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7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

For starters, there’s no predictable pattern of success.

Jayson Demers

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Social-media

Talk to professional online marketers, and they’ll likely tell you about the raw power of social media marketing. Talk to business owners from an older generation, and they’re likely to tell you how social media marketing is a useless fad.

Obviously, the former group has an incentive to tell you how great social media marketing is, and the latter group has a negative bias toward communications technologies. Does the truth lie somewhere in the middle? Kind of.

With proper planning and successful execution, social media marketing can be effective for practically any business. In fact, in a survey of 357 marketers that I recently conducted, social media marketing had the highest percentage of respondents (96 percent) who claimed they planned to increase or keep their social media marketing budgets the same over the next year.

Social media marketing also had the third-highest average ROI rating, out of 10 strategies surveyed.

Related: 3 Online Marketing Strategies To Kick-Start Stagnant Sales

Still, there are a handful of dark secrets about social media that no marketer – including myself – likes to admit.

1. Social media marketing isn’t free

One of the greatest advantages of social media marketing that marketers like to play up is the fact that it’s free. And, yes, it won’t cost you anything to claim your business’ social media profiles, flesh them out or post on a regular basis – at least not monetarily.

The problem is that, even though you won’t necessarily have to spend money to fund your strategy, you will spend lots of time.

It takes hours of work to build out your profiles, and several hours a week to even maintain the most basically active presence. Add up those hours, and suddenly the amount of time that social media marketing does “cost” will become clear. After all, time is money, right?

2. There’s no predictable pattern of success

social-media-strategy-success

No matter how sure people seem when telling you they hold the “secret” for a business’ social media success, know that there’s no verifiable or consistent way to guarantee success for this task. For starters, every business is unique, with a unique target demographic, history and competitive landscape.

There’s no way any single strategy could possibly apply to everyone. Add in the fact that social media is always evolving and other random variables that could interfere with your results, and the predictability of success sinks even more.

3. You need a lot of followers before social media marketing starts to pay off

The bottom line for social media, like any online marketing strategy, is your total ROI, or return on investment. Over an extended period of time, it will be very good if you execute your social media strategy correctly, but your initial ROI will probably be terrible.

Imagine that it takes you 15 minutes to write a good post, and you submit it to your 15 followers. Now, imagine you create the same post, but for 15 000 followers. Which one do you think will have a higher return for your investment (assuming those followers are all genuinely interested in your brand)? It takes a long time for social media to start paying off.

Related: 6 Free Online Classes For Digital-Marketing Beginners

4. Social platforms restrict your reach

Social media companies have a vested interest in getting you to pay for their advertising. As a result, they often restrict the amount of reach you’re able to get through organic (unpaid) posts. Even though you have 500 followers, that doesn’t mean that every post you make is going to reach 500 people.

Keep this principle in mind when considering the sheer potential of social media – it’s probably far, far less than you think it is.

5. Data won’t tell you everything

social-media-data

Another advantage social media has is its access to sheer volumes of data – you’ll be able to probe deeply into user behaviour, patterns of interaction and demographic information. But unfortunately, data can’t tell you everything.

It can’t give you qualitative insights about how individuals feel toward your brand, or about specific interactions.

Nor can data help you generate new ideas you haven’t tried before. It can’t even give you actionable insights unless you’re asking the right questions of that data in the first place.

6. Adapting is important but exhausting

Social media changes often, with new platforms cropping up seemingly constantly and new trends coming and going at an ever-increasing pace.

If you want to be successful, you have to try to keep up, but keeping up is exhausting even for the most passionate, dedicated marketer.

It’s comforting to settle into a routine, but with social media, you’ll never get that opportunity – at least, you’ll never get to stay comfortable for long if you’re doing things right.

7. You’ll end up kicking yourself – a lot

There’s a lot of regret in the social media world, especially on a minor level. You’ll end up making typos or mistakes occasionally, but more often you’ll kick yourself for what you didn’t do.

