Ah social media marketing; the saviour of small companies everywhere, giving businesses of all sizes a voice and the means to communicate with their customers. Over the last few years you’ve probably spent a considerable amount of effort, and more than likely a bit of cash, in building up your online following and now you can reap the rewards of all that hard work with an engaged and eager fan-base to communicate your brand to, right?
Well, not quite.
In 2010 maybe this was the case, but in 2014 things are a little different.
Commercial competition for eyeballs on social media is increasing all the time and as a result, a smaller and smaller percentage of your brand’s messages are reaching your fans’ newsfeeds. Organic reach has plummeted over the last couple of years and the goal-posts have shifted a great deal when it comes to using social media as a marketing tool.
I think most SMEs are either still unaware, or in denial of the fact that Facebook in particular is now a pay-to-play platform, and if you want people to see your posts, you’re likely going to have to shell out for the privilege.
The two sides to ‘Social’
Regardless of all that though, when people talk about social media as a marketing tool in-and-of-itself these days, I think that it’s somewhat misguided. In reality, social media in a marketing context today can be looked at as two separate things, a content platform and an advertising channel. Two aspects that need to be looked at independently.
Creating great content, whether this is a post or an article to be shared, is still very important, something that SMEs need to put a lot more consideration into with regards to building their brand ‘story’. But with organic reach falling off a cliff recently, companies must start to give serious consideration into putting their money where their mouth is and actually use a paid approach to social. Otherwise they run the risk of disappearing into the social ether, another casualty of the race for eyeballs.
A lot of SMEs that I have come across seem to have no idea how to run a campaign on Facebook, or even that this was something they should be considering. They see social media as a handy little way of getting their message out there and engaging with their customers but don’t realize the potential of using it as a traditional (i.e. paid) marketing tool.
In my experience targeted social campaigns can be hugely effective, with better CPCs and CPAs than more intent-based PPC approaches like Google AdWords. But for most SMEs, this simply isn’t on their radar. And that’s fair enough too. Social has been ‘free’ for so long that many companies seem to resent the fact that their organic reach has dropped and they now need to pay for exposure.
Many see this as a ploy from Facebook to force brands into spending money promoting themselves but in reality it’s not hard to understand that, as more and more brands have moved onto social media over the years, limiting the amount of marketing messages that are shown to users organically is a pretty essential move to stop people’s newsfeeds from being clogged up by ads from all the brand pages they’ve liked.
If you’re still not convinced of using a paid approach though, then you really need to make sure that your content is amazing enough to be shared on its own by your fans. In an ideal world, we’d all be creating great content and using paid social ads sparingly, but the sad fact is that unless you’re producing unbelievable content that your fan-base actively engages with and shares, you’re probably not getting too much exposure.
To get the most out of a social effort these days you really need to marry both great content and paid ads.