It doesn’t take long looking through memories on Facebook to realize how rapidly social media fractured for Americans over the 2016 Presidential election. Even now, there are huge divides keeping us apart and it’s more than what we can blame on algorithm shifts and a natural cycling of “internet friends” and fans.
Since the incredibly surprising turn of that election cycle and the subsequent fingering of Russian interference in our election process, Americans seem to have pushed deeper into their safety bubbles and forgotten how to build bridges and find commonalities. As business owners and professional communicators, it’s up to us to help turn social media around or else we’ll all be sunk. It begins with reconnecting our social networks and remembering how it was to talk to our people without worrying that we’d offend that one perpetually offended person, I think.
Axiom # 1: You Can’t Please Everyone
A friend recently reminded me of something I thought I knew too well. You can’t please everyone all the time. You’ll always be on the outs with someone. And that’s ok. He gave me permission to piss people off, which, as it turns out, I needed. And that’s what I once preached in this blog, at least to some extent.
The fact is that you can’t please everyone. And for as fractured as social media has become, you certainly can’t please all the people who subscribe to you all the time. This is why we segment professional marketing work into manageable groups and have friends who are interested in whatever weirdness we have to say, not simply to increase our numbers. You can’t please everyone and there’s no fucking point in trying. You’ll just wear yourself out, make yourself feel like a failure and ignore the data that says otherwise.
It’s ok if you lose 10 percent of your readership because you said something a bit risky. It’s ok that you had an opinion that lost a small percentage of your market. In fact, it’s probably good that you do because there are always some lurkers that aren’t doing you any good. And that goes for both personal and professional social media. Some people exist to make you feel like you must walk on eggshells, and that’s just wrong.
Fly that fucking freak flag. Fly it high. Your people will find you.
Axiom #2: You Need to Please Some People
I’m not here to make a moral argument, though there’s plenty here to make. I’m going to leave that to you and your people to figure out. But, from a pure marketing standpoint, you have to remember that item #1 up there isn’t for every post. You can’t sit around all day, every day, rattling a saber and claiming that Martians are coming to seize your car illegally and retain a broader audience. You might find lots of people who have experienced Buick abductions themselves, but when that happens, that becomes your new audience. That’s what happened as a result of your giving no fucks.
Actions have effects. This is a universal truth. So, while having an outlier thread now and again is a low risk way to increase engagement, having lots of outlier threads make them become the norm. This will result in a significant shift in your audience base. Ultimately, whatever you do on social media comes back around, provided you keep at it. So, if you have an audience-focused Facebook feed, for example, you need to keep your audience in mind. If you’re just out there to be out there, give it Hell and good luck with the results.
Axiom #3: There’s Not One Right Way to Social Media
The most important part, I think, is that there’s no right way to social media. Obviously, you don’t want to be that guy who is always pissing people off, but then again, maybe that’s your schtick. You don’t want to be that guy who is always advocating for the extreme, unless you do. For most of you, it’s going to be a good bet to try to act as a uniter, even if that means having to unhitch from some of your horses for the greater good.
What I mean is that while social media becomes increasingly fragmented in the personal spaces, brands and public figures need to be trying to focus their efforts on themes that are uniting for their overall social media presentation. Beyond that, it’s up to you how to go about it. There’s no right way. The only wrong way, as I see it, is to add to the issue of fragmentation.
So corral them doggies, share some #NotEntirelyUnpopular posts, add something new to the landscape. I think by now, we can all agree that 24/7 politics are exhausting and there’s hardly energy enough for them any longer (this is not to say that there’s not room for larger messages woven into overarching brand stories). There’s really only selective call for politics in a brand space, anyway, but again, my opinion on this. If your brand is all about selling white bedsheets to Klan members, obviously, you’re not *my* market.
I know this seems like a mess of a blog. But the point is that although you can’t please everyone, you have to please someone and if you’re a brand, you should consider the bigger picture. As social media continues to fragment, you don’t want to be the business with just one guy as an audience. You (and I) need to be doing the things it takes to reunite those audiences, even if only as brand advocates. I think it’ll do a world of good to remind people that just because their politics are slightly different, they all use the same brand of toilet paper.
Common ground is the key to life and to refocusing our social media efforts. It’s up to you to decide what that means before it’s too late for your brand image.