Social media dabbling is a bad idea

Jun 22, 2016
Digital Marketing

It could be considered a weird quirk of English that “to dabble” means literally “in with both feet”, and yet figuratively it means the complete opposite of the phrase “jump in feet first”.

I first learnt the meaning of “dabble” from Ratty in The Wind in the Willows and thus whenever I think of the word, I can’t help but picture ducks in my head.

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

It’s not unusual for clients to tell us they “dabble” in social media; they participate in a casual or superficial way, unstructured and without strategic purpose.

Such a comment makes my heart sink.

Leave the dabbling to ducks, because in social-media land dabbling is a bad, bad idea.

Greg Higgerson is a 20-year veteran of fundraising and marketing in the US who has raised $58 million in his time with Second Harvest Food Bank. He gets to the nub of the issue pretty succinctly, so I’m going to pinch his words:

“It will never be enough for an organization to ‘dabble’ in social media. It’s not the kind of thing that can be visited in a staffer’s ‘spare time’, or just handed off to an intern, and hope to be effective. There needs to be a well-considered strategy that is implemented daily…” 

(If you want to read more, check out the very excellent book Social Media for Government: Theory and Practice.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with testing things out as long as there is an understanding that it probably won’t deliver much.

But there are two critical reasons to not be a dabbler:

Get strategic

For an organisation looking to leverage (and, frankly, not embarrass themselves) on social media, there must be a strategy behind the activities to create a desired outcome.

A strategy should include analysis of:

There’s no point being on social media if you’ve not got anything new and useful to give your readers. Let’s be honest, that’s the entire purpose of this blog: To provide the clients, prospective clients and subscribers to Lush Digital with insight and information they might otherwise not have access to.

You think we’re giving this away? Oh no, my friend, right now you are part of the Lush Digital strategy. I’m not writing a blog just to have a rant (that’s just an added perk).

Dabblers don’t have unique content, key messages or purpose.

They walk in circles in a social media desert because they lack the compass of strategy to provide direction. It’s a huge waste of time and resources.

Avoid looking stupid

Having a social profile means that your social savvy clients and customers will come and find you and they will want to interact.

They’ll want to use whatever that channel is as a way of communicating with your organisation, and if you are a “dabbler”, there is every chance you will miss that opportunity to engage with them.

Having a question sitting on a Facebook page for weeks may well be worse than having no Facebook page at all.

If you don’t have the time or drive to develop a solid strategy, then to be honest, perhaps social media isn’t for you.

And that’s ok.

Do one thing well

Focus is the heart of strategy.

The “big seven” social media channels include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ (true story), Instagram and YouTube. For those communicating with people under 25, there’s also Snapchat to contend with.

When starting out on social, pick your battles. Go to where your audience is and put your content in front of them on the right platform. If you’re selling recipes, LinkedIn is not for you but Pinterest might be the place to go.

Get advice

There are some great social media pundits out there who have dedicated years to learning everything there is to know about integrated digital marketing, which is not just social but how the digital space can augment your marketing activities. 

Digital changes fast. For example, this month Instagram launched its new business platform, and not long ago Facebook launched live video streaming.

It takes effort, time and dedication to stay up-to-date and, for most organisations, that’s not core business.

Instead, get advice from someone whose business it is to know this stuff.


If you need help developing a content strategy, including how to distribute your content through social media, get in touch with Lush – The Content Agency.