The Center Cannot Hold: Why Your Brand Can’t Solely Depend On Unstable Social Media

by Garrett Jackson

Sep 8, 2023

Posted in Industry

Formada co-founder, Garrett Jackson, is depicted in black and white, smiling at the camera while surrounded by bright, colorful graphic details.

How Solid Is Your Brand’s Foundation?

My friend has lived in a house for a long time and just found out that there is a problem — a pretty big one. Their home builder didn’t build their house on a sure foundation, nor did they put sufficient retaining walls in place to keep the property from drifting. 

Now this doesn’t mean that their house has tumbled down the hill that it was so precariously built on, but it does mean that it’s drifting. And slowly, surely, their home is going to slide its way further and further down the hill unless they are able to remedy this situation. A critical aspect of their home’s stability was ignored, and no matter what they choose to do to fix it, they’ll have to pay a hefty price. 

I often see this happen with brands. It can be exhilarating to start building an audience on a social media platform. The attention! The validation! The bursts of serotonin! The more traction you gain, the more you believe that your brand is set, established, and safe.

But that security can sometimes be your unfortunate downfall. 

Social media platforms are a great way to discover, engage, and connect with new audiences, but they cannot be the exclusive home for your brand. 

If you put all your energy into a single social media platform, you could end up losing all that hard work if something should happen to that platform. It’s a clear, unfortunate example of what can happen when you put all of your eggs in one basket. 

Social media platforms are mercurial things — they change, they go away altogether. It’s best to protect yourself and your assets in order to ensure that your brand thrives regardless of what’s happening in those spaces. 

Audiences Migrate. Give Them An Easy Way To Access You.

Keeping up with trends as a kid was exhausting. One week, everybody was suddenly super into Pogs. Pogs were little cardboard coins with cool art on them. You’d lay them out in a pile and then your friend would throw down a “slammer” and whichever pogs flipped over, traded hands. It was an absolute playground sensation, but the bloom quickly fell off of the rose. 

By the time I finally had my very own impressive pog collection (largely Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-based, thank you very much), the rest of the kids had moved onto Warheads before moving onto Tamagotchis before moving onto Pokémon cards. The trends were constantly shifting, and like we all do, we all chased after the newest, shiniest object before moving on again.

Audiences are fickle. When I was in high school, we spent every day on MSN Messenger late into the night chatting each other up and looking at one another’s MySpace profiles. (Who was in your Top 8?) 

By the time I was in college, we had moved away from Tom and were now with Mark, posting on each other’s Facebook walls. In the years since, we’ve been through wave after wave of new social media platforms. By now, it’s quite clear that we are not going to end up in one place, let alone stay there.

Each platform offers a unique experience. Each works well for a particular audience. If you find an audience on a particular platform or crack the code in building up a real presence, you need to capitalize on that success. However, you cannot count that the people that were there this year will be there next year. 

You need to funnel that audience to you to better ensure continued engagement regardless of any social media site.

  • Post links that push them to your website
  • Ask them to sign up for your email newsletter
  • Create some branded merch that they can purchase (this promotes your business and gives you their contact info!)

Simply put, you need to find a way to engage with them long-term so that you can continue to foster a deeper relationship and possibly even have them advocate for your brand. 

FaceTok or Instachat or whatever is no longer the destination. Your business is. And you’ll be far better off that way. 

Protect Your Content from Murky Ownership Agreements

I’m not going to tell you that Facebook is about to steal all your photos and identity if you don’t repost this message to your closest 15 friends. Those viral false posts are wrong, but a reasonable amount of skepticism is essential for social media marketing.

Who really owns your content? That should be your first question before joining any social media platform. Are your ideas, advice, and content safe there? Are your photos owned by you? How can the social media platform use the content for its own purposes if they choose to? How can the social media platform use data about your audience to resell to other brands and competitors?

You may not be able to find answers to all of these questions easily by reading through the terms of service, but I recommend reading through social media guides provided by digital marketing agencies and businesses that can help protect your ownership on these platforms.

