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Debunking Social Media Myths

Written by Ashley Avona

The other day I went to my local Trader Joe’s for some delicious organic produce, and the cashier was making small talk. “So, what do you do?” he asked.

“I work in social media marketing,” I responded.

“So, is that like… posting and stuff? Sounds, fun.”

“Yeah, sort of,” I sighed.

This is the typical reaction someone gives when I tell them I work in social media marketing: “You post and stuff.” Most people either completely misunderstand what we do or believe they could do it better. Well, I have some disappointing news. Just because you have 500 followers on Instagram or shared a post on Facebook that got 75 likes does not make you a social media marketing professional.

There’s this myth that social media marketing is an easy job that just involves posting, but people often neglect to see the strategy and creative process that goes into working in social media. Market research, target audience analysis, setting up campaigns, allocating a budget, and concepting are all part of the job. Not to mention scheduling content a month or more in advance.

Social Media Marketing vs. Community Management

While sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, social media marketing and community management are actually completely different functions. Social media marketing focuses on the various marketing channels — the social platforms. It involves following branding, developing social strategies, and content creation. We prioritize search engine optimization and reporting to back up our social strategy.

Community management is the function most people think of when they think of working in social media. Posting, liking, retweeting, commenting, and responding to inquiries and feedback on a social platform are all part of community management. Community management falls under the umbrella of organic social.

Paid and Organic Social

To fully understand what it means to work in social media marketing, it’s important to know the difference between paid social and organic. Paid social ads are sponsored posts that are often part of a larger campaign. Campaigns have specific goals. A traffic campaign has the goal of directing people to a website. An engagement campaign is based on obtaining likes, shares, and other interactions. Depending on the objectives, both of these could be part of an overall campaign that aims to create visibility and brand awareness for a company.

It’s absolutely crucial to have a mix of both paid and organic social as part of your social media marketing strategy. One cannot exist without the other. If you have great sponsored ads but no organic content on your pages, you can’t build trust or credibility for your audience.

Imagine clicking on a sponsored post and being redirected to a company profile with little actual content. You’d probably feel like the company was a sham if you saw they had nothing but sponsored content. Social media marketing has to appear authentic and offer people usable content.

However, if all you have is organic content, and no paid ads, you won’t be reaching many people or getting them to take any measurable actions. Conversions just don’t happen without paid ads. If you want measurable CTAs, whether that’s getting people to visit your site, call, or click something, it just doesn’t happen without paid social.

Sometimes it’s difficult to convince businesses they need social media marketing, especially when the company is B2B and maybe the industry is not one you’d traditionally think of as having a social presence. At Eighty Three, we actually do social media marketing for two very different construction companies.

Initially, business owners may not realize the benefits of using paid social. B2B marketing has become so much more about social ads in recent years. Companies are rethinking the need for networking events and cold calling to obtain new clients. It’s important not to underestimate the value of organic social. Listening to your audience, building leads, and nurturing relationships are hugely important.

Remember the 80/20 rule when it comes to social media marketing. Your social pages should be about 20 percent outright promotion and 80 percent informing, educating, entertaining, or providing something of value to your followers. That can also be a part of advertising. An example of this is when I created a carousel ad for one of our clients that involved weight loss tips. I didn’t mention the words “weight loss” at all. I also didn’t put what our client’s business was in the ad (which is weight loss counseling). I simply listed some tips to stay healthy with some aspirational images and invited the targeted audience to learn more by clicking on the website. 

Although we still technically promoted their services, we did it in an indirect way that provided people with some educational tips and tricks to actually help them. We also got people to take an action to learn more by visiting our site.

Creating a sense of intrigue is important to social media marketing. You want to tease people into wondering if it is a weight loss program or a blog. They’ll have to click to the site to find out. When they click on the ad, we’ve advanced them one more step through the consumer journey.

Social Media and Facebook

I recently tried to explain to someone who works in the retail industry that part of my internship involved creating Facebook ads, and I was met with some hostility.

“Ads are annoying, and I hear Facebook is going under.”

This might be a common impression that many people have, but it’s not exactly correct. Facebook advertising boosts offline sales and in-store visits for the retail industry.

Despite the fact that ads may be “annoying” to some, Facebook ads are extremely successful and effective (when done right of course). According to eMarketer, Facebook Ads are expected to bring in $21.57 billion in revenue for 2018. This is 83 percent of the total social media spend. And as for the platform becoming irrelevant, in the first quarter of 2018, Facebook still boasts 2.19 million active users and 79 percent of all U.S. internet users logging into the site.

