Even though we recently celebrated the 14th anniversary of Facebook’s launch, there is still a great deal of trepidation and a general lack of basic knowledge about what social media can do for business.
After an 11-year career managing PR and social media on behalf of the world’s largest real estate franchise network, I believe there are a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to effectively manage social media on behalf of a brand or business. Social media at its core is a way for individuals and businesses to connect on a more personal level online. While interactions online will never replace the power face-to-face meetings, it does enable businesses to create a personal connection with their customers, prospects, and recruits through one-on-one engagement.
Tinder Is Not The Way To Do Social
Many marketers still believe that social media is like a one-time hook-up on Tinder It is difficult for many business owners and corporate marketers to understand how much work goes into building a strong online presence, grow an audience that is right for your business, and how much time and effort it takes to maintain and foster that audience to the point where you have created customers for life. Many marketers still believe that social media is like a one-time hook-up on Tinder, where you just post a fake picture and thousands of eyeballs will flock to it and flick to the right. This is simply not the case.
For instance, when building out the social sphere for a business, it is incredibly important to take the time to understand who the audience is for that brand, business, product, or service. While big data can tell us a lot, there is no substitute for having someone who is committed to watching your back in the digital space. Creating and updating profiles, pages, engaging with customers, and jumping on opportunities to enhance brand awareness and preference are all things that a dedicated social media manager can bring to the table. All of these things take time, proficiency, and an understanding of your business’ objectives.
Researching Twitter accounts, LinkedIn profiles, creating and managing closed and open groups on Facebook to open up channels of communication for recruits, influencers, and prospects are all a part of the planning and execution of a cogent social media strategy. Now, combine that with a powerful content generation capability and a firm knowledge of how to convert that content into PRable stories that engage external media and / or internal audiences and you get some idea of what a social media manager or agency’s responsibilities must include.
With social media, there are no days off. Opening up a digital storefront on any social network requires careful consideration, a deep understanding of the network, a plan, a process, and continuous tracking and management. And then, social media advertising requires a different skill-set than community management or content curation.
Advertising via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and other social networks amplifies your content and has the potential to expand your fans and followers most efficiently. But just like any other form of advertising, this takes time, resources, and a commitment to leveraging social media to build your brand, enhance preference, and generate business. Many advertising and PR agencies have adopted social media as a core competency, but it may be more of a bolt-on service rather than a part of the agency’s organic fabric. It is important to differentiate this if selecting a service provider.
Today A Little Social Advertising Goes A Long Way
The good news for your brand is that the power of social advertising is only now beginning to be understood. According to Hootsuite, social media ad spends represented only 14 percent of digital ad spend (representing just over $23B) in 2015. This social media ad spend is likely to exceed $35.98B in 2017, representing an increase of almost 13 billion in just two years.
The unique advantage of Facebook, and the reason over 3 million businesses are now using it to advertise, is its ability target. It offers advertisers an incredible advantage and is very cost effective. Instagram is on the rise, and LinkedIn is very effective for recruiting but is pricey. YouTube is great if you are building brand awareness, but in my experience, you will get more for your money through a promoted-post with an embedded video via Facebook. It is also important to understand that YouTube traffic is directed to YouTube, not your website, so if your goal is to drive website traffic it may not be a good fit for you.
Early Adopter Advantage
The challenge and opportunity represented by the late adopters is extraordinary when you consider there are somewhere between 24 and 27 million private and closely-held businesses in the US alone. As Gen X and digital natives begin to assume leadership positions and open up small businesses the pool of tech-savvy entrepreneurs open to social advertising will expand significantly.
Just as Facebook started out as a “free service” for businesses, other social networks will refine their advertising strategies, and the price to advertise your business on Facebook will continue to rise. Although today, Facebook is the 800lb gorilla in the social media landscape, it’s a bargain considering the alternatives (out-of-home, print, radio, television, search, display) to advertise your business. In my opinion, early adopters who build their social sphere “audience” rapidly at the lowest-possible price point through a solid content strategy, targeted advertising, and continual engagement and follow up with fans and followers, are poised to achieve a competitive advantage in their respective markets for a significant period of time. The longer you wait; the more expense it will be to achieve the same results.
Let’s Cut To The Chase
If you are a small to medium-sized business or working in the marketing department of a large corporation, you have an opportunity to lead your organization’s move into the social space at a time when you are still able to gain a competitive advantage for the least possible cost. Digital is not going away; it is only going to grow in importance.
Many media buyers may disagree about the importance of audience growth due to the number of fake accounts that proliferate the social space, but I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are ways to build an audience and mitigate the spam fans. My advice for businesses and brands considering whether or not to manage social media marketing internally or outsourcing is to understand what your business marketing objectives are first, engage with a professional and understand the effort required.
Effective social media representation doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it does require investment and commitment because this form of marketing is not about short gains. Just like any good relationship, it takes time to build something that lasts. Bottom line, in the social era, if you are not in business to build relationships, I don’t believe you will be in business very long.