Social Media Strategy

Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy

Magic Potions Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy

badge jay says Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy I recently delivered the closing keynote at the Social Fresh Conference in Orlando (the next Social Fresh – a conference I very much endorse – is in October in San Diego).

My presentation was called “Shotguns Trump Rifles: Why Social Success is Now a Volume Play” and was one of most controversial talks I’ve ever given about social media strategy.

I’ve embedded the slides and video below, and I do hope you’ll spend a few minutes now (or download for later) because this issue impacts every single person using social media strategy for business.

Here’s the summary of why we all need to consider adopting the shotgun methodology:

Social media offers your brand reach, but today’s social media is terrible at reliable reach. Reliable reach is the ability to send a message to a person who has asked to hear from you, and for that message to reach that person. Email has reliable reach. So does direct mail. And the telephone. And even fax. Social media does not have reliable reach, which is what makes it so challenging for marketers.

Reliable reach is the ability to send a message to a person who has asked to hear from you, and for that message to reach that person.

If I send out a tweet, the 124,000 who have said they want to hear from me won’t see that tweet. A small cross-section (usually about 2,000, according to my Twitter stats) will see it instead. Thus, my theoretical reach is 124,000, but my reliable reach is about 1.6% of that, and the actual people comprising that 1.6% shifts somewhat from tweet to tweet. The same dynamics exist on Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, and especially Facebook.

So while social media consultants, agencies, and in-house social marketers looking to impress their bosses often run reports that cite impressions figures for social media, those numbers are usually potential impressions (theoretical reach) not actual impressions (reliable reach). And the difference between potential impressions and actual impressions in social media is the biggest business lie since magic potions.

The difference between potential impressions and actual impressions is the biggest business lie since magic potions (click to tweet)

What this lack of reliable reach means is that we keep trying to communicate with people who have asked to hear from us, but when we send those messages what we mostly get are busy signals.

This is partially because of the incredible competition for attention that is inherent in social media. Realize that all of the major social media platforms in North America rely on a one-to-many architecture that satiates the presumed desire for everyone to be a publisher. The concept that we want our missives to be seen by as many people as possible is the psychological engine for all of these social networks. It’s why it’s relatively difficult to set up lists and groups to be able to send messages to just a few people.

In the everyone is a publisher world, the communications cacophony is simply staggering. Facebook has said that on average, each user is “due” 1500 pieces of content every time they log in. And your brand messages are lumped into that 1500. That’s a tough success equation, because NOBODY says that their favorite part of social media is brands participating in it. Your brand is tolerated in social media because it keeps it free for the rest of us.

Your brand is tolerated in social media because it keeps it free for the rest of us. (click to tweet)

And of course, social networks are (except for Pinterest) public companies. This means they have a legal responsibility to maximize THEIR success, not yours. Consequently, you see reliable reach getting squeezed even more so than the mathematics of competition alone would indicate. As long as brands are willing to pay for reliable reach (and Facebook’s recent announcement of a 61% increase in ads year-over-year suggests that we are very much willing), organic reliable reach will continue to diminish. And by the way, if you think that the exact same Reachpocalypse that we’ve seen with Facebook won’t eventually happen with Instagram and Pinterest, you’re kidding yourself. Prepare for it.

The Shotgun Solution to the Reliable Reach Crisis

So what should you do? What should I do? What’s the plan when reliable reach is slipping away, and shows no signs of returning? I believe it’s time to set aside the rifle, and grab the shotgun.

The rifle approach to social media represents the currently accepted best practices about what makes for “good” and “successful” social efforts. The rifle approach says:

  • Invest in excellence. Don’t get involved in a social outpost unless you can do it well
  • Quality of content is a major driver of success
  • Develop a unique editorial approach for each social network
  • Build a large following in every channel where you are active

But the problem with the rifle approach is that it’s a rulebook that needs reliable reach to be valid. But today’s social media truths for business mean that the rifle approach isn’t necessarily the best practice any longer.

The shotgun approach is a new way of conducting your social media affairs, based on the mathematical realities of an era where reliable reach has gone unicorn.

The shotgun approach says:

  • You need to be sending more messages in more places.
  • The total potential size of a social network is far less relevant than the number of people you ACTUALLY reach there.
  • Because such a small percentage of your total audience will see any one message you send in any particular venue, you can adopt an editorial calendar that works across-the-board, with changes in execution to fit each network’s norms.

 Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy In the shotgun approach, you don’t worry as much about building a big audience in any particular network, but instead building a touchpoint corral around each of your customers and fans. The holy grail isn’t one million Facebook fans, but being connected to each of your fans in as many places as possible. The more places you are connected to your customers and fans, the more places you have permission to contact them, the greater the chances that you will actually be able to contact them somehow, somewhere.

The shotgun approach emphasizes different metrics, too. Instead of worrying about fan count or engagement in each venue, measure total brand connections across all venues. The best possible metric for the shotgun approach is average number of connections per fan. If you follow me on Twitter, we are connected in one place. If you follow me on Twitter, subscribe to this blog via email, and have me in a G+ circle, we are connected in three places. This is the touch point corral. Moving every one of your fans from one to three (or more) is the strategic thrust of the shotgun approach.

My friend Jeff Rohrs (co-host of the Social Pros podcast) has an excellent book called Audience that goes in-depth on this concept.

I understand that the shotgun approach may seem odd. It feels weird, even to me, and I came up with it. It puts a premium on quantity, which is the opposite of what most people in social media have been preaching for five years. I wish reliable reach wasn’t like finding a needle in a haystack, and I wish the solution wasn’t to build more haystacks, which is essentially what the shotgun approach recommends.

But realistically, when you look at the numbers, I very much believe it’s time to consider embracing this approach, which incidentally is good news for social media professionals since more labor is needed to execute this playbook.

What do you think?

  • http://www.sideraworks.com/ Matt Ridings – Techguerilla

    As a side comment here: If people used numbers from estimated *actual* reach, vs. these ridiculous ‘potential reach’ numbers then social would actually look like a much more effective channel for marketing. Dividing clicks/conversions by ‘potential reach’ just makes your results seem really, really bad. On the other hand, if you really want to know if something is worth investing your time and money in then using an educated percentage for ‘actual’ reach is the only way to go. I imagine producing that report for their bosses scares the pants off most social marketers though.

    Cheers,

    -Matt

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Great point, Matt. Similar to the click-through rate among unique opens metric in email, which tells you a lot more about how effective your content is than overall open rate, which mostly tells you about how effective your subject line and from lines are.

      • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

        Amen.

  • http://www.adaptivemarketer.com Robert Rose

    Jay – as always – great thinking here. This is right on the money from my point of view. To continue (and hopefully not belabor) your metaphor a bit – it also begs the question for the story we want to tell through social channels.

    Like the “shotgun” vs. “rifle” approach in hunting – it means we should also shift strategies for social to “smaller game” and multiple shots vs. the “big game” for which we’d use a rifle and have one shot to bag the trophy. While the content does need to be “great” – it should also probably have smaller consequence if we “miss”. An example might be the company that has set up their social channels as a way to communicate service issues to customers. This kind of purpose is most likely going to have to be re-thought.

    As a complete side note – I’m seeing these issues begin to emerge in enterprise internal social strategies as well… The exhaustion and potential vs. actual reach issues over Yammer, Chatter etc.. Is becoming a very real thing…

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      No doubt. I’ve been saying it for years that social is more about loyalty and retention (like email) than it is about net new customer acquisition. I think the data is starting to bear that out. And I completely agree. Yammer/Chatter are the new Intranet in that they are 100% constrained by consistency of usage and net present adoption rate. Potential doesn’t mean squat if 7% of your employees love a technology, and 93% ignore it.

      • http://www.isocialfanz.com Brian Fanzo

        As someone who has built internal social business communities and although I was able to drive adoption and usage rates up thanks to leadership buy-in and policies such as no email attachments between employees… when trying to bridge and connect internal with external customers to really connect social employees with customers the adoption rate and leadership buy-in dipped.. Problem is legal and leaderships lack of trust in employees and lack of understanding the importance of an enterprise size company connecting its internal customers with its external customers!

  • http://www.NormBond.com/ Norm Bond

    Very interesting Jay. The shotgun approach (or variants thereof) is actually being practiced by a number of solopreneurs, Millennial’s, party promoters that are active on multiple platforms with the same information. The flyer is on Facebook, Instagram, tweeted, Tumblr and even a hardcopy being passed out in the streets.

