What to Do When Social Media Is Not Working For Your Business

social media how toIs social media not working for you?

Are you struggling to form a social media connection with your audience?

Have you found that the recommended “getting started” tips and tricks for social campaigns just haven’t resonated with your followers?

The truth is, while there are plenty of audiences that respond well to social media marketing attempts, there are others that don’t for a number of different reasons.

In this article you’ll find out how to recognize the variables that could result in an audience-marketer mismatch and how to work around them.

Why Your Social Media is Not Working?

If you feel like you’ve tried everything to connect with your audience, but it’s just not working, you’re probably looking to social media experts for advice. Maybe you’ve followed that advice, but your audience still isn’t responding. What’s going on?

istock social media image

Not all social networks match your audience. Image source: iStockPhoto

Well, it may not be the advice or implementation that’s your problem. The problem may be your choice of social platform, your industry’s expectations or even your audience’s comfort level with social media.

To find out, I suggest looking closely at age and demographic matches, the size of your audience, industry standards and your audience’s interest in engaging online. In this article I’ll discuss each of these and how they can affect your social engagement, then offer advice on how you can work on those issues.

Know Whom You’re Talking To

A recent Pew Internet study revealed that 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind, but only 42% use multiple social media sites.

The following chart demonstrates how these percentages break down.

pew internet study results on adults social website use

A Pew Internet study reveals the percentage of online adults using different social websites.

Considering the data from the study, let’s talk about how it can apply to you.

Imagine your audience is primarily made up of middle-aged women who, according to the study, are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users.

If you’re focusing your social marketing efforts on Facebook because of its high adoption rate but not seeing engagement, it could be because your primary audience is spending its time on Pinterest.

It may be time to reevaluate who your target customer is. When you know your audience and their social platform of choice, it’s much easier to engage them.

Understand That Size May Be a Factor

Another reason you may not be making a strong connection with your customers could be related to the size of your audience on a given social channel.

This infographic from Mediabistro shows interests across Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

mediabistro social media infographic

Not all interests are represented equally on all social networks.

If you’re selling a high-dollar product, you’re more likely to have a very small and specific audience. As a result, sending out broad messages via social media may not be the best way to connect with them.

Consider Your Industry’s Culture

In some cases, a company may not see high engagement simply because of industry culture. Perhaps the overall industry is behind the times technologically. That could be because either their customers or the industry as a whole aren’t familiar with social media or comfortable using it.

If you’re in a very personalized industry (e.g., the funeral profession), getting your clients to engage on social sites may be a challenge simply because they don’t think to look for you online unless it’s to look up your phone number. In those cases, it’s unlikely they’ll reach out via social media.

Not all businesses exist in industries that naturally lend themselves to online engagement.

jones-wynn funeral home facebook update

Some industries have a harder time engaging with their Facebook fans.

As an example, take the partnership my company recently had with Self Storage Finders. They’re a service that helps consumers identify and evaluate different storage providers in their area.

While this type of service is valuable to the customers who use it, those clients don’t necessarily think about discussing their storage experiences on social sites.

While these variables and their impact on engagement are frustrating, it’s not impossible to market to difficult audiences.

The following three tips should help you adapt social media marketing recommendations and best practices to suit the needs of your specific (if challenging) audience.

Keep in mind, though, that your social media marketing strategy may necessarily follow a different path than it would if your audience were more amenable to social conversations.

Know Where To Be

Conventional social wisdom says that all businesses need to maintain a Facebook and Twitter profile. I have a different point of view. I believe that creating social identities and then essentially abandoning them because of lack of engagement does more harm than good to a business.

What did you discover when you reevaluated your audience? You may have discovered that the most active community engagement portals in your industry aren’t social sites at all—they’re forums and “old-school” message boards.

If that’s the case, you have to set conventional wisdom aside and focus your efforts on the arenas where they’ll be noticed in the first place!

See What Sticks

You’ve looked at your audience, you know where they are and you’ve set up shop there. Now let’s suppose you’re getting ready to start a social promotion for an audience you’re pretty sure is going to be difficult to engage.

There are plenty of different templates out there for possible social posts. I recommend trying as many as you can. I call this the spaghetti-flinging approach because it’s as if you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

paid facebook ads

Paid ads can grab the attention of your target market.

