Social is older than we think. Listservs were the first foray in social and those were alive in the late 70s. But, mainstream social is becoming a teenager. Teenagers can be a wildly frustrating bunch. They change, have attitude and have a unique and burning desire to push buttons and challenge convention. I can see how this is manifesting itself today.
There has been quite a kerfuffle over how Facebook has changed their algorithm to hinder a brand’s reach. People have said that they are biting the hand that feeds them (total teenager move!). Over at Twitter, they are working hard to monetize their platform with more ads in feed. And LinkedIn is becoming a classifieds section and everyone’s content (people included!) is getting lost. Yes, indeed, social is growing up and becoming a fine teenager. And it’s time for us to let go a bit so that we can grow up too. Here are a few points to ponder as we do this.
Change is inevitable. How we react to change is the defining factor. I learned in my newspaper days that panic accomplishes nothing but wasting precious time that y
ou don’t have. So, as all of our channels begin to evolve and potentially make it incrementally harder to manage, we must first agree to not panic. In the moment of change, we have to be thoughtful, think it through and slow down. When we do this, we can pivot as well to positively impact our products and brand. The ability to pivot will be a key skillset moving forward for our teams.
No matter how much we complain; these companies are growing up. And in doing so, they are going to change the rules. And they can. They hold the audience. Which to us marketers is gold. You know what they say: “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” Truth is: they also know that advertisers will pay for it. We will grumble. But in the end we will grumble and pay. And to the platform (and their shareholders), all that matters is the paying part. They hold the cards. You can choose to leave the platform and while you are at it, you could cut off your nose to spite your face. So, not a good choice.
Ask the right questions
And I don’t mean a shrieking: “What do we do nooowwwww???!?!?!!” I mean questions like: Where have we had organic success so far? What did that success mean to our bottom line? How can we adapt the message to deliver greater value? What does our audience value? What can we do to build trust? How can we add to the conversation? These are the questions that should be explored when faced with big changes from our platforms. These are the questions that will help you to…
With change comes adaptation. When our platforms change, we should look at it as an opportunity to revisit strategy. Look at it from fresh eyes and determine how we can adapt what we are doing to make an impact on the change. Maybe we become less human and instead become more useful (mantra alert!). When we can look at the challenge in a methodical way, without panic, we can usually devise some great solutions.
Be a student
The time is right be become a student of social media and content marketing. Study your competitors. Study your category. Study all of the people who buy your product. Study the people who don’t. Know what they want. When you are a student of your customers, you can deliver value and honor your relationship with them so that changes will not severely damage the work you’ve done. Knowing what your fans and people like them value in their lives will strengthen the relationship because the focus is where it should be: the customer experience.
Test and learn
It is natural for our industry to spend a lot of time speculating on what these changes will mean in the long term, but, until we start messing around with our content, we cannot know for sure. You must take a test and learn approach. You need to move fast (enough) and break things. You won’t know what’s working and what’s not unless you make a plan to test and learn. Oh, and document so you won’t need to learn it again later.
All of these ways to let go will require a lot of change for corporate marketing departments where change is not as nimble as social requires. But, we too are growing up. We are learning to build audiences, fans and advocates. We are learning new tips, tricks and tools each day to be better at social media. The thing is, we must accept that change is constant. And this will be the first step to letting go of our angst about the social media teenager in our house.