    What you’re describing is a way to scale that up, and have larger brands strategically embrace the approach. It makes sense because organic reach on Facebook is in the toilet. If you’re not paying, you’re not reaching. This probably plays a big role in the 61% growth in ad revenue. It seems to me that in social media the leaders are really the entrepreneurial minded who don’t have the multi-million dollar budgets but need to promote their event, their idea, their product or just want to be “internet famous”. This creative expression (see some of the vines) makes people want to share and increases their “reliable reach”.

    In any event, we know that corporate brands are still slow to change, By the time they put down the rifle, pick up the shotgun, and have the empirical evidence to cost-justify the move the target will be long gone.

  • http://getlittlebird.com carmenhill

    Jay, does this mean I finally to learn/remember the difference between rifles and shotguns?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Ha! I should have added a wikipedia link!

  • http://www.isocialfanz.com Brian Fanzo

    Love this post Jay… Curious your thoughts and how this impacts @KevanLee post on the “Invisible Social Media Audience” http://blog.bufferapp.com/invisible-audience-social-media

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Thanks Brian. Yeah it was funny to see his post today. I love Buffer (investor) but as a businessperson and marketer I believe the invisible audience has very little true value.

      • http://www.isocialfanz.com Brian Fanzo

        Understood and that was why I asked… I agree true value is hard to gauge…. Something I was discussing with someone on a hangout this week was “Followers value based on time of follow” what I was referring to: is that as a brand or person gains followers and their followers increase the amount of people they are following will increase as well the chance of them seeing a post and/or responding is increased if they are part of a list and followed the brand in a recent timeframe… Compared to a brand or person that has a huge following built up years ago but thanks to noise and new trends on social aren’t part of lists the chance of standing out from the noise decreases… I believe that is when brands must embrace social employees and influencers to increase that possibility of a post being viewed by the target audience!

  • http://www.wearerecurve.com/ Bradley Robb

    I think the bullet points might be a bit misleading here – people who skim this article are likely to come away with the idea that it’s time to sub out quality for quantity because the odds of someone seeing the same message twice are low.

    And if we think people merely tolerate brands on social now, wait until the bad actor quotient jumps under that misinterpretation.

    I think the smarter 1-2 combo might be using social to drive towards owned channels (such as email or blog) paired with using social purely as a sales/customer support channel – as that’s the usage that seems to reliably test out.

    Less forced Oreo moments, more awesome customer experiences.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      That’s why there are 75 slides in this post, so that people don’t read bullets only.

      • http://btrandolph.com btrandolph

        I just learned what tl/dr was today. Serendipitous.

      • Politis

        No offence but if people don’t have time to read the bullets then they certainly won’t even bother to see any slides.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      And I 100% agree on social to owned.

  • BobWarfield

    I come away from this article mostly thinking what I had already concluded: Social Media is a low return on investment compared to other vehicles such as email marketing and inbound/content marketing. By all means, hook the blog up to announce new posts on Social Media, but doing much else beyond responding to interaction with the audience seems to be of questionable value.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I think the right way to think of it is social is a helper medium, not something that should be thought of in a vacuum.

  • http://twitter.com/kaufmanwithak AK

    Yup. Social is for customer service (the one on one part), crisis management when required and blasting out your messages in between. Toss in the occasional viral content and you’re done.

  • Cathy M. Poturny

    I have to agree with the theory. Shotgun approach makes sense. Our clients and customers tell us all the time… Personal Preference is always king. “I choose to be communicated to via one, two or many different channels.” We have multiple avenues to reach our target markets. But most of all the content has to be interesting whether it is engaging, disturbing, analytic, visual or any other way you can think of to capture audience. Bottom line is I prefer this method of using multiple social to reach out.

  • Steve Woodruff

    So we’re right back to reach/frequency/repetition, and the consequent increase in digital noise level (or even more “content shock” in Mark Schaefer’s nomenclature). For brands that are depending on mass exposure, I guess this (sadly) may never go out of style. But I wonder how the rifle/shotgun approach plays out for narrower, more focused business providers – including solopreneurs and micro-businesses. Thoughts?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I think it (unfortunately) plays out in a similar way. Math is math, regardless of company size. The difference would be if your audience is so targeted and known that you can use something other than organic outreach to try to achieve reliable reach. (i.e. Facebook groups, email, etc.)

  • Jochem Koole

    Very interesting read.

