The role of Social Media for Business in 2015 and Beyond
Social Media has been the latest “fad” to impact businesses. In fact, many companies both large and small have spent the majority of their marketing budget on social media platforms in the hope that this is the Holy Grail.
Sadly, for many businesses this has resulted in less than satisfactory results. Many smaller firms have “bet the farm” on social media platforms to promote themselves and today they are either no longer in business or are struggling to discover where to turn now that their bank accounts are almost empty.
The only companies that grew through Social Media were those that sold Social Media services. In most cases, their services cost significantly higher than other traditional marketing tools with no proven return on investment (ROI) for their services.
Interestingly, in 2014 a growing number of writers began to talk about Social Media in the attempt to get more people to use them. Headings such as “Why businesses should still use Facebook and Twitter” should give every business leader cause to rethink their strategy, especially if their main marketing budget was focused on Social Media.
The Real Impact of Social Media
Forrester Research published an article in November 2014 titled “Marketers Are Wasting Resources on Facebook, Twitter.” This article presented some very interesting statistics.
The fact that “few people actually see posts from top brands on Facebook and Twitter show that focusing heavily on those networks can be a waste of time, money and resources,” Forrester vice president and principal analyst Nate Elliott concludes in the report titled “Social Relationship Strategies That Work.”
“Its clear that Facebook and Twitter don’t offer the relationships that marketing leaders crave,” Elliott wrote. “Yet most brands still use these sites as the centerpiece of their social efforts — thereby wasting significant financial, technological, and human resources on social networks that don’t deliver value.”
However, Forrester was not alone in their conclusion.
In February 2014, Ogilvy reported that top brands’ Facebook posts reached only 2% of their fans. Organic reach on Twitter is just as low, the report says, citing “multiple industry sources.”
Engagement is even worse. On average only .073% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts; for Twitter the average is .035%.
The low reach and engagement has gotten even worse since Facebook announced last year that it was drastically cutting the organic reach of businesses’ Facebook posts—trying to convince them that they should pay to promote their posts if they want followers to actually see them. The company has also cut the organic reach of Facebook Pages’ posts even further after feedback showed that users wanted to see less promotional content in their news feeds.
“Yet most brands still use these sites as the centerpiece of their social efforts- thereby wasting significant financial, technological, and human resources on social networks that don’t deliver value,” commented Elliot. According to Elliot this all means one thing: “Companies need to stop making Facebook, Twitter, and other third-party social networks the center of their marketing strategy.”
Instead of spending social capital on Facebook and Twitter, Elliott suggests that brands add community building features to their own websites noting a Forrester survey that showed U.S. adults were three times as likely to visit a business’ site as to engage with its Facebook page.
The Forrester report isn’t entirely down on social media. It recommends turning to social networks that generate higher brand engagement using sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Forrester data shows that top brands’ Instagram posts receive a per-follower engagement rate 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter.
REI, for example, shifted its social priorities to Instagram after noticing much higher interaction with its posts there compared to Facebook. REI’s 1440 Project, which asks its fans to share photos from their outdoor pursuits, has generated more than 100,000 photos and more than 500,000 visits to the company’s microsite.
The engagement created is off the charts; and there’s even spillover to the brand’s Facebook page:
REI’s Instagram photos deliver almost 3,000 times more engagement per follower than its Facebook posts. And yet, this strategy helps rather than harms the company’s Facebook efforts: When REI shares 1440 Project content on Facebook it earns 42% more likes than the brand’s other Facebook posts. Instead of spending social capital on Facebook and Twitter, Elliott suggests that brands add community building features to their own websites.
So what to do?
Carefully consider all marketing and advertising platforms and develop your plan. The plan needs to have clearly defined measurable results by which you can monitor the success of any campaign then you can adjust accordingly.
Oh, and one more thing, remember Social Media should not be the center of your marketing strategy. It is a small piece of a carefully crafted plan.