To paraphrase the 19th century French writer Stendhal, the time we waste on social media can never be regained. And that’s fine if you enjoy reading about the minutiae of people’s lives. However, if social media accounts have been created to promote a company and develop new custom, hours spent creating content can’t be dedicated to anything else. Unsuccessful social media sites are therefore literally a waste of time, with original content being instantly lost in a void of public indifference. Few firms can afford to waste resources like this.
The reasons why some high-profile social media platforms failed will probably fill books in a decade’s time, ranging from negative publicity to unnecessary revisions. Without the benefit of hindsight, identifying which platforms offer maximum engagement is tricky in a market overstuffed with Vines, Peaches and Lifestages. Every month seems to herald a new market entrant, championing a slightly tweaked combination of the core elements shared by any social media platform – regular updates, connections and acknowledgements.
Amid the shifting sands of social engagement, even the formerly all-conquering Friends Reunited has failed. The one-time darling of social media closed in February this year, crushed between the ubiquity of Facebook and the diversity of LinkedIn. However, Friends Reunited’s failure can be traced back almost a decade, when annual traffic growth of 1.2 per cent was compared by the media with Facebook’s growth rate of 2,393 per cent. When rival platforms are seeing far larger traffic volumes, there is a clear indication that audiences are migrating elsewhere – and where audiences go, resource-limited companies must follow.
Despite our seemingly insatiable demand for social media engagement, few people have enough free time to adequately manage more than a couple of accounts. Snapchat’s self-deleting content is hardly the stuff of a marketing manager’s dreams, but its exponential growth among younger audiences has directly impacted on rival platforms. Twitter is currently experiencing the sort of negative reporting (and issuing the same bullish denials) as Friends Reunited once did. Negative associations with internet trolling have also been detrimental to its popularity, and Twitter’s growth has stalled as rivals have outperformed it. The ubiquity of Instagram’s camera logo as a backdrop to media interviews (often positioned ahead of Twitter’s logo) is one of the most visible examples of this phenomenon.
At least Twitter has enjoyed the heights of success, unlike many of its contemporaries. Google+ has been an abject failure, launched seven years after Facebook and comparing unfavorably in most respects. Google+ remains an unintuitive platform with confusing account management – if social media isn’t easy to use, it’s best to direct your energies elsewhere. Gimmicks are also likely to neuter a platform’s long-term prospects, such as Vine’s insistence on short video clips. Instagram only flourished once it abandoned its requirement for square photos, while Yo’s minimalist messaging was never going to catch on.
It would be simplistic to suggest that Facebook and Instagram are all a company needs for a successful social media presence. LinkedIn is a powerful tool, and YouTube has become ubiquitous despite numerous pretenders to its crown. Nonetheless, pay close attention to the level of engagement on social platforms, and be ready to move on. Flickr’s vast audiences have largely defected to Instagram, abandoning timelines but developing larger networks of followers in the process. Time-pressured entrepreneurs and marketing managers can ill afford to spend time maintaining a presence on social media platforms that aren’t achieving audience engagement. Ask anyone with an Ello account – if you can find them…
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