    I think, all of this is true when you look at social media as an advertising tool: using content to motivate your target audience into taking some action. In this case, social media are merely distributers for your ad (an actual ad, or one dressed up as a blog post or white paper, et cetera) and reliable reach is very important.

    However, when you look at social media as a relationship tool I would prefer the rifle over the shotgun any time. Personal relationships have always been important in the process of generating new business and will become more so in a future where competing on price or knowledge and expertise are pointless.

    This is especially true for B2B professional service firms. No matter the size or the service of the company, employees should be active on the platform(s) their target audience(s) use for business purposes. They should personally use their profiles to showcase themselves, their knowledge and expertise, personally connect with their target audience, and personally use content to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. Content, that can be as small as a Like, Share, or Reply to a (potential) clients LinkedIn Update.

    So, instead of using corporate social media accounts as one-to-many tools, companies should empower their many employees to use their own social media accounts as one-to-few business tools.

    • Becky Scott

      That gets tricky, because if you use your personal accounts for the biz, who owns that if you leave? The precedent has been set for some companies to demand the account if you leave. I’ve had my accounts far too long to agree to that. But having a professional account to use for the biz? That’s fine.

      • Jochem Koole

        I’d say, employees always remain the owner of their account and their connections. Well, actually LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter own them, but that’s a different story… Also, employees are responsible for the content they share.

        This said, it’s very important to set clear rules and regulations, if and when you as an employer empower your employees to use their own social media accounts as business tools.

        I mainly work for B2B professional service firms in The Netherlands. Here it’s prohibited by law to enforce the commercial use of personal social media accounts. Using these tools therefore is voluntary, never compulsory.

        In the past, we’ve successfully set clear rules and regulations in a social media policy at Deloitte. Currently, we’re doing the same at a top three Benelux law firm.

  • http://rockthestatusquo.com/ Carrie Morgan

    No surprise that actual reach and projected reach are far different – and that most people report on projected because the numbers are far sexier and easier to obtain. Digging down deep enough to discover actual reach can be almost impossible.

    I agree with Bradley Robb that some will interpret this as “permission” to widely share the exact same share across all social networks, but it’s important to customize each share to the platform and audience you are reaching. Yes, share your blog post but no, don’t copy and paste the exact same one everywhere. Instead of spamming, customize. You are sharing the same post in the end, but with a different message attached to each.

    I’ve tried both, and using the exact same share might boost reach, but it does nothing for click-throughs.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/joshlight/ Josh Light

    Assuming limited resources…it seems the shotgun approach would be a trade-off between quantity and quality. Am I getting this wrong? The slides aren’t loading FYI (using Chrome).

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I think it’s increased quantity. Ideally, it’s not decreased quality. But, part of this scenario is that quality doesn’t always win, so investing in straight quality may not produce optimal ROI. In either case, the real outcome is that everyone probably needs more resources to succeed. Personnel, paid amplification, creative assets, etc. Free lunch is over.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Also, slides are here. Apologies. They mis-fired for me once today, too. https://www.slideshare.net/jaybaer/shotguns-trump-rifles-why-social-media-strategy-is-now-a-volume-play

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Very interesting Jay, thanks for sharing. As I read this, I’m wondering if this is really that big of a change (and I’m hoping most people have realized for quite a while that a social media follow is a weak link, not a featured feed into their living room).

    You said “It puts a premium on quantity, which is the opposite of what most people in social media have been preaching for five years.”

    I might say: you’ve (re)defined quality to be an audience that is connected with you in multiple channels (or, I would add, actively engaged even if it is in only one channel, since that is the real point of adding additional channels). The goal continues to be attention from your audience, and this is one more way to get that attention, however briefly, that gives you an opportunity for them to see what you have to say or to engage with you.

    BTW: thanks for sharing your “real reach” stats, very interesting to see. I’ve been checking that lately for myself as well.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      Thanks so very much Eric. I would be fired up if you’d consider writing a post on how you see this scenario with declining reach and its impact. It would be a real service to C&C readers.

      • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

        Jay, noodling on the possibilities, will send you an email with some of my thoughts.

  • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

    I have been reading and thinking about your post. It makes sense but possibly creates new problems (as Steve mentioned — “content shock.”)

