Is it time to cut back on social media?

Interesting post on the Harvard Business Review blog that makes the case for not spreading yourself too thin when it comes to social media. While some argue that brands need to keep up and be represented on a variety of social platforms in practice this can prove challenging. Even if you consider only the biggest social networks that still means you having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. You could add Foursquare to that — some do seem to think that it will have a good year.

That is half a dozen social networks, which becomes something of a juggling issue when you have to keep these all updated.  There’s nothing worse than social platforms that are infrequently updated and have digital tumbleweed blowing through them, but are there to show the brand in question has a presence. The question is what is the value of “presence” alone? Some would argue that ”presence means nothing”. Not in of itself.

Rather than thinking about presence says consultant Dorie Clark he says there is a desire to cut back on social media efforts. He isn’t talking about doing less overall or abandoning new media, but rather highlighting a desire to prune and focus on the platforms that have the most impact in order to keep up with the demands of social media.

That means simply that brands and their agencies need to think hard about what social platforms are right and work. For instance if you are a retailer Pinterest is a bit of a no brainer and there are some great examples of retailers doing very well here. Check out TescoJohn LewisM&SDebenhams, and ASOS for examples.

Other platforms are not necessarily going to work so well. Other than to say almost everyone needs to be on Twitter for customer service as much as anything else. But do you need to be on Google+? Some say you do.

“We’re now reaching a point where having a scattered focus could truly be deleterious to your goals, because you’re only able to half-engage or create mediocre content. Marcy Massura of Weber Shandwick, who was on another panel with me, commented that “presence means nothing.” Indeed, if you have a Twitter profile with 35 followers, or a MySpace page that hasn’t been touched since 2007, it often looks worse than having nothing at all. (Personally, I just KO’d my Foursquare account.)

“It’s become increasingly clear that with the proliferation of new platforms, no person or company can become the master of them all. Nor should they. The harder decision is figuring out which ones you should prioritize — or jettison. Establishing ROI has always been the holy grail of social media. We may still have a ways to go before we can quantify its objective, dollars-and-cents impact (if you read about something on Facebook, and then saw a tweet, and then went to the mall to buy it, does it count?). But even anecdotally, you probably have some good operating theories. For instance, if you target women, Pinterest is a great bet; if it’s males, Google+ is currently their stomping ground. And as I’ve written about here on HBR.org, blogging is the best way to demonstrate true content mastery and thought leadership.

“The “best” platforms will be different for every person or brand. But in 2013, think hard about how you can cut back, so you can focus on what matters,” Dorrie writes.