You don’t have to be the world’s most sophisticated content marketer to be active on social media. Most businesses – regardless of size or industry – have some kind of social media presence these days. Take Facebook as an example. The world’s largest social network says it now has more than 60 million active company profiles.
Social media marketing offers brands lots of wonderful opportunities, but with those opportunities come challenges. Finding the right platform, the right content and the right campaign to deliver a positive return is only getting harder as the competition intensifies.
According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 2016 Benchmarks Study social media is the most popular content marketing tactic among Australian brands. More interesting though is how those brands are using social media.
Further down the report we learned that sponsored content on social media sites was the biggest growth area for paid promotion. Almost two thirds (64 per cent) now support the content they post on social with dedicated ad spend to help it get seen by their target audience. That was up from 50 per cent a year earlier.
This shift is evidence of the changing role that social media has in digital marketing campaigns. The emphasis has moved from building followers and posting links to creating content and running paid promotional campaigns.
As more and more brands have flocked to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, getting users to see content has become more of a challenge. For example, a June 2016 study by social media analytics firm SocialFlow found that organic reach on Facebook had dropped 42 per cent in just 12 months.
What this means is that if you want something seen on Facebook – and other leading social media sites – it’s not enough just to have a lot of followers or fans. You also need to pay to promote it.
If you post regular content on your blog but don’t see any kind of tangible return from the time, effort and money you put in, the chances are that the problem was with the strategy – or the absence of one. The same is true with social media.
You can spend a lot of time keeping multiple social media profiles updated with unique and interesting content, but without a proper strategy you’re likely to have little more to show for it than some nice-looking pages.
When we do social media at Castleford, we try to make sure that no client work starts until we’ve had a chance to do some analysis and identify some clear goals. Even when clients have firm ideas about what they want to do, we find it’s always useful to take a look with a fresh pair of eyes and share our experience and best practice.
Social media is often regarded as a necessity. It’s certainly true that – regardless of what business you’re in – there’s a good chance that your target audience spends a sizeable chunk of time on one or more social media sites. But social media, just like any other aspect of your content marketing strategy, needs to justify its share of your budget.
Social media isn’t free. Even if you don’t spend money on sponsored content or ads you still have to spend the time creating and updating profiles. If social media is going into your content marketing strategy it should never be because you feel like you just have to do it.
When we look at social media for clients, we start with their conversion goals. Our priority is allocating their content marketing spend in the most effective way for achieving those conversion goals. Social media gets the same critical eye as creating more blog content, redoing some landing pages or launching a Google Ads campaign.
This is especially important if you have a small budget. You might like the idea of a Facebook Page with thousands of Likes, doing 20 tweets a day and regular long-form publishing on LinkedIn. But you shouldn’t allow your social media marketing strategy to be driven by what you want to see when you check out your company profiles. You should ask: does this directly support my conversion goals? And if it doesn’t, push it down the to-do list in favour of something that does.
Alongside a strong focus on sales, leads, downloads and other tangible outcomes, our social media marketing strategies also tend to include a paid element. That could be sponsoring content to get it in front of more of the right people or using one of the various ad products leading social media sites now offer.
Posting regularly on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is often difficult to link back to your conversion goals. Even if you have a big following on those networks, content published by brands usually has pretty poor visibility.
If you’re investing time and money creating original content for social or even just using it to share updates from your blog you should always consider supporting it with some ad spend. If you rely on organic reach to get a return it’s likely you’ll be disappointed.
An important part of making the case for social media is your data. You want to know if the money you spent on your social media marketing is getting you a return. Is Facebook sending you quality traffic? How many of those whitepaper downloads came from LinkedIn?
At Castleford we have a preference for doing as much of our analysis as possible in Google Analytics, but the leading social media sites all have pretty good free insights, especially Facebook. There are a wide range of third party tools that can help with posting, tracking and reporting. We like Sprinklr.