The most common problem I’ve come across in social media is what I’ll call ‘fragmentation’. It’s the attempt by marketers to use as many platforms as possible in an effort to reach a potential audience.

What generally occurs is a fragmentation of attention and resources away from what suits the company best – and whatever ‘strategy’ was in place consequently falls flat because it lacks focus. 

This post is a five step guide to approaching a multi-platform social media strategy. Hopefully you'll be even more resistant to tech press hype and clearer on how to integrate your social media platforms by the end of it. 

Resourcing social media remains a battle in a lot of businesses, and fragmentation is the clearest enemy to investment. With an ill-defined ‘strategy’ that jumps onto the latest platform, often as a consequence of hype, executives are likely to see the whole plan as exactly that: a load of hype that doesn’t meet business goals. 

Fragmentation normally occurs for two reasons:

  • A new social platform ‘arrives’ and subsequently gets a lot of tech press hype. Eventually the marketing team ‘hear about/give in to’ the hype and start ‘experimenting’. If they particularly like the platform, they’ll focus resource there when it might be better spent on another platform.
  • When the platform is adopted, it isn’t integrated properly into the wider social framework. Thus the platform operates in a silo that doesn’t compliment the others. 

Too many social networks, not enough time

I’d like to deal with each of these problems in five steps.

1. Reach and demographics

I recently sat on a panel where we were asked, ‘Which social networks should I focus on?’ It’s a difficult question to answer with so little context, but the clearest answer is that the right choice comes through understanding the size and make up of users within a network.

If a network matches the kind of audience you want to reach, then it’s probably worth exploring further.

Social media hype is normally justified in percentage growth rates, and this creates a giddy market mentality where it seems engagement on the network will lead to boundless riches. But a high growth rate doesn’t mean a high audience, and it’s vital to consider the makeup.

For all its critics, Facebook simply has the reach and segmentation to satisfy the needs of most business – avoid it at your peril. 

Social Network Audience Reach, Nielsen, August 2012:

Social Networks Audience

Audience reach is measured in thousands. For all its recent hype, Pinterest really is a minnow compared to Facebook and Youtube - indeed, Twitter is some distance off. 

2. Key platform function

Sometimes, I would argue, that using social media can have nothing to do with reach. I particularly think this of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. 

Working with Grazia, I spent some time wondering about Pinterest – a network with a good fit to the audience. Since we didn’t sell anything via e-commerce, I couldn’t see exactly what problem it solved for us – the UK traffic it would drive might be highly engaged, but it would be small vs Facebook, and Grazia uses most of its photography under license.

Then when I was trying to produce a number of galleries under a common theme, it became apparent that Pinterest was a perfect tool to organise images into specific themes on a board. Pinning images to a board made the production process easier and had the added benefit of adding reach.

Meanwhile, Instagram follower counts appear to be a fairly meaningless number. Instead of being too concerned about this, you can use its many filters to quickly manipulate imagery to brighten up content. Of course, you can do this with other applications, but the readiness of the app on a camera phone makes it particularly useful for self-styled shoots

Thus it’s important not to just think of reach and audience fit when choosing platforms – but also to think of the particular function of particular networks. 

The table below indicates the key strength for five of the key platforms in relation to a media brand:

Platform Twitter YouTube Instagram Pinterest Tumblr
Key Strengths Live Events Exclusive Access Image Creation Image Curation Scrap Booking

I’ve omitted Facebook, not because I don’t like it, but because it is by far the most versatile platform and it has numerous strengths. You can pretty much use it as a website.

However, I suppose the most useful thing I’ve found it for media brands is being a feedback engine – because each post has its own list of comments and option to poll, it’s rather easier to use for questions you want answered than Twitter or other networks. 

Just because a network has an audience fit with your digital presence and you can see a key strength, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. If your team is small, or perhaps even non-existent, then scaling back to as few networks as you can justify is a wise idea. Figure one or two out first, rather than spreading yourself too thin. 

You’ll notice from the above that I haven’t really suggested any of the networks are useful for sales or saving money. They certainly can be – Twitter can be a cheaper alternative to website ticketed customer service, for instance – but I’m just giving an example for a media brand which creates lots of content.

I haven't thought too much about Google+ or FourSquare yet - I'm too concerned about fragmentation!


Now that you have recognised a good audience fit and a key function of each platform, it’s necessary to consider how they can work together. 

Social Media Integration

The white arrows denote content created on a platform that is 'pushed' elsewhere, the black arrows traffic which is pushed elsewhere.

