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Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 4)

How to grow your business with social media marketing.

Jandre de Beer

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It’s no secret that social media marketing is disrupting the marketing world. In as little as ten years Facebook managed to connect 1 in every six people on the planet.

In this guide, I’m going to explain to you exactly what social media marketing is all about and how you can utilise it to help you take your business to a whole new level.

But, let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is social media marketing?

What is social media marketing?

In a nutshell, social media marketing is any form of marketing that happens on a social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and many others.

This kind of marketing can be both in the form of free or paid advertising. Before we start, allow me to share some stats with you.

Some interesting social media stats and facts:

FACEBOOK STATS

  1. According to The Drum, back in 2015, 52% of consumers were influenced by Facebook marketing and lead to an offline or online purchase. This percentage was up 36% from 2014.
  2. According to Facebook, there are roughly over 50 million small businesses on its platform, and 4 million of those businesses are utilising paid advertising.
  3. According to Zephoria, over 300 million photos are being uploaded to Facebook every single day.
  4. The average time spent on Facebook is roughly 20 minutes per user.

INSTAGRAM STATS

  1. 80% of Instagram users are outside of the U.S. according to Wordstream.
  2. Six in every ten adults have an Instagram account
  3. There are over 8 million registered business on Instagram
  4. 60% of Instagram users say that they have learned more about a product or service from a business while being on the platform.

YOUTUBE STATS

  1. 300 Hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute according to Fortunelords.
  2. Over 5 billion videos are watched on the platform every day.
  3. Six out of ten people say they prefer online video platforms to traditional T.V.
  4. 80% of all YouTube views occur outside of the U.S.
  5. 9% of U.S small business use YouTube to help promote their products or service.

Advertising is all about getting your message across to customers, and to do that; you need to know where your customers are spending their time.

The above stats indicate what customers are doing when they have free time, and by looking at the numbers, the perfect place to target customers would be social media platforms.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Which social media platforms are the most popular?

social-media-platforms

FACEBOOK

Facebook is in first place by far. According to Newsroom.com, Facebook brags with over 1.3 billion daily users, and 2 billion monthly users.

And according to Web Africa, 13 million South Africans are on Facebook.

YOUTUBE

YouTube is in second place with over 1 billion monthly active users, while 2 million videos get viewed every second.

YouTube has over 8.28 million South Africans using the platform.

INSTAGRAM

According to Tech Crunch Instagram is currently the world’s third most popular platform with over 700 million daily active users, and over 1 million active advertisers.

When it comes to South Africa, approx. 3 million users are using the platform.

This means that Facebook is more than 4x more popular than Instagram under South Africans.

TWITTER

Twitter used to be more popular, however, in the last couple months the platform has shown no to little user growth. Twitter currently has over 320 million active users of which 157 are using the platform daily.

Even though the platform might be stagnating it’s interesting to know that 7.4 million South Africans are on the platform.

SNAPCHAT

Snapchat and Twitter are neck and neck when it comes to fourth place. According to Expanded Ramblings, the platform has over 301 million active users a month.

However, when it comes to daily active users, Snapchat smiles back at Twitter with 166 million users compared to Twitters 157 million.

These are the top 5 social media platforms South Africans, and the world, spend their time on.

Don’t make a mistake thinking that there are only a few platforms out there!

According to Wikipedia, there are over 200 different social networks in the world.

With that said, platforms like Pinterest, Tumblr and LinkedIn might not have made the top 5, but these platforms still show tremendous potential for advertisers.

By looking at the stats above, we can see that these platforms offer a great opportunity for brands and businesses to engage with customers.

And that is exactly what social media marketing is all about.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 2)

How can you use these social media platforms to market your business?

social-media-marketing

In this guide, I’m going to mainly focus on Facebook, only because it’s by far the biggest and most common platform in the world, not to mention the most attractive to market one’s business.

Here are a few simple ways to market your business on Facebook for free:

Start a Facebook Page

The best way to engage with customers on Facebook would be in the form of a Facebook page.

This allows you to talk to potential customers and clients on behalf of your business as opposed to your personal profile where people can also find your family photos and more.

Why you need a Facebook Page for your business:

There are numerous reasons to start a Facebook page today. If you are still on the fence, then maybe these benefits can help change your mind:

1A Facebook page can teach you more about your target audience

Once you start a Facebook page, you will gain access to Facebook insights. Facebook insights allow you to learn more about your followers and their interactions; this can help you streamline and improve your marketing efforts.

2Facebook pages help boost your SEO

In Part 2 of our Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing in South Africa, I broke down what SEO is all about and how it can help you grow your business.

