Social networks are maturing and evolving by answering the need to monetize the value they are creating. Brands need to mature and evolve, too.
For years now, Facebook and other social platforms have been encouraging brands to build brand communities of fans and followers, and advocating, with good reason, the value of reaching those fans organically with timely and socially savvy messages in the News Feed.
Fast-forward to 2014. According to a report last week from Social@Ogilvy, organic reach through Facebook is now down by as much as 49 percent, with the average number of fans reached by brand posts hovering around 6 percent - even lower for brands with larger fan bases. And future expectations are more of the same for Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. The result is a challenging landscape for brand marketing on social.
So how should brands be dealing with this?
Organic reach - as defined on Facebook's own site - is no longer guaranteed. But that doesn't mean there aren't hugely powerful, and creative, opportunities for brand marketing on social. Brands need to take a strategic, decisive, and holistic approach to social marketing - and plenty are doing this very successfully.
Because here's the reality: the social networks own their social platforms. Not the brand. Those channels are not traditional "owned" channels. They are "leased" channels, where the audience has to be qualified, targeted, and managed, just as they are everywhere else.
Just as brands had to evolve from their early thinking of the Internet as "free," they're going to have to do the same thing for social. Marketing on social isn't going away. It remains an incredibly powerful platform. But it's evolving, and brands have to evolve, too.
Here are some pointers for how to think about these changes:
Earn Impressions "Through" Fans, Not "at" Fans
Brands should not be relying solely on posting to the News Feed and promoting those posts through paid media. In addition, brands should be giving fans something to do - answer questions, participate in promotions, contribute content through social apps - and deliver those activities in a way that encourages their fans to share their participation to their own network. This creates new earned impressions. Yes, brands will need to promote that initial touch point through media, but each purchased media impression earns more impressions if the social app is designed to maximize sharing.
Leverage Crowdsourced Social Content
Crowdsourcing, and curating, content on social offers a huge value to brands. Brands that call out for content on all social wavelengths - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. - through paid media, can then bring that crowdsourced content together for further browsing and sharing. And bringing all that fantastic content together in an organized way becomes an opportunity to socialize where brands have the most control - on their (fully owned) brand website.
Spread Across All Social Touch Points
It's clear to everyone now that social doesn't begin and end with Facebook. Running cross-social promotions allows brands to cumulate engagement. If a brand gets a 10 percent reach on Facebook, and another 10 percent on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, that adds up to meaningful numbers of cumulative fans and followers who have opted in to engage with the brand.
Find and Engage Evangelists and Influencers
Back when blogging was new (pre-social platform days!), engaging blogger-influencers was a big focus for savvy brand marketers. Well, it's still is. Or should be. Engaging those fans and followers who have influence as brand "ambassadors" will help brands earn new media reach, and works well for brands that foster loyalty and passion, and/or are part of a highly specialized or special-interest community.
Socialize the Corporate Website
Which brings us onto the corporate website. Brands need to bring their corporate websites back to life, and back up to date with social content and social participation. The corporate website is 100 percent owned. So brands should do all they can to reflect the energy and enthusiasm - and content - from the social world on their corporate website.
Combine Social With Lead Generation
There are all kinds of ways through social apps and social participation to have fans and followers opt in to connect directly with the brand. Asking for emails sounds very retro, but it works. It allows brands to pull leads into a CRM system, where they can then be encouraged and incentivized to head over to their owned world - the corporate website.
Bottom line: The sky isn't falling because social platforms are answering the need to monetize the incredible value they are creating by building networks of engaged, connected consumers. Social is maturing and evolving, and brands will do the same, too.
Roger Katz is the CEO and founder of Friend2Friend, a social media technology and solutions company that works with global brands and media agencies. Launched in 2007, Friend2Friend works with over 100 global brands through its offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Barcelona, Spain. During Roger's 20 years working in marketing, strategy, and social media, his career has included management and consulting roles at companies such as Photobucket, Agilent, Brocade, Quantum, Bell Labs, and Pacific Community Ventures, as well as a number of startups. Behind his marketing mind lies deep engineering expertise. He has engineering degrees from Michigan State and UC Berkeley and an MBA from Wharton. He's a cycling fanatic, aspiring guitarist, and (slow) swimmer.
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