You might miss a good opportunity for a post, a hashtag or an engagement. You might see a competitor’s post and wish you’d thought of it first. In any case, your strategy won’t be perfect, and you’ll be all too aware of that fact.

Despite these ugly truths and seldom-mentioned secrets about the true nature of social media marketing, it remains one of the most cost-efficient and approachable online marketing strategies you can adopt.

No matter what stage of growth your company’s in, who your target market is and what your long-term goals are, social media can help you in your journey – as long as you recognise its advantages and limitations.

Read next: The Popimedia (Mega) Success Story

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a content marketing agency, as well as EmailAnalytics, an email productivity monitoring app for Gmail and G suite. Contact him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Online Marketing

4 Key Social Media Mistakes You Might Be Making – And How To Avoid Them

Social media can revolutionise your brand presence, or do more harm than good, depending on your strategy and execution.

Terena Chetty

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Whether or not you’ve already embraced social media in your business, the facts can’t be denied. Not only is it the fastest growing global communication medium, but it’s completely revolutionised the way brands and consumers interact.

The problem is that for many businesses — large and small — it remains unchartered territory viewed with uncertainty and even a degree of suspicion.

SMEs in particular seem to struggle with social media. This could be due to a misunderstanding of the role that social media plays in business, underestimating the sheer power of it and not using it effectively as a business tool.

Here are four common mistakes many SME social media pages display and some of the solutions you can implement to overcome these shortfalls. Why should you care? Because social media is a relatively inexpensive way to really boost your brand presence — if it’s used effectively.

Let’s get started.

According to www.imagibrand.com:

“Social media marketing done the right way requires skilled talent. Your brand should never hand its social marketing over to an inexperienced marketer or marketing team without making sure there exist true capabilities and talent to develop, design, produce and execute the volume of creative needed to have successful social channels.”

1. Misconception and misuse of social media

The problem: Social media is often (and incorrectly) perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’ but unnecessary by many SMEs. I’ve met many business owners who are sceptical about social media and its place in the business environment. Sometimes, the only reason that the brand even has a social media presence is because its competitors do.

Social media is also typically viewed as a platform for brand-centred content. Some use it purely for hard-sell advertising posts, while others use it as an online company bulletin board. Both are completely ineffective ways to use social media.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Why you should care: A lack of understanding often leads to misuse, and this is particularly true of social media. A vicious cycle results: Social media is already viewed as a waste of resources, but it’s still used (incorrectly) to push sales or publish fluffy content. These strategies (or lack thereof) do little to promote business goals, strengthening the view that social media has no place in business. An example of a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.

Worse still is the misconception that your social media pages are there to solely promote brand objectives. This could cause serious brand damage as social media users expect, no, demand, attention and value from brands. Failure to meet such needs risks losing current and potential clients that perceive the brand as being ‘self-centred’.

What you should be doing: Social media is a powerful business tool and should be treated as such. It has the capability to serve as an integral component of your organisation, and as a key catalyst for growth. For SMEs, social media holds incredible value, including the options of extensive audience reach, detailed consumer targeting and sales generation. Effective, well-strategised use of social media is the path to achieving these tangible returns.

From a content perspective, the main point to remember is this: It’s not about you. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, nobody cares.

Social media is all about the user experience. When creating a post, view it from an audience perspective to ensure it has user-value of some sort. Ask yourself these questions: Is it informative? Is it interesting? Is it useful? Is it entertaining? If you can’t answer yes to at least one or two of these questions, don’t post it. Research your audience and craft posts that they are likely to engage with (i.e. like, comment and share).

According to dreamgrow.com, 46% of users will stop following a brand’s social media platforms for sharing too much promotional content.

2. Assigning management of platforms to junior and/or untrained staff

social-media-marketing-advice

The problem: Most SMEs view social media management as a non-essential, non-priority task. The general practice seems to be assigning this role to junior and/or untrained staff, such as interns, receptionists or any employee that happens to be available.

