Social media has become integral for brands to connect with their customers. It fosters a wider reach than content, email, and traditional advertising given that there are 2.95 billion social media users in the world as of 2019, with North America and East Asia having the highest numbers of users.
What makes social media so unique is that much of it is extremely ephemeral, yet a consistent social media presence will outlast any ad campaign, no matter how successful. If you’ve been thinking about boosting your brand’s online presence by increasing your social media activity, here’s what you need to consider.
Social media has both paid and earned media elements, and buying traffic differs from buying followers.
Social ad spend is currently around $102.2B and on a 7% upward trajectory. After all, with such an enormous reach, spending directly on social media platforms can seem like a more effective use of your marketing budget than traditional advertising or content that is only seen on your own channels. However, social media has both earned and paid media elements to it.
Earned media happens much faster when your company is talked about in a newspaper or magazine. With social media, it can take time to build up a following organically and get the desired traction and results from your social posts. Every brand will face different challenges and advantages when it comes to getting into the groove for regular posts and user engagement, but a universal truth is that you simply cannot buy followers. There are several scammers that promise to increase your follower count, but it’s artificial because they’re all bots with a few “real” accounts thrown in that don’t actually engage with your posts.
However, you can buy traffic which can help boost your following organically. That is essentially what you accomplish by buying ads on any social platform: your ad sets should be tailored to the intended audience most likely to be found on the platform, their interests, and the nature of the platform. It entails a different strategy than engaging with followers you gained organically.
Social media isn’t just Twitter and Facebook.
While Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are the biggest social media platforms out there and considered the most valuable platforms in which to cultivate a following, they’re also not the only ones. There’s hundreds of social media platforms out there, and some of them just aren’t as ubiquitous as Twitter and Facebook. Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube are the places to be if video content is your strength, Instagram and Pinterest for image-heavy content, while Twitter and Facebook are ideal for informative and entertaining social content that’s primarily text.
The platforms themselves are also not monolithic. It can be in characteristics: what Facebook has in the number of users, Twitter has in engagement. The vein of content that succeeds on Instagram might not always translate to Twitter and vice versa. While some platforms are also well-suited to brands like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, other platforms won’t always adapt well to brand content, such as Tumblr.
While Instagram may put imagery first and Facebook and Twitter have more emphasis on written content, some social platforms are structured for specific interests or purposes. For instance, NextDoor is geographically based on neighborhoods and developments, which is important for businesses that depend on local foot traffic. LinkedIn is designed for businesses and freelancers to find clients, and job-seekers to further their careers, so it’s important to include it in your social strategy if one of your goals is to improve your reputation as an employer. Discord has numerous applications but is best known for their applications in the video gaming spheres and political activism.
Before deciding on which platforms you should focus on, you should think about both the user base you have and the one that you want. Where would they be most likely to go? Why? What kind of engagement are they seeking, and what type of functionality would they looking for in particular? Twitter and Instagram tend to be very up-to-the-minute while Pinterest and YouTube provide tools for users to save content they plan to reference again later through boards and playlists. Discord servers provide chat functions while Facebook has public and private groups that are separate from feeds.
It can be hard to determine the “sweet spot” for how many platforms you should focus on, because every brand’s needs are different. You don’t want to spread too thin but also don’t want to focus all of your social capital in one place.
There are many services, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, that enable you to “set it and forget it” by scheduling posts in advance. While this is helpful for marketing campaigns and maintaining a steady online presence, it ultimately doesn’t cultivate a stable following.
Time and resources need to be put into growing and maintaining followings across social media platforms. The word “social” is in the phrase, right? Talk to people! Have your social media manager engage with people who reply to posts and make comments or ask questions, or do the same with accounts that the brand follows. That real-time engagement is what separates social media from other types of online marketing and contact: when it comes to interactions with your different channels, customers and prospects are more apt to have a specific purpose like troubleshooting a product. Social media is a way to shape your brand voice while responding to users, and provide different ways for them to interact.
Social media has been a great equalizer in ways that traditional media has not: marginalized people can form huge audiences, and brands can utilize social engagement no matter the size of their ad budget. But it’s also a public platform. Some users will use it like a customer service channel while others will just like and repost your content. How your team responds to an angry customer on social media can serve as an exemplar of how you solve problems, or make the problem worse, now that it’s public. Social media is a reflection of your brand, and this goes for both the content that is posted and shared as well as how you engage with people.
Brands also need to exercise caution when jumping on memes, trends, and hashtags, because this can have disastrous outcomes.
Social media can be fun and lucrative, but brands still must account for the various nuances of social media engagement when forming and and executing a social media marketing strategy.