Seven strategies to stay ahead of overwhelming social media change

harold lloyd hanging from clock

Can we have an honest conversation among friends?

Trying to keep up with social media is overwhelming!

Little wonder. We are living in the middle of an unprecedented frenzy of change.

When was the last time there was an innovation in television that impacted the way we marketed? 1975 – cable TV, and now, arguably, the move toward asynchronous viewing on mobile devices.  If you do a lot of print advertising, the fundamentals have been the same since the advent of the printing press in 1450!

But social media? Not only do the social media platforms shift every day, the rules of engagement are changing constantly, too. Can anybody on earth keep up with the real and rumored changes just to Facebook’s EdgeRank formula?

What we considered best practices six months ago are passe’ today. Yes, social media is overwhelming, especially when there is pressure to master every new platform that comes along.

But as a professional marketer, you must keep up. How is this possible? Here are seven ideas to help you stay calm and carry on.

Master the marketing fundamentals.  The most effective coping mechanism for me has been having deep experience in marketing fundamentals. Yes, the platforms keep changing, but the basics of marketing and consumer behavior don’t. So if you can view technological change through the lens of marketing fundamentals, you can more easily weed out the stuff that just isn’t going to make it.  If you’re serious about a career in social media marketing, focus on learning the “marketing” part.

Form a support group. You can’t possibly keep up with everything and neither can your friends. But together, you can make a dent in it.  I have a few trusted friends who are more techy or more SEO-y than me. Together we can help each other by discussing the latest trends over lunch once a month. This gives me just enough juice to be at least be conversant in a topic.

Consider a focus area.  This is a hard thing to think about, but maybe you CAN’T keep up with everything and you need to focus on specialties. I’m starting to see consultants specialize in LinkedIn, Facebook, and video marketing and that’s probably a smart idea because you have a chance to be an expert in at least one thing. I am struggling with this first, because I teach survey college courses so I have to know something about everything. And frankly, I am having a hard time focusing because I don’t want to miss anything. Everything is interesting to me.

Go where your customers are. Look, maybe it’s time to give up on Path or even (gasp) Google+ and simply stay on top of the platforms relevant to your customers.

Give yourself a time limit. Are you reading social media blog posts in bed? Maybe it’s time for a self-imposed time limit to force yourself to focus and prioritize.

Eliminate engagement guilt. Here is a hard lesson I have had to come to terms with: The more successful you are, the less ability you have to engage with your fans and followers. I hate that. But if I tried to maintain the level of engagement I had even a year ago I would not just be overwhelmed, I would be insane. As your tribe builds, you simply have to adjust and come to grips that with the fact that you have a life beyond social media. Some thing are going to slip through the cracks. Allow that to be OK.

The curation answer … or not. Now an obvious idea to keep up with social media trends is to go to a highly-respected curated source of content on key social media developments. Here’s the problem (and a business opportunity). This does not exist, at least not any place that meets my needs. Mashable? Too much crap. Social Media Examiner?  An excellent site but too much of a focus on “how-to” posts.

Where do you guys go for your one-stop shopping for a manageable amount of social media tech and business highlights? Besides {grow} of course? (wink)  How are you coping with the amount of change in this field?

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  • I’ve moved away from Twitter as an industry news source and have been relying almost exclusively on RSS feeds and a tiny amount on Facebook for the last 6-12 months. Even with a fairly restricted group of people I follow, Twitter has just become too much of a time suck.

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  • Believe it or not, I have been actually reading newspapers as a news source. Every morning I read the NYT, WSJ and scan the local news. A radical concept. : ) thanks Eric!

  • Loved your style. I almost do the same, for the local news, i have two reputed newspapers always on my desk before i get to office. And then for the international news, i have set my self up to read Huffington post, WSJ, NYT online. I love reading Forbes and Huffington Post for social media and tech news.

    I also use news filter of Google to get the freshest and most social news.

  • I am moving away from facebook and into Google+ Circles. Allows for more control of selective engagement. Better grouping of relevant areas of interest.
    I’m going very local with twitter and seeking out people in North East Ohio. Actually can meet up with these people down the road. After that the broader twitter reach is to my field, and finally educted pundits and seers in thing social.
    Our town, Akron, has just put up a “Citizen Journalist” site that is going to be huge. Offering training to boot!
    Then and finally, I am developing my own paid ‘Forum’ for a community of skills and talents to help each other in our small business efforts and work.

