Social media is a unique animal in the digital marketing jungle. Lesser known platforms that have just set up shop often attract the most active users. Some go viral, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, whereas others decline into non-existence just a few months later.
Given these uncertainties of the social media scene, how do you decide when you should start an account for your brand and invest time and effort into building a presence on a new platform?
Jay Oatway, independent digital marketing consultant, shares some pointers.
1. New platforms appeal to a small group of people for a long time, and a large group of people for a short time
It is better to go for a window of time when platforms first come out and has garnered a small group of loyal fans.
Oatway said, "That's the time when people will stop to spend time with your brand because they haven't engaged with it before and that's also when fans will have a lot more patience."
2. Don't treat social media as a mass marketing tool.
"The biggest mistake is to treat social media as a mass marketing tool because you create a lot of waste when you interrupt people's news feeds with content they are not interested in," Oatway said.
The power of social media lies in the knowledge you can glean about your fans' preferences, and this is a provides a wealth of data you can use to make your content marketing campaigns more targeted.
3. Getting on a new platform is easy, the hard part is being effectively active.
Marketing teams can easily adapt content to be shared in multiple places - creating one more version of a graphic to share on WeChat does not take too much extra effort in exchange for the audience it can reach.
It also doesn't cost anything to set up a social media account, unlike buying ad spaces in a magazine, billboard or even a TVC in an overseas market.
The real challenge lies in effectively leveraging your time and resources to be active and present on a social media platform that leaves a good impression on users.
On the staffing front, brands may need manager-level staff who can address problems, deal with crises and give focused directions such as whether a social media platform should be used for customer service, or to drive sales.
"Social media is a real-time environment - decisions have to be made quickly - you can't just hire a bunch of interns who can't speak with authority on the social media platform," Oatway said.
4. Decide whether you should leave a declining platform based on analytics
Conversion rates from social media into repeat business is an example of the type of data that you can use to decide whether you should stay on a declining platform that might have been a big hit not too long ago.
Oatway said, "Can the platform convert a higher percentage of fans into customers than, say, email? If the numbers are bad, don't invest more. If the numbers are good, they could be even better if you invest more. Without analytics, you are just guessing."
5. When you decide to leave a platform, don't dump your fans.
You may be closing an account on one of those social media platforms that is beginning to decline, but that doesn't mean you should give up on your strategy.
Since you have already built up relationships with a group of people, whether it's 100 or 1,000 people, as a brand, you should make it easy for fans to move with you to the next platform you are setting up shop in.
"Make an announcement saying, 'It was great spending time with you on this platform, so why don't you come and join us on this other shiny new platform?' and see how many fans actually move with you," Oatway said.
Another strategy is to direct fans to the brand's own platform, such as its website or eDMs.
6. Producing simple videos is a way to make new social media platforms work for you
Facebook has introduced native videos, there's Vine on Twitter and Hyperlapse on Instagram and Google+ has launched Hangouts on Air.
Video is clearly becoming an imperative in the social media world but brands may become bogged down with the misconceived need to create very high quality videos.
"There is an awareness in the business world that brands need to find a way to do video, which is a must for everyone in digital marketing," Oatway said.
"You don't have to produce Hollywood movies - there are simple ways of going about it - even videos that you can shoot on your smartphone and upload onto social media will work."
One example is capturing a business leader who is giving a speech at a conference or contributing a piece of thought leadership on video.
7. Advertising on new platforms is risky
"There is absolutely no social media effect from buying ads on social media," Oatway said.
Where to put your ad dollars is a much riskier proposition than which platform you should have a presence in, he adds.