When to Hold, When to Fold: Quitting Social Media
Your team’s been sinking hours a week into Pinterest (or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Vine). You’ve gotten three comments: one generic “Nice photo” from a bikini-clad person in Miami who comments on thousands of posts a day, one from your cousin (a social media early adopter), and one from someone you’ve been doing business with for years.
When do you start seeing a return on your time? Do you keep going in hopes of getting 121,000 followers from a viral post, almost overnight? You might have the next 50,000-retweet post right around the corner… or you might be wasting your time, but how can you tell the difference?
A lot depends on what you’re after in the first place. Consider:
- Who’s in your potential audience? Have you done everything you can to cultivate them by liking or sharing their content, or are you just waiting for other people to come to you? Are you using social media to start and sustain conversations, or to blast market your content to an indifferent public?
- Does your product work well with the social medium you’ve chosen? A trade magazine about insurance could do well on Twitter, but it’ll take far more forethought (and expense) to make visually focused social media like Instagram, Pinterest, or Vine work.
- Is your content aligned with your account type -- in other words, are you a better face for your content, or is your company? People react differently to personal accounts and corporate ones -- have you tried deploying content and engaging through both?
- Are you using all available tools to make social media content marketing less time-consuming, notably Hootsuiteor Sprout Social?
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can pivot if you aren’t seeing a dogpile of likes, shares, and interaction. A few things you can try before calling it quits:
Borrow a Megaphone
Decide which social media are a priority, and if you’re hiring freelancers, look for ones who have plenty of connections/followers, who are as active as possible, and who routinely share their work. When you hire them, make sure they plan to keep going. Most see this as part of their hustle (but you should be clear up front that you want them to share content they publish for you, too).
Adjust Your Expectations
Deploying content through social channels may not be getting you much traction, but might it be worth keeping the channel alive just so people have another way of communicating with your brand? Providing another place to get messages or chat with stakeholders and customers can be worth the minimal effort of monitoring the account, even if shares, likes, +1s, or whatever else are falling short.
Do you really need separate Instagram and Pinterest accounts? If visual assets drive your publication, you’ll need one, but if you're short on time, you can probably skip one. Services like the aforementioned Sprout Social make managing numerous accounts easier, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick your battles.
Signs That Social Isn’t Working
You might have tried all of these approaches already, only to find that you aren’t getting what you want. If any two of these are the case, you may want to reallocate at least some of the time you’re sinking into any given social channel:
You rarely find yourself interacting with people you don’t know. Ideally, social media is a way to raise awareness, to get your content shared, repinned, or reposted by people you have absolutely nothing to do with. If you never see that happening, it’s a warning sign.
People in your niche don't have coherent communities (or hashtags they use reliably). On Pinterest, look for group boards relevant to your publication’s subject matter; on LinkedIn, look for professional groups; on Twitter, hashtags. These are the watering holes around which your constituencies gather, and you’re usually better off adding your content and voice to ones that already exist -- and using them to gather content ideas -- than trying to build these communities out of whole cloth.
Google Analytics can tell you how many of your transactions come from social sources, and how much of your traffic they send you. Are you getting something out of each social channel, whether that’s amplification from influencers, page views/shares, networking opportunities, or conversions (if your business model is based on sales)? If you aren't seeing any of the above, it might be time to scale back the time you spend in any given channel.
If you use GA, the “Acquisition>Social” screen is useful for gauging traffic by channel, and for transaction-reliant business models, “Acquisition>Social>Conversions” allows you to look at exactly how much money each social channel contributes to your bottom line. The handy “Conversions>Multichannel Funnels>Overview” report will tell you how many transactions involve people who initially encountered your brand via social, even if they didn't close the deal on their first visit.
Do you find yourself discussing matters well outside your publication’s subject matter? Straying too far from what others perceive as your area of expertise may help you get a followership in the short term, but it won’t necessarily help you build the credibility so important to maintaining a social footprint that’ll last.
So when should you delete a social media account entirely? Generally, only if you're rebranding under a new name, or if you've made such serious missteps that you need a fresh start (and rarely even then -- you're usually better off noting that the intern has been sacked, and reassessing your tone and content).
It costs almost nothing to keep a channel open. Posting a photo or an article every month and interacting with the odd follower won't foster much awareness or burn through anyone's server bandwidth, but it will give people who search for you in social media channels proof that you exist -- a kind of what marketers call social proof.
If someone searches for your publication, nothing is the worst thing they can see. They'll wonder, "Is this publication legitimate? Why don't I see signs of their existence in [social media channel x]?" A handful of followers, repins, or interactions is better than none.