August 01, 2016
/ by Jim Dougherty
Attention is finite and our need for attention is not. This is why we need to promote our brands, businesses, messages and ideas. Virality is a fascinating pursuit, but doesn’t deliver the consistent attention that we need to accomplish our everyday objectives.
With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter adjusting their algorithms to give higher priority to personal content, the only way to consistently deliver messaging to social fans and followers is with paid advertising. Because of this, communication and marketing professionals have largely come to the conclusion that social promotion is paid promotion.
Businesses sometimes still perceive social platforms as free promotion, but that’s not the case any longer (and probably was never as effective as some people make it out to be). What I want to do in this post is to offer some evidence-based best practices for paid promotion.
I’ve tried to keep them broad enough to be useful for many different situations: there is a lot of evidence that social tactics are more successful in certain verticals than others, and that communication and marketing professionals oftentimes have different goals from business to business (or even person to person).
These best practices are less about what specifically to do and more about the steps necessary to validate budget and resources spent on a particular platform.
I had a friend that served ads on a big ad exchange, and when he got billed he was billed for conversion events that he had no record of. We were able to contact one of the resident experts who explained what constituted a conversion event to them (spoiler alert: it wasn’t an actual conversion event) and we were able to change the ads to accomplish what he needed to accomplish. Experiences like this are very common as different businesses use different criteria.
A few lessons to learn from this:
1. Because a third party has an available metric doesn’t mean that you should use it.
2. There is often an expert that you can contact who will help you through issues with a promotional campaign.
3. There are non-technical, mechanical tactics that you can use to incorporate measurement in a campaign (use promotional codes, ask questions on the phone, questionnaires).
Metrics are a way for you to measure specific objectives within your purview. By definition, if you are using the pro forma metrics given to you by a social platform, you probably aren’t getting the level of detail that you need in order to determine the success or failure of your campaigns.
One of the greatest things about social platforms is the wealth of information available for segmentation (I say this not from a user-perspective – from this perspective Facebook probably knows too much about most of us). For marketers and communication professionals though, these platforms offer capability to segment deeply into interest rather than by basic demographics. For example, you may want to target fans of 80s pop sensation Michael Damian or Twitter followers of Michael Damian.
This type of segmentation gives you the capability to go beyond basic demographics and focus on interests. Facebook probably gives you the most sophisticated options right now (they have the best information), but most social platforms have some degree of Interest-based segmentation tools.
There is a lot of interesting research about what you like and who you follow, and what that says about you. It’s a way to be more precise and economical in your messaging.
Where do we go from here?
Semantic search was supposed to diminish the importance of keywords in search, but for social posts, promotion and advertising, you want to mirror the language that other people are using. For example, if I search for “best Indian restaurant in Seattle” I will probably click-through on the result that best answers or mirrors my original statement.
While search is an important vehicle for discovery – we are talking about paid promotion and it’s not reasonable to expect your prospects and customers to behave like a semantic search result. In the words of Selena Gomez: “The heart wants what it wants.”
This is where tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and other tools may help to find the most popular phrases that people are searching for or looking for. Remember that customers don’t like semantics – they want precision.
Political season is upon us, and one of the most interesting aspects (at least for me) is how the campaigns do digital fundraising by email and on social.
One of the most common ways that they judge different tactics (i.e. sender, voice, timing, length, verbiage, subject matter, pictures) is with A/B testing. Especially with the many segmentation options available to you, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a representative audience to test social ads out before rolling them out to a bigger group.
Generally an A/B test consists of two messages with only one difference (the variable), sent out to two different test audiences to measure which is most effective. Many different iterations typically happen to craft a message into its most effective form. Because social promotion is pay-to-play, utilizing a tactic like A/B testing can be a very shrewd and economical way to optimize the effectiveness of your paid promotion.
Social media is among the least effective ways to regularly communicate with someone. Reach is oftentimes in the low single digits with conversion events measured in the tenths of a percentage. Paying for reach is expensive to do, so you want to try to transition your fans and followers to platforms like email, SMS and other one-to-many platforms that tend to reach people with a higher degree of success than social.
CMS software, such as Cision’s, perpetuate the customer relationship over multiple platforms. Because these platforms are pay-to-play, transitioning fans to a free-to-use communication method is a cost-effective tactic, and is one that socially-savvy companies like Amazon and Walgreens do very well.
Finally, when we talk about social media and customers, it’s worthwhile to mention that customers are often only proactive with companies on social media. This is why you want to make sure that you have a means to effectively deal with social care. Not only does it provide you with a channel directly to your customers, but it also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your social care and customer service in a public forum, which paid customers will see when they check you out.
What I wanted to do is to give you some best practice processes for managing your social promotion. Of course every business is different, and every vertical and region may have different needs. But when it comes to communicating with customers and prospects, you want to get the most from your paid promotion. Hopefully these best practices help to hone the effectiveness of your strategy.
You know you have to pay to promote your business on social, but the shrewdness that you promote your business with can ensure that you are meeting your objectives with precision and economy.
Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
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