In the early days of search engine optimization, the pitch that many companies used was very appealing. “We’ll get you listed on thousands of search engines so that everyone can find you.”
Today, this seems like a ludicrous statement. There’s only three real search engines that account for 97% of the search traffic and it’s been like that for some time, but back as recently as 2008, many companies were still pushing automated search engine submission as their primary selling point for search engine optimization. The same thing is happening today, only with social media.
There are companies out there promoting the concept of building and maintain profiles on dozens of social media sites. This is a joke on many levels. First, the majority of social media sites are not profile-driven. In other words, having a presence on them is only somewhat useful based on high levels of activity on the feeds and interactions with other users. The profiles of individual businesses themselves are never seen, never show up in search, and not viewed from the site itself. Second, any time a profile is associated with lightly trafficked social sites, there’s an additional chance of failure. Smaller sites get hacked. They go dormant. They get shuttered. There’s no good reason to have these sites because of the potential negatives associated with them.
The most important reason to dismiss these sites is that they’re simply padding. Businesses often like bulk. They like knowing that they have all of their bases covered. Unfortunately, the majority of social media sites out there are simply not bases that need to be covered. Why pay to have a presence someplace that is useless? It’s just fluff. It’s filler. It’s a way to say, “look, you get more out of our social media service because we give you dozens of social sites!”
There are four must-have social media profiles for the sake of engagement and three others that are relevant for different reasons. That’s it. The rest is just part of a sales pitch.
Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest
These sites are necessary components of social media marketing for just about any business. They are where the action is currently happening. They bring value from a search perspective and are well-visited by people when they search for businesses by name because they actually have a chance of ranking.
Most importantly, there’s engagement potential. Properly managed, these four sites are where 99% of the social interactions can occur. It is a focused strategy that does not look at fluff as a primary sales tool and focuses on the things that actually matter in social media.
YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and others
YouTube is a channel. It’s a place where businesses can expose their message. LinkedIn is the professional component. It’s a measure for recruiting, a venue for public relations, and an excellent place to display the nuts and bolts of a company. While it’s arguable that it can be beneficial for B2B companies, it should not be utilized as a venue to attract B2C prospects.
Blogs are the personal repository for business communication that does not happen through video.
With blogs and YouTube, it could be argued that they are social media sites in that they are content-driven and attract eyeballs, but in reality they are monologue components of the marketing strategy. Yes, people can comment on them so technically dialogue can happen there, but it’s an internal dialogue. When blog posts or videos are shared on the above-mentioned four social sites, the dialogue can truly happen.
“Others” are the sites that are potentially valuable but not absolutely necessary for success. Tumblr, Foursquare, Chime.in, Flickr – these are sites that can bring value and should be considered by companies that have all of the above profiles humming and running on all cylinders, but are often a distraction otherwise. Also included in “others” would be the rising social sites. Yes, there are still websites and services that have potential to become players and they should be monitored, but putting effort into them in the early stages is not prudent. For every Pinterest that we put early-adopter effort into, there’s others that nobody has ever heard of that wasted time.
A quick note on automation
This is a debatable topic and I respect those who disagree, but the concept of running the smaller social sites through automation is a bad idea in my books. Yes, it’s possible to create a social profile, then hook it into a feed or other posting protocol that allows hands-free social integration. Some use this as the reasoning behind having dozens or hundreds of social profiles. “I build it and then I let it run itself.”
That’s appealing, but it’s also dangerous. Again, these sites get hacked. They become devalued. They get overrun with spam. They fall off completely. The risks are greater than the rewards.
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Social media done right has the potential to help businesses advance their marketing and improve their customer communications. It should not be viewed in the terms of “more is better.” A proper social media strategy puts all efforts into venues that count. Otherwise, it’s just fluff to help a sales pitch.