  • This is purely Awesome!

  • I’ve stopped “working” at night. While I may still be online it’s for me and my personal sites that I’ve committed to putting more time into. And even then I’ve put a time limit on it. Too much.. one has to allow the brain some rest to rejuice for wow and inspiration the next day. Fantastic post today, Mr. Schaefer.

  • Well thanks! What are you doing Muhammad?

  • Hi Mark, for ‘one-stop shopping’ I rather like the Zite app and I use saved searches in WordPress reader (WP dot com, you can get an account without a blog I believe) and Squirro. This way I can view new as well as well-known blogs without the (marketing) noise on social media.

  • I would love to find a central source for social media news, updates, etc… It IS overwhelming to think about keeping up with it all. I find myself saying “today is the day I’m going to learn Google+” and then life takes over. 🙂 Like you, I have a Facebook group with like-minded business owners and we share info as much as we can. The problem is that I actually like social media and *want* to learn more about how to use it better. I would totally be that person reading in bed if I didn’t have some restraint! LOL

  • Engagement guilt: sounds like a disorder for a new generation of medicated business people! All quite true and I’ve felt the stress of trying to keep up with it all, too. I remember when SM started to take off, thinking, holy cow how the heck and I going to add all that to my day?? You end up going up a gear and staying there permanently. But to your point, I think you’re right that specialization is going to win the day. Think about the first websites… some guy (or girl!) could sit down and build a website because it was pretty limited. Now there are a ton of specializations and one person can hardly sit down and just “build a website” anymore. Now you’ve got programmers with specialties in various languages, designers, videographers, app developers… all the more important, as you also mentioned, to stay aligned with your true marketing values and remember the basics of who your customers are.

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  • besides grow 🙂 I am heavily using Engagio to discover content via conversations. I love using Engagio because it helps me manage my social conversations from across the social web but even more importantly, I have discovered truly interesting people and articles through it. By focusing on conversations, I can cut out a lot of the noise! FYI. This is how I usually discover new comments on Grow [Full disclosure: I am working at Engagio]

  • This is a Bill Clinton moment. “I feel your pain”! I agree, it’s increasingly impossible to keep up. For Corporate marketers, I would recommend identifying the 2 or 3 platforms that make the most sense to your target market and focus your energy to maintaining content and keeping up-to-date with specific changes to those channels; and more or less abandon the others (with an appropriate re-direct to your active platforms). If something new and interesting comes along, dive in for a few weeks and see if it makes sense; if so, change the mix.
    For my corporate identity, I’ve given up on Facebook, we use Twitter sparingly, and we focus our limited energy on technology blogs and LinkedIn.

  • I call this the Goldilocks problem. Too much, too little, just right.

    What do your curate? Content, people, sources, topics?

    There’s no question we need help. Community sure helps.

    The FB vs G+ debate is ringing in my head loud and clear. Too many sources, too much repetition. I almost wish sharing was harder and came at cost.

    Twitter has become less social or you need to hunt out your sociable niches. At the end of the day it’s what you make it.

  • I think once you’ve ‘curated’ your favorite sources, RSS is a much better way to receive their transmissions. I think Twitter can be useful for measuring ‘signal’ on sources or items, but it’s easier if you use a tool like Curate.me or News.me. I like their email digests of what was most relevant to me on Twitter each day.

    I do think the world needs a way to filter and organize all the incoming from all the sources (including email) on one place. So I’m working on that 😉

  • Personally, I want to organize my curation by topic and include under each topic the people and sources that I trust in that area who create and share content. I want to bring in all the voices on particular topic, from all the different networks, into one place.

  • It doesn’t necessarily matter what platform you think is the winner, the landscape is constantly changing, the key to success is as long as you stay ahead with fresh and relevant content. The moment you stop publishing is the moment you start losing a community you’re lookng to ‘cultivate’

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  • Good for you. Important to stay on top of the news.

  • Thank you my dear. I still work at night. : ( But is it work if it’s fun?

  • Thanks for the recommendation Claudia!

  • Ha! Thank for taking the time to comment Tara!

  • Good analogy Carol and I think you’re right.

  • I will definitely check that out Abdallah. Thanks for the insight.

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  • Interesting that you have given up on Facebook. I’ve heard that from a few companies lately. It is certainly a difficult channel.

