The Elephant in the Room

The promise of organic growth as a part of any social media initiative is something that's very appealing. The simple belief that 'if you build it, they will come' is an idea that has been around long before the dawn of social media. In fact, early websites followed this logic: spend enough on something special, and people will find their way to it. Create something - no matter how good - and most people will at least take a second to check it out (even though they might never return).

Over the last few years, brands, agencies and marketers have learned the hard way. The number of orphan Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and Blogs speaks volumes about the failed strategies and focus that many have had over the years. Despite the fact that the pages were likely started with good intentions, something about them didn't seem to connect - or so we thought. Months after they didn't acheive a following, they'd be evaluated (mostly on the 'quality' of the content) and new ideas would be hatched.

But here is the problem. It's just simply about the content of the page or the 'engagement strategy'. It's not just about the apps, promotions and customer service outlets.

It's about this - do people actually know it exists?

Or more to the point - did you save any investment for, you know, advertising?

It's easy in the above-the-line world. We have reference points. Spend 80-90% of your budget on buying the media and the rest of it on producing it. Getting airtime on top TV networks is expensive. Shooting spots from a production standpoint are expensive as well, but minimal in comparrision to the actual cost of airing them.

And here lies the digital issue. Getting your ideas published doesn't really cost anything. If you want to launch a page, a blog or a site quickly, you can get it up in an hour or two. As the site becomes more complex and the requirements get larger, costs go up. But again, actually getting a domain and putting it out on the world-wide-web isn't an expensive process - especially when you compare launching that to TV spot.

Media, as a result, becomes an after-thought. Contact the 'hyper-influencers'. Do some outreach. The advices mounts - and it's not wrong, it's just missing a critical component - media.

Believe me, I love social and I'm a big advocate of earned media. But countless studies have shown that paid media leads to a greater share of earned. That the idea of something just 'going viral' without a smart seeding strategy or big TV buy just isn't accurate anymore - there is just to much content out there.

Sure, some of it gets through and we see it (and then share it). But most of the stuff that's not supported in some way, goes nowhere.

The next time you're discussing your social initiative, site or application, just remember that if you do end up actually building it, they won't come unless they know about it