Social Media Management White Paper
As social media becomes increasingly engrained into our daily lives, it has also become an incredibly valuable tool for marketers and brands. Now more than ever, brands want to be “liked,” and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram afford brands the ability to connect directly with their customers.
At LINKS WorldGroup, we recognize that digital and social media is an integral part of any modern marketing strategy and we constantly stay on top of developments in the media marketing space in order to supply our clients with the optimal return on their paid media investment.
In the battle for customer engagement, social media management is becoming increasingly important. According to a 2016 report from we are social, there are 2.307 billion active social media users worldwide — a 10 percent increase from the previous year. With a total global population of 7.395 billion people, that means more than 31 percent of the world’s population is active social media users.
As more people turn to social media, the myriad of social platforms available have become a more important part of the communications and marketing mix than ever before. However, as social media continues to evolve, many companies and organizations are not evolving with the changes and are finding it progressively more difficult to get their message to their target audience.
Many businesses spent many years accumulating a devoted social media following through organic engagement methods. Unfortunately, simple organic reach is no longer the most viable method of effectively engaging with audiences.
Marketers, social media strategists and organizational decision-makers all face similar challenges when it comes to making social media work for their brand. The number of social channels has grown, and audience attention has become increasingly fragmented.
As more pages are created, “liked” and followed, social media platforms have continued to grow in size. While the total amount of content generated is increasing, the amount of content that each user is willing and able to view in a day is becoming rather diluted.
In 2012, Facebook announced a new algorithm that would restrict brand content reach to 16 percent, so that brand content wouldn’t clog people’s newsfeeds. Instead of exposing users to every single post, the new algorithm sifts through people’s newsfeeds using 100,000 different factors in order to decide which posts will be easily seen and which ones, well, will not. As a result, beginning in late 2013, marketers began to see their organic reach decline. In fact, some reports noted a 50 percent drop in organic reach following the announcement.
While improving the user experience, the new algorithm has put brands in a pickle. As social media platforms look to new revenue streams, Facebook and other platforms are beginning to turn into “pay-to-play” models. After spending years developing a vigorous following on various social media platforms, brands began to realize that their reach was shriveling and intended to alleviate the issue.
The Paid Social Media Problem
Obviously, there are a number of hurdles to overcome as social media becomes increasingly popular and further engrained into the communications and marketing mix. As more social media platforms move toward a pay-to-play model, brands are faced with an ultimatum — pay or be left behind — and increasingly, brands are beginning to embrace paid social media.
While organic reach remains a crucial piece of the comprehensive social media strategy puzzle, it is no longer effective on its own and needs to be supplemented with an effective paid social strategy. With paid ads and sponsored content, marketers are able to reach beyond their already accumulated social media following and optimize the return on investment (ROI) for their clients.
“Boosting,” or “promoting” a post has become the best way to ensure a particular piece of content reaches as many fans as possible, allowing customers and potential consumers to engage with the content. “Boosting” content is most effective when that content is already engaging. By controlling the content, targeting and placement, marketers can aim content toward people who are more likely to engage with it, but best practices are still developing.
Paid social media allows for a number of advantages that organic methods can not attain. First, paid social provides increased reach. More people, and — most importantly, the right people — will be able to see the content of a “boosted” post than one that isn’t. Paid social increases the number of targeting and audience segmentation options, making sure the correct people are seeing your campaign. Tools designed for brands aimed at targeting, engaging audiences and measuring performance are being added to Facebook and Twitter, as well, so that brands can take advantage of everything the platforms have to offer.
Realizing the potential that paid social media marketing offers continues to be one of the problems surrounding social media management. While it’s easy to see how many interactions you got for your budget, marketers are questioning the value of social media efforts as it remains difficult to determine the ROI for social media interactions.
While measuring the success of paid social media campaigns remains difficult, LINKS believes that by thinking about the problem in terms of financial returns only, marketers miss out on the true value of social media marketing — engaging with consumers. Throughout the rest of this White Paper, we would like to offer an innovative solution to the issue as well as a list of best practices.
The real value of social media marketing campaigns is in developing, expanding and strengthening the relationship between a brand and its consumers. Therefore, a shift in thinking needs to occur in order to drive effective results. By shifting the thinking from financial return to brand engagement, the real value of social media is revealed. Any attempts to measure ROI traditionally or analyze the impact of a social campaign on sales are fruitless and are not likely to yield tangible results. While click-through rates, conversions and other metrics are easier than ever to measure, it’s impossible to know exactly what your client is getting out of their financial investment with paid social media.
Paid social media affords marketers the opportunity to drive the right content to the right people at the right time while offering metrics that are increasingly easy to measure. However, to achieve the desired results, marketing agencies need to formulate the right strategy that aligns with specific business objectives. In order to assist with developing the right strategy, we have compiled a list of best practices:
- It All Starts with Content Great content is the heart and soul of any social media strategy. Coming up with cool and relevant content for the myriad of social platforms can be difficult, but is necessary to engage with your audience. At LINKS, we want our clients to come off as thought leaders without being boring and we want our posts to boost our client’s brand without being over-the-top promotional. Using strong, recognizable imagery is helpful, but be sure to optimize the content for the platform it will appear on.
- Select the Correct Social Platform Not every company needs an Instagram account. Every company does, however, need a LinkedIn profile. Obviously, the myriad platforms available share certain similarities, but they all differ in their own ways, as well, and they certainly drive vastly different results. Consider your target audience, too, will they be more active on traditional platforms or newly established ones?
- Calculate Value Intelligently The ultimate business goal — be it revenue generation, fostering customer relationships, customer service cost reduction, improving operational efficiency, shifting brand sentiment or obtaining valuable insight into target markets — should be the basis for measurement and optimization of a paid social media campaign. Once the primary business objective is chosen, marketers can select the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help measure the campaign’s success. Consider social listening, a strategy that allows social media managers and brands to strengthen their bond with their audience and track the attitudes surrounding your brand.
- Hit Your Target Marketing success is hitting consumers with the right message in the right place at the right time and for the right price. It is important to focus on the portion of your target audience that is most easily influenced rather than targeting demographics and interest groups that aren’t pertinent to the campaign. Knowing who to target at the right time with the right message will improve the entire social strategy’s performance.
- Ensure Freshness No one wants to engage with a stale social media campaign. Try and avoid showing similar content to the same users repeatedly. Constantly update and upgrade your ad creative. Think about what worked and what didn’t and then adjust the fresh content accordingly.
- Test, Analyze, Optimize, Repeat Continuously be testing different metrics to measure a campaign’s performance. Ensure your testing tools are accurate as data should drive informed decision-making. In order to make a sound optimization decision, ensure the sample size is large enough to make a statistically significant comparison and then optimize best on accurate test results. Document what does and does not work well and adjust current campaigns or create future campaigns based on what you’ve learned.
In the end, there is a lot to like about paid social media campaigns, they allow brands to control their message and the delivery of it, they reach a broader and more targeted audience than organic campaigns while boosting organic engagement and increasingly, they are able to gather valuable metrics that can inform future campaigns. By moving past the traditional methods of understanding and measuring ROI and comparing outcomes against brand engagement and specific business objectives, brands are able to harness the true value of social.
Our agency brings expertise, efficiency and financial savings to the paid social media landscape and we are able to unlock the hidden value in data. By moving the focus from the financial cost of a paid campaign and the ROI surrounding it to focusing on the value of an engaged audience, LINKS is able to leverage the power of social media for our clients.