Social media trends are not created equal.
And like your mom told you, just because the the cool kids (often self-proclaimed “influencers”) are doing it, doesn’t make it a winning strategy.
Over the years, I have seen three trends in particular that seem to be blindly followed, but deserve some push-back.
More followers is everything
Have you ever woken up, checked your phone and saw that you lost 20 followers? Immediately you began searching for something (anything) to share to convince the remaining loyal followers to stay put? But then, two days later, you’re +30 and suddenly you are ready to shout from the mountain tops:
Whether you’ve been that reactionary or not, we’ve all seen the culture of social media become one of “gain as many followers as possible and be seen as an influencer.” The problem, of course, is that having a bazillion followers doesn’t make you influential.
Often times, you need only to look at the last 20 or so posts of these super-high-follower accounts to find recent posts have little to no engagement. Is that influential? No. It’s likely someone who auto-follows, pays for followers or has taken an even darker path: using an app to follow, and then unfollow after a certain period of time to make it appear as if they are followed by everyone, but only follow a few accounts themselves.
In the book, “The Zen of Social Media Marketing“, Shama Hyder does a great job defining the attributes of true influncers. Shama notes that they excel at providing valuable content (engaging, relevant, useful), post with appropriate frequency (posting a good number of times per day), and their feeds are full of high-quality interaction (clearly not spammers or RT-addicts)
Unfortunately, with so many accounts pursuing sub-par tactics, it’s convinced others that the goal of social media is not to be helpful, engaging and, well, social; but instead, it’s to have a ton of followers in the hopes that friends, strangers, influencers and high-paying organizations will clamor for your attention. However, those are privileges earned with well-researched thought, targeted posting, audience nurturing and careful planning. So, do that instead.
I get it. It’s 2018 – automation, machine learning, and AI technologies are making a strong move from pilot to program in marketing this year. However, you would be wise to step away from technologies that automate everything from posts and replies to follow-backs and direct messages. The temptation to do otherwise is only going to grow as new tech emerges to simplify your social presence. Let me be clear, I’m not resistant to digital transformation, but the trend is unfortunately moving toward automating as a substitute instead of automating to support clever and engaging efforts. Here are a few examples of the former.
In today’s set-it-and-forget-it social media culture, it’s tempting to grab a couple of headline-posting apps and “watch the magic happen”, but as I warned in a previous blog on how to create engaging social media posts, social channels are already flooded with automated headline and hashtag posts. Meaning, your posts won’t stand out and create engagement, they’ll just blend in with everyone else who is seeking a low-effort path to social media success. Like the others, you won’t find it. People are getting very wise to trash tactics like this and are learning to check the “tweets and replies” tab on Twitter, for example, to see if you’re actually engaging or just automating – and once you’re exposed as inauthentic and not really engaging, you’ll begin to lose that trust — trust that is very hard to gain back.
We touched on this above, but here is the bottom line: If you’re using an app to auto-follow everyone that follows you, you’re not interested in building an audience of engaged, relevant followers. You’re interested in appearing influential. It takes very little effort to do so, and it also takes very little effort for those of us looking for quality content to see what you’re up to. So while those 100,000 followers feel good, they’re really just disengaged follow-back lingerers with little to no concern for your posts. Was that too harsh? I feel like that was too harsh. Hm, so that’s what “sorry, not sorry” feels like. Good to know.
Automated direct message replies
This practice actually started off well, as it was a simple way to thank someone directly for their follow. But now it comes across as the equivalent of a pop-up ad because it is overused by so many spammers sending click-bait into Direct Message boxes. Beyond that, when your DM pops up .009 seconds after someone follows you, it doesn’t come across as authentic or engaging (see number three in my recent blog on healthy social media tactics). It comes across as lazy. You can obviously step around this by hand-crafting replies to those who follow you to customize a message to them.
Overall, when pursuing automation as a strategy (instead of a support mechanism), you’ll have a high likelihood of producing thousands of irrelevant, disengaged and largely uninterested lingerers. They’re not followers, because they won’t be interested in following any thought leadership you provide. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I didn’t think so.
Shorten every URL
I’ve been in this game for nearly 16 years, so I clearly remember when URL shorteners became the latest craze. At the time, they made perfect sense for several reasons (character counts chief among them). However, now that those reasons are no longer relevant, there is one perfectly good reason to stop using them.
Consider this. If you’re trying to promote your brand, company or website, why do you want the URL to read Buff.ly, Bit.ly or Ht.ly, instead of clearly displaying your brand within your URL? It’s not like using a URL shortener is some sort of passing fad, but again, everyone does it simply because everyone does it. It’s just another example of why it’s worth taking the time to step back, look at what you’re doing and ask if there is a better way.
Otherwise, you’ll end up following a few bad trends to some very unfortunate results.
Know of some other trends that you’ve seen pop up, but are not worth following? Share your thoughts in the comments!