What if someone else steals your content? 

Are there ways to report or escalate the improper use of your words or brand? Could someone else use your content and paint a negative picture of your brand? There are plenty of cases where an artist’s work has been stolen by other (often bigger) brands, and the course of action in protecting your intellectual property is a difficult one. 

The best advice I have to combat this is to make sure that your content lives on your website in some form before posting to social media. Websites at least have a claim to copyright, are owned by your business, and are timestamped. This will make sure that you have a clearer claim to ownership long-term. 

It’s also just a good content strategy for your brand. You have complete control over your site, can publish deeper content than you can on most social media sites, and you’re creating an identity for your brand that exists outside of social media. That’s a very good thing. 

Social Media Sites — and their Rules — Often Change

Twitter (erm…X) was my favorite social media platform, but no more. Elon Musk has single-handedly wiped away all my desire to use an app I used to use almost every day. 

I could make an embarrassingly long list of reasons why I hate him for this, but there is one thing that his takeover of the app that I can thank him for: It is now undeniably clear that social media companies can change the rules at any time of their choosing.

Now, all social media apps do this. Usually, it’s one thing at a time. A few people complain, the users adjust, and time moves on. But Musk’s scorched earth approach to Twitter should be a cautionary tale for folks who hitch their brands firmly to a single social media wagon. 

Like I said, it’s not just limited to Twitter:

Instagram once prided itself on its story, photo, and video feed. Content creators were accustomed to and happy with its posting features. But as TikTok grew in popularity, Instagram rolled out their Reels product and immediately began giving attention to that content over the traditional methods. I saw and still see so many creators struggling to find a new way to increase their reach and impressions by using Reels. Instagram is where their audience is. Were they to make the leap over to TikTok, they’d essentially have to start over. They’re stuck. 

Once upon a time, Facebook made it easy for businesses to post content to their pages. As their advertising business needed to grow, Facebook rolled out “Boosted” posts that made it so you had to pay-to-play. Organic post exposure dropped below 2% for most brands after this product was rolled out and is still forcing many brands to pay to get their content seen.

Twitter completely upended the value and meaning behind the blue verification checkmark. I cannot stress the amount of damage this has done to the user experience. Now blue checkmarks don’t mean an authenticated account, it simply means that someone was willing to shell out $8 a month for verification. 

These “verified” replies also float to the top below a post over all other content and as you can imagine, they are not good. It’s made it so that I stop opening up tweets and seeing reactions because it’s just flooded with garbage takes and Cheech and Chong Gummie ads. (Don’t get me started on Twitter’s ads. It was never a place where ad dollars by major brands were invested at the same scale as other platforms, but it’s gotten so much worse.)

With the Right Strategy, Social Media Is Supplementary To Your Brand

The lesson is that, as a business owner, you can’t trust things to stay the same. Every change will require you to adapt to new rules. 

However, if you engage users using tactics that you own, like email marketing and your website, you can set your own rules — rules that best serve your audience and your business. 

For example, consider the lost impressions and reach examples I referenced earlier. They are without question bad things for your business. However, this situation could be combatted immediately if you had the email addresses of these users and you could send a message to them all without worrying you lost your connection.

This means taking an active role in getting good contact information from your audience and giving them a reason to share it with you. Contests, giveaways, subscriber-exclusive sales are just a few of the ways that immediately come to mind that you can build an audience database to help you further your business. 

Remember, these social media platforms are just that — platforms. You’re the one filling it with great content. Your content is great regardless of that platform. So get what you can from those platforms, cultivate your brand’s reach beyond them, and never skimp on indulging your audience in things that make them feel special and connected to what you do. 

To learn more about how you can broaden your brand’s reach, contact me and the rest of the Formada team today. We specialize in connecting you with your ideal audience through proven web, content, and paid media strategies. 

Let’s talk about how we can help you achieve your goals!


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