Reading the news last month about how the struggling social networking site MySpace was planning to restructure and lay off some 500 employees, took me on a trip down memory lane. Announcing the layoffs, the Los Angeles Times recalled News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch “brimming with confidence when his firm's MySpace was the reigning social networking site three years ago.”
Maybe Murdoch didn’t knock on wood when he bragged that rival Facebook was just about “looking up friends” and touted MySpace as so much more. You probably never thought of MySpace as a venue for doing business, but in its heyday, the site was the space for many creative businesses. If you were a musician, performer, photographer, and/or owned a graphic design firm, if you weren’t on MySpace, you were nowhere. MySpace was so crucial to success in these industries that many people would focus more effort on their MySpace pages than on “old-fashioned” marketing tools like e-mail campaigns or websites.
The swift decline of MySpace got me thinking about the way many of us small business owners approach social media. The number of social media tools claiming our attention grows like weeds by the day. No sooner do we master, say, Facebook or Twitter than Gowalla or Foursquare starts drawing the buzz. Last month it seemed everyone was jumping on the Quora bandwagon; this month—not so much. With so many options, where do you focus your limited time and energy? How do you know what’s hype and what’s reality?
With an overwhelming number of possibilities luring us in, it’s all too easy to take the easy (and less time-consuming) way out and get seduced by the one tool that seems to be working best for us. But your marketing plan isn’t going to be as effective for you if you’re married to only one particular social medium. As the 60s classic song advises, “You gotta shop around.” I’m not suggesting you “date” all existing social media tools. First, that’s exhausting, and would leave you with no time to run your business. Second, it’s a game with diminishing returns, because not every effort will pay off in the same way. (If Digg doesn’t meet your marketing goals, you can Digg till you’re blue in the face, and you’ll still end up with nothing to show for it.)
Yes, you have to strike a delicate balance between focusing on your favorite social media tool, and balancing too many. Facebook might be working great for your business right now. (And true, Facebook seems poised to take over the world.) But with the lesson of MySpace firmly in mind, keep doing what you’re doing with Facebook—but don’t stop there.
Come up with at least three social media tools that work for your business, and use all of them regularly. You don’t need to use them all equally, but you need to be conversant in more than one social media language in order to stay on top of the competition.
But, you can’t start coasting once you’ve taken this step. Keep paying attention, since new social media tools pop up regularly. You don’t have to (nor should you) adopt them all—but you do need to learn enough to know what they can (and can’t) do for you, and whether experimenting with them is worth your time. By diversifying your approach, you avoid the fatal mistake of putting all your social media eggs in that one proverbial basket.
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