Social media networks—with their huge scale, direct reach, and sophisticated targeting options—are incredibly powerful marketing channels for businesses. However, to utilize them for maximum effect, it’s essential for senior marketers to grapple with a few underlying truths about how social platforms function today.
In particular, there’s a set of important core principles about social networks that are often overlooked by CMOs. Ignoring these is often the root of many brands’ frustrations with social media, since it leads to low engagement and inefficient spends.
1. You Have to Pay to Play
There was a time when brands could build up large follower bases on social networks and then market to these audiences directly for free. That time has passed.
Last year, unpaid impressions on Facebook dropped by more than 35% for brands in the first quarter alone, and it’s estimated that unpaid posts reach fewer than 2% of company Page fans. This trend can be seen across other platforms, including Instagram and LinkedIn. Even Twitter, the last major bastion of unpaid reach, recently made changes to its Timeline that are expected to ultimately prioritize paid posts.
What that means is that if you want to reach audiences on social networks these days you’ll have to pay. While that may sound like a huge negative, it’s actually a good development for brands. To post on social media and reach someone now costs money, yes, but in exchange, the platforms are giving marketers unprecedented access to extremely powerful targeting tools. This ability to reach hyper-specific groups lets you invest in engaging the right people, rather than trying to build up a broad, unstable base of fans. In other words, paying to post actually saves both time and budget.
2. Social Media is Only Part of the Puzzle
Here’s another core truth: social media alone will not solve all your marketing problems.
That may sound like a simple fact, yet it’s frequently forgotten by CMOs. All too often, brands will focus on social media to the detriment of other channels, or they’ll approach it in isolation. Both of these are huge mistakes.
Social media marketing is only effective if it’s part of a larger ecosystem. That’s why it’s essential to continue to do things like investing in mobile, optimizing your website, spending on search, and developing sophisticated analytics while also engaging on social networks.
The important thing to remember is that social media is much more powerful when paired with other marketing channels and tactics. For example, if you track website visitors, retarget them on social networks with paid ad units, and send them back to the appropriate pages on your site, you’ll see exponentially more engagement. That’s where the true power of social media lies.
3. Social Has to Be About Your Audience, Not You
Finally, it’s essential to understand that your social presence should serve the needs of your audiences first.
This isn’t to say that you should use social media out of altruism; engaging must ultimately serve some larger business goal. However, when approaching your social posts, always think about the value that you’re delivering for the individual consumer.
This value can come in many different forms. Your social posts can spark an emotion, or convey interesting information, or even just provide necessary information. But they must do something for the person seeing them. If you simply post only what you want—uninteresting company news, unnecessary updates about products/services, etc.—you’ll see few likes, shares, comments, and clicks. Moreover, you’ll fail to build trust and start to see less and less engagement.
Ultimately, if you want your social posts to serve a purpose for your business, then they must serve a purpose for your audiences.
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