Social Media Strategy in 2020 and Beyond: The Importance of Paid vs. Organic
Since the introduction of social media platforms in the early 2000s, adoption rates have increased at exponential rates. According to Statista, the average internet user spent 2 hours and 22 minutes across their social channels every day in 2019. As social media platforms began to amass active users, businesses began to establish their own profiles in an attempt to leverage social media strategy as part of their marketing communications efforts, catalyzing these platforms to establish business profile accounts that would afford the organization greater insights into performance analytics and access to advertising accounts.
Fast forward to 2020, and social media platforms have evolved immensely. Since 2012, social media algorithms have been systematically adjusted to throttle down organic reach of businesses, essentially forcing them to “pay to play” in order to actually reach their intended audience. Initially, published posts would reach 16-20 percent of their subscribed audience. Today, that average reach percentage is hovering around a measly 2 percent. To say the cards are stacked in favor of the platforms’ business plans would be an apt metaphor for the impact these changes have had on social media solutions in the marketing and advertising world.
4 Organic Social Media Best Practices
While perception of organic reach is grim, brands would still do well to leverage organic social media best practices to help maximize organic reach and engagement.
1. Identify SMART goals. Take the time to understand each social media channel’s role against overarching business objectives, whether that be awareness, meaningful engagements, providing social care, driving website referrals, leads, or actual conversions. Then, begin benchmarking current levels, competitor levels, and map out achievable goals.
2. Understand your audience. While this activity may fall into the ‘obvious’ bucket, so many organizations fail to take the time to understand their target persona. When you understand your audience, it informs which platforms are worth company bandwidth.
3. Maximize platform capabilities and best practices. Each social media platform varies by culture, publishing capabilities, engagement features, and available native and third-party management tools. You cannot take a one-size fits all approach to your social media strategy.
4. Publish compelling and engaging content. Quality over quantity. Period. Tap into your target persona’s pain points, interests and aspirations to develop a value exchange with them. What can your organization provide that will generate meaningful engagements and compel intended behaviors?
Now that we’ve ensured organic social media is optimized, let’s delve into paid.
With the current social media marketing landscape dominated by the pay-to-play model, a holistic social media strategy cannot be implemented without paid support. Regardless of organizational goals, and where in the sales funnel those goals live, paid social has a part to play — whether that’s driving awareness and building community, or driving web traffic and lead generation, or ultimately driving conversions. Dig deep into your persona demographics and match those against a social media platform’s user demographics to determine which platform is best suited to your campaign. It’s also important to note that each social media platform affords a blend of unique paid features, and those distinctions need to be accounted for when executing paid social campaigns.
3 Paid Social Media Best Practices
1. Utilize tracking and insight pixels. Once the paid social campaign platforms are identified, it’s time to leverage pixels, or web snippets of code, to integrate platform tracking with web analytics. This enables the ability to better understand campaign performance and make ongoing optimizations.
2. Understand advanced targeting. Each social platform offers the same general targeting categories, but where they vary is demographic and interest-based targeting. While your target audience might be active on one platform, targeting them there may not be feasible or cost effective.
- Demographic targeting: Includes common demographic information like location, age, gender, language and education. Depending on the platform, it will also offer up targeting options including relationship status, employer, professional title, industry, role, experience, homeowner status, parent status, political leaning and more.
- Interest-based targeting: Encompasses more subtle social signals tied to pages users subscribe to and content they engage with. Leverage this to expand your ad’s potential reach.
- Behavior-based targeting: Exclusive to Facebook, this targeting enables organizations to reach users based off purchase behaviors or intent. Behaviors available include, but are not limited to, philanthropy donations, digital activities, automotive purchasing behaviors, mobile devices used, travel activity, and residential profiles.
- CRM matched audiences: Allows users to upload a list of email addresses or phone numbers that will match against social media profiles to create a very custom audience. It’s important to note that each platform does have a minimum audience you have to reach before you can target this way — more on CRM’s role in your social marketing strategy later.
- Look-alike audiences: For when you are trying to expand your core targeting by pulling in other social media profiles based on similar interests and traits. This can be deployed against any type of custom audience.
- Custom website audiences: Otherwise commonly referred to as social retargeting or remarketing, this type of advanced targeting will aggregate users based off who has visited specific pages on your website. Once the minimum audience threshold is reached, you can target this audience with a remarketing campaign.
3. Consider paid partner opportunities. Many centers of influence, like media outlets, offer sponsored post opportunities or advertisement bundles that include promotion from their social media channels. While this type of campaign does have to be labeled as sponsored, it can be an effective means for reaching your target audience via influencers’ social channels.
Migrating “Rented” Social Media Followers to Owned CRM
Social subscribers are essentially a “rented” audience. Meaning, you have to pay to gain access. Your customer relationship management system (CRM), on the other hand, is owned and requires little-to-no-cost to capture engaged user information. While planning your social media strategy, consider methods and campaigns that capture social followers’ and prospects’ information, effectively migrating them into your company’s database. By doing so, you’re enabling 1:1 communications, including: SMS, email and email-matched sponsored social. These campaigns can take numerous forms — promotions and giveaways, content curation contests, gated content and resources, events — the key is to ensure you implement a value-exchange and your offer is of equal or greater value than the information you set out to capture. Think high quality content or high-quality experience combined with the bare minimum of required information to engage social followers to participate.
Ultimately, social media is an effective communications channel that can greatly assist in the achievement of organizational goals. However, success in the modern landscape requires a strong command of platform features, audiences, organic best practices, paid options and available tracking capabilities — all combined with a deep understanding of business objectives and how social media can best be deployed against those goals. Which is exactly why we “Solve For Why” a company is active on each platform. And you’ll never wonder if a tactic or channel serves your company’s approach.
As such, brands should avoid overly committing to any platform and instead, maintain a high-level, platform-agnostic perspective that supports meeting users where they are with content they value versus adding to the content cacophony for the sake of being there. While fluency in the here and now is crucial, it’s just as important to keep an eye on the horizon for new, relevant social channels that may also prove to be effective as communications tools. Social media evolves quickly and brands that lack flexibility get left behind.
At Communications Strategy Group (CSG®), we take a highly strategic approach to social media marketing solutions. In fact, discover how social media marketing increased leads by more than 2,500 percent for a global medical device brand.