23 Reasons Why People Spend More Time on Social Media
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Is your social marketing strategy future-proof?
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Social networks have to make money — and they can’t do it by continuing to offer their audience engagement platforms to brands for free. So, with Facebook at the helm, they’re evolving into ad platforms, slowly chipping away at the number of fans a brand can reach without paying to sponsor its content. On top of that, there are 7x as many users on social media than there were just five years ago, and those users — both brands and individuals — are also creating and sharing record amounts of content. And as a result, news feeds are surging with more brands, people, and content than anyone could realistically consume. The combination has left brand reach hovering at an all-time low on Facebook, with the average unsponsored post for brands with more than 500,000 Likes reaching less than two percent of its fans. And experts estimate the odds aren’t much better on Twitter.
Long story short, relying primarily on social networks to engage with your audience is becoming an increasingly expensive strategy. This is why leading brands are also turning their attention back to their owned properties, experimenting with new ways to make their websites, mobile apps, and other digital assets just as enticing to fans as a social network. Rather than letting their fan relationships live and die on third-party social networks, these brands are instead using social networks to drive audiences to similar experiences on their owned properties. This doesn’t mean social media is going away. It just means that instead of using social networks as a fan destination in and of themselves, brands are beginning to use them as a paid channel to drive traffic to their own websites, mobile apps and microsites. This way, they can build valuable connections with their fans on their own turf, where they set the rules.
Early adopters like Taco Bell and Southern Comfort are already pioneering “owned social” strategies of their own, but shifting your entire audience from the social networks they know and love onto a branded website doesn’t just happen overnight. Remember how long it took your brand to accumulate all of the fans and followers it has today, and all the money you invested in campaigns, strategists, and technology? Building an audience on your owned properties will also take time and investment. But if you do it right, you’ll end up with a stable, long-term home for your community — and that might be more than any social network can offer.
Here’s how to do it:
Really, really get to know your audience.
I’m not talking about the demographics your agency uses for media buys (though those are important too). Assemble a research team — made of human beings, not robots — to look at how the various segments of your audience interact online. What platforms do they use the most? How do they use those platforms, and how do they interact with your brand specifically? Do they have conversations on your wall? If so, about what? Do they like your posts? Do they share them? Do they leave reviews? Are they already creating content about your brand? What kind? Cross reference the behavioral trends you discover with successful campaigns from the past to find out what works best. How is your audience most likely to naturally interact with your brand?
Define a clear objective.
Plenty of marketers set metrics, but surprisingly few give much thought to the actual business goal they’re looking to achieve. If you want to be truly effective, think bigger than driving traffic or likes or shares — ask yourself why you want to drive that traffic or earn those shares. Are you trying to increase sales? Gather email addresses? Heighten brand loyalty or awareness? Identifying and understanding the big picture enables you to think more holistically about how you can use specific components (the things that drive traffic, likes, downloads, etc.) of the experience together in order to effectively drive user behavior.
You don’t have to redesign your entire website all at once, and you probably shouldn’t. Instead, look carefully at the places where community is already thriving on your owned properties. How can you enhance that experience to offer more value for the fans who are visiting? What additional context would help those users better connect with each other, with your brand, or with the product? There’s no single answer that will work across all of your digital properties. User reviews or live chats, for example, might work perfectly in one area, while trending products or user photo uploads are better for something else. The experience can and should vary based on how your audience prefers to interact and the behavior you’re trying to drive.
Give your audience an incentive to participate.
Regardless of the interaction, its function should always be to add value for your audience. And that doesn’t just apply to the content that populates the page — it should also be true of the user’s participation. So if your objective is to obtain email addresses, for example, consider offering exclusive content in exchange for registration. Similarly, if you’re looking to boost sales (but still need user content to populate the experience), maybe offer a coupon in exchange for participation. Contests, rewards, and even notoriety can also be great motivators. Whatever you’re asking your users to do, just make sure that A) it’s easy and B) the user has something to gain from it.
Promotion can make or break an initiative, so use every channel at your disposal to tell your audience where you want them to go. This is especially true if you’re driving users somewhere that didn’t exist before — like a newly-launched app, a microsite, or a new section of your website — because without promotion, they won’t even know it’s there! So use your email list and your blog, pay for promoted posts on your social networks, and add CTAs to relevant media campaigns. Make your owned experience the end destination for your audience — not a social network.
Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, but it’s poised to serve a very different purpose than what marketers are used to. And the sooner you start adjusting your strategy, the better off you’ll be.