  • For me, Google Plus just doesn’t solve any problem. Yes, it has some features but really nothing you can’t get someplace else. It’s just not helping me out. Thanks for commenting Nick!

  • … which certainly does not help the time problem : ) Circles within circles! Thanks for commenting Mark!

  • Thank you for writing about the big elephant in the room. I consider myself an “Internet Marketer” and the amount of information I have to learn and relearn each day makes me want to pull my hair out. Never mind the changes in platforms, software buyouts and having to relearn old systems – this is a tough business to stay on top of.

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  • Amen to that. Thanks for taking the time to comment Pam!

  • I especially like the “eliminate engagement guilt” advice, there is life after social media!

  • This is really great. Thank you for this insightful read! 🙂

  • So glad to see this comment section open today for me to share what works for me from being overwhelmed with all of the available social media options…
    .
    ~ Making strategic choices, and decisions is all about accepting what works for you! ~

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  • I’ve also been recommending that clients “abandon” certain sties with a redirect to the ones they are active on. For many, it is the only way to keep up. Thanks for confirming my hunch on this. I haven’t seen others make this recommendation.

  • Thank you for your tenacity!!!! I am so sorry you are having problems with Disqus! I miss you when you’re not here.

  • My pleasure.

  • A tough one for me, personally. I hate to disappoint anybody but it happens.

  • Terrific post, Mark. It is such a challenge for people to keep up with all the different platforms! I really appreciated your comment: “The more successful you are, the less ability you have to engage with your fans and followers.” That is indeed a sad truth. I continue to be amazed that Richard Branson engages with people as much as he does.

  • Hey Mark – fab post, as always! This really is a growing problem and cause for much frustration among many folks I come across, too. There is no “one source fits all needs.” I use a combo of a couple of my own favorite Twitter lists, my Facebook marketing Facebook Interest List*, several Facebook Group masterminds with fellow social media enthusiasts, the Flipboard mobile app, and have lately really gotten into Spundge for excellent keyword-based curating. And, probably like yourself, I’m always on the lookout for new and different sources of excellent content. Plus, anything super breaking or that I’ve missed myself, oftentimes my fans will ping me on my Facebook page and/or PM me.

    *I’m taking the liberty of pasting the link to my Facebook Experts & Resources List here (has 28k subscribers!) in case folks want to check it out… https://www.facebook.com/lists/10150585382860868

  • Thank you for your kind words Mark!!! Your blogs work for me…

  • Victoria Tuffill

    Great insights Mark. And you’re so right about the focus. For myself (b2b and b2b2c) I keep up with linked in, twitter (useful in combo with other social media but oh so noisy!), WordPress and Facebook. And am still reading blogs in bed 🙂 Have not kept up with / gained benefit or traction with Google +. But need to use whatever’s appropriate for clients. And there’s just too much information, not all of it of high quality. I think Kirsten has it right re organising topics and trusted sources. Also networking and working with trusted specialists is specific areas.

  • Thanks, Mark. The NYT audio edition has become my (generally) non-marketing news source.

  • is it really Richard Branson? : )

    The enigma of social engagment is a difficult one for me. I hate to be unavailable to people but sometimes it is just a crush of demands. Thanks Gina!

  • Awesome Mari. Thanks for all the great ideas and resources! Always an honor to have you drop by and comment!

  • Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the community Victoria.

  • “What has Google Plus done for me?” Sounds very Monty Pythonesque.

    I don’t think they are trying to be unique, they are trying to displace.

    Unlike anyone else in the space they can afford to wait. Slowly slowly catchy monkey a my dad used to say. I don’t love it either, but I can feel it rising.

  • Curation makes most sense in niche.

    The more granular you go, the more people care.

    I’m all seeking out both experts and the community on any given niche.

    Today we all have a voice.
    We are all publishers.
    We are all the curators of our lives.

  • I like and agree 🙂

  • I love Engagio. It is genius!

  • We should chat sometime:)

  • Well said!!

  • YES YES ditto!

  • temafrank

    I think Facebook really depends on the type of company, and the personality of the CEO or main person running the page. For bubbly extroverts it can be great. For more cerebral types, it is probably harder to make it work.

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  • I don’t know. I think people generally only have the bandwidth for one site in each niche. We don;t need two Twitters. We don;t need two LinkedIn’s. Google is trying to be Facebook. We don;t need it. The competition is good for Facebook but I don’t really know what it is trying to do. I guess be there in case FB fails? Be the social site for geeks? I guess those are legitimate reasons.

