Baer Facts, Social Media Strategy

When is Social Media Experimentation a Waste of Company Resources

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In this edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about whether brands should be taking the plunge into other emerging platforms, specifically SnapChat.

As an author, it scares the bejesus out of me, but it appears kids really don’t want to read. And as a parent, it spooks me, but it appears kids don’t want to use social networks that their parents also use. Thus, the rise of SnapChat, a darling of certain segments of the teen set – including my daughter – whereby you can message one or more friends (typically with a photo), which then expires within 10 seconds. Imagine you had to pick the recipients of every Instagram you posted, and that the photo self-destructed by the time you finish this sentence. That’s SnapChat. 

Taco Bell recently jumped on SnapChat, becoming one of the first major brands to do so. The inherently non-archival nature of SnapChat is both fascinating and problematic, and for most companies I’d consider a foray into SnapChat akin to other, now questionable digital dalliances like Empire Avenue and Second Life.

Just Because it Exists Doesn’t Mean You Have to be There

My least favorite question to get from clients or audiences is “what’s the hot new thing in social media?” My answer is always the same:

The hot new thing is doing today’s things better. (tweet this)

Just because a new social network – or even a new “trend” like real-time marketing – crops up, it doesn’t mean your company is required to test it and create a presence. Remember, unless you somehow add staff or outside assistance, each time you add a shiny new ornament to your social media participation tree,  you are taking effort away from your existing outposts. Being in more places in social media doesn’t always make you better, it just makes you broader.

The number one complaint I hear from customers, friends, and social media managers who join the Social Pros podcast is that they don’t have enough time. So if you’re in that scenario, you better have a damn good reason why you’re doing to divert precious resources to something new like SnapChat.

That’s not to say you should never embrace something new. After all, at one point Facebook was the new kid on the block. And Youtube. And Twitter. And Pinterest. And Instagram. But I’m not typically an advocate of beating your customers to the punch in terms of social venue adoption. WHEN you KNOW your customers are using a new channel, start thinking about how to become a valued member of that community. 

But, there are circumstances where that advice may be overly cautious, and Taco Bell might be the exception that proves the rule. They have a history of digital experimentation, so they may very well have a labor budget for trying new things (I should get them on Social Pros and ask). Their customer base skews younger, matching up with the current user profile for SnapChat. And they evidently jumped on SnapChat to help reintroduce the Beefy Crunchy Burrito. The insta-promotion potential here is pretty interesting. Imagine getting a SnapChat message from TacoBell while you’re in the restaurant, but you only have 10 seconds to get to the register to redeem your coupon.

Innovative? Or a waste of company resources? I’m not really sure on this one. What do you think?

  • Paul Bernish

    Jay — plunging into social media without a strategy is never a good idea. I believe corporations have (so far) been slow to engage through social media is due to hesitation about what, precisely, they are trying to accomplish.

  • http://nali.org/ Nick Ali

    Gilt is built on the premise that potential buyers have a small window of time to buy. Not sure a $1.99 burrito would have the same impact, but it’s an interesting concept.

  • Graciousstore

    I share you view that brands don’t have to jump into every social media to create presence. It is important to ask yourself if there is a good chance of drawing potential customers in that social media network

  • Leadgenix

    People often want to be the first mover in the world of business, but I have to agree with Jay that you should perfect what you have until you are certain that your target audience has moved on to the new craze. Facebook is still beneficial to those who maximize its use other than those who are looking for the next best thing.