There’s a lot to be said for “shiny object syndrome” in business. That is, the tendency of entrepreneurs and business owners to be distracted by new and exciting opportunities.
These opportunities often present themselves in the form of new social media platforms, which promise to provide a new way to reach and connect with potential consumers.
While that may be true, the problem comes when entrepreneurs join these social media platforms with the misguided belief that they will be the “key to success” they’ve been missing.
They tend to join with a sense of haste and urgency, motivated by a fear of missing out, rather than a well thought-out strategy about how this platform fits into their business and marketing plan.
When you approach marketing in this way – hopping from platform to platform, always looking for the next new thing – your focus is scattered and your efforts are spread thin across too many different areas for any one of them to truly see growth and success.
Let’s talk about the launch and timeline of Threads
We were recently introduced to Threads.
This social media application was launched by Meta (the “Social Technology” brand that also owns Facebook and Instagram) in July 2023 and follows a format extremely similar to the already established Twitter (recently rebranded as X).
The questionable ownership and continued criticism surrounding Twitter since Elon Musk bought the company, made this a seemingly great time for Meta to launch Threads as a competitive platform.
The interest from consumers seemed to be there too. Mark Zuckerberg noted on the first day that the app attracted 2 million sign-ups in two hours, 5 million sign-ups in four hours and 10 million registered users in seven hours.
It also became the fastest application to reach 100 million users, hitting that milestone in just 5 days following its launch.
Threads is closely linked to Instagram (you need an existing Instagram account to sign-up), and is a text-based platform that includes features such as liking, reposting, and replying to other posts.
Threads expanded Twitter’s copy and media capabilities, allowing for 500-characters per post (compared to Twitter’s 280), up to 10 photos per post (compared to Twitter’s four), and videos of up to five minutes each.
However, many users also felt like important features were overlooked in the hasty launch, including a trending tab, keyword search, hashtags, direct messages, and sponsored posts.
While there was clear interest and motivation from social media users and businesses to hop on the new platform to avoid missing out, Threads hasn’t been able to hold onto that excitement.
Since the initial launch, traffic on Threads has dropped a staggering amount. Reports show that traffic on July 31st was around 8 million users, down 82% from its initial launch on July 5. Those users are spending less time on the app too, just 2.9 minutes per day on average. Meanwhile, Twitter’s traffic has remained steady at around 237 million users per day.
The growth and trajectory of social media platforms are unpredictable
There are numerous examples of social platforms that have succeeded, and those that have failed. Let’s review a few.
MySpace had initial success in 2003 as one of the first social media sites (especially with teens). By 2005 though, ads and corporations began dominating the site and reducing the appeal for users.
When Facebook was introduced as an alternative, many users flocked to that instead as a way of communicating.
MySpace also involved HTML coding to customize pages, and while it was part of the appeal for many, Facebook boasted easier navigation, more features, and overall better user experience.
Over time, as MySpace continued to fail to adapt and provide users with the experience they wanted, the community left for good.
Before TikTok, Vine launched in 2012 as a space for creators to record and share short video clips.
Millions of users loved the application, but because creators weren’t incentivised to stay on the platform, most left for YouTube and Instagram as a way of monetizing their work (and pulled their audiences with them).
More recently in 2020, Clubhouse joined (and left) the social media scene. The platform was invite only, and offered a platform for users to communicate via audio and text in online chat rooms based around specific topics.
It’s likely Clubhouse didn’t stand the test of time for a few reasons – it launched around the same time as TikTok, which was a more open and “fun” form of communication (Clubhouse appeared to be very business focused), and many of their features were adopted by other platforms like Twitter and Facebook which meant there was little need for Clubhouse.
While initially written off as a dance-video fad application, TikTok has “become one of the most prominent, discussed, distrusted, technically sophisticated and geopolitically complicated juggernauts on the internet — a phenomenon that has secured an unrivaled grasp on culture and everyday life and intensified the conflict between the world’s biggest superpowers.”
The average American viewer watches TikTok for approximately 80 minutes a day, and while most users are under 25, the population of older users is also continuing to grow.
From “BookTok” (book review accounts), to “CleanTok” (ASMR style cleaning videos), to politics, to everything in between, TikTok has expanded into a social media giant that captures the attention of millions every day with its eerily accurate “for you” video suggestions and endless scrolling capabilities.
Instagram was launched in 2010 as a photo sharing application. User numbers grew substantially relatively quickly, and when the user base had grown to approximately 27 million users in 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram.
Over time, the application transitioned from being primarily a place to share unedited, unprofessional mobile photos with friends and friends, to a platform of attention-grabbing, beautiful photo (and later video) content that is often seen as highly performative and aesthetic.
Continuous changes in the algorithm, lack of engagement and growth for accounts, changing features, and frustration from users about the “curated” and “inauthentic” content that dominates the platform, has caused some users in recent years to leave the platform (often in favour of the more unedited content on TikTok).
However, while some have claimed that Instagram has been “dying” for years, the platform still has a significant amount of daily traffic and users. According to 2023 statistics, Instagram has over 2.35 billion users currently who spend approximately 24 minutes on the platform each day.
Launched in 2010, Pinterest caught on relatively quickly, becoming one of the 10-largest social sites in 2011. Pinterest is easily searchable, shoppable, and user-friendly.
Users can explore topics they’re interested in by using the search bar (similar to how you search on Google), and can explore a wide range of “pins” – graphics and photos that are tagged in ways that relate to your search.
