As social networks continue to grow users they need an revenue stream to support development which means businesses looking to advertise have to pay to reach their audience. For big brands ad spend to reach consumers on social is a small fraction of their budgets but how do small, independent brands play the social advertising game without breaking the bank? I recently spoke at WordCamp KC on getting the most out your social media with a limited budget.
The steps I outlined seem intuitive but few brands follow the full process, especially the beginning.
- Define your WHY – If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk “Start with Why” you should, here’s the link. Sinek suggests, and I agree, that brands who understand WHY they do what they do are more successful than brands who can articulate HOW they do what they do. What does this have to do with social media strategy? Ask yourself WHY you want to be doing social. If the answer is “because I should be” or “because I have to” you will not be successful. When you understand WHY you want to be on social, e.g. “to better communicate with and serve my customers”, that is the first step on the path to success.
- Determine your goals – Why you choose to participate in social media will help you determine your goals. In our example the why is to better communicate with customers. How do you determine if you’re communicating with your customers? Historically in the grocery industry print ads have been the major vehicle of communication. However, as consumer expectations have shifted so have their expectations of brands. A print ad talks AT a customer, in social you have the opportunity to communicate WITH your customers. Your desire to communicate with your customers is a goal of engagement, you want to have a conversation with them.
- Understand the platforms – This part sounds easy but is one of the most complex. Everyone uses Facebook. A lot of people use Instagram and Twitter. How different can running an account for a brand be? It’s different. It’s very different. The rules and guidelines for brands are always in flux. Your presence and interaction as a brand will be different than your personal interaction, and for accounts with several managers consistent voice is imperative. Be prepared to continuously learn about the platforms and evolve with them.
- Budget – Know what you’re willing to spend and that return on investment looks different in this format than in traditional marketing. My advice is to start with small investments when testing concepts then increase your investment after you have an idea of what works best with your audience to meet your goals.
- Measure – Look at and track your numbers. Don’t use subjective judgement to evaluate efficacy. Data is available to you, use it. Make objective evaluations of performance.
- Play – Once you have an idea of your baseline and what works well with your audience, try to have fun with it. Test new concepts and compare against your baseline to understand if they’re effective.
As social media becomes increasingly important to consumers it must also become more important for brands. Understand how to be effective and how to intelligently invest budgets will be key for smaller brands to compete in this space.