Why you should care: Consider this. A social media page is potentially the single most impactful touchpoint for a brand, making it a highly critical, powerful and very public portal. And then consider that many SMEs assign complete management and control of this critical contact point to junior or untrained staff. Can you spot the reason for concern?

Not only does this open you up to risk ranging from an undesirable public reaction to an unsuitable post or response, but in serious cases, could also result in legal action.

Aside from such drastic situations, poorly or inadequately managed social media pages generally lead to a negative consumer perception of the brand as a whole.

What you should be doing: Treat the position of social media manager the same as any other role: Assign it to an individual with the required knowledge and experience. As most SMEs are unlikely to already have a social media expert within their team, this could mean recruiting a new employee or agency.

While this sounds like an awesome solution, it may not be practical for SMEs with budget restrictions. In this case, consider ways to use current resources. For example, get managers of different departments to provide input and suggestions for content, as well as approve relevant posts. If possible, assign non-critical tasks to junior staff as a means to free up time that senior staff can then dedicate to social media.

Related: 7 Social Media Marketing Secrets No Marketer Wants To Admit

3. Not using paid advertising

The problem: SMEs often allocate little or no financial resources to their social media activities, such as Facebook paid ads. Instead, they rely on organic reach or inbound audiences.

Why you should care: For someone to see an unpaid post, they would need to actively search for your page themselves. This is the equivalent of leaving a stack of printed flyers on a table in a corner and hoping that people would stumble across it.

The recent Facebook Feed change further necessitates the need for paid advertising — the new algorithm restricts the organic reach of business pages. This means that the only way to get any real exposure is through paid promotion.

What you should be doing: Paid advertising means that you actively distribute your message to consumers. Your content appears directly in users’ content feed — they are exposed to your message even if they have never heard of your brand. What’s better, targeting means that you can restrict this to your desired demographic — it’s like handing out those above-mentioned flyers to a room full of people who have already indicated interest in your product or service offering. The result? High conversion potential and little to no wastage on irrelevant market segments.

(At this point, you may be shouting that you don’t have money for paid advertising. But keep calm and read on.)

Social media advertising is highly affordable. For example, Facebook promotions start from as little as R100 a post. Even though realistically you would need to invest a bit more to get decent results, the point is that it’s accessible even on a shoestring budget. Important: Read up on the dos and don’ts when attempting paid advertising for the first time (especially regarding setting spend limits).

4. No structured social media strategy

The problem: The vast majority of SMEs have a social media presence that lacks any sort of structured strategy. This is evidenced by a number of factors, including erratic frequency of posting, unclear purpose of posts, and even content that holds little relevance for a brand.

Why you should care: Without a planned strategy, your social media activities lack purpose. Any business task that serves no clear function or purpose is a waste of resources. It’s no wonder that decision-makers are reluctant to invest in social media as a result.

“Almost 90% of marketers say their social marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic.” — www.smallbiztrends.com

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

What you should be doing: Rather than being an isolated function, social media activities have to form part of an integrated strategy linked to core brand objectives. The starting point is to identify priorities across your entire organisation, and then list key focus points. For example, if you have a current promotion, you can drive sales by targeting consumers through a paid social media ad. If you are looking to grow brand awareness, you can create user-centric content crafted for high reach and engagement. If your current focus is on product development, send out a poll to gain insight into consumer preferences.

Once planned, content then has to be crafted and scheduled to form a well-balanced strategy. This then needs to be tactically executed accordingly, incorporating a budget for social media ad spend to realise tangible results.

A result-driven strategy means that you can now measure return on investment. This includes social media generated stats (such as engagement rates and brand reach), as well as business data (such as sales volumes or leads). And once the numbers are out, my prediction is that decision-makers will become much more willing to allocate resources towards social media activities.