    Truth is, I really don;t want a lot of messages on multiple channels from even the brands I love. I don;t think I would be alone in that sentiment! So your message of sending more messages in more places sends a chill down my spine if people take this literally

    I think this has to be carefully thought out in the context of an audience’s ability to really handle and absorb more. Let’s say every major brand in America followed your advice (paying you royalties of course!) I believe this would be a mess. Even if the stuff were high quality, at some point, I would think — just go away! I am here to see pictures of cats and play Farmville, I really don;t want to see your brand again.

    I do agree with your other points, especially reliable reach. A thought-provoking post but I’m not sure I’m all-in on turning up the volume. MIght turn people the other way.

    PS In 2013, the number one reason people unsubscribed from my blog was “too many posts.” When I dropped the volume from 5 posts per week to 4 my unsubscribes dropped by 80 percent. By decreasing posts I probably improved the reliable reach on my blog. That’s what is on my mind with “volume”

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      But you won’t see multiple messages from a brand in multiple venues. That’s the point. The volume gets turned up, but any individuals’ perception of that volume will remain largely static. A blog subscription is entirely different because it offers reliable reach, by definition.

      • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

        I’m still not following. I think this might be an apt analogy but correct me if I am wrong. I subscribe to you on all your channels. So you are a brand I believe in (and I do!). Last year you added an entirely new channel (podcast) and you have recently increased the amount of content on both your daily RSS and on your YouTube channel. If I had the ability to dial your content back down I would.

        Even though the information is great and you are a brand I love, surrounding me with more information on more channels does not make me love you more. If you amped it up any more it would feel like a pummeling. So in fact, I am seeing more in different places, it is not a static content experience.

        To make me love you more, instead I would look for personal interaction from you, tailored and specific content options, more extremes in the quality of the content, and smoked beef brisket. Or maybe just the brisket even.

        Is this an accurate analogy or am I still missing the point?

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

          You are thinking about content and this is about social. I’m not talking about podcasts or RSS, because both of those do offer reliable reach, via RSS and automatic delivery mechanisms. I’m talking about social media and social networks. This isn’t your “content shock” this is a social media circumstance.

          Facebook doesn’t offer organic reliable reach, nor does Twitter, or Pinterest, or Linkedin, or G+, or Instagram. A blog does (via RSS or emai). A podcast does (via Stitcher or iTunes). YouTube can (with subscription). Email does.

          If today a brand is publishing on Facebook and Twitter, very few of their “fans” will see any one post. If that brand ups their volume on Facebook and Twitter, they will have a larger chance of any fan to see a post. And, if that same brand now posts on LInkedin and G+, those chances increase further still. The downside (in theory) is that consumers are seeing those same messages in multiple places, causing fatigue. But, the algorithmic math is such that the chances of any one consumer seeing posts about the same topic in multiple channels are not great, lessening the likelihood of that fatigue. Certainly, there is a tipping point, but very very few brands have reached it.

          Think about this from a database marketing perspective. If I’m a company and I have your phone number, isn’t it beneficial to also have that same customer’s mailing address, and email address? That’s the touch point corral. Now apply that to social media (not content marketing archetypes that already have reliable reach) and you see the crux of the shotgun approach.

          And in terms of my content specifically, you might consider our weekly RSS, rather than daily. A link to switch your frequency is offered at the bottom of each email.

          • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

            Oh Ok. in my classes and in the new book I describe this as owning the information eco-system. I can see the distinction you are making here.

            There is still some possible correlation to fatigue though. I see the benefit of amping up on connections to weak social media links. The vulnerability would be if you are amping up content to fuel the social media connections and this also amps up the volume in your “reliable channels” to the point where you tip to “annoying” and people start to leave.

            It requires balance, discipline and being in tune with the customers. Thanks for the clarification and for being my teacher today.

          • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

            It’s not risk-free. You have to monitor it. But I like that eco-system concept. I’ve been thinking a lot about social and its unreliable reach being used primarily as a way to get people to connect with you in a venue that does offer reliable reach. Social as a conduit for a blog or email subscription, etc. The old hub and spoke approach we’ve been talking about for years, really, but the math is now making it more of a forced choice.

          • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

            In my eco-system model I describe it as exactly that. You populate the social platforms to make them your “brandstands” but the goal is to earn enough attention to drive them to the middle of your eco-system (your website) where you convert this to a reliable channel like blog, email or even a phone call.

          • http://triblio.com/ Jason Jue

            Good exchange, and why I’m grateful there are comments. Two thought leaders pushing each other’s thinking results in much better insights. I wish I could find these more easily and more often. It helps us develop better products and marketing strategy.

