Don’t be a social media ‘one-hit wonder’

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Can you name any of the singles MC Hammer put out after “U Can’t Touch This”?

How about anything from the Baha Men that wasn’t “Who Let The Dogs Out”?

Did Right Said Fred release anything after “I’m Too Sexy”?

I’m being a little mean to Hammer—he did have a bit of success with “Too Legit to Quit” and “Pumps and a Bump”—but his meteoric rise and fall offer a good lesson to anyone trying to help a brand make inroads in the social media space.

Blasting your way to social media fame might be fun, but sustaining it requires hard work.

The sustainable social media approach

Think about the relationships in your personal lives: Are you more likely to trust someone you’ve just met or someone you’ve known for five years?

It takes a sustained period of time and effort to develop relationships with your online audiences, so although doing big things to get their attention is great, it is more important to focus on the long-term game.

This may seem like common sense to seasoned social media professionals, but I still see people who think social media is about just doing cool stuff.

Cool stuff has its place, but not at the (complete) expense of meaningful engagement.

The one-hit wonder syndrome

Often, mini-campaigns run by agencies—campaigns that generate engagement with their communities—frazzle brands. They ask for a similar campaign, don’t get the same results, and wonder why it didn’t work this time around.

The simple truth is that those mini-campaigns are normally punctuated by an incentive (usually a prize) that attracts a certain type of fan, but not a necessarily sustainable one.

The same goes for video content that’s designed to go viral—again, it’ll get you noticed, but can you serve up content of that quality regularly? If you can’t, you’ll lose a big portion of the audience you spent so much money trying to attract.

Achieving the best of both worlds isn’t easy.

A simple planning model

The chart below outlines a basic way an organization could shape its social media marketing/branding efforts for optimum impact.

The number of “peaks” (campaigns) in a 12-month period will depend on the size of the organization (and community), but like traditional media, doing too much in the social space can generate fatigue, too.

Dos and don’ts of sustainable social media


Be consistently useful. To generate trust you should, at sustained intervals, offer ways to make life easier or better.

Spend time beyond your profiles. Have you ever commented on another Facebook page as a page owner? Have you ever commented on a blog post as a representative of your brand? Instead of focusing on what you’re going to put out, focus on how you can put back.

Space out your big splashes. Running a couple of competitions a year is great; running 20 is excessive.

Treat your community members like human beings. Mistaking them for numbers, as opposed to people, is a sure fire way to stunt your social media growth (and relationships).


Post just for the sake of it. This is quickly becoming one of my biggest social media turn-offs. Content planning and calendars are great, but scheduling posts just to reach a pre-determined limit won’t get you the best results. Share only truly desirable content.

Chase social media fame. Your communities know when you’re creating content for them instead of chasing new audiences. Although growth is important, alienating your most ardent supporters is not worth the five minutes of viral fame.

Be everywhere. Trying to be everywhere your stakeholders are, especially as a smaller business, is unsustainable both online and offline. Do a few things well, as opposed to lots of things to varying standards.

The sustainable approach to social media is very much against my natural inclination—I like doing big things and rocking the boat—but although an creativity and innovation are paramount to business, as well as marketing and media success, so is a good dose of common sense mixed with a drop of patience.

As the old saying goes, less is more.

A version of this story first appeared on

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