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Online Marketing

Local SEO Is A Digital Marketing Tool That Most South African Businesses STILL Aren’t Using

You’ve has been using Search Engine Optimisation for a while now. But what about Local SEO? Make sure you go above and beyond when listing your business.

Steven Slotow

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If you’re running a business in the 21st century, you’re at an advantage. There’s never been more information freely available to your audience that’s working 24/7 to ensure that your business becomes successful, and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to your marketing efforts.

The average South African business owner has a keen grasp of the power of marketing and leveraging a business brand in an advantageous way. Despite this, too many still stick to the same old means of online promotion (SEO which is frustrating in a competitive industry and AdWords which is expensive in almost every industry), with many valuable tools getting left behind in the process.

Canvas any number of digital marketers in South Africa, and you’ll find that many of their clients seem to stick to these more popular digital marketing efforts (SEO and Adwords), leaving otherwise fruitful options on the shelf gathering cob webs.

One of these incredibly effective and yet sinfully under-utilised digital marketing tools is Local SEO.

Just because it’s obvious, doesn’t mean everyone’s doing it…

Consider the following statistics:

  • According to Google, a third of all online searches are location related.
  • Over two thirds of people conducting searches on their smartphones prefer businesses that offer location customised information.
  • While searches using terms like ‘closest’ and ‘nearby’ have dropped, searches using terms such as ‘near me’ have increased.
  • The majority of people who conduct a local online search end up visiting a retailer within 8 kms of their location.

This tells us that while customers still want to experience a product in person before buying it, being able to locate the closest retailer and get their contact details and address online is critical. We can also see that customers now expect search engines to automatically use their geographic locations to provide them with relevant information, without them having to volunteer it.

Businesses should be falling over themselves to tell customers who they are, where they are, how they can be contacted and how a customer can get there. All this information (and much) more can be populated in a matter of minutes in a business’s Google My Business Listing.

And yet, the Local Search Association, tells us that 56% of businesses have yet to claim their Google My Business Listing.

A wasted opportunity indeed.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Tips for a better than average Google My Listing profile

google-my-business-listing

Claiming your Google My Business Listing is pretty simple. It costs nothing, and you don’t even need to have a brick and mortal storefront to get it. Using a Google account, you can have yours set up and verified in two simple steps. The trick is not to stop at just the information required and instead to include over and above what’s being asked for. This could include the following:

  1. Asking your loyal customers for reviews. This will generate an average rating out of 5 that appears on your listing. Make sure that any less than stellar review is attended to and not ignored, as you’ll be judged on how you respond to these as well.
  2. Claim your map listing: Ensure your location information is accurate and that your map listing brings customers directly to your doorstep.
  3. Track and tag your location information. This will involve specialised SEO expertise, as it allows you to see what traffic is coming from map listings and searches as opposed to organically.
  4. Make it easy to make contact: Make it as simple as pushing a button for a customer to get in touch with you. Show them exactly what they should do to take the next step with your business without any confusion or ambiguity.
  5. Upload the right photos: Uploading a photo of your business logo is great. What’s better is including images of your product and service in use.
  6. Create a mobile only website: As mentioned earlier, many customers are going to be encountering your business for the first time on a smartphone-sized screen. Will your website load quickly if they click through to it? Ensure that you have one that’s easy to navigate, read and act on.

Finally, and most importantly, be prepared to actually convert any customer that ends up on your website into a sale. This means answering every call and email and chasing up leads. Be prepared to answer their questions to help them make a purchase and if they aren’t ready to make one yet, ask them if you can email them about future offers and promotions.

Within a few months you’ll be kicking yourself for not paying attention to your Local SEO sooner.

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Online Marketing

Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes

A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Daniella Shapiro

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Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.

“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.

Keeping it real is the new deal

Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.

32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.

Related: How To Become A Marketing Influencer Before You Turn 30

Living the dream?

With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less.  This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.

Cautionary tales

New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.

Positive reinforcement

One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.

Problem children

Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.

Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.

Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV

Elementary

The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity.  This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.

All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.

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