If you’re not on social networking sites these days, you’re living in the 20th century or more or less. It might as well be the Stone Age if your profession relies on any form of content marketing. The sun is setting on the day of simply buying print newspapers ads or high-priced radio or television spots. Why pay tens if not pay hundreds of thousands of dollars when you can virally market yourself for next to nothing? It’s really a no-brainer. Save money or spend money. Spend money and get some views or virally market yourself and potentially get thousands upon thousands of eyeballs on your content. No one says, “I can’t wait to waste money on ineffective, expensive advertisement.”
OK, calling myself a social media guru might seem a little cocky, but I do indeed have quite the knack for it. It’s rather common to see random people from various professions popping up in my email inbox out of nowhere and asking for social media advice. I guess I am the curious type, a self-professed numbers geek who loves to investigate trends and thoroughly research a variety of topics, all just for fun. I tend to conduct my own social media experiments. I like to test the virtual waters to see what works and what doesn’t. And the data tells me that all social media sites are not equal. Allow me to explain.
Each platform has its reasons for making it easy for the user or annoying the heck out of a typical user.
Besides the obvious leaders, Facebook and Twitter, there are other sites that can provide much more traction for your content. I have been surprised to find that I have actually acquired more blog views from unexpected sources like StumbleUpon. I had no idea so many viewers were on this site, about 1 to 10 million according to a recent study and an average 6.6 million viewers monthly. The challenge of using StumbleUpon is that it’s interface is not as simple as Twitter or even Facebook. Even Digg is simpler to use because essentially one click is all that is needed to post, or repost, content.
On the other hand, sites like StumbleUpon and Storify complicate things by requiring a headline, brief description, tags and so on. This extra effort necessary is not conducive to sharing a funny video while waiting for the train or standing in line at the supermarket and spying a hilarious headline in US Magazine. The payoff can still be great if you can start gaining viewers from these sites.
I just started using Storify. Like other sites you have your image, bio and header graphic. What’s interesting about Storify is that you have to link to your content from other social media sites. This site is still a little buggy. I noticed that my Google+ posts won’t show up and Facebook can’t post URL links to it. This site is also very time consuming. You have to search for all these different posts of your articles from various social media sites and then drag them into the body of your story. In other words, it’s like what their motto states “make the web tell a story.” Unfortunately, I don’t know how many users are on Storify or even StumbleUpon, other than serious businesses, journalists, bloggers, writers, and news outlets. Still, StumbleUpon has way more users than I thought they did. But, for the most part the “average Joe” is on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and to an extent Google+.
There are some social media sites that are not only time consuming, but viewership, followers, likes, etc. are hard to obtain. Take Reddit, for example. This site is for mainstream journalists, news outlets, and people who want a place to rant about controversial topics. It poses as a professional site for people with a lot of research background and academic articles. But, it tends to consist of oddballs getting on their soapbox and arguing for the sake of it. It features peculiar topics from the professional to extremely X-Rated adult content. For this reason, I find Reddit to be inconsistent and all over the place. It’s also not as easy to use as Digg. (However, as easy as it is on Digg is to submit links, I haven’t gotten much traction there.) Reddit requires a silly Captcha and it sometimes takes hours before the system will allow you to post another article. And then, you’re lucky to even get viewers unless you are The New York Times or some university professor.
Only on one occasion did one of my articles go viral on Reddit. It ended up generating thousands of hits, and went global. People were reading my article in countries that made me scratch my head and say “Huh, where the heck is that?” But, that sort of thing rarely happens. That’s the tough part with viral marketing. Everyone wants a quick solution and a mathematical equation to generate hits. However, it can often be random. Sometimes you’ll get content that generates tons of hits and you never thought it would catch on with people. While others don’t really do so well when you were sure that it would. Marketing and business experts are still trying to figure it out. You just never really know. But, the one thing I do know is that Reddit is too time consuming. You have to post the link, find the group the article belongs in, add a description and then a comment. Then, like I said, you have to wait hours some times to post the next item. Then you hope that you get votes, they call it “up” points. I guess the more points you have the more people will read what you have to say. It’s just a little too confusing for the average user.
