sure links aren't broken to remembering to update information, to checking for consistent styling (fonts, colors, etc.). It's a project usually best left to a professional so you can use your creative brainpower for offerings.
Your website should be geared to:
- speak to your target audience
- keep them on your website to see all the information/value you are providing
- buying if you are selling something on your website
- signups for your newsletter to keep apprised of your latest and greatest
There are so many options out there to build or update your website - from DIY to completely custom and intricate.
Key factors in the website-building process:
- goals for the site (store, portfolio, etc.)
- how quickly you need it up and running
- whether or not you want to maintain it yourself
I've chosen Squarespace as the best choice for not only my own site - but it's the only platform I use to build semi-custom websites for clients. It is truly the best balance of design, cost, functionality, and ease that I have found.
I'm going to wrap this up because I can talk all day about social media strategy, but that's not the point of this particular blog. The point is that no social media network is yours and your own website and email list are worth so, so much more. While we can safely bet social media is not going away, the platforms and apps are changing constantly. Don't put the entirety of your brand resources and efforts into the free (not yours) basket, or sooner or later you will find yourself empty-handed.