To be or not to be? That was a tough question for Hamlet, but content marketers pondering whether or not to be on social media on the cusp of 2020 may as well be asking themselves if they should live under a rock or not.
Social media is as ubiquitous as air – it’s everywhere. Every day, 3.2 billion people across the globe are using social media. And new platforms are popping up all the time. In fact, our devices have become bodily appendages of sorts.
It’s undeniable that businesses must leverage the power of social media. The opportunities afforded by social media to engage customers and prospects are like nothing we’ve seen before.
But is social media all good? Are there drawbacks to its ubiquity around the world? Plenty. Let’s explore both the pros and the cons of social media. A careful analysis of both will guide how – not if – we should go about managing social media.
For the sake of this marketing article, we’ll forego discussion of the emotional and societal advantages and disadvantages of social media. Indeed, they are abundant, but let’s let the psychology blogs cover that arena.
PROS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CONTENT MARKETING
Reach. With almost half the world’s population using social media, the opportunity to reach audiences where they live online is immense. Enriching, quality content inspires people to share your content with someone else and, like the old Faberge organic shampoo commercial, so on and so on and so on. Social media is contagious – in a good way (as long as it’s managed properly, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
Cost-effective and easy. It costs next to nothing to run a basic social media campaign, and it’s as easy as choosing a platform(s) and following a few simple instructions to set up a free account. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are common among businesses, but it’s crucial to identify which platforms your target audiences are on.
Live, interactive engagement. Social media invites real time conversation with audiences 24/7, allowing companies to get instant feedback about their products, services and campaigns as well as valuable insight into the wants, needs, interests, and concerns of their customers and prospects.
Concrete data. The many free or low-cost monitoring tools that exist today afford marketers clear, tangible intelligence about the specific content their audiences respond to most, when and where. Guess work is no longer part of the equation when concrete evidence of consumer engagement is available.
Content promotion. Great content only goes as far as its reach. All the news, blogs, white papers, eBooks and case studies in the world won’t mean a thing unless they can be seen and shared. Social media calls attention to your content and lets you, and others, propagate it.
Immediate dissemination of important news. Social media allows for instantaneous sharing of important, up-to-the-minute news, which is particularly necessary in crisis. Without a clear and truthful message about critical circumstances, the situation will most certainly be addressed by others who may be misinformed and bring risk to your organization. Uniform messages are easy to convey on social media, even as the situation is unfolding.
SEO. Companies and organizations active on social media rank better in search engines, placing their content higher than their competitors’. Content is increasingly accessed through social media. If you’re not on multiple platforms, your content won’t be seen by the billions of people using social media.
Customer loyalty. Establishing positive online relationships with customers and prospects fosters loyalty among them and increases the likelihood of face-to-face interactions. People happy with and trusting of your brand are also more inspired to offer unsolicited referrals and testimonials.
Reviews. Positive reviews on social media are gold since 91% of people read reviews before engaging with a brand, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Your star power counts, but so too do the experiences customer share with your organization. Encouraging customers to give you a review demonstrates a commitment to excellence in services, products and customer care.
CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CONTENT MARKETING
The Yin and the Yang
Some of the benefits of social media to marketing are also converse detriments. Let’s look at the cons of social media and how to manage and mitigate them as much as possible, starting with those that are also pros, as noted above.
Reach. Just as social media can reach massive numbers of people instantaneously to the benefit of your brand, if you miss the mark in your messaging when a lot of eyes are on it, you brand can suffer significantly. Mistakes can be as severe as not communicating a crisis properly or as minor as poor grammar or typos. Great skill is required to create quality content, and great care must be taken to ensure it is crafted well and free of errors, biases or anything that could be insensitive or misinterpreted.
Live, interactive engagement. While two-way conversations with audiences is one of the major benefits of social media, it can also be a drawback in terms of control. Because everyone seeing your content can comment, add to and share it, your message is out of your hands to some degree. But you can gain back control by regularly monitoring and responding, which is every bit as important as creating careful content in the first place.
