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What happens to your business if social media vanishes?

Hypothetically, what would happen to your business if your Social Media following vanished?

This situation was a genuine one for Donald Trump, who lost 88.7 million Twitter followers overnight (zero sympathies). The impact for him? He lost his voice.

It’s unlikely that any of us would be banned for life unless we did something very wrong; however, what happens if, for some reason, Instagram shut down? Or a new platform came onto the scene, and Twitter became redundant? How would your business be affected?

Is it time to switch your focus from social media communities to email databases?

In this article, I’ve not set out to bad mouth the Social Media industry as it plays a huge role in all of the businesses we work with. I do, however, want to get people thinking differently about their customer communication channels.

Too often we experience businesses, both B2B and B2C, that have invested so much in growing their social media communities yet have neglected their 1st party databases. So in the event of a collapse of Social Media platforms, how would they speak to their customers or prospects?

When we talk about 1st Party data here, we refer to CRM – Your address book of customers and prospects. The emails, phone numbers and addresses of people you have the permissions to speak to via email, SMS, post etc. (There’s also 1st party tracking data that we can talk about another time…)

The most important difference between, for example, your Instagram community and your CRM database, is that you have the ability to talk to your 1st party database directly. You’re not fighting any algorithms or competing with adverts, you’re reaching people directly. Unlike social media platforms, you have the opportunity to segment your 1st party data and tailor communications accordingly – if you’re posting to Facebook or Instagram you must treat every follower as the same person… which as marketers you’ll know is not great.

Segmentation and targeting is not the only aspect that should be considered, brands also have the ability to ask questions on preferences. For example, do people prefer to be contacted via email, SMS or post? Or would they like to only hear about offers? Or be contacted once per week? All of these things improve the way brands communicate with their customers and prospective customers alike.

The most important thing to take away from this is that you own your 1st party database. You’re not renting them like you are with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. If you look after this data in the right way it’ll be yours forever.

Social media as a marketing channel is hugely important for the majority of businesses operating today. It’s often the case though that businesses have the balance slightly wrong. Continue to build your social media communities, but remember the ultimate goal should be to migrate every Instagram follower or Facebook Like over to your 1st party database – as this is where you’ll really benefit.

So my summary is this, if you’re not doing so already, invest in CRM now. Assess the data points you’re collecting from people and make sure you’re collecting the right permissions. Produce a plan and get your customers comfortable hearing from you directly because if suddenly things change you must be ready. And as for your social media communities? Continue to build them and let them flourish, but with the underlying goal of migrating as many of those people over to your 1st party database as possible.

(It’s worth noting that some businesses found themselves in this situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. With shops closed and budgets extremely tightened, it became more difficult to acquire new customers. The brands that had existing CRM strategies in place had the upper hand over those that had neglected this area.)

There’s absolutely a place for social media communities, but for more wholesome and personal communications with your customers or prospects, CRM wins every time.


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