3. Social Publishing Suite

The first step in frameworking is to simply use a social media updating suite like Hootsuite. Unless you’re updating from mobile, it takes all the mental lifting out of updating via the social apps directly:

  • You can view multiple feeds from the same interface. 
  • You can create moderation queues and assign particular team members feedback.
  • It has built in analytics. 
  • Most importantly, you can update multiple networks from the same place.  
  • I just can’t really imagine a company’s social doing very well without using some sort of interface!

4. Automating via RSS

Next up is how to make use of RSS to make sure feeds keep ticking over with minimal effort – this is particularly important for Twitter, where the volume of updates won’t become terribly annoying.

So I’d recommend your Twitter account pulling in RSS from YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as your website content feed. Hootsuite’s RSS tool isn’t particularly great – so I’d say Twitterfeed is a better alternative. It updates every 15 minutes, and you can prepend or append any automated update.

Stick a #tag on the end of particular categories, such as #video for YouTube RSS. 

Concerns about Feed Automation

Some people get concerned about automating feeds – some people will even say it’s really bad to do so. However, in my experience of large account media brands and my personal accounts, I can only conclude (for Twitter at least) that saying a lot and feeding as much of your content through there as possible will see your account grow rather than shrink.

If your content syndication is taken care of, then I’d like to think you can spend important time actually talking to people and focusing on the platform’s real benefit.

It’s also possible to make feeds automated to some extent on Tumblr, but I recommend staying completely clear of feed automation on Facebook, and absolutely do not automate Facebook from Twitter.

This is because you usually need user engagement to rank well on the NewsFeed due to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. Four or five posts a day is also usually enough. Craft them well, and more people will see them. 

Automation doesn't lead to tears

While conventional wisdom says that automating Social Media is bad, I've never seen a drop off in engagement if it's done well. There is a certain knack in making your RSS feeds look more conversational.

Twitterfeed helps you do this by allowing you to edit the content of automated updates. 

5. Complimentary Platforms

The final step to solving the social fragmentation jigsaw is to consider how these platforms can complement each other. If we take my earlier point about considering Pinterest as a bookmarking system, then you could use it to curate boards of your best Instagram photos, or screenshots of your most successful tweets.

For YouTube, it’s very useful to have the iMovie iPhone App or Social Cam handy, since they will give you similar benefits to Instagram for video. 

The real complimentary platform to all of this is your destination website. It’s not only vital to get the right social buttons and widgets on your site so people can share and connect with you elsewhere, but also important get followers interacting on social platforms to inform your content.

Facebook polls can be a great way to collect feedback data, while you could embed Twitter conversations or Storify on your site. I recently read an excellent post from Luke Lewis about on Seven Ways NME uses social media to ‘harvest ideas’ from its audience. It's really worth a read if you want to learn more around using the power of the crowd for content. 

Consider the jigsaw solved

While I don’t think the social jigsaw can ever really be perfected, by applying the steps in this post, you should be some way to saving serious amounts of time, as well as giving your social media strategy considerably more leverage. To recap, the key steps in platform selection and integration are:

  1. Match audience size and demographics to your own site – if it’s not a good fit, be cautious. 
  2. Consider your selected platform(s) key strength in relation to your business. If you can’t find one, bin it. 
  3. Use a social publishing suite to view multiple feeds, schedule and publish to multiple feeds.
  4. Automate content syndication in some cases (Twitter especially) via RSS. Then spend time on the key strength found in step two. 
  5. Consider how each platform compliments each other – particularly with regard to your destination website. 

Don't let the hype get the better of you, else you'll be wondering where those working hours went.  

James Carson

Published 1 October, 2012 by James Carson

James Carson is a media and content strategy consultant and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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Comments (14)

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Nick Stamoulis

"it’s important not to just think of reach and audience fit when choosing platforms – but also to think of the particular function of particular networks. "

A great point. What kind of information/engagement are your consumers looking for? How do they want to connect/interact?

almost 6 years ago



I like how your broke down the fragmentation problem and presented a roadmap for resolving it. The other problem with social web is that many 3rd party services which, integrate with multiple platforms provide entire 'firehose' stream resulting in poor signal to noise ratio. I think Hootsuite is a great product to get full picture but I also like using Engagio to specifically hone in conversations.

almost 6 years ago

Hannah Dempsey

Hannah Dempsey, Associate Director of Social Media at JellyfishSmall Business Multi-user

A great article James, one I'll be sharing. There are some great points here that any business thinking of, or currently using, social media needs to be aware of.

