Let me start by saying this: social media marketing is one of the channels of marketing that seems the simplest. After all, anyone can set an account up; it’s pretty easy to use; and, you can get posting or building ads immediately. It can be really tempting to think that you can easily do it yourself with little effort or knowledge because of its apparent simplicity. And you certainly can do it yourself, but there are many differences that expertise in the field can bring. Like the difference between reaching 50,000 people with a post instead of only 10,000 with the same spend level. Or, the difference between say a $2 cost per lead instead of $10.
Familiarity with the tools and expertise in content creation and targeting for social media can quickly magnify spend and efforts, keeping loss of marketing efficiency to a minimum. Just like anything, there is much more to it than there appears. This is why many companies have a whole department focused on this part of the marketing portfolio, or at least a “social media guy” or “social media gal” whose specific job is to handle it. In this article, many of the insights apply to all forms of social media marketing, but my focus primarily is Facebook. It is still the most popular choice with the best ways to categorize, present, and drive engagement with users. Plus, it has the greatest sophistication in audience targeting capabilities.
With that being said, don’t be intimidated by social media or shun it either. You may not necessarily understand its full complexity or doubt its effectiveness in being a profitable revenue center, but I can confidently say that it can be understood and it is incredibly effective. I have personally seen and implemented phenomenal returns on this channel because of its low CPA/CPL (cost per action/cost per lead). A beautiful thing about this channel is that you can really segment your products and offerings to very specific groups of people. This increases the odds that your message will resonate within a defined category of prospects, rather than blasting out the same stuff to everyone. The latter is far too wasteful in regards to both money and energy, especially for a small business.
Anyone can pay to get their message out there on a lot of different outlets, but only the ones who are strategic and answer questions frankly about their goals will survive to keep getting their message out. You can even serve specific messages or offers to existing customers or an audience that is similar to one that is receptive to your marketing. Although Facebook’s targeting abilities and restrictions are always in flux (making it a nightmare for those of us like myself who are supposed to be up-to-date at all times), it always has three major categories that you can use to build an audience: demographics, interests, and behavior.
Below are things to ask yourself with social media:
Does my ideal customer/audience use this medium and what do they want to see on it?
Everyone is on social media, regardless of age group, gender, ethnicity, etc. So to ask yourself whether your audience is using it is a resounding: YES. Seniors still make up a smaller percentage of the overall pie, but they are there nonetheless. Make sure you look at the data regarding tendencies of the Facebook users that align with your ideal audience, not just solely whether they meet the demographics. For the most part, social media is relevant within all demographics and it is effective.
Content is king on this channel (as with many others). Content can come from internal efforts, but this can be very time consuming for a staff possibly already stretched thin. Or, content can be generated from the users of your product or service themselves. Though, ideally, it should be a healthy mix of both. Either way, it is an absolute must. You need to be frequent, consistent, and relevant. If you’re not delivering substance on a timely basis, people will forget about you and it’s rare that they’ll ever come back. So if you commit to social media and are able to gain someone’s interest in your business and offerings, you better reward your fans to ensure their loyalty by developing content that will:
- Answer their questions thoughtfully and comprehensively
- Allow them to connect with your brand
- Give them the chance to win something, receive promotional deals, etc.
There is no formula for these things, but they certainly can be figured out through exposing content to a very broad and general audience and seeing who responds to it and the attributes of those that are engaged. From there, further test and refine based off continuous insight.
Do I have a product or service that can lend itself to successful advertising on Facebook?
For example, is your product something that can be quickly recognized, easy to understand, visually pleasing, and presented in an interesting way? Now, it’s not to say that if your product or service doesn’t meet all of these criteria then you shouldn’t be advertising it on social. These are just ideal qualities to have and these should be characteristics that you apply to your product or service when positioning it on social media.
Do you have a culture among your audience and users where they like to capture themselves using your product or service in picture or video, write about it, publicly support it (evangelize it), etc?
If you already have this, you’re off to a great start and luckier than most businesses. Don’t take it for granted, however, because you may have a core group of fans that generate a majority of your content. And if this group feels like they aren’t being recognized or rewarded for it, they might stop at any time and commit their energy to other brands. If you don’t have a culture that among your users that produces content, you need to build one. You need to create a system that will:
- Stimulate content ideas for your users
- Recognize users for their contributions
- Respond to those users that tag your products
- Reward users for positioning your brand in a positive light for the world to see
A great example of this is Subaru. Take a look at their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or anything else. They have developed an almost cult following among their customers and these people love to send in photos, videos, etc. of themselves with their cars. People tag Subaru in photos of their customized WRX’s, Crosstrek’s in an off road landscape, and so on. All of which Subaru shares on their social media. They have a great brand with well-defined value propositions and from it they have developed a culture of “brand evangelists”. These “evangelists” are worth their weight in gold because they are doing the work to produce excellent content displaying products in a positive light FOR FREE! Subaru simply shares this content on its social platforms, which is better than anything they could produce themselves because these are real user experiences coming from real users. Hopefully you’re seeing the power of user-generated content. Plus, this is a self-perpetuating prophecy. As people see others posting this content, they will be enticed to do the same.
These days people want to see other people using other company’s products, as well as read about other users reviewing products (another reason that Google, Facebook, and other reviews is so important, but that is for another article). This is the most powerful form of validation to consumers so these are certainly facets of social media that should be seriously considered and attended to.
As we have seen, there are many tools that social media advertising employs in its targeting and it can be wildly successful in its returns, but it is also a major ONGOING commitment. Nothing will come from a sporadic or infrequent approach, no matter how well-intentioned. This is why, depending on time, personnel, and money resources, many businesses choose to outsource this facet of their marketing. Many find that they can’t handle all of the following:
- Developing content in advance
- Planning it out
- Strategically deploying it at the proper times with the right message
- Adapting to sudden changes in circumstances that require tweaks to existing content, or scrap it and quickly produce something new
- Quickly replying to comments, complaints, etc.
To say social media isn’t its own marketing science, just like any other channel, would be misguided. Social media is incredibly important and needs to be treated with just as much care and diligence as any of your other efforts. At Unique Minds Consulting, LLC, we have extensive experience with the creation of social media content, strategy, and optimization discussed in this article. To schedule a free consultation of your overall marketing or specifically social media, please schedule an appointment here or call us at (207) 303-5634. You can ask questions at our Facebook group – Small Business Advice from Unique Minds Consulting – or visit our website to check out our services and chat with someone regarding any questions that you have.
Written by Austin Bayley, owner of Unique Minds Consulting, LLC. It is a local small business marketing agency located in Scarborough, Maine committed to offering novel solutions through creative strategy that create competitive barriers. We do this through extensive analysis, methodical implementation, continual refinement, and effective optimization.