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One of the biggest complaints about using social media is that it leads to incremental, rather than exponential, gains.

This means that building recognition and reputation in social media takes time, and is most often a series of small actions, applied over time, rather than one grand push which suddenly makes all your business goals come true.

This is an important consideration, because it goes back to an earlier post on investing in social media and comparing the time vs money of doing so.

While not all social media gains are incremental (think about viral videos on YouTube or viral applications on Facebook), for most of us, we’ll gain followers and notice one person at a time.

The incremental approach isn’t really favored in online marketing circles. Better to have a grand product launch, flashy hype, and over-the-top promises to drive your marketing message home. This is the direct antithesis to what works in social media.

If you, or your company, is thinking of investing in social media, be prepared for incremental gains, for the most part. (Unless, of course, you have a video that goes viral or an application downloaded by millions!- but these can rarely be planned or predicted. Fans are fickle.)

A better strategy is to invest in social media regularly, and to focus deeply on a few of the hundreds of sites. Focus in on the sites which have the greatest numbers of your desired demographic. (You can get data on this from places like or Laser in on the greatest concentrations of those in your target demographic and psychographic market, and then show up regularly, contribute intelligently, and continue to do so over time.

Social media is not a one-time, one-size-fits-all approach. You need to craft a thoughtful strategy, execute it diligently, and track relentlessly.

Look for incremental gains, and be ready for exponential ones. That way, you’re prepared for every outcome, because, after all, fans are fickle.