Companies struggling with social media and websites may have been zooming in on an ever-changing quicksand. Perhaps it works better to look at something else to engage customers instead.

Ms Ekaterina Walter wrote an enlightening piece in Fast Company, on social media engagement and some observations. For one, it would appear that when content is not engaging, even as fan numbers seem to escalate, engagement may reduce drastically – simply because fans are capable of hiding your updates altogether. I know, I have done the same. So while a fan may not necessarily unsubscribe, it may not correlate to such a fan actually reading any of your updates at all.

I have personally used various social media platforms since their emergence, as part of our consulting work for clients. It is not a pretty sight. Social media platforms come and go, and some, keep changing the rules of the game that sometimes it feels like struggling in quicksand for many clients. We as consultants have little option to complain – it is our duty to help our clients rise above the quicksand. But it is exhausting to users and clients alike. Some get a sense of fatigue and leaves the social media game altogether. After all, communicating with real people (families, friends and peers) can easily be done through phone calls and email – still two of the most accessible communication forms to many people.

Some marketers use automated platforms to post social media updates, with the hope of trickling updates to reduce content fatigue on social media platforms. However, even then, users can become fatigued when the bottom line is that many of these updates are nothing more than advertisements of products and services, and do not have “edutainment” value. And users are discerning and know that these are not a real conversation between a person to another, but a form of unicasting (one-to-many).

And since search engines do not have access to social media accounts, trying to integrate social media platform offerings with search engine optimization (SEO) becomes challenging if not impossible for many companies. As such, if social media and SEO both do not necessarily bring dramatic improvements to say, one’s bottom line and customer retention and engagement, how should our outreach strategy be?

For one, social media platforms are still important. Keep one or two most important platforms and build on them.

Second, instead of merely zeroing in on SEO, build real content instead. Keep the content on your own web properties relevant, educational, and entertaining. These self-hosted content can easily be shared on your social media offerings, and will have a real positive impact on your SEO as well.

Third, keep improving your own web properties. These are platforms you own, and can develop with the rules of your own, without limitations imposed by others. You can build content, supporting technologies that may even include your own private social network capabilities, as well as backend capabilities such as databases that can leverage on your corporate communication and prospect/customer outreach exercises. Develop your own websites first and continually, and then build other social media offerings. Never neglect your own foundation and your own content fortress – your website.