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
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:
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?
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.