• There's a need to treat each social network as separate media channels entirely
  • Content distribution on social is a key factor to effective content marketing
  • Doing social but not understanding the network is like being the awkward one in the room

Companies often struggle and waste resources on social because their idea of social itself is wrong.

Have you ever come across a tweet that had text, an Instagram post link, but no thumbnail of the photo? This can come from linking a Twitter account to Instagram, allowing an Instagram post to be tweeted automatically at the same time. As convenient as this may be, doing this is a mistake. Why?

Because in order to effectively get messages across, in this case the Instagram content, there's a need to understand the room that you're speaking in so that you can act accordingly. Disrupting the vibe can have negative impacts. There's even a Japanese saying for being unable to do this, "空気が読めない (kuuki ga yomenai)." Each social network is indeed a different room.

Disregarding the fact that Twitter doesn't display Instagram photos in tweets, or that your followers may use Instagram differently than Twitter and have different expectations, highlights an inability to understand the room. What good is spending all that time and money to create content when you can't effectively distribute it?

We often group all social networks together simply under "social," but we should be recognizing them as completely different media channels altogether.

Print, TV, radio and email all seem to be their own categories in peoples' minds, but because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and so on all happen to be apps that you log into, create a profile and post onto from your phone, they get grouped into a single "social media" category. Unfortunately, this generalization inhibits our ability to effectively do social media.

Think about how you yourself uses the networks that you do. Maybe your Twitter is very professional and your Facebook is only for your friends? Maybe it's the opposite? The reality is that we all use different networks for different reasons, at different times of day, follow different accounts on each, and may prefer seeing a certain type of content on one but not on another.

A person who looks for delicious foods on Instagram may switch networks and go to Pinterest to look for the tools to cook them with. This would require food-related companies to treat their content very differently on the two networks.

It's also important to consider the target market.

While it's normal in Japan to friend business contacts on Facebook, many overseas use Facebook only for personal relationships and prefer to connect on LinkedIn for work. Because of this, posting content that helps establish thought leadership in your company's industry may be better done there than on Facebook.

If you have a consumer product that you're trying to reach young Singaporeans with, you might want to skip over the not-so-popular Pinterest and stick to Instagram. If you're looking to gain a young American fanbase that will become your customers in a few years, consider branding yourself on Snapchat where it's their most important network (start thinking about it if you're a Japanese company because you have virtually no Japanese competition right now!), or on Instagram where they're more likely to follow brands than on Facebook. 

Study by Piper Jaffray : Most important social networks for US teens in Spring 2016

Study by Piper Jaffray: Most important social networks for US teens in Spring 2016

Understanding the differences in the various social networks is key in being able to connect your content with future customers.

Tweeting that automatic Instagram post with no care about Twitter is like creating a radio commercial and then putting it on TV as is.

But let's say you create video content and upload it to YouTube. Linking it to Facebook would put yourself at a disadvantage. Facebook, in its push to become a dominant video network, uses an algorithm that favors videos uploaded natively to Facebook. This means that it'll likely be shown to more people than simply linking it from YouTube.

So can you simply upload the same video? It would be unwise to. Because Facebook videos autoplay, 88% of them are watched with no sound, meaning that including captions is a good practice to do.  And because of the timeline nature of Facebook, users aren't looking to watch longer videos like they would be on YouTube, leading top video publishers to cut their Facebook videos down to 2 minutes or less. And since they're short, users are unwilling to turn their phones sideways to watch them, which is why 75% of viral media site BuzzFeed's Facebook videos are square. In fact, completed video views for vertical videos are 9 times greater than that of horizontal videos.

The opportunity to optimize your content for each media channel is there, not doing it is only cheating yourself out of a maximum effect.

As an example to sum everything up, here's magazine Cosmopolitan's way of distributing the same piece of content on different networks:

In their Facebook post, Cosmopolitan added a comment that makes you click the article to see what they mean. They also tagged Starbucks and used an emoji.

On their Snapchat Discover, a full screen, animated cover image with music (not playing) is created that immediately lets viewers know the theme of the content, then highlights key words of the title that relates to it.

On their Snapchat Discover, a full screen, animated cover image with music (not playing) is created that immediately lets viewers know the theme of the content, then highlights key words of the title that relates to it.

Their tweet is straight-forward, only writing the title of the article itself and uploading a photo to go along with it.

ViaTAM does international social media marketing and management for companies bridging in or out of Japan.