As of June 30, 2017, there are approximately 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook, and over 1 billion daily active users. To put this number in perspective, according to Sprout Social, YouTube alone has 1.5 billion monthly active users, Instagram has 700 million and Twitter has 328 million. It appears as though everyone is on social media, especially the highly coveted 18-29 age group. And while these numbers might plateau, it’s probably safe to say Facebook—and social media in general—is not going anywhere anytime soon. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, numbers like these cannot be ignored.
When social networking platforms first came onto the scene, businesses jumped at the opportunity to reach potential clients—especially the 18-29 age range—right where they were through social media sharing and engagement. According to HootSuite, over 70 million businesses now use Facebook Pages, and more than 5 million actively use paid advertising on Facebook. However, for many businesses and entrepreneurs, the question becomes: how do you effectively use social media to reach consumers?
Here’s the truth: if your goal with social media is more Facebook posts, you’re doing it wrong. Posting more often doesn’t mean the content you share is on brand, is appropriate or is even on the right channel, e.g. Facebook. More recently, posting on Facebook doesn’t even particularly mean followers will see the messages shared. In January of 2018, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri, announced Facebook would “… shift ranking to make News Feed more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation.” Facebook defines organic reach as “… how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.” Recently, one study announced by AdWeek found the average organic reach for posts from business Facebook Pages was approximately 2.6%; for pages with more than 1 million likes, 2.27%. Prior to 2012, the number was much higher; however, as Facebook has evolved their News Feed algorithm, the amount of non-sponsored posts users see from Facebook Pages has decreased significantly.
How do businesses compensate for this shift? By “boosting” their posts and using sponsored advertisements on Facebook. Facebook itself says:
Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals. Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space. Similarly, paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2017 Social Media Industry Report, 93% of social media advertisers use Facebook Ads. With paid and boosted content, Facebook posts stand a better chance of reaching the target audience and actually generating a click-through.
Even then, if your social media plan revolves around posting more often rather than posting more effectively, the strategy will probably not be successful. Instead, integrate social media within your marketing by first determining a brand strategy, content strategy and channel strategy. Then, if Facebook is the appropriate medium, the business can use it to generate clicks and revenue. But first, let’s explore more about what it looks like to combine brand, content and channel in order to create an effective marketing strategy.
The first stage effectively using social media for your business is developing a brand strategy. In order to get a clear picture of the business, you must start 10,000 feet in the air—with the overall brand—then zoom in on each individual aspect of the marketing strategy. Ask Your Target Market says: “By definition, brand strategy is a long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals.” Your brand determines who the business is, what the goals are and even how to reach the target audience.
A well-defined and executed brand strategy should affect all aspects of the business and is directly connected to consumer’s needs, emotions and competitive environments. A brand is more than just a logo, website or even a name. It’s the stuff which feelsintangible. It’s the certain je ne sais quoi which separates the average brands from the powerhouses. Hubspot defines seven essential elements in a strong company brand. These encompass:
- Purpose. Your brand should have a distinct purpose for existing, which serves as a differentiator between you and competitors. Business Strategy Insider says purpose can be defined two ways: (1) functional, or make money, (2) intentional, or make money and do good in the world. Dig deep to determine and clearly define the brand’s purpose.
- Consistency. A brand should be consistent in what it talks about and relates to. Each message, image, video, color, logo, etc., should be consistent with how the business wishes to portray itself. Consistency ultimately leads to brand recognition, which encourages customer loyalty.
- Emotion. Even if your business isn’t particularly emotional, relating the brand to customers’ emotions will help engage with them and encourage them to get join in.
- Flexibility. Your brand must be flexible to meet the ever-changing needs and wants of a fast-paced society. While consistency sets the standard for a brand, flexibility allows it to make adjustments based on various challenges and successes which might arise.
- Employee Involvement. How deep does the brand go? Successful branding goes all the way from the tip-top of a company to the lowest employee on the totem pole. Get employees involved with the brand from the very beginning.
