5 questions brands should ask before using any social media tool

Just because a shiny, new platform or digital network is dangled in front of marketers doesn’t mean your company should necessary be on it.

I’ve often heard this question from clients: Should we be on (insert shiny, new social media platform here)? My instinct is to say yes, because we want to expand our scope of work with them, and we’re always looking to be innovative. But being a good social media partner requires much more in-depth analysis.

When I was overseeing content strategy and execution for my clients, we would generally work on a POV for each new platform that would come into play. We did this for Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine (among others) over the last few years. Part of that POV was assessing which brands would be a good fit for the platform.

That doesn’t mean the client would automatically sign on for that platform, but it was incumbent upon us to make sure we at least made the recommendation (sometimes over and over and over).

Here are five key questions:

1. Are people using this platform to talk about your brand, your industry, or your competition?

This is easy enough on platforms that use hashtags. I can search #Starbucks on Instagram, for example, and see that nearly 1.9 million photos bear that hashtag. If I’m managing the brand’s social media presence, this tells me that there are 1.9 million potential conversations and pieces of user-generated content out there. This is definitely the right move for that brand to be using that platform (and Starbucks is using it—quite effectively as it turns out).

Part of your research on new platforms should be to assess not just who is talking about your brand but how they’re talking about your brand. If people are actively complaining or bringing up customer service issues on this platform, your strategy will differ from what you’ll do if people are raving about you.

When it comes to your competition, just because they jump off a cliff doesn’t mean you should follow—unless they’re jumping off a cliff into a crystal clear pool of water filled with your current and potential customers.

2. Does this platform align with your demographic?

Maybe people aren’t talking about your brand (or perhaps they’re talking about you sparingly). That certainly shouldn’t preclude you from entering into that platform—especially if it’s used by a demographic that you’re looking to target.

For instance, if you’re looking to reach influential, educated, millennial women, Pinterest is a platform you should strongly consider. Instagram might not be your best bet if that’s the only group you’re looking to target.

3. Is there an opportunity to tell your brand’s story in a new/unique way on this platform?

Brands that are using Vine in an interesting ways—Lowe’s, Smart Car USA, General Electric (sometimes)—are using the platform to tell a good brand story that goes beyond “buy this.”

When Smart Car wanted to show how easy it is to charge its new electric version, a six-second video was the perfect way to do it:

Lowe’s went beyond providing DIY tips in text to show their users how to do things like unscrewing a stripped screw:

If your team can find a way to use a new platform in an interesting fashion, that’s half the battle. So often brands will launch their presence in a new platform, and it’s just a dud.

4. Do you have the resources to maintain a robust presence on this platform?

The days of launching a social media presence to cover an event or product launch are over. Unless you’re going to commit your brand to building and maintaining a robust presence on a platform, don’t do it. It’s up to each individual brand to decide what “robust” means for them, but launching an event-specific account and then shutting it down no longer makes sense.

5. Does this platform logically fit in with your existing digital ecosystem?

Consider the rest of your digital presence, and whether this new platform logically integrates or if it would be on an island. If you can’t fit your always-on and campaign strategies into this platform, it’s probably worth waiting until you jump into it.

These questions certainly aren’t exhaustive, but they can at least get the conversation started. Remember: Any foray into a new platform will require your team to perform a risk assessment and understand any potential pitfalls. Your legal team will want to get involved (and will likely work tirelessly to quash your dreams, as they are wont to do).

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