Late last year I posted a discussion about whether or not Pinterest will replace Facebook as a social platform. The post was meant to spark conversation. It’s interesting… whenever a new platform rises (like Pinterest or Google Plus), there is always chatter about whether it will bring down the big giants.

Lots of people try out the new kid on the block, and some become die-hard converts saying: “This is GREAT! I’ll never go back to _______ (Insert Facebook, Twitter, etc.)!”  They may have been big complainers about the other platforms, just waiting for an excuse to leap away to something they perceived as a “better,” or they simply may just be intrigued by something new.

Don’t be fooled. It’s people who are social, and their activity is what drives the creators of platforms to innovate. Platforms cannot be “social” in and of themselves. When people or brands say they don’t like a platform, what I believe is really happening is that they’re either interacting with the wrong people or they don’t think they’re receiving value from those they are following.  Social media is about us… not the technology that facilitates it for us. Social technologies are just tools to help us communicate with each other.

While it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on new platforms (especially high-performing ones), brands should be careful of falling victim to the “shiny new toy” syndrome that can fragment marketing efforts and drain resources. As with any marketing initiative, the benefits derived from using a platform depend on how well you can maximize its potential.  Before dumping a platform for the next rising star, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I set S.M.A.R.T. goals at the outset? ( specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely)
  • Is a large percentage of my audience using this platform?
  • Am I following best practices in a social and platform-specific context?
  • Have I maximized use of the tool-sets within the platform?
  • How have I measured results, and how long have I been using these measures?
  • Am I prepared to give up my momentum on this platform to “start over” with another, or do I have time/resources to do both?

It’s too soon to tell what will happen with some of these new toys—they’ve only been active for a relatively short period of time—whereas the big guns have had a few years of development time under their belts and reliable statistics on usage, demographics and patterns of success.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment with new ones, but be careful of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

In many ways, the concept of relationship-building in social media can be likened to building a retirement portfolio. As any financial planner worth his or her salt will tell you, chasing the hottest stocks based on short-term performance isn’t the best plan, especially in a volatile market.

Since we’re building a “portfolio” of sorts with social, I’ll paraphrase a good financial planner’s top four pieces of advice, because they also apply to building Return on Relationship™:

  1.        Don’t be reactionary
  2.        Plan your strategy carefully based on your long-term goals
  3.        Keep an eye on where things are happening, and tweak the plan as you need to
  4.        Diversify your efforts based on a long-term view of performance  

Yes, social media is still evolving—but don’t let a perception of volatility cause you to jump ship when a steadier hand at the till can improve performance.  Listen, study, measure, tweak—and keep plotting a course that delivers value to your audience. Maximize the tools you’re already using, and your “returns” will grow.

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