Do you remember when there were just 3 major TV channels – ABC, NBC & CBS? I don’t.
Like many of you, I grew up with cable. We were among the first generations to enjoy Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1 as a fundamental part of our childhood. As I got a little older, I remember being inspired by stories about women on Lifetime TV.
Cable television gave the viewer focused content, and the viewers loved it. The initial handful of cable TV stations blossomed into hundreds of choices for the viewer. No matter how obscure your interest may be, chances are there’s a cable television channel that meets your needs. The Discovery Channel, for example, has grown exponentially, going from that first initial station to more than a dozen today: there are channels devoted to cute animals, military history, and surgical procedures shown in gut-churning detail.
Cable television’s growth took place against a backdrop of near-hysteria about broadcast TV’s future. With so many channels to choose from, why would anyone limit themselves to the Big 3? On the other end of the spectrum were the pundits who pronounced cable to be a flash-in-the-pan trend: how long were people really going to be willing to pay for TV when there was a free alternative available?
Fast forward to the present day. The ‘Cut the Cord’ movement is steadily gaining momentum as people find new ways to watch their favorite programs. Broadcast TV is still hanging in there, but let’s be clear: this isn’t Grandma’s NBC anymore. Television stations have been forced to grow and change as their viewers have grown and changed.
Today, I’m not watching nearly as much Nickelodeon. My favorite networks have been USA, BBC, and ABC. 1 of the Big 3 channels is in there, but it’s made a fairly recent return to my favorites list. It wasn’t there, for a long time.
We can confidently expect social media to go through a similar evolution. Here, the Big 3 are Facebook, Twitter and Google+. They may have the biggest audience right now, but as we grow and change, our appetite for social media will also evolve. Our expectations grow as we do. As new social media platforms boast better or more focused features they will pull users from platforms that are over populated and over engineered.
The relationships we form with new social media networks may be temporary. Discovering a new personal interest like a love of food may drive you into a platform like Foodie.com or a new home renovation may introduce you to Houzz.com.
But what happens once you are done with your home project or your love of food is replaced by a love of something else: will you abandon your profile? Yes. Today’s social web will become a revolving door of users. We all need to be prepared for what’s on the horizon. Nickelodeon didn’t change; I did. Social media networks will gain and lose users the same way television channels do.
What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?
As social outlets grow and change, it will be important to pay attention to what tools are truly appealing to your audience. As the social landscape progresses we need to spend more time listening to our customers asking them what tools they are really drawn to and why. We can’t just assume that our customers are – or aren’t! – on the Big 3.
In other words, if you’re a gourmet shop and your customers are on Facebook, then you should be too. But if your customers are spending the lion’s share of their time swapping recipes on Foodie.com, you’ll see a better reward from the time and energy you spend on that social media platform.
No small business owner can do it all. There’s simply not enough time in the day, so we’re forced to be selective about what social media marketing we’re going to do.
Remember it’s not about your favorite social media – it’s about your audience and how they want to communicate.
Over the year, we’ll start introducing you to new tools like medium, whisper, Mobli and more. Think of this as the early days of cable television. Tremendous opportunities are becoming available, while we still have the proven strength of the Big 3 to help us connect with our customers. Knowing where to be, and when to be there, is going to be the biggest challenge for small business in the years to come. Don’t worry – we’ll help you find your way!