You listened to the experts, you came up with a well-thought-out social media strategy, and you’ve built a nice following on Facebook and Twitter. When you post, you get good engagement. People are sharing your content far and wide.
That’s good, but would those same people miss you if you suddenly went silent?
Leo Laporte of This Week in Technology fame got to find out the hard way. His feed — to 17,000 followers — went silent due to a technical problem. For two weeks, his followers didn’t hear a peep from him:
Maybe I did something wrong to my […] settings. Maybe I flipped some obscure switch. I am completely willing to take the blame here. But I am also taking away a hugely important lesson.
No one noticed.
Not even me.
All of that engagement, gone.
Content sharing that didn’t happen.
So much for that well-thought-out social media strategy, huh?
(As an aside, this reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Remember Me”. After an experiment, Dr. Crusher is caught up in a place that looks real, but where her memory controls the existence of everyone and everything else. It begins normally, but as she goes through her routine, people “vanish” when she stops actively thinking about them. When she remembers them again, they are gone, and no one remembers they were ever there. In one scene, she’s talking to Captain Picard, and when she turns her back, he’s gone, as if he had never been born. OK, I’ll stop geeking out now.)
Much of social media operates a world of “soft push”, where “out of sight, out of mind” is one of the guiding principles. When you log on to Facebook or Twitter, you get a stream of status updates and tweets pushed to you. The stream even updates itself while you are there. Would you notice if one of the few dozen or hundred folks whom you follow failed to update their status? Probably not. The “soft push” of everyone else’s updates and tweets would fill the void. Out of sight, out of mind. (The same goes for content on your blog consumed by RSS readers.)
TV, radio, the newspaper, news and weather sites on the web, and even smartphone apps are all different. In each case, you have to actively seek out content. If you go to “pull” down that content and it is not there — a station is off the air, the paper isn’t on your driveway, a site is down, or the app crashes — you notice. You may be disappointed, and you turn somewhere else for your content, but you only turn elsewhere because your first choice is gone. But in the “soft push” world of social media, it’s hard to notice that a single source is missing because there’s always another update or tweet to take its place automatically.
What are the takeaways?
First, if you rely on an automated process or scheduling service for some of your strategy, check them regularly to make sure your content is being posted when and where you want. You will only reap the increased visibility and engagement of social media if you are actually engaged there yourself.
Next, if you are working in the social space, know that no one — not even your mother — is hanging on your every tweet. Even a well-timed update will be missed due to timing, the multitude of other updates, or other factors outside of your control.
Finally, understand one important psychological difference between “soft push” and “pull”: “effort” means “value”. Invested time and effort, even just the perception of investment, results in a perception of increased value. Remember the car or trip or jacket your parents made you work and save your money for as a kid?
There is a lot of talk in the media business about “being everywhere” and making your content “easy to find”. That’s well and good, but know that “easy to find” can also mean “easy to miss”. Your most dedicated audience — those least likely to bail on you when competing brands or technologies introduce someone or something new — aren’t the folks who simply notice you when you’re easy to find but forget you ever existed when you aren’t there. Instead, your core audience is made up of all the folks who actively seek you out on a regular basis. That’s the audience you want to build for your brand, whatever (and wherever) your brand is.