Should you drop Google Plus from your social media strategy

social media strategyDo you spend enough time on social media? Are you using that time in the best possible way to get the most out of social media?

Johnny Wanamaker is supposedly the first retailer to have said that half of his advertising budget was wasted, but he did not know which half. When it comes to social media, it could well be that 90% of your budget is wasted … but which 90%.
Social media require that effort is put on an individual basis if it is to be successful. You cannot possibly use what might be called mass marketing methods. The usual efficiencies of operating on a bigger scale cannot be applied. Reflections about this were first triggered by a news item that Facebook has overtaken YouTube for video watching. There was also a recent article suggesting that Pinterest is set to surge in 2016.

Social media do not operate independently. People have limited time to follow their social media communities. If Pinterest is to surge by having more visitors, then other social media will be correspondingly weaker by having less. That may well  require a change in how effort is applied among the various social media. An even bigger change that we may all be seeing is that Google may well be giving up on Google Plus.

Thomas Hawk has an excellent account of his own reactions to this and many of the movers and shakers in social media have chimed in on the debate. Some feel that Google has given up on social media while others perhaps optimistically hope this is not the case. There have been many dramatic changes in social media over the last few years.  Here are just a few of the more significant changes:

4/9/2012 Facebook buys Instagram
5/3/2012 LinkedIn acquires SlideShare
10/9/2012 Twitter buys Vine, a video clip company
5/20/2013 Yahoo buys Tumblr
2/4/2014 Microsoft invests in Foursquare
3/25/2014 Facebook buys Oculus, virtual reality gaming startup
10/6/2014 Facebook acquires WhatsApp
3/9/2015 Twitter acquires Periscope
5/11/2015 Facebook acquiring Meerkat LiveStream App
5/28/2015 Google unveils new stand-alone Google Photos service
These events may or may not have an influence on what content is presented. In turn this determines which visitors visit these social media and what they do during their visits. Things change rapidly on the Internet and you should be constantly reevaluating where you put your efforts in social media.

As another recent article pointed out, social media marketing trends are gaining traction in 2015. As more competitors realize the importance of social media, they will be putting efforts into their social media presence. More competitors means it is tougher to stand out from the crowd. Read on to find what this means for your social media marketing strategy.

Social media takes a great deal of effort

Most of our readers  hardly need reminding that the only way to be effective on social media is to be working on an individual basis. People on social media are there to dialogue with their friends and colleagues. They will be particularly antagonistic towards anyone who tries to use a shotgun approach. It is all about people to people. What that means is that there are no scalable methods to seek economies of effort in your social media marketing.  An individual approach is required: it is all about person to person communication.

If you are concerned with getting people to buy from you, this is not necessarily a bad thing. One important feature about selling is that you should first sell yourself and then sell your product. It is very much easier to make that sale when your prospect is feeling warm towards you. Achieving such trust and implied authority is something that is very easily achieved on social media. This is where small and medium-size businesses have a distinct advantage over the larger corporations.

There is no easy formula whereby a global business can develop a person to person relationship with prospects and clients. You have only to look at the public perception of most major corporations to acknowledge the truth of this. In other words in this social media world, big corporations are working at a disadvantage. The actual moment of committing to a purchase may often involve emotions. Those are best triggered when people talk to people. That can be contrasted with the old mass marketing techniques which principally relied on logic to encourage someone to take a rational decision. It is for this reason that social media can be so effective in cementing the purchase decision.

Your goals for social media marketing

Given the granular nature of working in social media, it is important to have clearly defined goals. Like the traditional marketing process, that will include sales goals. However not every contact in social media will result in a sale. Fortunately social media are ideal for some of the earlier goals like awareness and building up favourable attitudes towards the company and its representatives. This can cover basic qualities like honesty and authority and may even extend to other attributes such as straightforwardness and likability.

Remember how Google changed the ground rules on search

What has happened with Google Search provides an important reminder when we look at how social media are operating. Although Google proclaims that it aims to provide the best user experience for searches, it is not surprising that they arrange matters so that their advertising revenues can be maximized. Google is a public company and therefore its online activities must be suitably monetized.  

That may be another reason why it seems that Google Plus is on the way out. If you compare what search engine report pages (SERPs) look like now as compared with five years ago, there are dramatic changes. Google is attempting to keep people on Google pages. Very often a Knowledge Box is presented with the intention that the questionner’s search is completely fulfilled by its contents. At the recent developer conference, Google revealed it now has over 1 billion of such knowledge boxes.

