I have a lot of conversations with social media managers about strategy and best practices for a social platform they’re just taking on. But I often feel the conversation should have started earlier. The missed conversation is whether they should start the new social media account in the first place.
When starting a new social media channel, hitting “create account” shouldn’t be the first thing you do. It should be the last. Here are five questions you should ask yourself when considering a new platform.
1. Are you creating the account because it’s the “shiny new thing” or could this platform help support your mission and goals?
Too often a new social media account is started because a manager or an executive asks the question, “Why aren’t we on such-and-such platform?” Or maybe there is a general excitement to jump onto the new emerging platform immediately. But instead of being intentional about it, an account is opened with little forethought. Once you have the channel, then what? Getting on a new social media platform just to be on it is not ideal.
If you know what your mission and goals are, assess if the new platform could help you achieve those goals. If your goal is to provide a private digital space for an internal community, then Twitter or Instagram might not be the best fit.
2. Do you have the resources?
This not only includes the right type of content, but a steady stream of it, along with the right tools to create the content.
For instance, say you’ve decided to start a TikTok account. TikTok is not just another platform you can share your existing content on. The content creation process is entirely different from Twitter or Facebook, and in my opinion the learning curve is steeper. Do you have the right people to produce content for the new platform and how regularly can you post content to it? If you currently do not have the right resources, how much are you willing to invest into this effort to do it properly?
There are millions of social media posts shared every second. Posting whatever you have available, regardless of which platform it was produced for, isn’t going to cut through the noise.
If you’re looking to start an Instagram but do not have access to a photographer or a library of original photos then your starting point isn’t to think through strategy. Your starting point is to figure out where you’re going to source images. And if you don’t have an immediate solution then Instagram might not be a viable option at the moment.
For us at MIT, we realized we had the staff and content to post to the Instagram Feed and Stories regularly but lacked the assets to support Reels. We made the decision to forgo Reels until we felt it was a necessary tool to support our social strategy and we secured the resources needed to do it at a level expected of our institution.
3. Is your audience on this platform?
It’s important to do a little research of the platform beforehand. What is the primary age demographic of users on the platform? Is the audience you seek to reach even there? For example, if you’re trying to reach the Chinese market, Twitter or Facebook wouldn’t work. You’re better off starting an account in WeChat or Weibo.
Look into whether your peers and competitors are currently on the platform. If they are and their content is not getting any engagements or if they have very few followers, it might indicate your audience is not active in that space. The quality of their content may be a factor, but if the industry in general is not on the platform or is not gaining a lot of traction on it—that’s telling.
4. What will your content management process be?
Gone are the days when would we just throw something onto our social media channels. The creation process and management of each platform has become much more sophisticated and specialized. It’s good to know the steps of how ideas of formed, posts are written and who needs to approve them. You can always make adjustments along the way but it’s good to have a plan before you start.
It's not "just a social media campaign."
It's hours of thought, planning, research, approvals, strategy building, revisions, managing influencers, moderating comments, reporting analytics, after-hours emails, stress, skipped meals, and lost sleep.
Don't minimize the efforts.
— Jon-Stephen Stansel (@jsstansel) February 2, 2022
5. How will you track your progress?
It’s helpful to identify what you want to measure before you begin. Again, it’s okay to change your mind or make adjustments along the way. But if you commit to looking at one or two metrics regularly, it shows you care about whether or not your work is resonating with your audiences.
Posting content to just post content is what I call “box-checking social media.” I see people doing it all the time. They continue to post the same content that never gets any engagements—chances are people are scrolling right past it. It’s like the person is crossing something off their to-do list and not at all interested in whether the content is even seen. I always think, “What’s the point?”
At MIT, we started a Snapchat account in 2016 supported by a strategy of student “takeovers” (my preferred term was “hosts”). It was a proven strategy that worked for our Division of Student Life (DSL), so we thought if it’s working for them, surely it will work for an Institute-level account.
The main metric we focused on was followers. However, after being on the platform for several years our follower growth slowed and our follower total wasn’t where we hoped it would be. We learned that while it was an effective strategy for DSL, it didn’t work for us. If our audience could get this content on the DSL account, why would they want to follow us? So we stopped posting on Snapchat. No one really missed it.
Keep it simple. If you’re trying to grow your audience or you’re experimenting with content types, engagements are a great place to start. Set targets to see how you’re progressing. If your best performing post of the month received five likes, repeat what you think made it successful and see if you can get six or seven likes the next month. Keep experimenting and if doesn’t feel like it’s gaining any traction, reassess or consider pausing altogether.
Before you hit “create account”
Prior to starting a new social media channel it’s important to have a clear goal, the right resources and a management process in place. Identify the metrics you want to track beforehand so you can measure your progress and make adjustments along the way. If any of these factors are in question before you hit “create account,” take that as a clear sign that now isn’t the time to expand—realizing this early can be a win in and of itself.
Looking for more guidance for your brand’s network strategy? Check out this framework for determining which social media channels make sense for your business.
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