If you’ve chosen to focus your efforts on Facebook, try posting text-based status updates, images, links, polls, paid ads and more. Post at different times of day and on different days of the week.

While it’s nice to see engagement at this stage, the true goal of early social posting to difficult audiences should be to gather data.

Remember, you can’t trust the industry pundits to tell you what will work best for every audience, so use your own metrics and gather your own data.

Look For Your Loudest Fans

As you post more updates, you’ll likely find the members of your community who are more highly engaged than others. Make sure these people aren’t your employees, close friends or relatives!

When you’ve found your most active fans, pay attention to the exact types of content they’re engaging with. Use this data to refine your posting techniques to include content that’s likely to appeal to these users.

Take a look at the following screenshot from the Self Storage Finders Facebook page before we started working with them. This particular update didn’t resonate with audience members, so it had no engagement whatsoever.

self storage finders facebook text update

An early Self Storage Finders Facebook update falls flat with followers.

When we started working with them, we began experimenting with different types of posts and content and we noticed that fans reacted well to cartoon images.

Below you can see how catering to fans’ favorite type of post results in more likes, all because we were willing to experiment and base future posts on actual audience data.

self storage finders facebook text update with image

Extensive testing revealed that Self Storage Finders’ Facebook fans respond well to cartoons.

Know When to Cut Your Losses

Unfortunately, there are audiences out there that simply don’t respond to social media marketing. But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel.

Take another look at the data you gathered from your audience analysis and post experiments. Compare it to your established metrics and install analytics tools that will provide additional data to help you figure out whether your social marketing is working.

Let’s say you determine that including man-hours, image subscriptions and other investments, you put roughly $500 per month into your social campaigns. What does your data tell you? Are your social channels sending you visitors that result in more than $500 per month in sales?

That example is a simplification of social marketing’s value, of course. It’s true that social media can lead to extensive brand awareness that may indirectly lead to sales. But if you consistently see that your profits are falling short of your investments, it may be time to either refocus your strategy or pull the plug on your social efforts entirely.

The Bottom Line

If you’re not getting traction with your social media marketing, take a break from researching broad advice that promises a quick fix. Reevaluate your efforts: meet your customers where they are, consider the size of your audience and set your expectations accordingly.

Not every business will have success with social media marketing no matter how hard they try, but it’s worth the time to experiment with different tactics and gather data before calling it quits.

What do you think? Have you ever found yourself marketing to a difficult audience? If so, what social media marketing tips do you have to add for those in this situation? Leave your experience and advice in the comments.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Eric Siu

Eric is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain. He also interviews entrepreneurs on business and personal growth tips on his blog, Growth Everywhere. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.hqsocialmedia.com/ Houssem Daoud

    I completely agree Eric. I believe that the number 1 reason social media isn’t working for businesses is because they don’t have a data driven strategy in place. The most important component of that strategy is identifying “Ideal Customers” and building accurate buyer personas. Knowing whom you’re talking to as you said, will be the main determining factor whether social media or any other medium will be a success for a particular business or not. Great post Eric. Thanks!

  • Michael Kelberer

    Thanks for the great discussion. I notice that Google+ is conspicuously absent from the audience profiles – not just the ones you’ve used, but many places. Is it not studied or not used?

  • D. Kruegel

    One important point is missing: Geography. In which countries is your targeted audience located? If you are trying to reach an audience outside the US, get some insights about the online behaviour and the most popular online channels for interaction of your audience in that other country. Consider also the comment sections of news and magazine outlets which are relevant to your audience (many of them are running on proprietary solutions and not on DisQus like this one on SocialMediaExaminer).

