Over the last 8 years of working in the advertising world I’ve heard a lot of things. I’ve heard reasons to NOT advertise, reasons it doesn’t work, complaints about my company and complaints about others. But one of the most common phrases I’ve heard from small businesses is “I have Social Media and it’s FREE!”
Any marketer or business owner who thinks Social is the answer to all advertising problems is either A) Misguided or B) Misinformed. Social Media is as much advertising as word of mouth. It may be a form of marketing, but by definition is NOT advertising.
Your Social Media function may take many forms depending on your strategy. It’s an opportunity to have a conversation with users in real time. In this sense it’s more of a Public Relations or Customer Relations tool. For example, Social Media is great at engaging your current customers with fun games, unique opportunities and contests. However, providing a 15% off discount alone without any further interaction is not what your followers are seeking. They expect you to be Social on Social Media. Weird concept, right?
Many businesses also use SM to filter complaints. If a complaint catches on and goes viral the business may lose many customers. If they answer a complaint quickly and provide solutions, which can be done quickly on SM, at most they lose one customer. Airlines are known for this. There’s nothing worse than sitting on a tarmack for 3 hours. What else can one do, but post their anger on Social Media?
Most social channels now offer paid opportunities, meaning an advertiser could advertise through and on Social Media. Of course, this costs money like any form of advertising. Your standalone Facebook page is in and of itself NOT advertising. I like to think of it this way: Using your social channel is a great way to reward or interact with current customers, but does very little to bring in new customers. And the number of people you can reach organically through a Facebook post continues to plummet. So it’s obvious that what was once a “Free” opportunity to interact with followers is now becoming a forced buy.
Most small businesses don’t have the staff to consistently create excellent content that goes viral and gets shared at no charge. It’s extremely difficult to garner the scale intended when Facebook first started.
In the image to the right, most small businesses only have time to hit the “Administration” and “Listening & Learning” stages. It takes at minimum a specialist, and at most a team, to think, plan, engage and measure your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other accounts. But at minimum listen to and learn about your customers. If you have time to plan and measure great! But we all know it’s hard to find that time.
A customer’s first interaction with you is RARELY your Social Media page. They either hear about you from someone else, see a shared post/video, visited your store or been to your website. But how do you get them to find you?
Advertising, as defined by numerous sources, is more or less a paid message through TV, Radio, Newspaper, Digital and Outdoor. Advertising is one branch of Marketing called “Promotion.” Social Media, PR, marketing products (pens, can coolers, t-shirts) are also part of promotions. But only one is paid space or time…
Advertising. Reaching your audience through targeted display advertising can be a great way to find new, potential customers. “But how can Social and display work together,” you ask? Utilize the demographic information you find from your Facebook page to target your display ads. If a group of people already “Like” you, similar people may also like and buy from you. If 75% of your followers are women 35-54 you already have a targeting strategy in mind. Advertising is where people expect to see offers, deals, image ads, branding, etc. And as already explained, users don’t want advertising while using Social. (More targeting tactics were discussed in a previous blog post.)
There are ways to blend the content you put out on Social Media channels into a subtle form of advertising called Native Advertising. Pay someone to distribute your message to enhance reach, find new customers and entertain/inform/educate a new audience (see above). Businesses can also sponsor content previously produced by their partnering vendor. Complement the content you push out to followers and friends on Social Media with content distributed the other media vendors. It’s a great way to reach new customers with a message you already approve without reinventing the wheel! More thoughts on this topic will be coming down the road.
Keep these differences in mind when planning your media strategy. Advertising is paid. Social Media is content you share with mostly current customers.
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Have a good one!