What To Do With ‘Zombie’ Social Media Accounts

by Avery Swartz,
Published in The Globe and Mail, December 30, 2016
Click to read on The Globe and Mail's website

If your small business has been in operation for a number of years, you've likely seen a few social media channels rise (and fall) in popularity. As each one is unveiled, it brings the promise of being "the hot new thing" and you might be tempted to sign up for an account so you don't miss out. Small businesses feel pressure to be everywhere online, and staying active on multiple platforms with limited resources can be exhausting and overwhelming. Many inevitably fall behind and are left with social media accounts that are digital zombies – they're not dead, but they're certainly not alive.

Elena Yunusov, founder and head marketer at Communicable Inc., says that "when I work with clients I usually do an audit of their digital presence, and I see this a lot. When you dabble in everything, sooner or later you'll see some [social media] channels giving more return on investment than others, and then it becomes about basic measurement. How much energy and time are you putting into it, and how much revenue are you generating (or gaining returns in some other way, like community or awareness, that matters to your business)? Then you kill everything else, because when you're a small business, you just can't afford fat."

If you're thinking about killing off a social media channel, here are some things to consider:

Is it a good fit for your brand?

In their 2016 Canadian Social Media Monitor study, Insights West published key trends in Canada's social media landscape. Each of the major social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Tumblr) are unique, often attracting a distinct demographic of users and offering different ways to communicate.

Yunusov encourages her clients to study each channel, focusing on the platforms that are the best fit for them and the customers or clients they're trying to reach. "Some [social media channels] make more sense than others, depending on the business. You really need to just know where your people hang out. You go where the fish are," she explains.

Tally your investment

Social media can be a time suck, and small businesses spend hours maintaining their different channels. Track your time to see where your efforts are being invested. Measure that investment against the returns that each platform offers you in order to identify inefficiencies and make informed decisions about whether to continue with a social media channel or not.

Gather (and measure) the data

Study the analytics that each social media platform offers, but beware of too much information. "There is such a thing as too much data, especially for small business," Yunusov says. "In a sea of data, it's very easy to drown. You over-track, over-think and over-analyze, taking you away from measuring what really matters."

Yunusov encourages organizations to focus on two or three key indicators of effectiveness and ignore the rest. How do you determine which metrics matter to your business? "It depends how you measure success. If your success metric is traffic to your site, for example, then that's what you look at. Maybe it's revenue, maybe you only care about conversions. Other things may not matter at all," she says.

Beware of "vanity metrics" like number of followers or potential reach. Yunusov explains, "I measure for relevance more than scale. You can buy scale, you can buy followers. You need depth more than you need scale. The number of people you can potentially reach doesn't really give me the metrics I need."

Prepare for the kill

It's not easy to pull the trigger and kill a social media channel, especially if you've gathered some followers on the platform. But if it truly isn't achieving your goals and hitting your targets, it needs to go, and the approaching year-end is a great time to clean house. There's no right or wrong way to quit a social media channel. You can just shut it down, or if the platform allows you to message your followers, you could tell them to connect with you on another channel or direct them to your website and e-mail address. If they really want to find you, they will.

Ultimately, being disciplined is the most important. Yunusov stresses, "You've gotta have blinders on and focus is key. Because your energy is not unlimited. At the end of the day, what people need is a really good product or a really good service, and an open channel so they can find you and engage with you in an easy way. We know people are overwhelmed by information anyway, so you being on every channel, you're adding to that environment. Which is not a healthy environment."