Another site that is not user friendly is Newsvine, which is owned by NBCNews.com. Newsvine poses as another source that only shares news articles. However the site has bizarre practices that make very little sense. For example, there are topical groups that are called “nations.” You have to join the “nations” and then wait until your membership is accepted just to post to that group. If I wanted to join a Meet Up group then I wouldn’t be wasting my time on Newsvine. Ugh. If you do eventually post you’re lucky if anyone reads it, that is unless you are some well-known company, which seems to be the audience the site is truly targeting. Although according to their Wikipedia page, any user can write articles, seed links, to external content, and discuss news items submitted by non-professional and professional journalists. I found it interesting in my research that Newsvine doesn’t even rank in the social media study that lists how many users are on each social media site.
These “nations” are also rather unfriendly. There’s an “anti-spam” nation/group that track articles they consider “self promoting” or “spam.” I haven’t a clue the criteria they use. For example, I recently posted a blog about technology’s role in our society. I did not name specific products, and I wasn’t marketing any solution. Still, one of the administrators flagged my article and commented that it was “self-promotion.” I decided to contact Newsvine in an attempt to get clarification. I even mentioned that I’m a former news reporter and pointed out that my blog was not selling anything. All I was promoting was my article, which everyone else on every other social medial site does, anyway. Needless to say, I have not heard back from them. And as of today, I have deleted my Newsvine account. They lost me for good as a user. As, they tried flagging another article of mine that was merely about learning from mother nature. I also found other people who dislike the site as well and provided a list of reasons why.
Using social media to promote content, whether for selfish or selfless reasons, is exactly the point. That’s precisely why businesses and their marketing teams are flocking to social media. It’s no wonder; Newsvine isn’t used by as many people as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and others. So, out of the above Newsvine definitely gets the “Most Snobby” award, as I suppose they only want users that promote the content they want. No other type of content will suffice. As a former news producer, I don’t see the point in creating a social media site such as Newsvine who only targets news they want to be shared and only geared towards top news professionals. This limits your audience to professional journalists and broadcasters. If that’s the point, then it’s counter-productive and you are actually losing money. You’re not reaching the everyday individual who might actually benefit from your content and you’re not even close to ranking up there with other social media sites that generate millions upon millions of users a month. So, why should businesses even bother spending their advertising dollar on your site?
That’s why Newsvine makes no sense to me and many people that I have spoken with have never even heard of them. If you’re supposed to be sharing news via your social media site owned by a big network such as NBC and people don’t know who you are— that’s a major problem. I have just stopped using it for the following reasons: it’s a time waster, unfriendly to mainstream users, bias towards content that is posted on their site, zero customer service support, restrictive, bizarre/complicated group model, wasteful website layout, and a highly ineffective social media/marketing tool.
There is also Tumblr. I still have not figured out how to gain followers here, as it’s very finicky. Tumblr is one of the hardest sites on which to acquire followers. It is also time consuming. However, this website built on a WordPress platform automatically shares my content via an app, and that’s cool. This is the easiest method and should be copied by other social media platforms without the need for a third party. Users want simple sharing, not five to six different hoops to jump through. So, although it’s really tough to gain followers on Tumblr, I’ve got to give it to them that they found a very easy way to allow people to share their content by allowing WordPress and other sites link directly to them so it automatically updates.
Similar to Foursquare, WordPress has figured out what other sites haven’t: People love to be rewarded. Because no one likes constant criticism or restrictive sites such as Newsvine. You want users to come back so you want to make your site simple and not overly complicated, and it would be wise to construct some sort of reward system. Rewards and positive reinforcement is basic psychology. Unless you’re a sadomasochist, most folks function best and are much more productive with a little positive reinforcement. WordPress gives awards every time you reach a certain amount of posts, when you gain certain amount of followers, etc. Plus, the back end allows for just about any user to create a site that looks great and very simple to maintain without having to hire an expensive webmaster or web designer.
Pinterest is one of the most fun social media sites, and it’s equally a great professional tool. I have all of my old news articles that I categorized by topics and have them pinned in each category. So, basically all I need to do is share my Pinterest link that is associated with all of my news articles to those who are asking for professional work samples.
Social media can be a great tool for connecting with others and yes, self-promotion. Social media can easily become a business’s best marketing tool. But, there is no perfect mathematical equation. As long as you have good content to promote, you should have no problem generating an audience.