If I Could Start Social Over Again

Looking online at the top social media news articles, it is amazing how Facebook and Twitter still dominate conversations. Yet, if I could start over from scratch — I would not use Facebook and Twitter for both professional and personal online efforts.

I have been online in social networks for a long time now. These days when I speak on panels I am the old guy, which is a bit weird. There are others who have been around longer than me or who have walked the earth for many more days, but nevertheless history and legacy are a burden.

The past can prevent you from moving forward unless you make a conscientious decision to embrace change. Consider that online media giant AOL still has 2.3 million dial-up subscribers, yet their business is moving towards online video programming. AOL manages to innovate, but where would they be if they hadn’t been bold and moved towards online content as their primary offering with the acquisitions of Engadget, the Huffington Post and TechCrunch years ago?

The same could be said for how you invest time online. Today, because I have shifted much of my content production to photography, I spend more time on Flickr and 500 Pixels than I do Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Google+. When I do participate on those sites, more of ten than not it’s either for business or to post a picture.

I look at the interactions with my customer base, and believe in some instances that I am wasting my time. So given my customers, passions and the interaction, where would I start?

Separate the Person from the Business

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In the mid 2000s, everyone associated their personalities with their blogs. It was the age of personal brands, and like many others — in spite of my protests about personal branding as a movement — I weaved my personal social media activity and blogging for business together.

As a result, it was harder to scale prior companies, and my own personal adventures and missteps impacted business. Tenacity5 is different (I hope). I have a role as president, and while I am the front man, but it isn’t a personality vehicle. It is a business.

For example, T5 does not promote my personal projects. It is a brand that allows people to provide services, people that are more than me. As the company grows, this will be essential.

I increasingly try to create separation between the business and my interests. It is only on LinkedIn that I allow the two to completely merge, and largely because I see LinkedIn as a business only network.

Facebook Is a Waste of Business Time… Sort of

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I’ve blogged before about how Facebook is almost a zero-sum game for pure marketing posts. Analytics continues to reaffirm that when posts are marketing centric they fail. When they are personal, they tend to do well. Though I caught a lot of grief back then for not marketing on Facebook, I am no longer the only one experiencing this.

I feel like this is particularly true of marketing agencies. We are experimenting again with the Tenacity5 Media Facebook page, but I have sincere doubts. Unless your friends are all marketers or you have a serious ad budget, people don’t want to read crap about content marketing on Facebook. What Facebook is good for is my customers seeing photos, but I doubt they are hiring me because I post nice pics.

In my mind Facebook is a place to post my photos, not to talk shop. And my photography hobby benefits greatly from it. Google+ is definitely in the same vein. People love photos and tech talk and not much else up there, at least in my feed.

I would say that Twitter, though not the most liked or popular network, is a primary driver for business traffic, so I would continue to invest in Twitter. I do find the conversations to be lacking personally.

Then I must admit — as much as it irks me a times — that LinkedIn has successfully become the place for B2B conversations. And a marketing agency is a B2B play. So from a business perspective, I see LinkedIn as important. So much so that we need to find ways to better engage there in the future.

I don’t think much of Instagram or Pinterest right now. The results have been fun at times, but I fail to see the value. I am keeping an open mind, though.

Not Blogging

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Today, I wouldn’t waste my time blogging as a primary business activity. In fact, for the most part I have slowed down significantly. I still post once a week here, mostly because I believe that a blog still has a role in my online life, even if it is for the fewer. But the topics are stream of conscious now. There is no editorial mission outside of what I think, and no real business goal outside of supporting personal projects.

Why?

Because you cannot succeed as a marketing blogger without these two necessary components: High quality posts that are clearly focused and a frequency of at least once if not twice a day. Without consistency, precision and excellence, the marketing blogger game is a loser. There are too many branded blogs and too many consultancies publishing for it to be as effective as it used to be. I do not have the wherewithal to commit the necessary resources to blog as a primary outreach mechanism today.

