By Michael Epps Utley
Google+ has been invitation-only so far, but growth has been astounding. It has reached 20 million users in 24 days compared to 1,035 days for Twitter and 1,152 for Facebook. It offers new features such as Circles and Hangouts, which seem to be more intuitive for many managing different areas of life.
For those serving the 50+ markets, this new entry raises questions. Is Google+ going to replace Facebook, which boomers and seniors have been adopting in great numbers over the past couple of years? And how can I do social media well if it is always going to be a moving target?
First off, we have some time. Google+ has not made business pages available and has asked businesses to hold off on trying to get into the network as companies. Also, mature markets generally adopt a bit more slowly than other groups (but once they begin to adopt, lookout!).
In the meantime, we have some time to think about how to best use Google+. However, Google+ has already shown us something new — social networks offering different features are not necessarily going to cancel one another out.
This proliferation of social networks is going to require a new strategy and way of understanding them.
Social Media is a House Party
The new reality for marketers using social media is visualizing social networks, not as one destination or another, but as numerous rooms at a great house party.
The party is in full swing in the dining room. The chairs have been removed and people wall-to-wall are eating, talking, laughing, and telling stories. It is the biggest room, and new friends are arriving every minute. Everyone is having a blast and they are even introducing friends to one another. New connections are being made, active lives are being shared, and people are interacting around major and minor events related to the past, present, and future.
In the formal sitting room, the conversation is much more subdued, business cards are being shared, and small clutches of individuals are attempting more substantial conversations about specific topics. Mainly, it is a room where people are for a time, but it is not going to have the spontaneous energy occurring in the dining room. It’s not uncommon for people to enter the room and back out quickly. There are also a few who have been in there all night and seem as fresh as ever.
The kids (and some of the more energetic adults) are in the media room flipping the channels on ten screens and having an epic time. The conversation is so loud and disjointed that a few parents come in to calm things down, but they just get caught up in the energy. Pandora and iTunes Ping are in the corner trying to get everyone to look to the turntables they are setting up, but video dominates. Kids are constantly running to the other rooms and sharing videos, and some of the adults engage and follow the kids back to the media room. But the conversation here is more unfiltered chatter than sharing.
The doors, hallways, and foyer are packed with people coming in and out of rooms, blathering about everything. They are not so much in a room as highly platform independent. Much of their conversation is consumed in other rooms as they enter and exit.
The kitchen in this house is brand new and people are still working their way in. It used to be something else, but it’s big, has some major new fixtures, and has the potential to serve creativity and collaboration in a way that none of the other rooms at this party ever made possible. The people in the room are very excited, are trying out the new blender, and are already making some new things for everyone to try out in the other rooms.
Work the Party, not the Room
Going forward, with your target audience of mature consumers mingling in these different places, you’ll need to overcome some limiting factors. Here are some tips for success:
1. Use Tools to Scale — If you are spending your time logging into accounts or you are not being consistent in your posts, you can fix that problem with the right tools.
2. Be Smarter with Content — Each piece of content you produce in these areas can be “versioned” for multiple uses. Plan for each item you create to produce three or more touches in different networks making sure each is appropriate for its “room.”
3. Value Engagement and Sharing — Do you remember why you got into social media in the first place? Connecting and sharing. If you need a place to start, begin to measure and report 1) your content, 2) instances of contact, and 3) a ratio of the two. Then see what types of content lift contact.
4. Make Direct Connections — Use social media as a feeder for capturing email addresses. Email is the guestbook at the party ensuring your customers receive an invitation to the next event.
5. Work the Party — Second, perhaps, only to mobile, social media is where change and new activities are originating. So, marketing via social media going forward will continue to require more sophistication rather than less.
To use social media well going forward, you need to plan for the entire range of places and platforms, not just one of the networks that aligns with your goals. You need to ask, “How can I add value to my audience in this room?” and apply that across each of the social networks. Plus, each network offers different kinds of feedback, so working the party means taking in all the feedback and applying learnings to your work in each community. Once you are gaining unique insights from each “room” and applying them to the entire “party,” you will have an effective presence in the social web that makes the party as rewarding for you as it is for your audience.
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