The pins are often linked to websites, making the platform a great way to find full recipes to try, products to buy, and blogs to read.
Even in 2023, Pinterest has 465 million monthly active users, showing that it is possible for social platforms to stand the test of time when they focus on what they do well, and continue to adapt.
Common themes among failed applications include failure to adapt, competition taking over and improving on usability, a lack of communication and listening to users desires and frustrations, timing, and monetization opportunities for creators (who, if they aren’t happy, will leave and take their audiences with them).
Those that have succeeded tend to do the opposite – they listen to their users’ feedback, adapt quickly, and focus on user-experience.
How does this relate to you?
The timeline of Threads (and platforms like it) offer a clear illustration of shiny object syndrome and its effects. It can seem fun and exciting in the moment to try something new, but that initial momentum and excitement rarely stands the test of time.
Maybe you signed up for Threads yourself and posted a few times that first day.
But are you as consistent with it now? How does Threads fit into your weekly or monthly content planning? Have you been able to make the impact you wanted on the platform?
If you chose not to sign up, did you experience that fear of missing out in the beginning? Were you worried that you were making a business mistake? How do you feel now?
(Granted, Threads is still a relatively new platform. There’s no predicting how things will continue to play out, especially with the unknown future of Twitter. Meta has also stated that they’re going to continue working on Threads features to hopefully bring users back.)
Take a minute to reflect on other platforms you’ve joined in the past that are no longer around. Are you sad about the platforms that have died? Or, are you just happy you have one less platform to create content on? One less platform to learn the algorithm of?
What about platforms you’re still active on? Do they hold the same excitement they had when you initially signed up, or do you see them as more of a chore now? How do they fit into your marketing strategy? Are you showing up as often as you want to be?
The exact “formula” for a successful social media app is unknown. There are just too many variables.
And with all of these variables, it’s impossible to predict which social media platforms will stand the test of time, and which will die off.
So, how do you know where you should focus your efforts?
How to know when you should join a new marketing platform
The best way to focus your social media and marketing efforts is through strategy.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine whether or not a new marketing platform makes sense for you.
- What are your marketing goals?
Assess and review your overarching marketing goals and how this new platform might fit into those goals.
Are you looking to hit a certain number in sales? Reach a certain number of people? Drive people to your website?
How does the format of this particular platform lend itself to those goals?
- What’s currently working (or not working) in your content?
Auditing your current digital marketing efforts can help provide you with a great overview of what is and isn’t working.
What content types (video, text, photo, etc.) appear to be delivering you the most results? Are you seeing an increase in clients from any particular medium or platform? Are you just seeing vanity metrics (followers or views) or are you seeing true conversions (new clients, sales, etc.)?
What’s not working? Where do you find yourself spending a lot of time and energy for little to no return?
If video is working well for you, you’re likely better off to hone in on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram Reels, rather than also trying to tackle a text platform like Threads.
In a similar sense, be honest with how you best present yourself and your work.
- If you’re a photographer, Instagram and Pinterest might be great spaces to showcase your work.
- If you’re a writer, Twitter or Threads might be better suited for you.
- If you’re a public speaker, sharing parts of your talks in TikTok clips might work well.
If it’s difficult to transfer your work to a particular medium (for example photo to text), chances are it’s going to be clunky (and energy-draining) for you to try and show up with that form of media consistently.
- What content do you enjoy creating?
Consider what content you enjoy creating and consuming.
Marketing is a long-term game. If you aren’t enjoying the process, chances are you’ll burn yourself out quickly and the platform won’t be sustainable for you.
Beyond that, your audience will likely be able to sense your energy. If you’re not in it authentically, you’ll find it challenging to develop a sense of trust with your community.
- What platforms are your audience on?
In a similar sense, what does your audience enjoy consuming?
Your content needs to be in service to your ideal client, so their preferences and habits when it comes to social media matter.
Ask your audience for input! Or, review the data (such as user demographics and statistics) behind social media platforms to see what’s likely to work for you.
- What does your bandwidth look like to show up on this platform?
Especially as a small business owner your resources are limited.
You and your team (if you have started to form one) only have so many hours in the day.
You have a limited amount of energy to exert on marketing efforts.
And you have a specific budget allocated to marketing.
So, get clear about if you truly have the resources to commit to another platform.
Does it make sense to hire support? Can you delegate some of your work so you can test out content creation on this new platform? Do you have some extra time and energy to commit to a new social media site?
Even if you do have the resources, are they best utilized on this new platform? Or, might you be better off optimizing your efforts on social media platforms you’ve already established yourself on?
Final thoughts and an action plan for you
The bottom line is, that unless you have a strategy in place that takes into account your business and marketing goals AND the resources (such as time, money, and energy) you have to commit to a new social media platform, it’s best to approach new platforms with caution.
When you learn about a new social media platform that might be aligned with your business, here’s what I recommend:
- Sign up to save your username.
- Spend a few days or weeks poking around the platform. Learn its features, observe how other people and businesses (especially competitors) are using the application, and brainstorm how the platform might fit into your marketing strategy.
- Be honest about what it would take for you to commit to this new platform in terms of time, effort, potential hiring, and content creation.
- If you do decide to test out posting, avoid putting so much energy into the new platform that you forget to nurture your community on your other, already established platforms.
- Ask your audience what their thoughts and feelings on the new app are.
- Don’t rush into anything. A slow and strategic approach is likely to serve you better in the long run.
If you need help formulating a marketing plan and developing a social media strategy, I’m here to help!