The Biggest Misconception of Social Media Marketing
For over 8 years, I’ve been involved with tackling several digital marketing initiatives. From startups to massive corporate campaigns – it’s been a rocky ride. Nothing is, nor will ever be, stable in a world driven by innovation, guided by rapid-changing consumer behaviors, and steered by those who haven’t the foggiest idea where they’re going.
The past 12 months have been like running a hellacious, never-ending marathon into perpetual darkness. We have no idea where the finish line is, or which path will lead us to victory. All we have is a crumpled, hand drawn map created by several other people who claim to know the shortcuts, or the best pathways.
But what is the right path to success? How do we not only find the right marketing creative, messaging, and target audience – but accurately quantify the investment of resources, time, and money? Unfortunately, as of today, the answer isn’t pretty, well-defined, or clean-cut.
Forget all the other things you think you know about digital marketing, because the right question isn’t necessarily how each channel directly attributes to your bottom line. Rather, it’s the bigger picture of how every channel works together to contribute to your brand’s growth.
(Ah, yes. Don’t be alarmed. I bring my points to life with a few memes from my all-time fave, The Office)
Consumer behaviors are changing, technology just hasn’t caught up just yet
In the core of your sales and marketing, lies a complex, evolving beast. This beast is constantly finding new ways to learn, find shortcuts, and is becoming more educated before taking action. This beast is your consumer.
Consumer behaviors dictate our marketing efforts, right? But consumers are educating themselves more now, than ever before. They’ve got the power to thoroughly research your company, run comparisons against your competitors, read reviews, and skim through your social media profiles to determine whether or not they want to do business with you. And lest we forget, all of this can happen within a matter of minutes.
So can you truly attribute which social media channel leads to a specific sale? All these channels work together, because the consumer is using several different mediums to research, prior to making a purchase. And although there are several marketing automation platforms on the right track to being able to close the sales loop, nothing is quite there yet. Most platforms require the user to fill out a form, before being able to collect information regarding their behaviors as they visit your website. So until a user has filled out a form, you’re kind of in the dark about the user’s pathway to learning about your brand, what caused them to purchase, and which channel was directly responsible for this purchase.
For example, Suzy sees one of your ads on Facebook. She clicks on the ad, views the offer, then goes back to your Facebook profile. Suzy then types in your name into the Google search engine to learn more. She clicks on your website, reads a little about your product, and then leaves. A couple days later, Suzy types in your website address, directly into her browser, and makes a purchase from your website. According to your analytics, this sale will be attributed to Direct traffic because Suzy directly typed in your website URL in her browser, even though the Facebook ad was Suzy’s first entry point.
So how, exactly can you measure the impact of your social media marketing efforts?
Understanding the correlation between paid social media marketing and the sales cycle
This ties into my previous point about the lack of proper tracking. Most business owners are under the impression that social media ads will lead directly to sales.
Most consumers use social media platforms as a means to connect with people, and brands alike. When you’re running paid advertisements, it’s not likely consumers will purchase immediately, especially from a brand they aren’t familiar with. Sure, you’ve got a great promotional deal on the table, but they want to do some more research before they give you their hard-earned money.
Here’s some practical tips to make sure that your social media marketing efforts are successful:
- Take the time to research who’s buying online. Look at your Google Analytics and check out the demographics of your buyers. Which geographic locations are buying from you? What’s the age demographics of your online customers? Are they predominately male or female? Diving deeper into Google Analytics data will help you hone in on your target audience criteria and define it through social media.
- Create an offer that your customers will actually care about. Buyer personas come in handy at this stage. Define exactly what your customers are looking for, and create an offer around that. Is it free shipping? Would an eBook or free tool be useful to them? Find ways for your company to be helpful. Anything that will help save people time, money, or provides some other value, will help build trust and an affinity towards your brand.
- Develop eye-catching creative to support your offer’s message. Once you’ve got a killer offer, it’s time to create show-stopping ads to grab people’s attention. Think of what message you’re going to use, and create images or videos to support it. The ad copy needs to be strong, clear, and concisely convey the value your offer presents to the user. And the images or video needs to stand out from the noise in their social media feeds.
- Make sure your tracking is set up correctly. From Google Analytics to your social media tracking codes, you must make sure that you’re able to accurately track your social media marketing efforts. Your Google Analytics tracking codes must be correctly placed across your site to effectively monitor the behavior on your website. These goals can be form fills, purchases, page views, etc. Similar to Google Analytics goals, social media platforms have objectives. You get a tracking code unique to your social media marketing objective (ie., leads, video views, website visits, etc), and you place the tracking code, where appropriate, on your site. Talk with your social media marketing expert and website developer to ensure that all tracking codes are correctly placed on your website.
- Monitor the results of your campaign. This one is pretty obvious, no? But most people get caught up in the number of clicks, views, and other vanity metrics such as likes, shares, and comments. While this information is great for understanding the types of creative that works and doesn’t, if there isn’t an overall positive impact on your form fills, sales, or other website business objectives, what good are these ads doing?From the ad creative, copy, landing page, to the type of offer, there are several variables that impact campaign results. For example, if you notice an ad is getting a ton of clicks, but no conversions, the landing page is most likely the culprit. Or if an ad is getting few clicks, and the cost per click is higher than desired, the ad creative may need to be optimized. But remember: only test one thing at a time. It’s tedious work, but it’s well worth it to have a honed campaign that drives the results you’re looking for.
- Have a follow-up strategy. The last thing you want to do is lose all these leads, or people who are engaged with your brand. Once you have their email address, or cell phone number, have a plan of action to keep them engaged. Whether it’s through email marketing, or SMS marketing, it’s critical to maintain communication with your customers to keep your brand top-of-mind, and drive repeat sales.
Understanding how social media marketing campaigns impact other analytics metrics
Until technology catches up with the rapid changes in consumer behavior, the best thing to do is to keep an eye on your analytics. Pay special attention to your direct and organic traffic. As you ramp up your social media marketing campaigns, a sign of a good campaign is seeing an increase in organic and direct conversions. This implies that people are seeing your social media ads and are becoming more aware of your brand. In other words, your social media ads got their attention, and are compelling enough to drive people to research and learn more about you – before buying.