By now, countless businesses, creative groups and non-profit organizations have found social media to be nothing short of a game-changer, at once drastically reducing marketing costs while providing more direct access to customers, clients, and fans. But while the promise of an infinite audience at (almost) zero cost sounds fantastic, and has done wonders for all walks of enterprise, few ever realize that in some cases, more is not always better. When does it make sense to scale back your campaigns—and when might one consider abandoning them altogether?
When the medium doesn’t advance the message. With so many communities and technologies out there, it’s tempting for anyone looking to spread the word to decide they need to join up with every last one of them. Yet what few ever ask themselves is why, as in “why do we think establishing this presence will help us?” Can a YouTube channel, for example, help your organization? Maybe. What if your ambitions don’t have a visible end or visually interesting process? Then maybe there are better places to invest your time.
When your group fails to exploit the medium. Plenty of Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook accounts have been established under the supposed guise of representing some organization, yet quickly degenerate into a spiral of retweets, reposts, and general rehashing of items posted elsewhere. News flash: link forwarding is soooo 2003. If you find yourself maintaining a presence that neither adds to your group’s larger discussion nor enhances its well-being, it’s time to apply those efforts elsewhere. There is a huge difference between usefulness and gimmickry: “Look what we’re doing with our Twitter feed,” for example, goes a lot further than simply saying “We have a Twitter account.”
When your platform grows stale. There are few things sadder than a neglected channel, yet countless feeds, sites, and accounts still end up gathering dust once their novelty has worn off. Often times this (ideally) reflects a simple case of your organization having too much else on its plate to focus on things like uploads and updates, in which case there’s no harm in proceeding as-is. But when you find yourself out of material (or interest), perhaps it’s best to cut your losses and focus on other, more mutually rewarding media. Or, you know, applying that energy to your group’s actual stated purpose.
As with anything, digital and social media are only what you make of them. Content and connections are fine and dandy but in the end, likes are not necessarily the same thing as leads and followers don’t always translate into future success. Best be prepared to adjust accordingly.
Andrew Reilly is an associate producer for 2nd Story, a live reading series and fully chartered non-profit organization based in Chicago. His nonfiction has appeared in Alarm, The A.V. Club, and The Beachwood Reporter, among others, and he once upon a time wrote and edited the award-winning 35th Street Review White Sox blog. His fiction and essays have been featured in a number of print and online publications based in some unknown number of cities, but he still calls Chicago home, just as he has since leaving the north suburbs where he grew up.