Five Ways to Troubleshoot a Social Media Marketing “Dud”


Despite our best intentions, marketing – and, in particular – marketing using social media – can be like hitting a bullseye on a moving target. Platforms are constantly rising and falling in popularity, conversations are constantly changing and engagement patterns are constantly shifting.

Even with a solid strategy in place before diving in, it’s not unusual for a company to find themselves a few months in with a social platform on their hands that’s kind of a dud from a performance standpoint, asking themselves, “So now what?”

Here are five tactics to try when that happens.

1. Clarify the audience.

When a company decides to establish a social media presence, the question of “where?” should never be left to guesswork. If the target audience you want to reach (whether that’s current or potential clients or customers, thought-leaders, media contacts, etc.) is already hanging out in a particular place – be that Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc – that’s where you should start.

When a platform is not performing up to par, either the company has not fully thought out whom they want to reach or they have thought about this target audience in too limited of a capacity.

So, if you suspect that an audience match is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Have you tried to build your community on this social platform with intention? How? (With research tools and monitoring dashboards or just with guesswork?)
  • Are you actively seeking out your target audience right now on this platform or are you simply trolling for conversations and hoping those people will just find you?
  • Are you overlooking an existing audience while you’re searching for a different one? (Sometimes a company may find that a particular platform is brilliant for connecting with say, media contacts, but are so focused on being there to sell to customers that they overlook the new audience they’ve stumbled onto.)

2. Audit your engagement.

A lot of companies are blind to how badly they perform in social media…and that’s totally normal and understandable.

Most marketers are skilled in the art of talking AT someone. Engaging WITH someone in the voice of a brand and marketing content to them without being overtly salesy, as well as being a courteous, active and ever-present listener, are skills that take practice to master. In many cases, when a social channel is “not working” it’s due to not having taken this learning curve into account.

So, if you suspect that engagement is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • How much are you talking about yourself on this platform versus talking TO your community? You want to shoot for a mix that’s at least 70% talking to people and 30% marketing.
  • What is your content marketing strategy and how are you using this social platform to employ that strategy? If you’re just posting content for the sake of posting content, you shouldn’t be surprised if your community is reacting with a big, fat “meh.
  • Is your community manager (or whomever is responsible for being the voice of this social channel) aware of your company’s goal in being on this platform? If you find that you’ve got a lot of chitchat going on with no ROI, it may simply be due to the fact that you’ve been unclear with your front line communicators about the end goals of their activities.

3. Evaluate your passion.

Successful social media marketing is contingent upon you being comfortable in the platform you’ve selected, passionate about communicating there and committed to doing so often.

If, for instance, you start a blog – and it’s for all the right reasons: your competitors all have one, your customers read them, they would be a great forum for showcasing your product – but there is no one on your team who enjoys blogging and you end up only do it sporadically, make no mistake…your blog will likely suck.

So, if you suspect that passion is part of your dud problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Is the voice of this platform and this style of communication a good match for your brand? Is there anyone on your team (or within your company) who would be natural fit for communicating in this voice?
  • Can you commit to ongoing and consistent engagement within this social channel?
  • Have you set up some engagement policies, content standards or editorial calendars to help support you for the long haul or looked into getting some training on this platform to help you feel more comfortable?

4. Invite Involvement.

Many companies get caught up in having everything just right before they start using social media. But that’s not quite how the space works. Acting like you already know all the answers and trying to monopolize the conversation to share them can often backfire and makes a company look like a self-absorbed blowhard, instead of a savvy thought-leader.

Instead, invite your guests to come into the kitchen to cook up a meal with you rather than focusing on serving them a grand feast on a meticulously decorated table.

So, if you suspect that not inviting involvement is part of your problem, ask yourself these questions…

  • Do you ever ask your social community what they’d like to talk about or ask them for feedback? (And, more importantly, do you then talk about those things with them in return?)
  • You do take advantage of your social community to crowdsource new ideas and initiatives?
  • Do you transparently respond to criticism you receive through your social channels and then publicly follow up to let your community know how you’ve responded to their concerns?

5. Let go, with grace.

Social media is never “done.” If you’re not continually tweaking, iterating, innovating and improving your strategies and tactics in this space, you’re likely treating your audience as a “market” and not as the unique group of people that they are.

In other words, if you’re doing it right, you SHOULD have some duds in there.

So, if you have a platform that is not working — and you’ve tried all of the troubleshooting suggestions listed above, but suspect that the social platform you’ve chosen is just plain a bad fit — try these suggestions…

  • Don’t abandon the platform. There is always value in owning your name on a social channel. Just set up monitoring systems so you can be aware if someone reaches out to you there, so you don’t have to be actively engaged on that platform on a daily basis.
  • Consider syndicating some content to this channel from one that is more robust and active to keep it alive for search purposes.
  • Be totally transparent about the fact that this platform is not your company’s “hot spot.” For instance, include a description on the platform that says, “This is the [page/feed/channel] for [your company’s name]. We use it to share [type of content]. The best place to engage with us is, though is [name of other social channel, website, email, etc.].

When it comes to social media, mistakes come with the territory. So, plan for some social media duds and embrace them when they happen (whether they are fixable or not). In the end, they may not look like a marketing bullseye internally, but, from the outside, they are living proof that your company at least had the guts to step up and take a shot.

Jennifer Kane is principal of Kane Consulting, a Minneapolis-based communications firm specializing in social media. She has more than 15 years of experience working as a strategic planner in marketing and communications and speaks nationally on social media marketing. You can find her on Twitter at JenKaneCo or at jen@kaneconsulting.biz.

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