Preparing for the Demise of Social Media

Social media is truly one of the most powerful and most popular tools in the arsenal of every site owner, publisher, and Internet marketer today. In fact, I recently wrote a post about developing a holistic social media strategy. However, with every positive, there is a negative. Social media may be hot right now, and I don’t think it will ever disappear completely, but at some point it will diminish in popularity. Its traffic-generating potential will shrink as well. The question you need to ask yourself is what are you doing to prepare yourself for that day.

Facebook – While there may be some sectors and niches where Facebook isn’t the largest social media website, if you are interested in reaching the “general population,” it’s hands down your best bet. However, Facebook uses something called “edgerank” to determine what appears in each person’s news feed. Edgerank is complicated and always changing but, in simple terms, if you keep clicking links from a person or brand’s page, Facebook will continue to show that person’s item in your newsfeed. Stop clicking or commenting and the updates will stop showing. Some studies have shown that only 3-8% of a company’s updates are ever seen by their fans. Another danger is that Facebook has a track record of changing policies as to what they allow companies, brands, and marketers to get away with. Facebook can shut you down at a moment’s notice and, if that’s how you primarily reach many of your customers, you may be in trouble if the wind changes direction at Facebook.

Twitter – Twitter is another darling of social media websites. The biggest advantage it has over other sites is it takes very little commitment to get started and keep running. Let’s be honest–writing 300-400 word blog posts on a regular basis gets to be work. Writing 140 character tweets a few times a day, or using scheduling tools to do it for you, is a lot less work. Twitter also can give you access to a huge audience. Popular accounts can build 50,000 to 100,000 followers pretty easily if the niche is large enough, and celebrities will often have millions of followers. But there’s the catch. How many of those followers are actually readers who see, read, click, and act on what you tweet? Having a million followers is great, but if less than a 1,000 are the only ones who read and interact with you, they are all that matter. Twitter may be hot now, but when something cooler, faster, easier, or better comes along, some people will leave. Don’t believe me? Look at how many people gave up blogging to tweet. You may have 50,000 Twitter followers now, but if Twitter were to shut down 3 months from now, would you still have access to those people or would they vanish in a poof of smoke.

Blogs – While blogs and RSS may be past its prime, it’s still an effective medium. Facebook is designed to keep you on Facebook. It’s not the ideal platform to make purchases or to communicate your message or information the way you want. In most cases, you don’t have to blog daily or very frequently, but if you want complete control over your message, how it’s displayed, and in what context people see it, a blog is still your best option. Blogs are free from the limitations of character counts and content type that sites like Twitter have. You can embed videos, pictures, PDFs or other media without linking people to another website the way Twitter does. The real key to blogging is to blog at a regular, predictable interval with quality posts instead of quantity. Some posts will always be better than others, but you need to blog often enough so that people remember you, and with content that’s good enough to make them want to come back and read more.

Email – Naysayers have been predicting the demise of email for years, but the simple fact is that it’s still around.  It’s also the primary way most services use to verify you are a person and to validate your account. Those two things together means it’s not going anywhere. Email may not be the preferred method of communication for everyone (in fact, the real takeaway from this post is that you need multiple channels for distribution if you want to remain effective), but it’s still a very viable and effective option. Having a good email list and using it to reach your fans, audience, and customers on a weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month basis should be a part of everyone’s overall strategy.

Mobile Marketing – mobile marketing is interesting. It allows you to reach into someone’s pocket, purse, or briefcase and interrupt them with a message. It’s probably one of the most intimate forms of permissive marketing there is, and that’s why it’s so dangerous. The more often you do it, the better the content should be. For example, there is a local yogurt shop near my house who uses SMS marketing. 1-2 times a week, they will send out a coupon for a discount or letting me know that they are having a special flavor available for only one day. If they sent me a text message every day saying they had vanilla yogurt, I would lose interest and opt out. However, a once a week notice with a coupon or discount for this Wednesday, or that tells me red velvet flavor yogurt will only be available this Friday makes it worth staying subscribed.

Branding – the ultimate goal of all this marketing activity is to build a brand that customers remember when they are looking for a product, service, or information. When I ask you to name a soda, most people think of Coke or Pepsi because of their strong brands. By building your brand in your niche as the recognized authority, you become immune to the fickle changes in social media and search algorithms. People will seek you out directly.

So what are the takeaways from this article:

  • Understand that all marketing channels have a limited lifespan and that social media interest and participation can change on a dime.
  • Look for more permanent ways to keep your fans and customers engaged through social media, blogs, email, physical mail, or mobile marketing.
  • Understand that each system has its limitations and that the more ways you can reach someone, the better.
  • Know that some channels are more intimate and sensitive. Know where the boundaries are and take care not to abuse them.
  • Be on the lookout for new channels as they emerge. Reserve your namespace to prevent someone else from cyber squatting, but don’t invest too much time and resources until you see signs that it’s approaching critical mass with your customer base.

photo credit: Photospin

Written by
Michael Gray
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  • Some interesting ideas here, Michael. I’m not totally convinced by your argument for Facebook, though. It’s certainly important to know that Facebook has ultimate power and can take you away at a moments notice. However I’m not sure how or why the edgerank algorithm plays into any inherent risk that comes along with Facebook. Are you saying the effectiveness of Facebook is potentially limited by low visibility (a result of edgerank?).

    I think people will move on from one platform to another as new things come around (as long as they are not made by Google, apparently), but I don’t think usage among individuals will decline that much – especially with the younger generations. Just look at how high school and college kids are using these networks. They are establishing their social life on these platforms. They are much more invested than older generations who adopted these platforms into an already established offline social life.

  • I would like to add an asterisk to the statement about blogging “being past its prime”.

    What’s broken is the distribution and discovery engines of those mediums. Big sites with big brand ads are force feeding big sites wrapped in CPM ads to the masses.

    It doesn’t have to be that way in the long run.

  • Dear Michael,

    You just dont know what your talking about. I dont know why I read the whole thing. It is not about the tools, FB mistakes or whatever social net work shows up around the corner. It is the need of people of talking to people, and that will not desapear.



  • This is an awesome post! You have to consider what you’re doing beyond the platform to engage those fans/followers etc… particularly to the 5-10% who actually care about what your communicating.