I'm a great believer in conducting buzz analysis before starting with a new client or working on a new social media campaign. It will help to find out what social sites people are using to talk about your brand/product/industry and it can save so much time and energy. There are lots of fancy (and expensive) social media monitoring tools that can provide this data but it can also be done with a quick search of each social site.

People are always looking for quick wins when it comes to social media and it's easy for them to look to see what works well for other people. The sad fact is that many will try to copy ideas without the initial background research, then they fail.

'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail'

almost 6 years ago


Connor from HootSuite

Great read James -- thanks for sharing. No doubt you raise some great points around the whole automation argument as well as the differences in culture between social networks.

Thanks for recommending HootSuite! Hoot on!

-HootSuite Community

almost 6 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From TwoSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the positive comments all. has certainly got some positive vibes so will look at it closer...

Buzz analysis - good point. I guess this would come at the first phase and understanding the audience - whether or not they are talking about you / what are they saying.

almost 6 years ago

Jon Wallis

Jon Wallis, Head of Community & Customer Service at The Motley Fool Ltd

I think you mean "fragmentation" :-)

almost 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi James,

Thanks for sharing a thought provoking post. I think you're right that marketers need to question why they are using social media, what they want to get from it and who they want to communicate with. Otherwise, you have an untargeted mess, rather like broadcast email.

In regards to focus, whilst I agree that you shouldn't try and do everything at once, especially with limited resource, I do think that having a Google+ presence is actually quite important. One key reason is the influence on SEO and the benefit of having G+ content in personalised search results.

A first phase with G+ is to post content that has been posted to other social networks like Facebook. This isn't ideal but it does ensure there is at least a G+ presence that can be expanded in the future. I've seen some brands doing this, though others take a more proactive approach to managing the channel. If you're a big brand, having a G+ presence is essential to help influence content in Google' Knowledge Graph.

What's your take on the importance of Google+ in relation to SEO and social signals?


almost 6 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From TwoSmall Business Multi-user

Haha - yes indeed. One that slipped the subs process. Still, it's right in the body copy!

almost 6 years ago

James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From TwoSmall Business Multi-user

I think G+ is pretty important to set up for publishers so it gets rel="author" working.

But it remains to be seen what effect G+ really will have in SEO - most of the promotion on SERPs has been replaced by the knowledge graph (although G+ contributes):

I'm not convinced of its value outside of tech circles at the moment. You can easily post to it via a social suite, so it seems logical to include it.

almost 6 years ago

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Great post James, I agree you really need to pick your battles here as it's so easy "managing" a variety of profiles with the same content and messages across the board . You ultimately add little value and spend time duplicating when actually you need to be participating in the communities themselves.

almost 6 years ago


Richard Willner

Excellent post James and one I agree with entirely.

One question though: We've switched off feeds to our Facebook brand pages (we're a news publisher) and I've encouraged more human engagement and posts.

But we've seen a drop in referral traffic to our websites as a result and I wondered what your thoughts were on this.

almost 6 years ago


Lekan Adetifa, Head Online Acquisition at Moi

There is an interesting alternative or enhancement to James Carson's approach above.

There seems to be an un-balanced focus on "technology both in reference to the problem of fragmentation and the steps proposed by James.

The main thrust of my alternative is the argument that irrespective of whatever technology debuts today and/or in the future. Consumer/Marketing fundamentals remain the same.(the AIDAs, influencers etc)

The customer is the extreme centre of this approach!

Forrester Research executives Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff proposed approaching social media (now and in future) using the P.O.S.T approach (People-Objectives-Strategy-Technology) Note that "Technology" (Twitter,Facebook etc)comes in last.

The Forrester Research guys also developed a so called Social Techno-graphics Ladder that businesses (B2B, B2C etc) can use to develop social media strategies appropriate to there publics and objectives.

The ladder basically breaks the use of digital technology into Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and In-actives. Your business then decides where best to engage your public to achieve the greatest returns.

For example, data from the most recent ladder states that 73% of us (U.S data) are spectators consuming content (blogs etc) while 24% are creators.

A company might want to invest resources in targeting creators.

You should grab the book, Groundswell by the above mentioned Forrester Research executives. Great read.

almost 6 years ago


Volker Schnaars

First you need to find out who your buyer personas are, second where they are. There you should then be, too.

almost 6 years ago



good points on fragmentation there. essentially ruining resources by trying to be everywhere. surprised you never mentioned Linkedin though.

almost 6 years ago

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