Having a Facebook page can help boost your organic reach in search engines which means free traffic and higher ROI.

3Allows you to advertise on the platform

Later in this guide, I will breakdown how to utilize Facebook’s paid services, but for now, know that having a Facebook page allows you to advertise on the platform.

Without a page, you won’t be able to advertise to potential customers.

4Connect with more customers

A Facebook page allows customers to find and connect with your business.

This opens the door to a conversion or sale which I’m sure no business would want to turn down.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa (PART 3)

What can you do with a Facebook Page?

facebook-page

NAME IT:

You can call your Facebook page whatever you want. However, best practice would be to give it the same name as your business.

This will make it easier for people to connect and build a relationship with the correct entity.

CONTACT DETAILS

You can store your company’s information on the page which will make it easy for potential customers and clients to reach out to you.

Make sure you add an email, contact number, physical address, a link to your website and some of your biggest accomplishments as well.

This will help increase the authority of your business.

SHOWCASE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Using Facebook, you can showcase your primary services and products. This will help customers understand your business while providing them with more information on what you do.

BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE 

As the admin of the Facebook page, you can invite others to like your page. Once someone has clicked ‘like’ it tells Facebook that this person is interested in following your business and its updates on the platform.

Facebook will then show your updates to the individual via their news feeds. However, before you get too excited, Facebook has an algorithm called EDGE Rank, and this determines whether your update will make it into your audience’s news feed or not.

You can learn more about Facebook algorithm here:

STATUS UPDATES AND OTHER POSTS

Facebook is designed with the purpose to share information.

As your business, you can share whatever you want with your audience, and you can do it at any given time, whether it’s latest news or updates about your company, a new product, more information on how you make your goods and/or even just something to get customers smiling; Facebook’s updates are the best way to engage with your potential clients and customers.

Did I mention that you can also share offers and discounts? Make sure you look into it the next time you are running a special.

SEND AND RECEIVE MESSAGES

You can engage with customers in the form of messages using Messenger, the Facebook messaging platform.

If customers have specific inquiries about your business, they can ‘inbox’ you which provides you with the opportunity to make a personal connection and to provide them with the necessary information needed which can hopefully assist in making a sale.

GET CUSTOMERS TO REVIEW YOUR SERVICE

Customers who have experienced your services can review their experience and inform the public about it.

This provides future customers with an idea of what to expect. If you have an excellent rating, it can help convert more customers as it will automatically help increase creditability of your brand.

Start a Facebook Group

Start a Facebook Group

What’s the difference between a Facebook Page and A Facebook group?

A Facebook page allows you to advertise on the platform where a Facebook group won’t.

A Facebook page can help customers identify your offerings, location, company details, and achievements.

With a Facebook page, a customer can see what others think about your business while allowing them to message and reach out to you directly.

A Facebook group, on the other hand, puts more focus on community.

What I mean by this is that a page it’s more of a one-way conversation, where a group is more of a two-way conversation due to the fact that groups allow customers to share their thoughts with you and other in the group.

If you run the kind of business where you prefer to connect with clients in a personal manner, then Facebook groups might not be a bad idea.

Related: 6 Facebook Marketing Tips To Help Grow Your Small Businesses

What can you do with a Facebook Group?

A Facebook groups are all about sharing. You or anyone in the group can share updates at any time in the group’s newsfeed (in the form of a status update, video, photo and more.)

This is the two-way conversation we talked about, and this is great to connect with customers on a personal level.

Allowing people or customers in the group to connect with each other also helps build a stronger and more loyal following.

Facebook groups work well for the following businesses:

  1. Communities
  2. Small to medium-sized businesses
  3. A business in a small town
  4. Software companies who want to ensure their customers have a platform to ask questions and learn more about how to utilize its products
  5. Universities and colleges etc.

An overview of advertising on Facebook

advertising on Facebook

Having a Facebook group or page doesn’t cost you anything, it’s free. As I mentioned before, you can only advertise on Facebook if you have a Facebook page, having a group only won’t allow you to tap into Facebook’s paid services.

With that said, let’s have a look at what you can do with Facebook’s advertising abilities.

TARGET SPECIFIC CUSTOMERS

Most of the popular social media platforms allow you to advertise your business and products on its network.

Facebook, in my opinion, is the best at targeting customers, and I will explain why.

Facebook (because it’s the biggest social network on the planet) gathers the most amount of data on its users.

