Is your company creating a social media ghost town?

This week we continue to put {grow} in the hands of the community by featuring Nashville marketer Laura Click and her ideas about why companies abandon their social efforts:

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark for lunch at popular Nashville spot called Urban Flats.  At the end of our meal, we were impressed to receive a card promoting the restaurant’s Twitter and Facebook profiles with our checks. Certainly, this was a great way to invite customers to connect with the restaurant online.

Recently, I visited Urban Flats again and received the same social media promo card. I decided to tweet about the great meal I had there with a friend. As a social media enthusiast, I was hoping to hear back from the restaurant. But, instead of a tweet, I heard crickets chirping.

A couple of days later, I checked out the restaurant’s twitter page and found they hadn’t updated it in months. What a shame. It’s like sending out invitations to a party at your house, but you’re not home when people show up.

The Urban Flats Twitter page is a prime example of a social media ghost town, and I’m quite confident this isn’t the only of its kind on the web. In fact, I think this is scenario is becoming more common as statistics show that only 21 percent of Twitter users are active on the site.

So, why do people let their Twitter profile, blog or Facebook page become a social media ghost town? Here some common reasons:

  • Lack of time. While social media may indeed be “free”, people rarely take into account the investment of time needed to tend to it. Although you don’t need to spend hours a day on social media sites, it’s important to carve out some time to get anything out of it. When people don’t take the time, the site falters.

 

  • Lack of content ideas. On many ghost town sites, you can practically smell the desperation as the posts begin to dwindle. “We have a patio!” or “We have great food!” It’s clear that many people just don’t know what to say, so they quit trying. Let’s use Urban Flats as an example – what could they share with their customers? Here are some ideas:
  1. Ask customers about their favorite flatbread or wine.
  2. Thank customers who tweet about the restaurant or check in via Foursquare or Gowalla.
  3. Create a recipe contest – the winner gets to name the flat bread and gets a free meal to go with it.
  4. Retweet posts from the shops nearby.
  5. Share articles about healthy eating, events in Nashville or urban renewal (something Urban Flats promotes).
  6. Search for people looking for restaurant suggestions in Nashville and suggest Urban Flats.
  7. Send menu updates, offer specials and promote events.
  8. Post photos of your staff members or share behind the scenes look at making the flatbreads.

 

  • Lack of success. Some people believe that merely having a social media presence will cause piles of money to show up on your doorstep. Clearly, this is not the case. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to an unsuccessful social media effort, businesses that don’t see immediate results tend to give up.
  • Lack of comfort. Believe it or not, social media doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If someone isn’t comfortable using social media or if it doesn’t match their personality, it shows. And, they often quit as a result.

A ghost town is a depressing place full of abandoned buildings, broken glass and tumbleweed. Don’t let your blog or profile become one. If you do, perhaps it’s time to consider if no social media presence is better than a ghost town.

Why do you think people abandon their social media efforts? Should they close down their blog or profiles if they quit updating it?

Laura Click is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a consulting group dedicated to helping small businesses grow. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog at www.lauraclick.com.

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  • Amen!

    I do think the lack of comfort is sometimes lack of knowledge. If someone will decide to truly give SM an honest effort – they will see results. More often, though, someone decides it’s just not for them when they don’t know what they don’t know. I haven’t met anyone who’s made an investment of time to SM who hasn’t seen amazing results.

  • @Arminda – Thanks for the Amen! You’re right – if people really invest the time to understand how to engage in social media, they are much more likely to stick with it and see results. That’s why there are folks like us – we need to be teachers and encouragers to help folks understand how to use the tools.

  • Hi Laura, I’m quite frankly surprised this post has not generated more discussion! I guess people are too busy with customers who ‘get’ social media to pay attention to those who need help?
    Obviously Urban Flats thought there was something to this Social Media ‘stuff’ but likely didn’t really understand what to do with it. As you said, there are so many of these ‘Urban Flats’ types out there that are missing such fantastic opportunities. This is why people like you, Mark and Arminda (and the thousands like you) are so important.
    I believe the real growth potential of the social media world is spread over those ‘Urban Flats” types of the world. Unfortunately, we need to determine a monetization formula so you can ‘eat’ while they learn.

  • Many of the small businesses who make an appearance on Twitter are hoping to magically start finding a lot of customers. When that doesn’t happen, the account gets abandoned. Its a little silly the business you spoke of was still sending out postcards that promote the account…

    Should they have closed the Twitter account? I don’t think so. They at least have the name reserved for a while in case they want to try it again. However, in that case I would recommend a final tweet telling customers to look for their Facebook page.

  • @Steve Dodd – that is the key. Those with the skills need a way to pay the bills. The niche is still forming and will be more profitable once metrics for SMC practices are more widely used.

  • After developing a lot of websites for business , I’ve noticed that many of them are on social media primarily for appearances. They see those little blue icons all over the internet and tend to think “Oh, I better do that Twitterbooking too.”

    Until they see the value in it or get all excited over their first retweets you’ll just have to end up waiting for that monthly “big announcement” on their soapbox.

  • How ironic that this post runs today.. I had someone ask me the million dollar question regarding “should ALL businesses have a FB/T presence” and I replied “no”. Especially if they’re going to start off and then not give it the time and attention that it needs to become 1)fun and 2)successful. I believe this.. I think it’s worse to show up half-cocked than not show up at all. Because then.. if someone shows up, it looks like no one’s listening and/or cares about what they’re doing. Even further, it puts a bad taste in the business owner’s mouth to the tune of “we tried it and it didn’t work”.

    I know there are plenty who will disagree with me, but it’s just my opinion..

    Thanks for a GREAT post, Laura!!