Immediate dissemination of important news. Like no other, social media allows users to get messages out quickly to huge numbers of people. That’s particularly important in a crisis event; however, the greatest of care must be taken to responsibly, accurately and respectfully convey such news. Those who aren’t trained properly in crisis communications run the risk of causing significant damage not only to the company’s reputation and financial outlook, but to stakeholders as well, including employees, victims, investors, and more. Establishing and practicing a social media policy and crisis communications plan is key, because it sets guidelines and expectations from the outset – before crisis occurs.
Concrete data. The data collected from those participating in social media can be a double-edged sword. When someone engages with social media, content marketers have access to additional information about them, thanks to algorithms that can reveal where one lives, where they work, went to school, and even personal data such as sexual orientation. Understandably, this is very alarming to consumers, and marketers must be especially careful about how they leverage this information. Because social media sites don’t scan for phishing scams, users are also vulnerable to hacking, identity theft and viruses. Establish and commit to clearly defined ethical practices that strive to add value to your audiences, and never exploit their engagement with your brand.
Reviews. While negative reviews on social media are not a crisis, 91% of people read reviews before engaging with a brand, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. As noted, encouraging customers to give you a review demonstrates a commitment to excellence in services, products and customer care. But it also opens you to criticism and negative commentary. Commitment to excellence must be seen in action, not just words, but the occasional unhappy consumer will surface, regardless of how outstanding your brand is. Promptly thank the reviewer for their thoughts and affirm that their opinion matters to you and that, whenever possible, you will do what you can to improve the situation.
More Cons of Social Media
It’s time-consuming. Just as personal relationships require nurturing and regular attention, so do relationships that are formed on social media. Occasional, erratic posts aren’t going to stick. Effective social media communication takes time, effort, attentive response, careful analysis and fresh, continuous content. Employing a person or agency dedicated solely to social media is essential to a robust social media strategy.
All the world’s a stage. Social media invites disgruntled customers and even former employees to vent publicly about their grievances against your company. In today’s culture of “citizen journalism” and customer reviews, people feel very free to say whatever they wish, especially when they’re not communicating face-to-face. While social media managers can delete negative comments, unless it’s something profane or threatening, they shouldn’t. Doing so sends the message that they don’t care enough to respond (creating further cause for complaint) and that they’re less than transparent. Prompt and thoughtful response is the appropriate action, whether or not the conversation about you is flattering. Never react defensively, blame someone else, or lash back in retort. Instead, affirm that the concern has been heard, that it matters to you and that, whenever possible, you will do what you can to improve the situation.
Nothing is ever truly deleted. A footnote to the con above is that comments and posts never really vanish from the Internet. Once posted, they are archived in cyberspace and exist in perpetuity. Before the first keystroke is made, every measure must be taken to ensure that content is clear, responsible, respectful and representative of your highest ideals.
Cons aside, as we’ve said before, today’s content marketers must take advantage of the enormous power of social media. But they have to do it right.
At IVY Marketing Group, our team of certified content experts can help you make the most of social media, engaging your audiences with content they’ll not only see, but act upon too.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Some years ago, a woman interviewing for a high-level communications position was asked her opinion about the importance of Facebook, then a newly emerging platform. While she didn’t know it at the moment, her answer lost her the job. “Facebook is just a fad for young people and will probably go away,” she prognosticated. Nothing else she said mattered after that. It all became the Charlie Brown adult “wah-wah-wah.” Oops.
Facebook has not only not gone away, it’s evolved into a whole new business and social paradigm. It’s also been joined by multiple other platforms, many of which those “young people” now prefer to Facebook.
Businesses today should not expect to survive without a vibrant social media presence. Research shows that half the world’s population is online, and 3.03 billion own a social media account. At least two-thirds of Americans get at least some news from social media, and nearly half of them have expressed their opinions about products and services on social media.
In just 15 years, social media has gone from the (perhaps purloined) brainchild of a brilliant Harvard computer science student, to a cool way for plugged-in youngsters to chat it up, to an essential element in the commercial toolbox.
But how one does social media is far more integral than simply having social media. Consider the possibilities of regular engagement with real, live customers in a single forum, one message at a time. It’s like the holy grail of consumer relations!