The lesson to be drawn from this is that, as an agency like Google improves its monetization of its output, others such as website owners may see markedly poorer results. Click through rates may be markedly lower than what have been achieved in the past.

Social media change over time

Just as Google has changed over time in its quest for improved monetization, we are now seeing a similar process occurring with the various social media. There are a number of reasons why the results to be achieved from social media may change:

  • switch in owners
  • change in user experience
  • traffic goes up or down

Switch in owners

The most frequent reason why social media may change their method of operation is the dog eat dog process whereby social media are acquired and absorbed into some other social media site as mentioned above.This amalgamation may well cause a significant change in how the social media site is viewed by its frequent visitors. In consequence they may either change the way they visit or cease visiting entirely.

Change in user experience

Even without a change in ownership, the goals of the owners may change such that they change the format or quality of the user experience. Such changes in some cases are linked to attempts to improve the monetization of the social media. This in turn can influence how businesses are able to contact visitors on the website.  Any frequent user of Facebook can attest to just how many tweaks and even more significant changes occur in what Facebook displays to its users.

Traffic goes up or down

Another important feature of how social media perform is that users may change their visiting habits or may switch to some newer social media which they feel will meet their needs better. Given the host of alternatives available, there is clearly intense competition for the visitors’ attention.

Activities to promote via social media

Your most effective activities in marketing through social media will be determined by a combination of the following factors:

  • which social medium your target prospects visit
  • what goals you have in interacting with those target prospects (awareness, trust, authority, likability)
  • the types of products or services you wish them to purchase
  • the best vehicle you can use to get them involved in a positive way
You then have a variety of choices of what you might present to them through the social media:

  • Products
  • Services
  • How products can be used
  • Public events involving the products or services
Whichever combination of the above factors you select will determine just how effectively that program will succeed.

Types of messages

You might say we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the ways we might attempt to connect with our audience. In general visual methods can have an immediate impact and can communicate a myriad of impressions to viewers.The most frequently used devices are as follows:

  • Images
  • slide presentations
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Physical get-togethers

Possible social media

You cannot possibly cover all of the social media even in the restricted lists below of the most popular ones. The dilemma here is that any one of them does require significant effort. Rewards are only gained as you progressively invest more and more effort in your chosen social medium. Before diving in, you would be well advised to spend some time on any candidate social medium. In this way you can get a better feel for what seems to be popular to its visitors.

The character of social media and therefore the audiences they attract change over time. Some limited data is available on the currently typical audiences for several of them but a good deal of judgment is required given the particular campaign you have chosen. Another phenomenon to watch out for is that any given social medium may well attempt to attract a wider audience, sometimes by acquiring another type of social medium which is then available to be embedded into the typical status message that visitors might add. Twitter has been particularly active in this way.

Images / videos

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Google Photos
  • Tumblr

Text

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Slideshare
  • Foursquare

Images / text combined

  • Facebook
  • Google +

Validate choices by real life results

How do you measure how well your social media efforts are succeeding. For each of them, it will be measured by the product of the following factors:

  • traffic
  • proportion of traffic in target audience
  • effectiveness of ‘posts’ in triggering action by that target audience
Having good analytics for the actions of visitors to your social media pages is essential. If the majority of sales are done through these sites then this provides a very direct measure of performance. Where this is not so, then some other measure of conversion must be used. Merely liking the page may be very different from committing to purchasing what is on offer. Some creativity may be required to develop the appropriate parameters in these non-sales situation.

Choosing the best – the dilemma

It is impossible to cover all the social media. Each of them requires a major investment of time by the individuals who are are involved. Given the complexity of these processes, it is impossible to use a logical data based mechanism to choose which should be selected. There is considerable judgment involved in making these choices. The dilemma is that you can only know how well they are performing by working with them. Once significant effort has been applied to any given social medium, walking away from this choice represents a total loss of the effort involved. Nevertheless this must be done if much better results seem likely in another social medium.

Cycling round to handle change

As that ancient Greek Heraclitus said, you can never jump into the same river twice. This is particularly true in the dynamic processes that are involved as social media evolve.  A periodic review or audit should be done to evaluate how well the social media choices are performing.

If these trends in performance indicate that a given social media is underperforming, then it should be chopped from the list sooner rather than later. It could well be that a policy of dropping the weakest social medium after giving it adequate time to show its mettle is advisable. It would then be replaced by some new social medium which shows promise.

Such a discipline forces you to face up to any problems early. Are you adopting this tough-minded approach to your company’s efforts in social media? If not, you should seriously consider this. If you are, how is it working out for your company. Let us know in the comments whether this has contributed to your success.
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