  • Thanks for the great discussion everyone!

    @Steve – You’re right. There is real opportunity here with businesses that understand that social media is worth considering, but just need some help in figuring it out. The good news is they already realize they should give it a try, they just didn’t have a good enough experience to sustain it.

    @Nathan – I’m with you. It’s one thing to abandon your tweeting, it’s another to promote an abandoned site! They should have definitely ditched the cards until they got back on their game. The idea of sending them to facebook, where they are more active, is a good idea.

    @TheJillianSays – I think that social media consulting has real merit and many are certainly willing to pay for it. It’s the smaller guys who think that social media is “free” who don’t have the wallet for it.

    @Johnny – Twitterbooking – what a great term! Love it. I think this could definitely be a case of keeping up with the Jones’. They want to “look” like everyone else, but have no idea why.

    @Kristen – That is the million dollar question and I whole heartedly agree. Not every business needs a social media presence. They need to understand who they are trying to reach and what they are trying to accomplish with it before delving in. I agree – if you’re going to do it, do it whole heartedly or don’t do it at all. The same is true with blogs. There are plenty that get neglected after the shine wears off.

    Great stuff everyone! Keep ’em coming!

  • Good morning Laura! This post only showed up in my Google Reader this morning ~ sorry to have arrived late.

    Did you share your Twitter usage ideas with Urban Flats? I personally think they’re fantastic ~ and any one of them might spark a truly motivated interest in more active online engagement.

    My thinking while reading your post was along the same lines as Johnny’s – Urban Flats may be doing what they believe is necessary to compete in today’s market without a full understanding of how this works, why this is important and what to do to implement it effectively.

    So many people in so many occupations go through the motions without investing thought into the ‘why’.

    Are you familiar with the story of Whitewall Tires? I’m hazy on the details – but in a nutshell, they were all the rage in the 50s, over time, they became impractical/undesired and people started turning the white wall to the ‘inside’ so that the pure black would show on the ‘outside’. Yet, the labour involved in the distribution end to ensure the white of the whitewall remained pristine throughout the supply chain was costly.

    A cost-savings/efficiency expert was called in to find ways the company could operate more cost-effectively/efficiently – and he asked why this ‘preparation process’ was still in place when the market for whitewall tires had shrunk to such a degree? ‘Because we’ve always done it this way.’

    Anyway, my point is – if you don’t know the basic, underlying principle of an initiative or process, or how it contributes to the big picture overall ~ you are limited in your capacity to effectively implement and maintain it.

    I also agree with Kristen – I don’t think every business needs a Twitter/Facebook presence. For some, their time and energy is better invested in other channels and pursuits.

    Great post Laura!

  • Laura – Also late to the party. Sick kid home for 2 days this week, and now I’ve got the pre-season cold myself. 🙂
    BUT – still wanted to chime in

    In most cases, social media ghost towns are the result of poor or absent planning. If these folks at Urban Flats had been given a basic strategy and some guidelines on how to execute, they probably wouldn’t have left you out there, hanging with the tumbleweed.

    I’ve found with my clients that in order to maintain a respectable social presence, they need some clear directions and a system. After a while – once they hit their groove – they can start free-forming it a bit more, but in the beginning it’s crucial to have a schedule and a clear set of editorial guidelines and maintenance tasks.

    Great post on a rampant problem. 🙂

    PS – Happy Friday!

  • @SallyG – Thanks for stopping by. Great analogy with the white wall tires – I hadn’t heard that story before, but it’s a good one. I haven’t share this with Urban Flats, but you’re right – I should. It would be interesting to see what they say!

    @SuddenlyJamie – Thanks for the comment. Sorry to hear about you and your kids being under the weather. Feel better! You’re right – planning and strategy is key. I think most dive in without a clue as to WHY or how to go about it. I think social media can be easy once people get the hang of it, they just need someone to point them in the right direction.

    Good comments!

  • Good points, well made Laura. And I am delighted the grow community has responded in volume. Given the subject matter, that might otherwise have been embarrassing!

    For me, the classic example of a social media ghost town is the LinkedIn group. It typically starts with a few posts, carried uneasily by the handful of people involved in setting it up, then it grinds to a halt.

    The answer is to observe the distinction between being a part of a community and trying to create your own. Unless you have plenty of budget, time and a critical mass of people to populate it, I’d recommend the former.

    And of course if are simply participating in someone else’s community and you run out of time, you simply go quiet for a while. If you are the host, you can’t do that.

    Thanks for posting

    John

  • @John – That’s a great point to distinguish between being the host and being a participant. It certainly holds true for LinkedIn groups. However, with Twitter, wouldn’t you argue that you are the host of your profile? And, if you let it go dormant, do you think you should shut it down?

    Thanks for weighing in!

  • Laura – absolutely. Best practice for Twitter marketers is to maintain a consistent, polite, helpful presence that is consistent with your brand’s wider image. But the penalty for letting it slip is much lower – it represents a low-risk strategy compared to the high-risk strategy of setting up a community. You simply become invisible, whereas the ghost town community is a permanent, visible reminder of your failure!

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  • @Laura – This is a great article on this subject. Keeping up with social media for your business is a full time job! I think many businesses just do not realize the time it takes to create, maintain and build a social media presence. Six months ago was when I first dipped into the social media pool for my business. We are on facebook, twitter, linked in and I am blogging (New Year’s resolution . . . increase blog frequency!). It’s all going very well I’m happy to say but it definitely takes a big chunk of my time.
    I do think that businesses should close down their blogs or profiles until the time comes that they are able to and committed to updating information several times a week. There is nothing worse than reading a great blog article only to find that it was the only entry written more than six months ago!

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