Even so, not all brands treat it as such. Despite overwhelming evidence, some companies still doubt the influence of social media. Or if they’re not in doubt, they’re not committed to leveraging its greatest rewards. Like the woman in the interview, they may not know it, but they’re losing out.
How can brands harness the tremendous power of social media? There are several ways (check out our blog categories), but here are two we will focus on specifically:
Transparency and responsiveness.
Assuming content is awesome in its own, non-sales-oriented right – and by that we mean engaging, informative, inspiring, moving, entertaining, educational, motivational, funny, thought-leading, groundbreaking, or some combination of all these qualities – assuming that (because your brand’s life depends on awesome content), transparency and responsiveness are next in the social media triage.
Transparency Equals Trust
Plain and simple, transparency builds trust. Going back to non-sales-oriented content, consumers will resonate with your brand only if they feel you’re being genuine with them and putting their needs first.
Online platforms practically shine with opportunities to build trust and engagement. Social media is a live world stage on which to present a steady flow of content, striking audiences’ imaginations, evoking their thoughts and questions, learning their desires, needs and expectations. Like no other, social media channels let audiences connect with the real human beings behind your brand.
Fundamentally, engagement on social media facilitates the basic need we all have to feel included – that we’ve been invited to the party. Once that comfort and trust are established, consumers are even more apt to have the conversations and offer the vital feedback you need to remain healthy and relevant. And if what they have to say is positive, that’s sheer gold. Like it or not, people put far greater stock in what fellow consumers have to say than what brands say.
A note about paid content: Always, always label paid advertisements or content as “sponsored content.” Do so clearly and prominently so that there is no doubt the content has been purchased and is not owned or earned.
When Transparency is Difficult
What if the talk about your brand on social media is not complimentary? Understanding first that a negative review or comment is not a crisis, there will most certainly be the remark (or two or more) that is not flattering to your brand. As social media is an open forum, your platform is the natural place for people to express complaint or disappointment.
This can be a good thing. First, don’t delete unflattering comments that relate directly to your brand. Unless a remark is profane, discriminatory, defamatory, derogatory, self-promoting or otherwise inappropriate, leave it. This will demonstrate not only that you are candid and forthright (fostering trust), it also provides insight into how you can improve as well as a great opportunity to rectify a problem and connect even more deeply with a valued customer.
How to Respond
Positive feedback is the wind beneath all our wings. But, lest companies get a little too high on their accolades, they must never miss an opportunity to respond with a word of thanks, news that benefits the consumer, or even a special offer.
In the case of negative discourse, rectify the details of the grievance privately with your customer, but reply publicly first. Go beyond simply not deleting the comment (unless it’s profane or derogatory); reply to it directly and for all to see. This shows concern, attentiveness, compassion, and willingness to grow. It’s also likely to go a long way toward retaining your temporarily dissatisfied customer and even gain their friends and associates.
NEVER engage negatively with negative commentary, and NEVER be defensive. Let’s look at an example scenario:
The Right Way
Consumer comment: Brand A really irked me today. My order arrived with the wrong merchandise, AND it was the wrong size! Never using them again!
Brand A’s response: We are very sorry to hear about your experience and offer our sincerest apologies for your disappointment and inconvenience. We try very hard to make sure every order meets our valued customers’ highest expectations. Please contact XXX so that we can correct this situation to your complete satisfaction. Long-lasting relationships with happy customers are our number one priority, and we want you to stay!
While Twitter and other platforms restrict longer messages, some version of this response is essential.
The Wrong Way
Consumer comment: Brand A really irked me today. My order arrived with the wrong merchandise, AND it was the wrong size! Never using them again!
Brand A’s response: We try very hard to make sure every order meets our valued customers’ highest expectations, but everyone makes mistakes. With thousands of orders coming in daily, it stands to reason that a few of them would be incorrectly filled. If you have nothing positive to say, please refrain from posting on our page.
No response: No response at all from your brand is even worse; it shows complete indifference and/or cold, distant impersonality.
What If We Can’t Do It All on Our Own?
Creating awesome social media content on a regular basis is uniquely demanding; responding appropriately is even more difficult. Many brands seek outside content marketing talent, as contract assistance is often more affordable and nimbler than hiring full-time internal staff.
