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Not too many years ago brands were deliberating on whether to embrace social media at all, and for those that did there were relatively few platforms to choose from.
Now, however, it seems there’s a new social media platform to get excited about every month.
The landscape has completely changed, and it can be daunting for brands to take the plunge and plough resources into something that isn’t guaranteed to return any value.
To make your decision easier, I’m going to cover five key questions every brand should answer before committing to a new social media channel.
And if you want to learn more about how to get the best from each social media platform, book yourself onto one of our social media training courses.
1. Who are the current users?
This is arguably the most important question of all, because the answer will help you determine whether the channel is worth exploring further or not.
If the platform’s users fit the profile of your target audience then it is certainly worth looking into further, but obviously if your customers aren’t using the platform then there really isn’t any need for further investigation.
What do you want to know about these users, then? Firstly you need to work out whether they are potential customers or not.
If there is little chance of them buying your products or services then it’s a no-brainer that you would be wasting your time and resource trying to market to them.
You could also ask whether there are people on the platform who have the ability to influence your potential customers and whether you could work with them to amplify your content.
2. What content performs well on that platform?
The next step is to study the content that brands and individuals are already publishing on the platform to see what people are most likely to engage with and share.
Some of the points here are obvious – Instagram loves eye-catching imagery, for example – but there are a number of other factors to consider.
Each platform has its own unique ecosystem, and you need to understand whether your brand could produce content that fits in with that ecosystem or whether you would be trying to force a fit.
The latter option is a non-starter. There is nothing more cringe-worthy than a brand trying to fit in where it clearly doesn’t.
Some content types will simply not work with your brand, and this should help drive your decision as to whether a new social media platform is going to work.
3. Does your content fit in?
Once you’ve assessed what type of content performs well on the platform, you’ll be able to work out if you can repurpose content you already have or whether you’ll need to create completely new content for the new platform.
Honestly, I think the answer should always be the latter.
Some people may disagree with me on that point, but to me the days of simply publishing the same image or video on multiple platforms are long dead.
You should always aim to create unique content for each of the platforms on which your brand is active, even if you’re only tweaking the stuff you’ve already produced.
If you do have relevant content that can be tweaked to fit the new platform then great. This will certainly make life easier for you and could perhaps make the decision as to whether to take on a new channel easier.
But either way this inevitably means more time and resource is going to be needed for every new social platform you take on.
Which leads me to the next question...
4. How much time and resource will you need to participate effectively?
If you have decided that the new social platform’s users could potentially be customers or could influence your customers, and your brand’s content fits in with what is already performing well there, then it’s time to work out whether you can actually dedicate enough time and resource to make it worthwhile.
There is no point opening a new social media account and simply posting once or twice a day and hoping for the best.
If you’re going to take on a new platform you need to take time to properly engage with the community and have a solid content plan in place to do that, which is likely to require a fair amount of time and resource.
Could your existing social media staff take on that extra work? Or will you need to hire additional in-house resource or perhaps outsource to an agency?
The amount of additional resource required to succeed on a new platform will firstly help you determine whether the extra investment is worth it, but also whether it’s a viable option at all.
5. Where’s the return?
The ultimate question, and one that is likely to be difficult to answer purely in financial terms.
But while you may not be able to work out exactly what your financial return will be for every pound spent on a new social media platform, there are a number of other factors that can help you determine if it’s worth pursuing.
Brand exposure to a new audience is one example. Many brands have ventured onto Snapchat for that very reason, given that it’s one of the most effective platforms on which to engage with a young and socially active audience.
There are a number of different ways you can measure success on a social media channel, and it all comes down to knowing, in advance, what you actually want to get out of a new platform and what is important to your business and its wider goals.
If a new social media channel is likely to provide something in return for your investment, and you have the content, time and resource to take it on, then good luck to you.
But I would strongly advise against taking on any new platform until you have answered these five questions in detail.