Social media is an important channel for companies to stake their brand presence, create awareness, drive traffic to their websites and even generate leads.
But a lot has changed since the early, heady days of social media marketing. Today’s social media environment is a lot more crowded, noisy and cynical, making it considerably harder to get noticed. What’s more, the rise of paid content and advertising has made organic social media efforts a lot tougher — and on some channels near-impossible, particularly for B2B brands. Marketers have had to adapt to these realities quickly, or risk shouting into the void and wasting precious time on social efforts that don’t pay off.
That said, there are some crucial principles which still remain the same, and which marketers would do well to remember.
3 Ways Social Media Has Evolved in Recent Years
1. Hot ticket channels have phased out
Just like fashion trends and celebrities, social media channels change rankings in their level of importance, and this can vary by not only companies but consumer opinion as well.
For example, changes to Facebook’s algorithms has made it extremely difficult for B2B companies in particular to get their content seen organically, and many are increasingly abandoning it altogether. Similarly, while Twitter is still heavily utilized by B2B marketers (and rightly so), getting noticed takes a lot more time and effort than it used to. By contrast, LinkedIn — once thought of as just a place to dump your virtual resume — has become the primary social channel for many B2B marketers, particularly when it comes to driving organic traffic.
On the other hand, outside the B2B context marketers are using other channels like Instagram or even Medium far more effectively.
Marketers need to keep their finger on the pulse and monitor their social performance constantly to know which channels are paying off, and which aren’t.
2. The feed has become constricted
What used to be a completely raw space filled with nothing but unpaid content creation has now made room for ad placement and paid targeting methods for businesses. In turn, this change causes a different tone throughout social media channels.
Social media users evolved very quickly to the advertisement-heavy model, and have learned to largely ignore or mark as spam any content that doesn’t engage them. At the same time, in order to stay relevant, the social media platforms themselves have sought to optimize their algorithms to only serve users the most relevant content to them (read: content they’re most likely to actually click on). So simply throwing money at a post won’t work. Marketers need to position their brands in an authentic way to their audiences, despite the possibility that their content could involve payment.
3. Holistic dynamics have become the norm
Social media is slowly moving away, in most businesses, from a hub-and-spoke approach where one designated employee or team is positioned at the center of all social media efforts. We have seen over recent years a reduction in the number of Social Media Managers in the workforce. Instead, companies are beginning to make social media part of positions in multiple departments, which creates a more holistic dynamic and involves multiple hands in the social presence of the brand. Of course, that doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t be responsible for overseeing social media strategy and execution — only that it should be a team-effort.
The pathway to success through social media requires a formal social strategy to be in place, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the target audience for all employees who play a role in the social presence and brand identity of the business.
4 Principles That Have Not Changed in Social Media
While the dynamics of social media and content management have undergone advancements and new additions, some consistent principles remain steadfast:
1. The website is the hub
Not only is the website still the hub that allows businesses to fully capture leads, it is still the main, and only, location that businesses are able to fully own and manage their identity without a third party’s involvement. Although your social media feed will (should!) be updated a lot more regularly than your website, marketers still need to regularly check that their website content is current, accurate and effective. If it isn’t your best social efforts risk becoming a wasted effort, as traffic to your site won’t engage — or convert — as it should.
2. Email is the currency of the web
Email addresses are still needed to maintain and grant access to social media channels. While rumors swirled for some time that this method of online communication would disappear completely, in practice there are no signs of that happening — at least not any time soon. Email is still a huge communication tool and a way for businesses to continue to market to and engage with their potential and current customer base beyond social network. Neglect it at your peril!
3. Sales is the king KPI
For the vast majority of businesses, numbers are still the main measurement tool for a return on the amount of time and money invested in social media.
Resist the temptation to focus primarily on “soft” engagement statistics such as likes, retweets, followers and so on. These are a useful indicator of how well you’re social posts are performing — so definitely don’t ignore them — but they don’t necessarily demonstrate any business value per se.
Companies are now able to monitor and track leads using real-time analytics through social media. These kinds of engagement statistics are much more relevant to your bottom line. Without a proven record of success, it will remain a challenge for those in social media-based positions to achieve advancements in budget or time.
4. Social content must be useful
It should come as no surprise that just like traditional marketing and advertising, social media must be relevant in order to capture the target audience of any business. While social media channels can often be filled with cat pictures, viral videos, shouty political battles, or random quizzes on cuisine, the absence of strategic content placement on a medium will cause businesses to miss the potential leads they could have captured. The more value your content provides, the more likely audiences are going to want to engage and see more.
It has become clear as business professionals explore social media and its practices that many companies are failing to reach their full potential and impact due to a lack of basic understanding of their target audience and how to appeal to them. With tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, and even Leadspace, identifying who your target audience is and how and where they spend their time on social media should be a straightforward task. Once you identify your leads, your social media strategy should reflect their preferred methods of communication and interests in order to capture them.
Once a lead has found themselves on your social media pages perusing the articles and information presented there, you have to have a way to capture them and move them through your sales funnel. Otherwise, there’s little reason to continue additional communication efforts. This is why email has still prevailed as the money maker — it’s still the easiest way to directly communicate with a customer or prospect over the internet.
For some great tips on how to increase conversion rates from social media or other marketing campaigns, check out our free white paper — 7 Proven Ways to Increase Lead Conversion:
Image credit: iStock