Our team of certified content marketers can help you create content that will engage your social audiences, help you craft the right messages and responses, and pave the way for meaningful and lasting connections with your customers and prospects.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Two months ago, Facebook took a hard hit when the public learned that the social media giant allowed the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest personal user data due to a loophole in its user data security.
Facebook’s market value dropped by $59 billion, and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook began circulating, causing some people, including top executives and celebrities, to dump their accounts.
This, in turn, has caused social media marketers and advertisers more than a little concern, given the limits Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vowed to impose, such as auditing apps with user information and requiring user consent before embarking upon custom campaigns.
But, how much has the scandal really affected Facebook users? According to a recent Brand24 blog on the subject, “The scandal will have a greater effect on Facebook advertisers and marketers, as opposed to Facebook users themselves.” If that’s true, social media marketers will indeed need to adapt their campaigns to changes in Facebook’s advertising policies.
But, let’s look first at why people don’t seem to be on a mass exodus from Facebook, even in the wake of the security breach. Human psychology plays a big role, and, given that most Facebook users have been on the platform for about 10 years now, it may not be going away any time soon.
“Facebook is that bar from ‘Cheers’ or a virtual town where everyone knows your name,” said author and psychotherapist Fran Walfish. “Why would you go somewhere else? The primary motivation to be on Facebook is to reap the benefits of huge amounts of positive affirmation. The opposite of that is rejection.”
Walfish goes on to say that people who suddenly go dark on Facebook are seen as either hostile, depressed, suffering from a negative life change, or all of the above. Plus, asserts Simon Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, leaving Facebook is like breaking up with all your friends. Who wants that?
People are also generally less fearful of a violation of their privacy than, say, an outbreak of the E.coli virus, according to senior finance editor Quentin Fottrell. A disease can kill you, but the ramifications of a breach in security are harder to understand.
And, let’s face it, the daily connection over two billion people around the world experience on Facebook is hard to give up, not to mention the online presence they’ve taken years to build.
“No one is leaving,” said CNBC reporter Michelle Castillo, including most marketing and advertising agencies. Contrary to what some marketing experts predict (and to the fact that Commerzbank and Mozilla said they would suspend advertising on Facebook), she wrote, “Agencies are skeptical many people are going to leave Facebook – or at least enough to make a difference for advertisers. The public’s attention span is fleeting…and even massive breaches that affected Yahoo and Equifax haven’t turned people off those services.”
That sentiment is echoed by employees in Facebook’s advertising and media sectors, who wished to remain anonymous: “Most advertisers are not planning to reduce their spend.” And, according to Forbes, “Unless Facebook is able to create new ways to monetize the platform, advertising will continue to be its bread and butter.”
So, which is it? Facebook marketing and advertising is going to wane due to the scandal, or it’s not? Most experts agree that it’s too soon to definitively tell, but there are measures social media marketers can take to address restricted access to Facebook user data that previously afforded them laser insight into consumer behavior, wants and needs.
• First, keep an eye on Facebook’s advertising policies, or ask your marketing experts to inform you of those changes.
• Monitor your social media, which will allow you to glean valuable information about your brand and its success (or lack thereof) from various social media channels and online conversations. If you don’t have the time or personnel to manually track this information, you can employ a marketing agency or make use of the many free social media monitoring tools or paid software applications to do the job. Social media monitoring sheds light on:
o Which influencers are the best for your brand
o What your competition is doing
o Spikes or dips in web traffic, and why
o Mentions of your brand or company
o Topics or keywords/phrases to use in your marketing strategy
o New distribution channels to employ
o The context of online discussions
• Generate fresh, engaging content on a regular basis.
• Identify what is truly unique about your brand and distinguish yourself in meaningful ways from your competition.
• Create hashtags for significant campaigns and monitor online mentions and engagement with them.
Another word of advice might be to relax, as Facebook users seem to be a faithful – and forgiving – bunch. If the platform has been working for your brand, resist the knee-jerk temptation to assume it suddenly won’t. Consider this: as of late April 2018, a month after the Cambridge Analytica breach, there were still 2.2 billion Facebook users across the globe, or nearly 1/3 of the world population. That’s a lot of potential customers!
