LET'S GET STRATEGIC
The Role of Social Media in Your Marketing Efforts
by Linda Pophal
Every once in a while, I’ll come across a post suggesting that social media is dead. With all of the recent buzz about Twitter—given Elon Musk’s takeover of the company and predictions of doom—I wondered if marketers’ usage of social media is declining. The short answer is no.
A longer answer is that while social media still makes up a significant part of most marketers’ communication efforts, how they use it and which channels they use have shifted. That is likely to continue. The effectiveness of marketing channels ebbs and flows; newer channels and newer entrants to the space tend to reap the benefits of early adoption, while laggards may never experience the same results. This means that marketers of all kinds—and especially content marketers—need to stay up-to-date on these shifts and continually evaluate their social media strategies to ensure they’re making optimal use of these platforms. In this column, I look at some insights from experts in the field about how their social media use is shifting and how they stay on top of new trends.
MORE ISN’T MORE—LESS IS MORE
“When it comes to social media marketing, I have found that less is more,” says Jeroen van Gils, founder and CEO of EcomContent, which provides solutions for ecommerce content writing. At one point, van Gils states, he tried to maintain a presence on every major platform, but that quickly became overwhelming. Today, van Gils focuses on just two channels: LinkedIn and Twitter. “LinkedIn is essential for networking with other business professionals, and Twitter is an excellent way to share news and articles related to my industry,” he says. van Gils uses other channels personally, but not to promote his business.
Isabel Ludick has had similar experience in using social media to help promote Excited Cats, a cat information blog, in her role as director of marketing. Her team members have been using social media for about 2 years and started off with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, Ludick says. Today, they focus on Facebook and Instagram, and they have entered the YouTube space. A sister company, Pet Keen, recently started a channel on TikTok. While there is no out-of-pocket cost to use any of the social channels (aside from paid advertising options), it does take time. So, it pays to be judicious in how you use your time and which channels you select.
Where to focus social media efforts, of course, will depend on your target audience and goals. There are different pathways used by B2B and B2C companies. Jeff Ostiguy, VP of client services at the SmartBug marketing agency, says that “a majority of B2B clients heavily rely on LinkedIn and Facebook, and a little Twitter—they’ve largely strayed away from Instagram and YouTube. I see B2C clients, on the other hand, relying on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.”
LinkedIn is really a must for any B2B organization. The use of other channels will depend, in addition to audience, on how you will use the channel and the type of information you have to share. For instance, if your product is very visual, channels such as Pinterest and Instagram would make sense. If showing your products and services in motion is important, TikTok and YouTube are top choices. In addition to nonpaid posts and interactions with followers, many companies use paid advertising to help raise awareness and build an audience.
PAID ADVERTISING ON SOCIAL CHANNELS
“For most of our clients, we recommend paid advertising when there is a clear call to action and the specific content leads directly to lead generation,” says Christopher Veiga, a senior marketing project manager at MARCOMM, a marketing support company. With a predominantly B2B objective, he says, “We focus primarily on LinkedIn but have focused on Facebook, for brand presence, and have done some sponsored Instagram posts.” While Veiga acknowledges that results “haven’t been amazing,” he notes that the return on ad spend (ROAS) is better than with traditional advertising.
van Gils has used paid advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with mixed results. “On Facebook, I have achieved good results in terms of engagement and click-through rates. However, on Twitter and Instagram, the results have been less impressive,” he says. van Gils attributes this to those platforms offering fewer targeting capabilities. Paid advertising on social channels can be effective, he states, “but it is vital to choose the right platform and create relevant and engaging ads.”
Excited Cats, says communications and marketing manager Crystal Uys, uses “paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram. Nearly 70% of our growth can be attributed to ads because we were so unknown and small on these social platforms, in the beginning.” The paid ads, she states, helped the company get exposure. Tracking results from both organic and paid activity on the social media channels you use is important because the value of these channels—and the engagement of users—vacillates over time.
STAYING ON TOP OF CHANGING TRENDS
“Social media will constantly change, as with most things in life,” says Ludick. But, she acknowledges, while social media might look different in the future, at its core, it will stay the same—“connecting humanity and providing endless information.”
Twitter, of course, is one channel that has been in the news a lot amid announcements of several large brands, advertisers, and celebrities jumping ship after Musk’s controversial purchase. Others, though, are holding firm—for now. A Becker’s Hospital Review article reports that “most physicians and healthcare leaders say they’re staying to fight misinformation.” The authors of the article point to FDA commissioner Robert Califf, who said, “More than ever before, it’s important that [the] FDA continues to use Twitter for good and do everything in our power to protect the public from potential harm.”
‘DON’T BUILD YOUR CONTENT HOUSE ON RENTED LAND’
One final very important point about social media: Don’t put all of your eggs in this basket. In the words of content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi: “Don’t build your content house on rented land.” Pulizzi wisely points out that if a marketer were, for instance, to consider their Facebook company page as their website, their company is at risk if Facebook decides to change its business model or business practices or shut down entirely.
In his podcast and on Twitter, Pulizzi shares a “subscriber hierarchy” to indicate the relative value of various channels to marketers (see the screenshot above). The rules, Pulizzi says, “can—and will—change at any time.” He advises marketers to “have a strategy knowing that the platform may be gone tomorrow, and prepare to move your subscribers up the ladder to things you can control as a content entrepreneur.”