I listened to a brilliant podcast earlier this year* that spoke about the culture of unrestrained growth in business and it really got me thinking.
It spoke about how the most successful business of our time, Apple, made billions in revenue this year but was still chastised by shareholders for not making as much as previous years. The podcast asks what is enough? Why isn’t ‘some’ growth enough? Why does growth need to be supersonic every year? Why do we need to keep growing?
It makes me wonder whether this super-size-me culture is permeating all aspects of our society – including in our own businesses. How often do we get a pat on the back if our social media figures grow, even if we have no proof that this leads to accomplishing our business goals?
What we really should be focussing on are the metrics important to our business, and framing growth as part of that. Whether our business metrics relate to revenue or traffic targets, or using historical data as a benchmark for growth rate, growth figures should be chosen strategically. Too often we choose to grow just ‘because’ – without purpose, without motivation, even if there is no goal.
The result is pressure on social media staff to meet unrealistic goals – which leads to stress and burnout – and no one wants to lose valuable employees.
In no other facet of marketing do we keep growing just ‘because’. I’ve never heard a marketing exec say “How many billboards did we put out last year? Ok. This year, double it.” like we do in social media.
It’s easy to feel that posting a cat meme to our social channels isn’t benefiting our bottom line. But the purpose of lighter social media posts (like cat pictures) is to extend the culture of your brand, to build loyalty in your community.
And, the thing is, if your objective with your social channels is cementing a community and culture – we don’t necessarily need more people to complete this objective because our goal is to nurture trust long term within a community. Perhaps with the community we already have.
I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment and suggest that right now, your social media figures don’t need to always grow. Here’s why.
Maybe the audience you’ve got is large enough. Do you have 100 fans? 1000? Maybe that is enough for your business or industry. Do you actually need more people from social media channels to meet your business objectives?
Consider focussing effort into converting your Facebook fans into True Fans (as inspired by the 1000 Fans philosophy). Perhaps we don’t need to be growing larger, but growing more connected: fostering communities who are more deeply engaged.
As a bonus – ad spend won’t be wasted targetting people who don’t care about your brand, it will be targeting people who are already passionate about your brand.
Consider Buzzfeed, who’re changing the game again. They regard every Facebook view, every Instagram view, every Snapchat view as just as important as their website views. They are a content creator, and for them, it doesn’t matter what platform that content is consumed on.
What if you adopted that model? Is any exposure to your brand just as equal as a website view? If people see your Instagram video, is it just as valuable as a page view? Why not? If you have ads on your website that create revenue, why not do the same thing on social media? How does your social media fit within your business model and does your perspective of what social media is to your business need to change?
Let’s step back again into the real world. Your boss wants to grow your social media channels. That’s cool. But the challenge I want to put out there is: why?
Think about your business objectives really, really hard.
Is adding more social media channels improving your bottom line? Does the traffic from social media sustain your business? Does this number need to grow for you to hit your targets? Or is social just one component of your marketing?
If your bottom line isn’t affected so much by your social media, think about what purpose your online community serves. Is it building loyalty with customers so they keep buying from you? Or forming an army of super advocates, who tell everyone they meet about your brand?
If growth of your social figures will help achieve your business goal, great. Otherwise, maybe you should focus on turning your fans into True Fans.
Let’s try to step back from vanity metrics of ‘more is better’ because sometimes that just isn’t the case.
* I can’t find which podcast this was. I’ve googled my little heart out. If you know which one it was, please let me know so I can link to it!
Want to work with Rachel?Rachel Beaney is a writer and social media content specialist, helping businesses connect with their audiences.
She’s worked with local, national and global companies, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping businesses tell their stories with creative and data-driven solutions.
She is based in Sydney, Australia.
Want to work together? Rachel would love to hear from you. Get in touch today.