So, while it was a big deal back in the day, without the ability to commit the necessary resources, blogging is not a primary mechanism.

In the future, if Tenacity5 grows beyond 20 or 30 people I will recommit to daily content for the sector. Until then, there are other actions that yield more awareness, personal content (e.g. photos and books) that fares better than blogs, and marketing activities that are more profitable for the time investment.

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14 Replies to “If I Could Start Social Over Again”

  1. I’ve long shared your opinion on Facebook. Too many organizations and businesses spend way too much of their time trying to gain attention there. If you’re in B2B, posting marketing messages on Facebook makes you look like the guy who is handing out business cards at a cocktail party.

    One of the smartest bets we made when I was at The Chronicle was investing heavily in LinkedIn. We gained a lot of traction there quickly and built a huge following that I’m sure is still paying off for them today. If your goal is to market your ideas for business clients, that’s the place to be.

    I’d also argue that instead of just blogging, doing one high-quality weekly post for LinkedIn Pulse is probably going to get you much more traction than a weekly post on a blog. It doesn’t hurt to cross-post to your own blog — but if you really want to get attention and make connections, it really helps to be there.

    1. Agreed on Facebook. I think you made a very smart decision to move the Chronicle’s efforts to LinkedIn.

      On the Pulse blogs, I think the noise for small businesses is equally deafening. I find the posts don’t do as well as they did even three months ago Whether that’s because of a change in LinkedIn’s algorithm or another issue, I am not sure. But posts here still far out pace Pulse posts.

  2. My perspective on and experience of the whole online world has changed. I’ve only been online for 3 years, but for me, it’s gone from the heady days of camaraderie, conversation, connection and business to seeing the same topics, same experts, same white noise day in and day out. But I guess that’s just the evolution of the digital world and how people are using it.

    For me, I’ve not blogged for over a month. I’ve been writing…longhand…daily. I do plan to keep my Facebook personal and biz page for now. Instagram and flickr are for my photos. Never went down the rabbit hole of pinterest. Haven’t maximized Linkedin, but that’s probably because, IF I keep my blogsite, it will transition to a place for my writing. Maybe I’m now semi-retired :)

    1. I am with you on this. I am actively debating whether to even continue on this level. I just feel like a personal blog should be just that, unless it is truly a trojan horse vehicle for a business. But if it is personal in the truest sense, do I need to publish every week? I need to weigh this.

      And I agree, much has changed over the past three years, and I think the conversation is over, for the most part. People have moved on.

      1. I’ve been debating for a while, as you know. If I continue to blog (which I prefer to say, continue to write and choose to publish on a blog), then I need to make some changes to the site, and I’ve been dragging my heels on this. And although it goes against all the guru-wisdom, if I do write/blog, I’ll do it according to the muse. Because then I’ll have hit the right place for me: sending my words out to the world without expectation.

  3. As always Geoff, great post and ideas to ponder.

    After a few years at a corp job, I’m relaunching my business going into verticles where I don’t have a strong presence.I’ve found Twitter to be the place to start to build relationships and create awareness. Sure we do our fair share of curated content, however, it seems that a blog focused on the industry is important to validate credibilty and provide original content that drives traffic to the site. LinkedIn is our next exploration.

    Forgot how time consuming social is to build a following let alone community especially as the new kid on the blog!

    1. It must be weird for you, but you are so talented and experienced, and I am sure you will be a success like you always are.

      1. Thanks for your always support Geoff! It is odd but exciting to see where we can take it. Open to any and all ideas/advice.

  4. Geoff —

    First time reader and visitor (a good fiend and colleague asked me to have a look and share an opinion or two).

    I’ve been blogging since ’97 (since before the medium was called that), and at a start-up I led, we spent silly amounts of money and time (as gauged against our resources and financial means) creating a CMS that today’s CMS’ blow out of the water for free. Point being, I get the, “Who’s the ‘old guy’ on the panel” thing (I started out in Outdoor Education and ended up at the intersection of high-tech and integrated marketing communications). What a weird and twisted trip it’s been, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    My view of everything you wrote is that each organization should have their own goals, strong hypotheticals those goals are based on, their own objectives, their own strategies, and their own tactics. I call that GHOST, and it’s the topic of my next book… a protocol / framework for connecting Goals to Tactics through Objectives and Strategies.