- Loyalty. Take time to reward current customers for all of the love and support they show the brand. By building a loyal fan base, your brand can continue to encourage them to reach out to new customers.
- Competitive Awareness. Every industry has competition. Take competition as a challenge and integrate it into your strategy to create a greater value in the brand.
As you go about determining the business’s brand, questions to consider include:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What do you make?
- Why should anyone care?
- What do you have to offer?
- What makes you different?
- Why do your customers need you?
- What are your unique attributes?
Answer these questions and think through every aspect of the business in order to compile a comprehensive brand strategy. Once a brand strategy is in place, you can move forward with the type of content you want to generate.
When the business has a strong grasp of the brand it wants to demonstrate, you can determine which type of content best communicates your brand. The content strategy is a vital component of the overall marketing strategy. After all, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B marketers surveyed said they created more content in 2017 than in 2016. If you want to get a leg up on the competition, the first step is developing an effective content strategy.
At its core, content strategy is defined as “… the piece of your marketing plan and development that refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own—written, visual, downloadable—you get the picture.” Although the terms are often used interchangeably, it does differ slightly from content marketing strategy and content marketing. According to Moz, content strategy refers to the internal guidelines and governance; content marketing is the tangible editorial calendar, creation, curation, promotion and iteration; and the overlap area of the two is content marketing strategy, which is the vision, goals, audience research, voice and style, ideation and external governance of content. While there are slight differences, all three areas work interchangeably to produce valuable content for the business.
Once you understand the business brand strategy, you may begin creating the types of content which best communicate the brand. Content can be anything from messages to images, video, illustrations, photography, etc. Different types of content can be used on different days, regular content can be scheduled habitually or content can even be created and shared on the spot, such as with events. Establish your content strategy with seven main steps:
- Determine the goal.
- Conduct target audience research.
- Run a current content audit.
- Decide on a content management system.
- Brainstorm various content ideas.
- Choose the types of content you want to create.
- Publish and manage the content.
Defining and determining a content strategy and how it will represent the brand is a critical step in a successful marketing plan, followed shortly after by the final course of action.
When the brand has been defined and content curated, the final step in a successful marketing plan falls on channel strategy. Channel strategy helps determine which medium the business should use to share its messages which demonstrate its brand. According to TechTarget, channel strategy refers to “… a vendor’s plan for moving a product or a service through the chain of commerce to the end customer.” All of this brings us back to the conversation surrounding social media.
Depending on the brand and content, maybe Facebook makes sense as a messaging channel… or, maybe it doesn’t. Once you understand who you are and who your customers are, you can better understand which channel is best for communication. Maybe it is a social networking platform, or Medium, or direct mail, or email, or even a man standing on a street corner waving a “Fresh and Ready Pizza” sign. No matter what it is, determining the channel strategy is the most vital piece of the overall marketing plan.
When determining a channel strategy, consider three main objectives:
- Describe which factors affect the channel decisions.
- Consider which channels are possible and which can be combined or negated.
- Explain why some messages are better suited to some channels than others.
This is when a business’s social media strategy comes into play. Once the brand and content strategies have been outlined, you can begin the execution strategy for a particular channel, such as Facebook. A content calendar can be created, delivery mapped out and different messages decided on for the various channels. Whichever channels you choose—social media or otherwise—should work together toward a common goal for the business, not be in competition with one another. If Facebook isthe appropriate channel for a message, then you can move forward with sharing posts.
With 2 billion monthly active users, Facebook is no small marketing feat for a business to accomplish. However, if your goal is more Facebook posts, you’re doing it wrong. The goal should never simply be more posts, but rather, more effective posts. By determining a specific brand strategy, curating valuable content and selecting the appropriate channel for messages, you can control your marketing strategy, rather than the other way around.
Social media—and Facebook in particular—might be the best move for you; but, it might not. Taking the time to move through the brand, content and channel every step of the way will ensure your Facebook posts are more valuable, rather than more numerous. At Method Mark, we provide creative and strategic services, to help you communicate messages at the optimum level. Don’t just post more on Facebook. Post more effectively and see how your business can grow because of it.
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