Singers, sandwiches, and niches; or why you should step back from social media sometimes

As many of you reading are social media professionals I advise you to sit down before you read the next sentence.


My fledgling digital magazine, Bonkers Magazine, hasn’t posted on social media in 24 days. We’re an extremely small team and we decided it was a better idea to focus our time and energy on making the best magazine possible. Because we publish complete issues and we’re new, it makes more sense to wait for our first full issue, rather than recycle the same 50 articles that we currently have out ad infinitum.

Ultimately, what organizations post on social media reflects on their overall quality and credibility. As a small magazine with no print edition we feel the need to maintain a certain level of quality to be taken seriously. Doing social media right is difficult and time consuming. Doing social media poorly reflects badly on you, particularly if you have a new or small brand. Posting just to post reflects poorly and makes us look unserious.

While large social media followings can be helpful, a cursory glance at large humor or meme pages on Facebook or shows that reach can hardly be redeemed for success. It’s important to consider that low quality profiles and pages that chase reaction and reach exclusively, and the fact that they inhabit in the same world as established brands. If you look at social media pages with extremely broad appeal they’re a mile wide and an inch deep. A prime example are the social media pages of artists with large social media followings as a result of posting whatever gets a reaction from the audience.

If you work for a brand, chances are that your organization isn’t trying to become Facebook famous, it’s trying to get people to buy dishwashers or vote or donate. If you work for a publication, chances are that people lured in by memes aren’t going to buy saddles from the advertisers in your horseback riding publication. They may even drive your desired audience away.

Obviously there are counterpoints to this. For example, sandwich chain Arby’s has had great success generating enthusiasm making pop culture video game jokes on their social media accounts. However, Arby’s also knows that the people who are likely to have enthusiasm for fast food sandwiches are also the people who appreciate video game jokes. They also took the time and effort to make original content and good jokes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are brands who obsess over one demographic. One of the most informative experiences of my professional life was interning for a digital publication that knew exactly who their audience was, and so did their advertisers. They translated their passion for Rolexes and travel into an audience that bought Rolexes and travels. Consequently watch companies and airlines bought advertising from them.

If you work for an agency or for a large company my advice probably doesn’t apply to you. You’re probably going to shake your head and scoff. However, for startups and small companies, I believe that I’m on to something. There is so much noise and so much (pardon my english) shit on social media, so many self proclaimed success gurus and vanity projects with unfocused social media feeds, that fledgling organizations risk having social media users consign them to the same mental bin as makeup “distributors” and aspiring rappers every time they post poorly. If Ford or Pepsi posts a dumb joke or a meme, it’s exciting and transgressive, because they’re subverting how consumers expect established brands to present themselves (this can look incredibly cloying and lame if done improperly). If a new company posts something dumb, it’s a sign that you’re not serious.

I started an outdoor magazine. We need to appeal to people who buy outdoor stuff. I don’t mean to bash a broad approach. It obviously works. There are brilliant people enjoying incredible success with this approach.

But, at the end of the day, there are times one should adhere to the adage that if something’s not worth doing right it’s not worth doing.