    If you believe as I do (immediately above), then you suspend gross generalization. In other words, the tactic of blogging or using social media sites and utilities is based entirely on what your strategy is for achieving your objectives. I maintain that the only turn-key element in the protocol is at the tactical level, but even then, there’s a mix of calendared and from-the-hip/reaction writing necessary to deliver value for both the business/brand/organization and the target demo/customer/followers.

    So when you write “Today, I wouldn’t waste my time blogging as a primary business activity.” I think two things… 1. People will gloss over the qualifier (“primary”), and think you mean something else (i.e., blogging is a waste of time; therefore, don’t do it); and 2. I don’t know many businesses to begin with (outside of those where blogging is the Key Activity [and when I say ‘Key Activity’ I refer to the Business Model Canvas and what it has to say about business models], just like writing is a Key Activity for the publishers I write for) that consider blogging a primary business activity.

    In my view and experience, blogging remains a tactic worth pursuing — and it should go without saying, pursuing well (or as you wrote, “High quality posts that are clearly focused…”) — if it helps you with your strategy, which is entirely dependent upon what your objective is, which is entirely dependent upon what your goal is. Same holds true for the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and yes — even Ello and whatever comes next. (Notice I didn’t include G+… still baffles me to no end, but that’s a tirade I’ll save for someone else).

    1. While I agree that generalization is not an accurate fit for all organizations you need it to discuss matters. It’s a starting point. To delve into the details of strategy is a worthy conversation though.

      And as you pointed out primary is the key adjective in the conversation. Like many things, blogging is a tool, and how and where I use that tool is up to me as a strategist. Measurement and analysis and resources indicate that this is not a primary tactic right now, BUT it is still a supporting one based on our strengths. Each business must make these tool choices based on strategic need and resources. That I think is the gist of your comment, one that I agree with whole-heartedly.

  5. I think you’re onto something here, Geoff. Things have changed so drastically, continue to change…I blogged about the changes last July that I saw, coming back into social media after having to be off the grid because of health issues. That gave me an unusual perspective – very early in, then out for awhile, then back in…it reminds me of that famous saying about a popular restaurant – that “it’s so busy now no one goes there anymore.” Your point in the comments about how even LinkedIn has become cluttered with posts is right on. It has been liberating for me personally to blog weekly without any agenda, consulting services to sell, books to sell, seminars to offer, or editorial mission, other than using it the way a painter might use painting to express herself. I agree completely with you about Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+, although I had hoped the latter would prove itself. Very insightful post – glad I saw it!

    1. Yeah, I guess marketers have a really bad habit of beating tactics into the ground. At some point, it will come full circle and this will be special again, but who will be left to watch it happen? We just did an email newsletter and it did really well, albeit to a small audience. Kind of shocking. But, there you have it. Less noisy for those who wanted i guess.

      I am sorry about your health, but glad you are back and out and about!

  6. The faster connectivity of Twitter and Facebook has trounced the slower-but-deeper quality of blogs. We’ve moved into a sugar-rush state of social media. I remember when the careful mining of blog comments led me to meet up with you in person at SXSW and have an intriguing conversation, followed by Hendo heckling us to try to solve the challenge of the hungry in a promotional-but-well-crafted conference hack. You wore a hat. I thought many of your social ideas were crap, but then, a few were brilliant, and I rethought my marketing frameworks. Those were the days. I’ll miss the deeper content, too. But — hey, look, a new #hashtag is trending…

  7. Much appreciated, Geoff. I am moving my off-line personal and professional communications/interests/expertise to the on-line world, and I daily wonder how others manage and prioritize the different social media tools. Thanks for accelerating my thinking!

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