          • Claire Spinti

            Please don’t take me to task for over-simplifying, but I would categorize this shift as seeing the “media” half of “social media” starting to overtake the “social” half. If our reach isn’t reliable and we can’t guarantee social interactions on these channels, then we have to treat them as media outlets and our content as media content. And then let our media dollars drive to a conversion – in this case a redirect to a channel that can still be categorized as social. I say this, though, while at the same time remembering that our social media activity should serve many more purposes that just driving that singular acquisition or sale. If we’re really firing on all cylinders then it’s also a support channel, a consumer research source, and brand protection and risk mitigation tactic, etc and not just a media outlet. Personally I’m starting to advocate for the shift in social media strategy to be mostly reabsorbed as just business strategy so all these functions/operations centers have social aspects to them. In this case the shotgun vs. rifle argument only applies to that media function.

          • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

            You are on the mark. We’ll said!

          • http://www.edisonresearch.com Tom Webster

            Monitoring THAT won’t be a straightforward task. I’ll wait for my phone to ring…

            In music research, we often measure a number of variables about a song, including something called “burn,” which allows people to say that they do like a song, but that they are tired of hearing it. When “burn” is ignored, that sentiment quickly shifts to dislike. So knowing when to “rest” messages is also pretty key–while potential reach and actual reach are, as you suggest, miles apart, that also means that you have no simple way of knowing how many times I’ve seen your message.

            Anyway, I’m going to keep using my once-monthly howitzer, instead.

  • http://btrandolph.com btrandolph

    I like a lot of your stuff, but this is just silly. Reach is what is has always been – the total audience exposed to a given channel. Frequency is likewise what it has always been – the number of times someone has been exposed to your message. You mention frequency in passing, but isn’t that what all your shotgun talk is about? What you’re proposing is an integrated multichannel strategy to optimize frequency (it also helps with reach, btw). It’s not new. It’s not controversial. And it’s darn well not worth 75 slides. or even 25 slides stretched out over 75.

    I believe in the ideas you disparage above as “rifle thinking.” I like eyeballs as much as the next guy, but I think I can get as many as I need without putting up a bunch of new billboards I’ll have to take care of. I have certainly expanded our use of existing (social) accounts, but I’m not likely to recommend jumping into new ones for the sake of increasing touchpoints.

    I think maybe you got distracted by your assertion that having someone follow you on Twitter means they “want to hear from you.” I’m one of the 122K who follow you on Twitter. I also subscribe to your newsletter. I might have you in a circle or two. I don’t think we’re connected on LinkedIn, but I see you pop up in my stream there now and then. I’m the poster child for your shotgun strategy. But I don’t think that means I want to hear everything you say. I think it means I’m _willing_ to hear from you.

    If you want “reliable reach” (more silliness, I’m afraid) with your twitter base, send each of us an @reply. Ask us to give $25 to something we believe in and send you a picture of the receipt. Write about it. The next time I’m looking for information and you come up in the search results, I’ll shoot you a note. That’s reliable reach you can take to the bank.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I think we’ve crossed wires here. In no way am I intended to disparage the rifle approach. I’ve used it for years, I’ve preached it for years. I’m saying, however, that the math suggests that the rifle approach may not yield the desired results any longer for some participants. Thus, increasing frequency and channels can recover some of that slippage. I don’t like it any more than you do. I’m not celebrating this shift, I’m just suggesting it may be worth a look. And while you may disagree, I believe it is new (in a social media context) and it is controversial (in a social media context) because very few organizations are currently pursuing that approach. It is the opposite of historical dogma, including my own. If you believe I could have made the point in one sentence by writing “optimize frequency with an integrated multichannel strategy” I’ll just have to disagree because neither you nor I could even leave a comment with that degree of communicative economy.

  • http://jonpishion.wordpress.com Jon Pishion

    Jay this is a great piece and a lot of could information. I had never though of a social medial strategy used in terms of a rifle vs. shotgun approach but it actually makes a lot of sense to me (maybe cause I’m a hunter). Your absolutely correct that the rifle approach means that you are basically shooting at a single target and hoping you hit the bulls-eye which is the approach I’m been following. Basically your analogy about the shotgun approach makes way more sense to try to get my message out because that strategy applies a large pool of potential methods to reach the same target instead of a singular method.

  • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

    I think your concept confirms the notion that all roads lead to email marketing and/or additional forms of community building that ensure delivery. My point isn’t to focus less on social or to not adopt your shotgun strategy. My point is to make it clear to prospects if they really want to get a heads-up when you have something to say/offer/share, they need to subscribe to your mailing list.

    • http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/ Doug Kessler

      That was my first reaction to the post, too: email. Also: paid social.

      I wonder if direct messaging followers – but in a targeted way – might help. Not scalable but you get reliable reach…

  • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

    I like to fire with all barrels – shotguns, rifles, and possibly a hand grenade if I have one.

    There’s a big difference between social media pontificators and those actually in the trenches. I do what needs to be done.

  • http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog Kivi Leroux Miller

    I don’t think that returning to “spray and pray” marketing is the way to deal with the “reliable reach” problem. That’s just treating social media like another big advertising platform, which is what people hate most about the way brands use social. So why double-down on the approach that people hate? I think there has to be a third way — even if we don’t know what it looks like yet exactly — that is a more sophisticated way to get people the brand content that is truly relevant and interesting to them, and where THEY (not just the social media site algorithms) have some say in what that is.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

      I would say that third way (right now) is paid social media.

      • http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog Kivi Leroux Miller

        Do you mean paid as in users pay for upgraded accounts? If so, I think you are probably right. Assuming those accounts take people to the next generation of lists, subscriptions, etc. but in a way that is MUCH easier and natural for users to create preferences than it is now.

  • Marilyn Zayfert

    I have been collecting data in preparation to launch an online local publication, and what I am seeing from the analytics correlates with the Shotgun Approach you outline. It has been difficult convincing clients and potential clients that the communities they need to be in are the communities that their customer are in.

  • Chris Syme

    All in with this Jay. Multiple touch points with fans does give us more opps to contact people. But I agree with Bradley, quality is even more important now because no matter how many connections they have, they will pay attention to quality. I just think we’re getting to this point. Curious to me is all the chatter about how this approach is less personal when I think it’s even more personal. I have a much closer friendship with people I see in more than one environment.

  • Kristine Allcroft

    I think you make some good points. However, I don’t believe they are “true” for all businesses. If you’re a local business – not a national or international one – the “rifle” approach may work better. It depends on your business and business model. . . .and I think Bradley Robb makes a good point about getting folks to move from social to owned channels makes the most sense for local businesses.
    Thanks for posting! Lots to think about!

  • Karen Cioffi

    Jay, I didn’t realize the other social networks were playing similar to Facebook. I’ve been doing the shotgun approach with quality content for a while now and it does make a difference. I find this especially with Twitter. Instead of once a day, I upped the tweets to five to 10 and the interaction increased.

    I guess with the ‘reliable reach’ factor, the shotgun approach does work better – at least with Twitter.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Jay, You’re definitely on to something but, like @businessesgrow:disqus, I shudder to think what social networking will be like if everyone adopts a shotgun approach.

    Having said that, I’ve noticed the most loyal fans/followers naturally seek out their favourite brands on every channel they’re active in. If they like me on Facebook, they’re following me on Twitter and they’re loving me on LinkedIn. The same is true for my clients – it’s the same small band contributing consistently and they’re showing up everywhere.

    This makes me think a really useful tool would be one that could scrub all my social networks and find the common threads in each one. Even better, what other channels are these mega fans operating in that I might not have a presence yet? Once I know who these folks are, even if they’re not actively engaging – maybe especially if they’re not actively engaging – I can focus my energy on converting them and creating the content they find the most useful. Is there a tool like that around at the moment?

  • http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/ Doug Kessler

    Not just a well-argued post, an important post. One of those posts that frame an important debate.

    You state the problem really well and suggest a viable-sounding solution. But I do wonder if it is a step towards a spamming mentality. The effect may not be spammy as only a fraction of your ‘followers’ will get your stuff, but the shotgun mindset is akin to spam.

    The problem points to Joe Pulizzi’s evergreen plea to avoid building on the rented land of social media. The answer is email (as Bazza Feldman says below) and other subscription-based channels (like RSS and podcasts as Mark and Jay discuss below).

    Another weapon may be to find ways to reward engagement on social channels. The platforms expose you more to your most engaged followers, so maybe we need to think of more ways to earn and reward that engagement.