In general, technology represents a better way of doing things. Innovation allows us to address and overcome limitations to chart a better path forward.
But we don’t always use technology that way. Sometimes, we end up doing the same things we were doing before, or at least embracing the same limitations, instead of harnessing the technology’s power at our disposal to overcome them.
Social media has immense potential, but you probably aren’t tapping in
That’s where the Theory of Constraints comes in. Developed by Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, it’s a system of recognizing bottlenecks or “constraints” in a system and working to remove them to help achieve your desired outcomes. Very simply put, if you don’t address the constraints holding a system back, you can never really improve everything else.
How can we apply this to organic (or non-paid) social media?
Social media as a marketing tool has a few key benefits that address the constraints of traditional marketing:
- It’s free
- It’s instant
- It’s easily measurable
- and it allows you to have conversations and share value with your audience
When taken together, these are powerful things. Businesses that use social media effectively have a distinct advantage over those that do not. But the most important word there is “effectively,” and if you’re treating organic social media like a free instant ad platform, you’re not using it effectively.
How social media changed marketing
In the long-ago days, “the dark times,” as I like to call them, businesses used marketing to broadcast their message, products, services, everything via radio ads, billboards, print ads, direct mail, etc. This is “traditional marketing,” and it still has a ton of value for businesses. It can play a beneficial role in many different marketing strategies today, but there was a time when that was all there was. One of the biggest constraints of traditional marketing is that, essentially, you’re just broadcasting.
What you couldn’t do (in the dark times) was have a wide conversation with your audience—no chance for immediate and direct feedback. Digital marketing comes along and changes that with the addition of social media as a valuable tool.
Social media allows you to actually engage with your audience, start conversations, join conversations, find out what’s important to them and humanize your brand. And that’s important because your business should be human; you’re a collection of people, after all. But if we continue to use organic social media like traditional marketing and focus only on broadcasting when it can do so much more, what’s the benefit?
Arguably, very little compared to its potential.
It can become a sunk cost, an opportunity lost.
So how do you avoid falling into that trap?
Stop treating your social accounts solely as ad platforms
If you look at your Twitter account and think: “a free and easy way to advertise my business,” you’ve got it wrong. Most social media platforms have a paid component where you can set up ads and promote posts. If you want to advertise, use them. This ensures your message will reach the intended audience more effectively (and reach past your current followers) and ensures your current followers are not inundated with advertisements (more so than they already are, anyway).
People don’t follow businesses because they want to be advertised to. They follow them because they’re interested and see value in your business.
So, provide value.
That doesn’t mean you can’t create posts promoting your business. You can and should. But do so creatively by providing value to your audience at the same time. And ensure these sorts of posts are part of the mix, not the whole bag. Give your audience something they can consume, learn, or use.
Start treating your social accounts as conversation tools
Starting or joining conversations is what social media is all about. That’s how you make connections with your audience.
Starting a conversation can be as simple as a blog post about an idea (like this one). If it gives someone reason to think about something and respond, that’s a good thing. And if they do respond or add a comment, keep the conversation going. Don’t be the person who walks into a crowd, brings up an interesting idea, and bails when people start talking about it. Stick around, pay attention, listen, and keep it going.
Joining a conversation can be sharing your thoughts or something relevant to a conversation that’s already happening online related to your industry (or related to anything, really). It can also mean sharing the thoughts of others that you agree with. Not everything that comes out of your social account should be created by you. Highlight some voices you agree with, add some value for your followers by bringing other points of view into the mix. It doesn’t have to be all you, all the time.
And if you don’t do these things…
You’ll end up posting into the abyss. Having a social media strategy is essential and can be a valuable part of any marketing strategy. You need to use it to its full potential.