  • Here is the other thing about FB though. More and more people are using it as a search engine. Don’t overlook that reason to be there, even if it not necessarily “for you.”

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  • Great point. Google Plus not only can afford to wait, I think it MUST wait. Here’s my thoughts:

    Gmail, android, search, Chrome etc are all part of the Google umbrella (also let’s not forget Google Glass which will open a whole new world of innovation and disruption). Our digital lives are very much connected to Google. What Google lacks is a way to connect everything. Ultimately G+ serves as a way for them to tie it all back to you and make it personal.

    As Google themselves stated, G+ is simply an extension of you to their services. If people register for Facebook but don’t use it, Facebook will collapse. If people register for G+ but don’t use it, Google will still thrive. And not only will they thrive, they will also have your name connected to your accounts while you’re logged in, using their ubiquitous services.

    The way they encourage you to register is very low-pressure. “Hey thought you might be interested in claiming this profile we made for you, isn’t it nice. Here, follow some people. Ok thank, we won’t ever bother you about this again, enjoy using our services.” Google doesn’t make you feel guilty about not using G+. You’re not constantly reminded about this profile you have. I think that’s important, especially compared to how Facebook now seems more and more desperate to get in your face.

    Ultimately, I think Google is in this for the long-game, a game longer than Facebook.

  • I love any article that mentions the importance of the meta-trends, fundamentals, basics, etc. It’s definitely one of the best way to stay ahead AND make sense of everything out there now.

    As far as personally staying ahead, I personally believe it’s important to not be hard on yourself (in line with your elimination of engagement guilt advice). Sometimes you miss something, even if it’s a big piece of social media news or not being up on the latest and greatest network. It definitely helps keep me sane because I can properly understand everything without constantly feeling self-imposed pressure to know ever top 10 tip out there.

    As far as getting content, I rely on a bunch of different services to curate for me. I alternate between a bunch of different ones like trap.it, flipboard, prismatic, etc. I alternate at various intervals to make sure I’m getting a good sample of the latest things (after all trying to get EVERYTHING is futile).

    Get a little bit from here, a little bit from there, talk to some smart people, apply some basic fundamentals, and I feel like I’m ready to take on the world!

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  • Did you get permission from Harold Lloyd’s estate (or whoever owns the rights) to use that photo?

    Back to the actual post though. I shall share this with my colleagues, some of whom are new to digital comms and find the pace of change off-putting.

    The stuff I can put in front of them that backs up my core assertions – technology doesn’t change human nature, talk to your customers like they are fully-formed human beings, understand what you are trying to measure, etc – the better.

    However, as far as the image is concerned, I have no idea if you just used that without getting permission or not. I hope not. But if you did, you’re setting a really bad example.

  • Mark – I think you’ve missed the point of Google+ completely. Search remains the heartbeat of business conducted online. Google is changing the whole search results landscape. In the UK 90% of search is done through Google, around 65% in the US.
    Only a fool wouldn’t resign themselves to the fact that we have to go where Google is leading us.
    Google is not trying to be Facebook. That’s such a woefully ill-advised opinion. Google has bigger fish to fry. In stripped-down terms of Dollars & Cents, Google is more important than Facebook to the bottom line of the vast majority of significant businesses – and they’re planning to keep it that way.

  • Excellent points Pavel. Thanks for the contribution!

  • I don’t recall you commenting on here before and suggesting that I don’t set a good example isn’t that great of a start to be honest with you. I’m careful to watch copyrights. As far as I can tell this photo is in the public domain and has been frequently used in the public domain. Hope we can try again. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  • The conversation is about Google + not Google overall. I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think Google + is squarely aimed at Facebook. I guarantee you Mark Zuckerberg thinks so.

  • Gotta keep up with the changing times, no matter how rapid it may seem to be. Great tips and tricks to staying on the ball, and I am quite sure that anyone will be able to manage well using these advice. Here’s how to maximize your social media efforts. http://smallbusiness.printplace.com/2012/10/19/optimize-and-maximize-your-social-media-marketing-efforts/

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  • Very interesting exchange of views, Mark and Sean.

    I’m wondering, now that it has been launched, if you’ve experienced Google Communities? If so, what niche(s) if any you feel it might come to dominate?

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