IVY’s team of experts are helping our clients find continued success with Facebook marketing. Let us help you leverage social media for your campaigns, even in the shadow of doubt.
Long gone are the days when marketers, advertisers, and sales personnel could tell a customer or prospect about their product or service and expect them to sop it up like thirsty sponges. The online marketplace has changed all that forever. Consumers are now prosumers, active participants in the buyer journey, with the ability – and willingness – to critique, persuade, dissuade, advise, advocate, share, upload, download, and build up or tear down a brand before the entire world. The right content marketing can make all the difference in how consumers will respond to your brand, but in order to craft the right messages, we must first understand the awesome power of the customer today. It’s a buyer’s market for sure.
We at IVY wanted to share this quote from Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit Inc., with you…”A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” So very true.
Do you have a Social Media Strategy? If not, you could be missing out on big branding and financial results. Today is your lucky day! See below as Ivy Marketing Group shares ours.
- 89% of 18 to 29-year-olds
- 78% of 30 to 49-year-olds
- 60% of 50 to 64-year-olds
active on the social web in 2013 seniors have adopted social media at the highest rate over the past two years
Twitter: update fan base with limited status; use # for search function; real time what is occurring
YouTube: watch and connect through videos
Facebook: most popular; can target audience; fans can post/ask questions and see interests of their friends
Linkedin: networking site; join similar groups to follow/add to conversations
Pinterest: virtual bulletin board/content sharing service
Instagram: popular photo sharing site; can use # to search terms
- Get the word out by encouraging employees to follow the pages (but guidelines in place to not post inappropriately on the sites)
- Incorporate links in all marketing materials
- All associates should have links for Facebook and twitter (in addition to website) on their email signatures
Facebook – Best: 1pm-4pm; Worst: 8pm-8am
Twitter – Best: 1pm-3pm; Worst: 8pm-9am
Linkedin – Best: 7am-9am; Worst: 10pm-6am
Pinterest – Best: 2pm-4pm; Worst: 5pm-7pm
- Drive traffic to website
- Effective and low-cost opportunity to show uniqueness and worth by sharing what’s happening within the establishment
- Connect with media
- Utilize networks of the families of current residents, employees and prospective sales
- Get feedback/inspiration from others
- To build a community
- Build company reputation
Why People Follow Companies on Social Sites
- Receive discounts/promos
- Show support for the company
- Stay informed of activities in community
- Learn more about the company
- Get updates on future projects
- Someone recommended
- Gain exclusive content
- Customer services
Best Practices Include:
- Be consistent and relevant with content
- Post events showing what life is like in the community
- Showcase personal story of resident to garner thought
- Monitor what others say about you and your competition
- Encourage engagements: ask questions
- Track effectiveness: run Social Media only contest
- Tag like minded establishments or media
- Optional set aside budget to advertise and gain more fans
- Test/Adapt: look at metrics see when engagement occurs
Wondering why and how brands use Instagram? As of this month, 123 Fortune 500s use Instagram. The top reasons include cultivating unique images that showcase the brand’s key message (even after hours when a store is closed for example), find customers, quickly connect with fans, and encourage fan sharing across all social networks. Most importantly, the photo sharing app has become so popular and where users go, we must follow to participate and engage brand interaction.
Everything from a special event, delicious dinner served or family photo, it’s easy for both communities and consumers to connect through images. Instagram helps brands not only share their mission but also explore through the eyes of their customer.
The simple way of using hashtags shows makes it easy for brands to collect photos by doing a quick search. A few that have taken advantage of this include Charity Water uses #charitywater to collect photos of the important role water plays in people’s lives. General Electric asked Instagrammers to take photos inspired by three areas of GE innovation and tag them #GEinspiredme. The contest winner was flown to London to take photos of the GE aviation facility. Watch the contest video. Starbucks uses Instagram to showcase event photos from its thousands of locations and corporate office and recently started with the new video feature.
Here are more examples of Brands On Instagram. Do you have some examples of good campaigns? Please share below.