  • Natalie

    Great post, but the one link I tried to click does not work…(social media marketing recommendations )

  • http://1016media.com Social Media Guru

    Thanks for the dialogue but the advice ventures too far from basic business principles by assuming 1) The industry of choice may be technically poor – all of the stakeholders in any industry has a link to email and/or social media .RULE: Find the stakeholders’ link in your industry and pull them to you 2) Know when to cut your losses – There is no such thing as to cut losses in marketing or social media marketing. RULE: Reinvention, Redirection and Measurement is crucial when you are using social media to market your business, penetrate your targeted audience and/or gain engagement. So never cut losses just redirect, reinvent and measure!
    3) This advice seems like it is more based on having fun than having sound strategy which leaves the reader thinking that Social media is an unmeasured experiment. RULE: Social media is a word-of-mouth magnetizer so use it as if you were engaging someone face-to-face! And there is more….HMU

  • Inga Deksne

    Looking at the table showing Top Activity by Network, it seems that Facebook scores the lowest interest in each of the categories, even the highest “Health Info” is still behind Twitter and Pinterest. I wonder why it so.

  • Yvette La-Garde

    We’ve been using two SEO companies for the past 4 years. One was relatively cheap and did on page optimization. The other was three times more expensive and did offline optimization. Recently I’ve halted working with both companies because we’re not getting the results we want. We’ve tried a number of things but it seems like we can’t get engagement and the true measure of success – our sales are not exactly going through the roof. I’m not sure where to go from here. I feel like I need a SEO expert to evaluate where we’re at and what to do next. But, I want to find someone who doesn’t have a stake in the recommendations. Any ideas?

  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ Eric Siu

    Thanks Houssem!

  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ Eric Siu

    Hi Michael,
    It really depends on the industry that you’re in. Like any type of marketing, I’d definitely recommend taking a look at your community or your competitors to see where they are. And even if they aren’t using something like G+, who knows, you might find a way to make it work for you.

    Only way to know is to test!

  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ Eric Siu

    Yvette,
    Happy to point you in the right direction on this. eric at singlegrain

  • Michael Kelberer

    Hey Eric – Thanks – I’ve already determined that my audience is quite active on Google Plus – but still it would be helpful to know what the research shows about Google Plus users, and I’m curious as to why so many of the social media channel comparison charts don’t seem to include Google Plus. Any idea?

  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ Eric Siu

    to your question – it’s because G+ hasn’t gotten enough traction yet so it’s left off as a data point

  • http://teamtreehouse.com/ Eric Siu

    agreed!

  • Carl

    Who not “Whom”

  • http://entrebond.com Blake Schreckhise

    I think that social media is hard to pin down to one strategy that will work for everybody, that’s why some people fail for so long. It is really a trial and error kind of platform.

  • http://www.kiptotalmarketing.com Lloyd Grant

    Yvette, if you have the time to do it in-house I would suggest you Google and read either of the following 2 PDF books: The Art of
    SEO, Second Edition; or The Beginners Guide to SEO by SEO Moz. SEO isn’t hard to master once you know the fundamentals it’s just something that you can’t treat as one and done. It’s kind of never ending.

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  • Yvette La-Garde

    Thanks so much for your information!

  • brooke

    Is it permissible to use a copyrighted cartoon like the Simpsons on social media? I’m curious as to what the restrictions are.

  • http://www.nolongerunemployed.com/ Matt Schmidt

    Know where your audience is online, what they use, and concentrate efforts there. Maybe use a couple of sites when starting out instead of streching yourself thin.

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Great input Eric. I think often times there is an assumption that every business HAS to be on social media, but in many cases they need to focus their efforts elsewhere.

  • Jochen Cloetens

    Spot on. Was my first analysis as well when seeing this table.

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  • Stevie Krueger

    Thank you for that article, I definitely need to make some changes. I have over 200 friends on FB however only 27 are following me and I’m not sure how to connect to the rest of them? Any advice would be great! https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=46219605&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

  • http://www.lisa-mcdonald.com/blog/ Lisa McDonald

    Thanks for the great advice! Many businesses often attempt to jump on the bandwagon of utilizing social media without fully researching their target market. I will be sure to use some of these tips throughout my career.

  • Elmarie Porthouse

    Great article, Eric. Everybody keeps saying businesses need to be on social media without differentiating between the platforms. Choosing your most active platform according to your niche is so important. If you don’t do this, you waste time working on platforms that deliver little or no results.
    Keep giving us more great information :)

  • http://frankonlinemarketing.com Tema Frank

    Many need to start with making their own websites better!

  • Dan

    Eric Thanks for this informative article!







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