Yes, Facebook did some ethically questionable things when they allowed Cambridge Analytica to scrape personal data from 87 million Facebook profiles and surveys in an effort to build psychographic profiles, with the intention of influencing users’ political opinions.

Facebook’s shares fell 24 percent in March according to CNN, but they’ve already fully recouped their losses after some very public congressional hearings with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook is now having to comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws that were recently passed in the E.U. to protect people’s personal data from situations such as these.

These new regulations do affect the industry somewhat. In certain third-party social management software companies like Sprout Social, you are unable to reply or comment to people within the app or see more of their profiles, even if those profiles are public. You used to have access to a lot more information about who your audience was and how to target them. These restrictions carry to reach people based on specific likes and interests.

Despite these changes, we find ways to work around the restrictions to deliver the best content to the right people. So, Facebook isn’t in any immediate danger according to most experts. Someday, though, the platform might very well go to the grave with Myspace, Xanga, and LiveJournal.

SEO and Social Media

SEO is this mystical thing that is rarely mentioned in conversations about social media, but SEO really should be the cornerstone of any social media marketing strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) and social are both inbound marketing strategies and should always be working together.

Social media profiles will affect the content of search results. A company’s social profiles are often among the first things that appear in a Google search. Not only that, a lot of people use social media to search for things. According to Tech Crunch, Facebook sees about 2 billion search queries per day. It’s important to have a few social accounts that give your site credibility and that people can interact with.

A great post on social can drive traffic to your website and boost your search rankings, and SEO can improve how many people you’re actually reaching. For example, links to a viral blog post give your site credibility in search engines and help it rank higher. Search engines take into account the credibility of the user sharing the link and how often the link has been shared — which brings me to my next point.

Credibility is key, so buying social media followers is ill-advised. First of all, Google knows those followers are fake, and it really won’t improve or help your rankings. Also, if you don’t build a loyal following based on targeting real customers, then what are you even doing? Building a loyal following takes patience, time, and relevant hashtags.

This is a good time for me to plead with you not to use more than 10 hashtags per post on Instagram. It just looks like spam and doesn’t really help you find actual people to follow your page. Using the hashtags with the most hits also isn’t a solid strategy. You need hashtags that make sense to the brand, so people who are interested in your products, service, or content can actually find you.

Current Social Trends

We have these small computers in our back pocket with us at all times waiting to make an appearance in a crowded elevator or in line at the DMV.

We love our phones. So much so that 80% of all of our social media usage happens on smartphones. What that means for social media marketing is that content now has to be optimized for mobile devices where we spend most of our time.

Not only do ads need to be catered to mobile devices, but they must also be designed to engage with users and hold their attention. According to Facebook Business, the average attention span of a user on a mobile device is approximately 8.25 seconds. That’s a very small window of time to work with.

To combat dwindling attention spans, it’s best to include moving elements, interactive content, or video content in some of your ads. This is where Facebook Canvas Ads come in. These types of ads are beautifully designed for mobile and meant to engage the user in unique ways that involve tapping, swiping, and tilting their smartphones. Users respond well to moving, interactive ads, and these ads usually out-perform other types. In fact, 53% of people who open a canvas ad view at least half of it, and the average time for a view is 31 seconds. An amazing 70% of the people who clicked on a canvas ad went on to their website to see more. Canvas ads are small mobile experiences that we’re currently testing out for some of our clients, and it’s a great tool for brands to really pull their users in.

The Future of Social Media Marketing

So, what comes after optimizing social media marketing for mobile? It’s difficult to say, but we can at least pay attention to new technologies and try to imagine the ways.

Facebook is currently working to provide the Oculus virtual reality system at a lower price-point. As virtual reality becomes less clunky and more affordable, it’s only reasonable to infer that social media marketing might have to adapt to virtual reality. You also can’t ignore the push towards online shopping.

In China, a social credit system is set to launch by 2020. The system is a punishment and rewards-based system where behaving badly online comes with real-life consequences. 

Punishments for bad social conduct can be anything from having your internet slowed down to banning you from public transportation. Rewards that come from good behavior can be everything from discounts on rent and products to having your dating profile boosted. Social media marketing might need to adapt to these types of systems eventually.

Whatever the next frontier is, social media usage reflects a fundamental human need for connection and community, and therefore will never completely dissipate.

The desire to stalk an ex’s new girlfriend, share a funny meme with a friend in Chicago, or post that weird thing your cat did is ingrained in your humanity. There will always an audience to market to, so there will continue to be a need for social media marketing.

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