Social media survival strategy

Here’s my survival strategy for social media: investing the least time, effort and energy I can get away with, in order to yield the best possible results.

I hate social media. I’m not joking. I hate it. Twitter is a swirling maelstrom of noise and rage and, as for the others, they’re designed to manipulate us. For this reason, I resent every income-producing hour stolen from me by Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and, to an extent, LinkedIn (I’ve only dipped my toes into Threads, almost entirely because I dislike Elon Musk and I consider Threads an act of rebellion). Yet I’m a realist, so I also accept that social media is a necessary evil.

I can hear what you’re thinking, though. If you follow me on social media, you’re thinking, “Rubbish, man. No one who posts that often hates it that much!” And, yet, I do. But I have secrets. You can have them, too. Right now.

Here are my five secrets to barebones social media:

#1. Be selective about platform choice

You don’t have to be everywhere. It’s not an all-or-nothing game. It’s a “fish where the fish are” game. Like dating. To get the right attention from people who will actually give you work, you must be where they are and focus all your efforts there.

Decide where your most desirable audience spends the most time, and invest there. Only there. At least, to start with.

For example

  • Let’s say you’re a B2B service provider in the investment space. LinkedIn. YouTube. No need to be on TikTok.
  • Let’s say you’re a fashion retailer, known for custom items. Instagram. TikTok. LinkedIn’s not for you.
  • Let’s say you’re in food services, FMCGs, ecommerce or convenience. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube is going to be a big commitment.

#2. Be deliberate about your themes & topics

Define your objectives. Based on who your fish are, what do you want to get out of your investment of intellectual and emotional bandwidth? Do you want your audience to know that you’re a specialist in generative AI? Or that you’re an expert when it comes to building sales funnels for online courses? Or that your ESG knowledge — and ability to implement this for multinational corporations — is next-level?

If so, whichever-it-is would be your primary theme and you’d create and share content about and around this area, to seize interest from the right fish. Going one or two levels deeper, you’d also define specific topics that you could cover to win and keep interest.

For example

Let’s say you’re the AI specialist. Your objective is to get paid to teach in-house comms and marketing teams to leverage generative artificial intelligence (GAI). Your primary theme, for now at least, is De-Mystifying Generative AI. Your content should be tutorial in nature: how tos, listicles, hot tips, hacks etc.

#3. Pre-schedule the vast majority of your posts

If you don’t derive joy (thanks, Marie Kondo) from social media, you’re going to want to give it as little of your available resources as you can. But, bearing in mind what a time-suck social media can be, you’re going to need a system.

For example

My system is Sunday afternoons. Yup, that’s it. A weekly slice of life dedicated to two hours of thinking, writing, and pre-scheduling, so I don’t have to go onto social media much during the week. There are, of course, parameters, which mean that I can spend the bulk of the week doing my actual work without thinking too hard about my social media obligations:

  • I have a one-page social media content strategy.
  • I have rough content rules for each day of the week, across my five or so key platforms.
  • I have an always-on folder for “Social media fodder”, which is the receptacle for my ideas, drafts, curated content and bits of training courses.
  • I have a social media management tool (that I pay for) that publishes my content at certain times, on certain days, with certain rules.
  • I use ad hoc “down time” to respond to real-time engagement, such as comments, DMs, questions, meaningful tags etc.

Find your ideal slot or slots, select your tools of choice and then book the time in. Commit to it. Make it sacred.

#4. Curate other thinkers’ good stuff

Here’s the thing: at least one out of every four posts I publish is not my original thinking. I curate content from other smart people.

Content curation is more than resharing other people’s content. It’s about selecting the best or most thought-provoking content to share, in line with your strategy, and giving your original take on it. Sharing solid stuff from big thinkers reflects well on you by association but it also helps to balance your narrative. This is because it introduces valuable information, insights and IP from within and around your industry.

There are options when curating: You might elevate a piece of content you agree with (or disagree with) — or you might go a bit further and aggregate it, distil it, or mash it up. Whatever you do, try to put almost as much thought into aligning with your audience as you do when creating content from scratch. And, of course, credit and link to the appropriate source.

#5. Persist — especially once it’s not fun anymore

There will come a time when you’ve done what I’m suggesting, you’ve seen some momentum and you’re feeling good about your investment in social media. Then either circumstances or internal demons will knock you off-course — and you’ll start to lose your mojo.

In your head, this may sound like:

  • “I’ve done social media for six weeks and nothing’s happening. This doesn’t work.”
  • “It worked. I got busier. But now I’m too busy to do social media marketing.”
  • “Urg, trolls! People are horrible. I hate everyone. Social media is hell.”
  • “Everyone says I have to spend money on paid promotions and boosting.”
  • “It’s crickets out there. I’m talking into a black hole. No one is listening.”
  • “I don’t have big enough audiences to make this viable.”

If you’re serious about social media self-promotion, don’t allow yourself to lose your way. Don’t stop when it becomes a pain in the ass, because that’s usually the tipping point. Go quite a bit further than your comfort zone.

Not cannibalism but consistency

In 1997, with 40 seconds left in the third round of a heavyweight boxing match, Mike Tyson marked 13 years of vicious competition by biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s right ear. To add gore to injury, he then spat the chunk onto the canvas.

You know the story.

Yet did you know that, after a doctor examined Holyfield, the two continued boxing? Yup, Tyson got a two-point deduction and a warning. Still, he bit Holyfield again. Almost as soon as the bout resumed, he went for Holyfield’s left ear.

What’s the moral of the story? That the left ear tastes nicer than the right? Nope. The moral is: Keep going. Less Tyson, more Holyfield. When they go low, you go high, but you still go, and go, and go. Because social media can work a lot harder for you than it does today, provided that you do the minimum you can tolerate, consistently, over time.

This article originally appeared on MarkLives on 13 July 2023.

Tiffany Markman gives good advice on words and writing. Want some?

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