Effective social media marketing isn’t all that easy. And, the data shown above, from a new report by Harvard Business Review, demonstrates that quite well. My guess is that even some of the 12% who think they’re doing well with social media marketing find their actual results don’t deliver everything that’s possible with this marketing channel.
So, what are so many of these organizations doing WRONG to achieve ineffective social media marketing?
According to the report, much of this failure lies in using an advertising or social media paradigm on social media channels. Such 1-way communication is disastrous in social networks where talking AT your audience rather than talking with them fails to build engagement or the community needed to reach your social media marketing goals.
Firms just don’t seem to understand the fundamental difference between social media marketing and traditional marketing. Here’s what Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytics guru, has to say about the difference between social media and traditional media:
Too many companies have not evolved from what I call ‘shout marketing’ — think TV,newspapers, magazine ads — to influence by initiating and participating in conversations with consumers. There needs to be a generational shift.
I’m not sure we need a generational shift (in fact, my college seniors have no better understanding of effective social media marketing than 40-something advertising execs) but certainly, social media is a disruptive technology — one that calls into question the status quo and requires a different paradigm, not just a few tweaks.
Other factors show why companies have problems creating effective social media marketing campaigns.
- Three-quarters (75%) of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them.
- Nearly one-third (31%) do not measure the effectiveness of social media.
- Less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools.
- Only a fraction (7%) of participating companies are able to integrate social media into their marketing activities
Again, factors hampering effective social media marketing mirror the situation in traditional media — where superficial use of analytics negatively impacts decision-making. It’s amazing how many firms — big firms; small firms — have few analytic tools to assess and guide social media marketing. And, many of the metrics they DO track are fairly superficial “vanity metrics” such as # Fans, # Followers, etc. In fact, I recently downloaded a social media analytics template from Hubspot and it was ENTIRELY filled with these vanity metrics instead of meaningful data necessary for effective social media marketing — things measuring engagement, content sharing, goal accomplishment, funnel measurement, etc. THESE are metrics designed to help you optimize your campaigns. More on this later.
Of course, other factors interfere with effective social media marketing. Having the right people managing your social media marketing, for 1. Here’s another graphic from the HBR study.
Notice lots of firms use marketing folks to run their social media marketing. While I applaud the fact most firms recognize that, at its heart, social media marketing IS marketing, few marketing folks truly understand social media. It’s a different animal.
General communication and PR are similarly different from social media and they aren’t marketing. Both these tactics are more informational than promotional and don’t understand the importance of building toward conversion.
However, firms who’ve invested heavily in community are already social and get the difference between social media marketing and traditional marketing. Firms like Southwest, who always invested in people willing to put passengers first and get a little goofy to make sure passengers had a good flight. These companies have a leg up on social media since they are, at their heart, social marketing.
Social media and technology
Also, face it, social media marketing involves technology. Hence, you see a bunch of firms involving their web and IT teams in managing their social engagement. SEO also falls into the realm of the web team, so involving them is critical. But, they don’t understand marketing concepts.
From my perspective, I expect to see a big commitment to content marketing in effective social media marketing. I’m not sure which functional area might produce such content, but I’d think R&D and operations have some interesting stories worth sharing on social networks. Similarly, firms MUST involve customer service in an era where customers are MORE likely to complain on Twitter or Facebook than in other forums. Customer service must listen to these conversations for questions or dissatisfaction so they can respond quickly to reduce the negative impact of such communication.
Here’s what Charles Gumbley, Director of Flower Telecom says about this critical element:
It’s important that you take the time to learn how social media marketing works for your specific business. While the fundamentals are similar across the board, different businesses will have to alter their strategies slightly in order to capture the attention of their target audience. In the beginning, consume as much content and free resources as you can. From there, you can then focus on your specific goals and objectives.
Understanding also means knowing your target audience(s) in greater depth. That’s why we build personas that contain a richer picture of your customer than in old fashioned target segments. For example, check out this persona.
Listening is something firms don’t use enough or do effectively, especially in CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies where long distribution channels divide manufacturers from their customers. Social media acts to bridge that gap, almost like inviting the manufacturer to your kitchen table as you share your thoughts and evaluations of the brand with your friends, family, and neighbors.
By listening to conversations about your brand and those offered by competitors, you learn what consumers like and don’t like about your brand. By analyzing what you hear, you can adapt your products and/ or messaging to better meet customer expectations.
However, listening isn’t a passive exercise. Instead, jump into conversations to offer solutions. Many firms now offer customer service during prescribed hours directly from their social media platforms, often through Chatbots to ensure “someone” is always available to answer questions or provide advice.
3. Automate your processes
Effective social media marketing takes a lot of time and effort. Things come up, someone gets sick, or an emergency arises and, before your know it, you missed the optimal time to post content to your social platforms or even missed posting altogether. Consistency is critical so such lapses negatively impact your social media performance.
Don’t leave your content strategy at the mercy of emerging problems. Automate your efforts by using tools such as Buffer to create an entire week’s worth of posts in an afternoon to ensure posts go up at the right time with the right frequency. Check out the graphic below for advice regarding the optimal posting frequency across various social platforms. Tools like Buffer also suggest optimal times for publication.
Of course, your automation use shouldn’t substitute for a sound strategy. For instance, building in approval for posts prior to publication ensures something doesn’t go up that embarrasses the brand and helps promote a consistent voice. Similarly, major external events might change your automated posts. For instance, during and immediately following the riots at the US Capitol, brands posting positive, happy posts seemed inappropriate. Instead, a smart social media manager would modify planned posts to take a more serious tone; opting for social justice and unity in their content.
4. Measure everything
A smart social media manager uses analytics to improve performance over time. A/B testing helps identify optimal strategies to guide improvements. Yet, if brands focus on meaningless metrics, often called vanity metrics. If you don’t know whether a metric is a vanity metric or an actionable metric, here’s a flowchart to help.
Examples of vanity metrics include things like the number of followers that don’t directly impact conversion. Instead, engaged community represents an actionable metric because higher levels of engagement translate into improved market performance.
5. Build engagement
Engaged users create value for your firm. They:
- Share and like your content to enhance reach
- Comment, which enhances reach but also provides insights about your consumers
- Defend your brand against criticism
- Provide insights to help others get more from your products
I’d love to hear your insights on how you create effective social media marketing at your firm or hear the struggles you face in creating an effective strategy. Please share them in the comments section below.
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