Social Media: In the new year, don't just follow the herd

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By Nick Westergaard, correspondent

Running is one of my favorite things. I try to run about 3 miles ever other day.

When I’m faced with excessive amounts of delicious holiday treats as the past couple weeks have presented, I keep at it in the hopes that I can come close to breaking even calorically. While spending Christmas with my in-laws at their Buchanan County farm, I set out on a quick rural run.

While enjoying the view, I came upon a herd of sheep silently staring at me as a group. When I stopped to take a photo, they scattered. You know, like sheep.

On my return, they had reconvened.

So, you now know that I like to run and I was recently fascinated by some sheep displaying some pretty average sheep behavior. First, thank you for bearing with me. Second, by now you have to be wondering, how will any of this make you a better marketer? These observations provide a worthwhile teaching moment as many of us reset for the challenges of branding and marketing in the new year ahead.

Following the Herd

Everyone always cautions us not to be like sheep. Not to mindlessly follow the herd.

Sayings such as these are so frequently used it’s easy to forget why they’re so commonplace. It’s because they’re so true. While sheep are an extreme example, they’re representative of a problem we face all too often in marketing today.

New social networks and content marketing tools evolve and emerge at such a rapid pace it’s easy for marketers to get into that herd mentality. “Everyone’s talking about Snapchat and Periscope now. We should be on Snapchat and Periscope!”

While these social media and content tools hold great promise for marketers, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all marketing plan.

The New Year’s season is filled with lists, trends and resolutions. Things you should be doing that you’re not. It’s easy to follow the herd and focus solely on adding new social networks and new forms of content, but this doesn’t always mean you’re improving your marketing.

As I’m fond of saying, more isn’t always better. Sometimes more is just more.

Your New Year’s Resolution

In thinking of your New Year’s resolution as a marketer, I’m asking you to do a better job of considering what’s behind your marketing. Instead of just doing more, do a better job of what you’re already doing.

Who are you trying to reach? Where are they located? What’s your message to them? What action do you want them to take?

Challenge the why behind what you’re doing. Just because everyone else is playing with Blab doesn’t mean you have to be. Just because there’s a lot of buzz around podcasting doesn’t mean you need to go mic shopping.

Please don’t mistake my advice as encouraging you to be a laggard. Your marketing has to evolve with the times, but you have to make sure that it does so for the right reasons.

Just because the rest of the herd is doing something doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand. With so many tools for connecting with people and delivering content, basic engagement is the new norm.

The bar has been raised. You can’t just plant a flag on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and call it good.

You have to focus your strategy for each social initiative. You have to focus on content that’s meaningful to your audience.

These aren’t easy resolutions to check off a list. They take careful planning and a willingness not to be distracted by what the rest of the herd is up to.

Are you ready to focus your marketing in 2016?

l Nick Westergaard is founder of Brand Driven Digital, nick@westergaard.com, @nickwestergaard

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