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Common Ways "Social Media Experts" Gamble With Your Money

Every company has limited resources.

Almost all of them think they don't have enough money. But we're also short on time and energy, because we're so busy keeping up with everything.

When you follow bad advice that leads you down a rabbit hole, you're not only losing out on the potential gains. You're also wasting resources that you'll never get back.

These limited resources can only be stretched so far. And our time has an enormous opportunity cost that should be carefully guarded.

Here are 3 pieces of bad advice that you need to watch out for, and how you can protect yourself.



Bad Advice #1: Engagement is Key to Growth

Everyone loves to say that the key to social media is engagement. But when people give you vague advice like, "join the conversation" or "create great content", they usually don't know what they're talking about.

Dan Zarrella is a Social Media Scientist from HubSpot, a leading B2B software company. He recently published a book entitled Hierarchy of Contagiousness, that explores how and why ideas spread through social media.

Dan studied Twitter accounts with the most followers and determined that their size usually doesn’t have anything to do with how engaged they are.

So based on actual data, the harsh reality is that the most interesting, influential, and popular Twitter users are not that social.

Sure, you should try to increase engagement as much as possible. If customers aren't engaged, then they aren't going to buy.

But the people with the largest followings are already popular before joining Twitter. Maybe they're celebrities on TV or in the movies. Or maybe they're athletes.

The most popular brands are ones that have been around for years -- and spend heavily on mass-media advertising. So people automatically know them and go looking for them on social media.

If you want to grow your fan base, then don't join social media and "start engaging".

You need to use social marketing tips that makes people come to you instead. Prioritize online business development activities. Become a thought-leader by contributing content to industry publications, making key connections with other influencers, or running cross-promotions with other important brands.

These activities are higher-leverage, so you're getting multiple returns for one investment. And you'll avoid wasting time and money on things that may not be worth it.

Otherwise, you'll end up getting stuck in the community management hamster wheel...

Bad Advice #2: You Should Use Every Social Network

Last year I helped a client grow their Facebook page from 1,000 to over 23,000 in a few months. We had a ton of new fans, a lot of engagement, and even used social media to drive sales.

But there were also a few drawbacks.

Someone had to check-in almost every single hour. Nights and weekends too.

Because community management is a full-time job. And it's like a hamster wheel, because you're always trying to keep up with your prospects demands. People will have time-sensitive questions, troubling stories about their unhappy experiences, and inappropriate comments that you have to monitor carefully.

So be picky, and choose your social networks carefully. Because you'll have to focus a lot of resources on each one if you want them to be successful.

"For better social media results, focus on doing MORE with LESS." [Click to Tweet]

Stick to a large social network by finding where your core audience hangs out. There's typically very little overlap, and users will gravitate towards one (over the others). So that makes your job easy.

It's also helpful to bring in the context of the lifecycle adoption curve:lifecycle adoption curve


Image courtesy of Wesley Fryer.


  • Twitter: Is your audience tech-savvy innovators, early adoptersor obsessed with pop culture? Then focus on Twitter.
  • LinkedIn: If you're selling to other professionals (B2B), then LinkedIn will give you the best bang for your buck. The LinkedIn audience is typically early adopters and the early majority.
  • Facebook: For almost everyone else, you should focus on Facebook. The Facebook audience is typically made up of everyone between the early majority to the laggards, and it's great for B2C.

You don't only have to stick to these. But you do need to prioritize and pick one channel over the others.

It doesn't matter if celebrities are on Twitter and the media always talks about it. If you're audience isn't there, then you can ignore it and invest your resources somewhere else.

Bad Advice #3: Don't Use Social Advertising

Most small businesses think advertising is a waste of money. But that's only because they can't (or won't) properly track it.

But advertising (especially social advertising) can be a great option in certain situations. If you're a new business or brand, then no one knows who you are. And it will be an uphill battle to get people to engage with you. Or maybe you're running a special contest or promotion, and you want to drive more awareness to it on your blog (to increase traffic, social mentions and SEO signals).

So let’s do a quick experiment.

If you spent 30 minutes, every weekday on Twitter (for a month), then how much time did you invest?

10 hours.

Now… what did that time cost you? Because your time is the most precious resource you have. Money will come and go. But time only ticks away.

So what is your time worth? Let’s say your “hourly rate” is $50 and you multiply it by our example, which is 10 hours per month. That means you’re investing $500 per month in Twitter.

Obviously it’s hard to measure all of the benefits social media provides. But let’s use the amount of visitors going to your website, because that’s easy to track. And if you want to sell something, then you’re going to need traffic.