For the users, it’s probably not always a good thing, but for us as marketers, it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Let’s say you’re an online golf equipment retailer looking to grow sales by utilizing Facebook marketing. Where do you start? Who do you target?

Well, you’d be happy to know that Facebook allows you to narrow down your target audience, so you can ensure you show your ads to individuals who are most likely to engage with your sponsored content.

With Facebook ads, you can target 45 – 50-year-old golf enthusiasts in the Johannesburg area, who play golf regularly.

But that is not all; you can narrow your audience even further by targeting regular golf players who have a habit of making online purchases.

That’s right, that is how targeted you can be.

GROW YOUR FAN BASE

I mentioned before that you could invite people to like your Facebook page, however, keep in mind the people you invite might not all be interested in what you have to offer.

So, how do you get more relevant customers to follow your business?

Well, you can pay Facebook to advertise your page.

The same way that you targeted customers to buy your golf equipment, you can target customers to follow and like your page so that they can be notified about regular updates.

What are some of the best ways to advertise on Facebook?

best-ways-to-advertise-on-facebook

Below are some of the best ways you can market your business on Facebook.

  1. FACEBOOK BRAND AWARENESS ADS

If you’re the new kid on the block and looking to get the name of your company out there, then this objective might be for you.

However, if you have a small marketing budget and need to ensure every cent goes to something that can lead to an ROI, then this is not ideal.

Even though Facebook allows you to show your ad to individuals who will most likely recall your ad, this won’t necessarily mean they are the perfect fit or will engage or make a purchase.

  1. FACEBOOK REACH ADS

This is objective here is essentially just to get your ad in as front as many people as possible.

It’s very similar to brand awareness ads. However, they do not have the backing of Facebook’s algorithm which allows your ad to be seen by people that might recall your ad.

The primary objective here is just to get people to see it. Your cost per mile or cost per 1000 impressions (people that saw your ad) might be lower, but there is a good chance none of them will remember it.

  1. FACEBOOK TRAFFIC ADS

If you have a website and want to drive people to a particular page or product on the site, then this is the ideal objective!

When it comes to Facebook traffic ads, one can target your audience according to location, age, gender, interests, etc.

The beautiful thing here is that you are reaching people most likely to click-through to your website.

  1. FACEBOOK ENGAGEMENT ADS

Engagement in Facebook slang mainly means people that are more likely to comment, like, and share. This doesn’t mean they are going to install your app, download your e-book, or make a purchase on your site though.

This might be a good idea to help drive a particular action. I’ve experimented with engagement ads, and sometimes they work just as well as brand awareness ads.

The reason for this is because if people engage with something, they are more likely to remember it. They also have a better chance of going viral because people might end up sharing it with their friends.

  1. FACEBOOK APP INSTALL ADS

If you’re a software or app development company or recently launched your own app, then this is perfect for you!

This objective allows your ad to be seen by people who have a higher probability of downloading your app based on their previous behaviors around ads. The moment you click the ad you will be taken to the specific app store associated with your device.

  1. FACEBOOK VIDEO VIEW ADS

If you have a video explaining how your product or service works then this is the solution for you.  By choosing the video view objective, Facebook will assist in showing your ads to individuals who are more prone to watching your video based on their behavior on the site.

If you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, you will most probably see that half of the posts, if not more, are videos. Video marketing is currently growing at a rapid pace, and most marketers believe that video will drive 75% of traffic by 2020.

  1. FACEBOOK LEAD GENERATION ADS

I feel so strongly about lead generation ads that I want to approve it even before I explain why.

Facebook lead generation ads allow you to advertise and collect important data from potential customers while growing your database and mailing list.

Any marketer would tell you that an email and contact number is gold so with that in mind, the moment you collect that data, you have a direct line of communication with your new potential customer and now it’s just up to you to make the sale.

Social media marketing is for everyone, no matter what the size of your company, and no matter whether you are online or offline based.

Facebook makes it easy for you to target exactly who you want to target, and by putting your ad in front of the right people, you can ensure a higher ROI.

When it comes to Facebook marketing keep in mind that you can either set up a Facebook page or a Facebook group. Ideally, I suggest you have both.

If you want to spend money on Facebook advertising to start marketing your brand and products, then it’s essential that you start by setting up a Facebook page.

There are numerous ways to advertise your business on Facebook. However, it’s up to you to determine what your main objective is before starting your first campaign.

Having started his first business at the age of 22, and selling it at the age of 25, Jandre fell in love with marketing! Jandre is a sales and digital marketing consultant with an appetite for entrepreneurship, and is the Founder and Managing Director of V8 MEDIA: V8 MEDIA.

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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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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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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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