Are You Creating Social Media Scorched Earth?

“In too many cases, the “best practices” espoused by digital agencies are less about “serving the community” and more about driving a rush of new fans, without much thought re: how to keep those fans engaged on a LONG-TERM basis.” — Todd Defren

As corporate spending on social media-based communication continues to rise, I’m beginning to worry that many brands are inadvertently adopting a ‘scorched earth’ approach to their online activities.

What do I mean by scorched earth?

When an army advances using a scorched earth approach, it destroys everything behind it as it advances. So, while it gains territory, little remains of the territory it captures. Similarly, many companies are at risk of this when they focus purely on customer acquisition while neglecting engaging their existing fans.

One-shot social media accounts and short-term campaigns-focused approaches may eventually build a fan-base, but unless that is paired with activities aimed at engaging those fans, you’ll lose them. Worse, you’ll not only lose them at the time but you’ll also have to work that much harder to win those people back next time.

This is understandable to an extent, especially in a campaign-focused setup – retention plans aren’t as “glamorous” as new customer-acquisitions. As a result, it’s tempting for marketers to focus their dollars on the latter. You’ve seen this approach – the Twitter account that’s shut down after a month; the big-bang launch that’s forgotten by the next week; the multiple campaign-focused Facebook pages that the company launches and shuts down every year.

Agencies (and savvy corporate communicators) need to resist the urge to take this approach. It can be particularly difficult for agencies, where the client brief may not extend to long-term engagement, but good agencies should give clients the advice they need to hear whether they expect that advice or not. Make sure you dedicate sufficient resources to retaining your fans.

So, next time you’re creating a social media plan, stop and think: are you creating social media scorched earth, or are you engaging for the long term?

Have you seen this pattern, in your organization or with clients?

(Image: Steve Lacy)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.