So let’s say you get 200 clicks, for that $500 investment. Each click or visitor from Twitter is costing your $2.50. ($500 / 200 clicks).

Is investing $2.50 per click on Twitter a good idea, or not? Maybe… maybe not.

I recently did some experimenting with Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” advertising. Here are some early results:

I spent $55.76, to get 59 clicks. That’s about $0.95 per click. So in this example it’s actually much cheaper to advertise, rather than spend time using Twitter to get visits to my website.

You’ll never know how much you’re making, or how much you could be making, until you analyze your marketing decisions like this. Then cut your losses on wasteful activities (like Tweeting all day), and put that money towards an activity that gives you better results, for less.

Because you might be surprised to find that something you thought was a waste, like advertising, now looks like a bargain.

And investing in help will actually make you more money in the long run.

Join The Conversation

  • Warren Whitlock's picture
    Jul 3 Posted 4 years ago Warren Whitlock

    Loved that last bit. Whenever someone asks me how to get to their KPI quickly with little fuss, I have one word.



  • Jeszlene's picture
    Dec 13 Posted 4 years ago WPB_Jeszlene

    Love the advice on becoming a thought-leader instead of getiing stuck in the "community management hamster wheel." Great post Brad, thanks for sharing =)


  • AshTFrancis's picture
    Oct 13 Posted 4 years ago AshTFrancis

    Brilliant post, articles like this not only help us, but can help separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Great post.

  • Rahul S's picture
    Oct 12 Posted 4 years ago Facebook App De...

    As to your Bad Advice #1 : I beleive every organisation must get into social media - either to have a presence or to engage with fans or both. Since setting up a social media page is free, people tend to create fake pages of brands and start posting content and engage with fans. If that brand does not have an official page in that particular social media, customers and fans of the brand will be following that duplicate page and might even get trolled. People watch 'The Voice', so advertise during that show; people read 'US Magazine', so advertise in that mag; people are going to watch 'The DarkKnight Rises', so advertise your brands in that movie; people are wasting their time on social media channels, so why not have a presence over there ? Social media simply cant be ignored; its better to have a social media presence where the brand can communicate with its fans. Social media presence of a brand signifies its 'cool' image. People find it easy to communicate with a brand via social media as it saves time and effort.

    As to your Bad Advice #2 : I completely agree. Just because all major brands can afford to be on every social media channel, every business need not be. Choose channels where your TA are in abundance.

    As to your Bad Advice #3 : Yes, go for social ads. I have liked many brands via ads, sponsored stories and featured posts. Waiting for your audience base to grow organicaly takes too much time.  


  • FixCourse's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago FixCourse

    Thanks for the in-depth comment Mike!

    Small business owners wear so many hats, so it's really important that they stop and think about how/where they're spending so much time.  I think there are a lot of GREAT deals in social advertising right now. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even StumbleUpon all have easy, inexpensive options. And I think like you said, it's a great way to "seed" content and get social shares, links, etc. etc. 

    Especially if you can use advertising instead of hiring extra staff. That way you don't have to take the time to manage, train, etc. And you also don't even need the knowledge. 

    Thanks again!

  • mikepoynton's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago mikepoynton

    Hi, Brad!

    I always enjoy your posts and this is one of my favorites because all of my clients are small businesses and their time and money resources are precious and somewhat limited. Points #2 and #3 particularly resonate. I recently did a little case study of my own on Facebook Promoted Posts and found the results to be well worth the investment in time and money (you can find it under my profile). They work especially well for discounts and special offers. Nothing beats Facebook for B2C in my book. Google+ has worked well for my "expert" clients (authors, photographers) for driving traffic to their websites and blogs. It've found it to be a "branier" community. But, as you state, it may not be worth the time for a different client (restaurant, hotel) where Facebook has provided better results.

    Thanks for posting this! I'll share it liberally!


  • FixCourse's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago FixCourse

    Thanks Charlene!

  • FixCourse's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago FixCourse

    Thanks Mike, appreciate the comment! 

  • Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago Charlene Fernandes

    It is very important to choose your social media site right. As the article says, "we're also short on time and energy, because we're so busy keeping up with everything." totally true. We need to understand the kind of audience we are targeting.
    This is a good read.

  • Mike_Velocity's picture
    Oct 11 Posted 4 years ago Mike_Velocity

    Great post Brad. Particularly like the part about not using too many platforms. People get so caught up in the hype around the latest platforms and then panic that they must be there! I wrote about that very thing on my blog this morning. 

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