To say social media has become integral to marketing is like saying oxygen is integral to breathing at this point. Simply put, in today’s hyper-online world, most if not all successful marketing strategies will involve some kind of social media campaign. But if we accept this fact, then the new top priority questions becomes not if to invest in social media, but which social media to invest in.
Taken locally, there are already a lot of social media outlets available. The uninitiated may believe that they are all the same – they connect people, communities and businesses together. But for some the differences between them, be they big or small, could make them as polar opposite as TV and radio when it comes to advertising. And this gulf in differences only gets bigger when you expand into the international realm of advertising.
So we have amassed several key points you’ll need to consider when whittling down which social media outlets to utilize, and which to avoid. And we’re not saying you should only focus on one at a time. We’re just preaching that you should only invest time, effort and resources in outlets that are likely to result in big returns.
To be frank, this first tip should be a standard first step for anybody diving into the world of marketing, be it online or elsewhere. Understanding your audience is the key that unlocks every single door you’ll need to go through later on down the process. It dictates every decision, so you have to have a crystal clear image of who you are marketing too.
Let’s take age for example. If your job is to sell cookies, targeted at kids that already tells you a lot. This goes back to dispelling the notion that all social media outlets are the same. You may think that a unified, traditionalist approach to kids advertising will work across all mediums. Stick to tried and tested marketing logic (utilize bright colors, have a catchy tune, maybe employ a mascot), and you’ll be fine. This thinking is wrong in the social media world.
Google Plus, for instance, is very much a “tech & digital marketing professionals” social network. It is mainly used by these two groups of people. Needless to say, it isn’t widely used by kids, nor does it lend itself well to kid orientated advertising. Knowing your demographic is vital, many youngsters abandon Facebook for example as it is “not cool” to use the same platform their parents and often grandparents use. Snapchat, on the other hand, does lend itself well to kids, being short, snappy, and colorful. It has just started to move into the realm of sponsorships, so it is now a much more viable option. If you never heard of Snapchat you can learn the basics here.
The way you come up with these solutions it through good old fashioned market research, mixed with a little bit of intuition. Using the site for a little while will clue you in to how it works, and who is likely to use it. But you’ll also want to get hold of statistics that tell you what is popular in your audience demographic. Facebook and Twitter remain constant in their usage, but other social media apps rise and fall very rapidly, and you don’t want to jump on the wrong one if it can be prevented. Just because an app is popular with children this week, if there are better funded or better engineered rivals nipping at their heels, and the market shows great fluctuation, then exercise caution. For every Vine, there is a Tout. For every Facebook, there is a Myspace. For every Twitter, there is a Bebo.
Now you know your audience, other things can start to fall into place that will further narrow down your choice of outlet(s). Your product will be a big determining factor, and thankful it is something you can have intimate knowledge of before you even start thinking about the actual campaign. You need to figure out it’s USPs (Unique Selling Points), and how they best translate to social media.
To return to the cookie analogy, they are going to thrive on visual presentation. Your audience won’t be overly concerned with nutritional information or wordy “company philosophies” – they’ll want to see the cookies looking good. That immediately points you in the direction of visual based outlets. Instagram, Vine and Snapchat are entirely visually based, so they will work better than the likes of Google Plus and Twitter. They also give users great tools for sharing, which will only aid your campaign.
So what could you use the likes of Google +? Well if you are selling something corporate related (like a piece of business software), your clientele will be more interested in specifics and details than pictures and videos, so Google + becomes the viable option. Sharability may be down, but businesses aren’t overly concerned with sharing anyway, allowing for a targeted, individualized approach on your end.
Now for a factor you may not have considered. We mentioned above that in the Western world, social media sites are pretty consistent across the board. But in other parts of the world, there are other social media sites. Most aren’t even available (or accessible from a language barrier point of view) to those in Europe and America. But if you’re planning a global campaign (which all advertising strategies on the internet have the potential to be), it’s a factor you have to bare in mind.
Take China as a prominent example. Through various factors (not least of which is the tighter restrictions online), home grown social media sites have pushed the likes of Facebook and Twitter down the pecking order. In fact, both have Chinese equivalents, called RenRen and Sina Weibo respectively, and a site called QZone that has 600+ million registered users.
So how do you get around these hurdles? Well if you’re selling the cookie in the country, you have a distinct advantage. Visual marketing, at it’s best, is universal, so a little localisation aside, you can quite easily adapt your campaign. Products requiring more description will need more localisation, but at least you’ll know which sites to use when you do get everything translated.
Finally, we have to move on to the double edged sword that is sponsored posts. Social media sites used to be havens from overzealous internet marketing, usually restricting it to side bars. Corporate accounts could only really advertise to those users willing to “follow” or “like” their account. But the hand of corporate shareholders has prompted a big shift towards sponsored posts in the last 5 years. Companies can now spend money to have their adverts appear prominently on the pages of Facebook, Twitter and the rest.
Sounds great on the surface, plus there are several price bands that allow you to ramp up the number of people you are reaching. But this is an incredibly fine balancing act. A good majority of people will ignore any advertising, be it a good piece of marketing or bad. But even if you do catch people, you also have to make sure not to overdo it. Nothing turns people off than a barrage of sponsored or “sales orientated” posts. Do research into what adverts, and what advertising approaches, bring results in your field, and emulate them.
There is no such thing as a foolproof strategy, but there are plenty of easy to fall into potholes when it comes to investing in social media. But if you know the sites, what they do, and what they can’t do, you are giving yourself the best chance to succeed.