The Most Consistent Voice in Earth’s New Town Square
Why should social media be considered an important piece of a marketing strategy?
This is an essential question for companies to ask in the year 2020. What reasons exist today that have motivated the modern marketers’ push to tap into this online town-square, and do the challenges encountered along the way make the opportunities worth the risk? The answer may not be as simple as a list of tips, and there is one preliminary question that needs to be answered: what is marketing without social media? If your company’s marketing department is excluding social media from your marketing strategy in our current moment, then your company will fall behind competitors within the next few years. Marketing without social media today is like starting a race but giving the opponents a thirty-second head-start. Audiences no longer just pick up the paper or listen to the radio like they used to. Times have changed. The modern audience has been so efficiently blasted with commercials, logos, ads, and sales tactics that traditional marketing is on its way out. Many companies fail to see to the signs, and their steady stream of sales-talk may do more damage than good. It is time to adapt to a new form of communication with consumers: social media marketing.
Social Media Marketing is especially important in these extraordinary times. Indeed, our lives, and what we experience in them, are very unique compared to all of human history. This is the era of online communication, collaboration, cooperation, and examination, which, when added up, represents your brand’s digital reputation. In this new space, social media is a powerful force that can make or break your brand. This relatively new tool has enabled the spontaneous creation of an ever-increasing number of very influential subcultures. Individuals have reached out and discovered common interests and passions, a feat that could have only been facilitated by this new ability to communicate at a speed that was impossible for thousands of years. As a result, many cultural shifts have their roots within these social media platforms (Holt, 2016). Getting back to the original question, the less existential version of this answer is to simply say that social media is the megaphone that can get corporate messaging into the ears of more listeners in less time. If your company has a specific budget for ad-spend, which would you choose, a billboard or a series of Facebook ads? It is highly likely that Facebook wins this hands-down, but why? It’s simple: Facebook represents the most massive audience of potential consumers of all Social Media networks. The traffic generated by Facebook is comprised of users that are online because they are curious to see what their friends are doing. This is literally millions of potential users at any given moment. These people represent potentially convertible, mobile, and diverse traffic while the local highway is filled with tired, busy, potentially angry drivers that are just focused on getting home and may not be highly motivated to care about any product, let alone one on a billboard during the most stressful time of their day. Okay, shifting gears, now that social media has won you over (and it has), what opportunities do businesses have when implementing a social media marketing strategy?
What opportunities will your business have if it implements a Social Media Marketing Strategy?
A Lasting Cultural Impact
The majority of the country is online, and many use social media daily. Facebook enjoys a user-base of over 1.86 billion every month (Krost, 2018). This vast population presents marketers with an enormous number of influencing opportunities or moments. Positioning your brand to be the image of positive cultural change or impact can be risky but when it works pays off. Monetarily there are benefits to being a catalyst for change (i.e., products that donate a portion of sales to cancer research), but if leadership leaves it there and lacks heart behind their message, the impact is unlikely to last.
Generating Engagement and Creating Community
When your company takes the time to engage with real consumers and keep their voices top-of-mind, your brand ceases to look like every other ad-generating money-machine in the global economy, and it begins to reflect your consumer. Once the consumer starts to identify with your brand, good things happen. One interesting point on this issue is maintaining a consistent social media voice. “We don’t want brands talking at us as if we are dollar signs. We want authentic communication. Finding a voice for your social media marketing can be difficult because the concept is somewhat unlike other optimization strategies online. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak. Voice goes deeper than that” (Buffer, 2018). This fits more into the challenges section; however, the importance of this in terms of engagement and community cannot be understated. Maintaining a sense of relevancy will allow you to keep abreast of any oncoming shifts in culture or opinion and move to a position that is the least confrontational or opposed to that of your target consumer (Buffer, 2018). When consumers are engaged around your product, as Brian Honigman suggests, it may be a good idea to create break out groups for your consumers on their preferred social media platforms (most likely Facebook) that allow them to discuss the niche interests in those areas (Honigman, 2020).
What challenges will your business face in implementing a Social Media Marketing Strategy?
Defining a Target Audience
When defining your target audiences, be careful not to get too granular, and at the same time, a target audience cannot be everyone on social media. Finding that happy medium is part of the art of successful social media strategy. Defining customer personas that fit specific groups within your consumer-base will position your business competitively (Honigman, 2020).
Marketing to Millennials
The largest generation on earth demands the highest amount of marketing attention, and they get it. These are people from ages 18–35, and their characteristics vary so vastly that it would be impossible to experience success after trying only one marketing approach on social media with this group. This goes without saying that there are many subgroups within Millennials, and they may be targeted more efficiently by another kind of ad on a different platform. The challenge will be maintaining their attention, their loyalty, their trust, interest, and their attention, as well as keeping their hands off the back button, and yes, their attention as well. This humorous point illustrates the rapid pace that Millennials consume content and the instant gratification culture they have grown up in. This has made them more insistent social activists for causes they believe in and has also caused the bar for marketing content to skyrocket. The best strategy for marketing on social media to Millennials is to stay on message. Support good causes; this is something that this generation cares a lot about. Finally, listen to your millennial consumers (Krost, 2018).
While companies’ opportunities to be very influential and actors for change are an overall positive, there are inherent risks to promoting anything as a corporation. The Cancel-Culture moment that we live in today means that success or failure in marketing can literally be a tweet away. Powerful influencers can sway public opinion against your company just as fast as they can bring them to you. That means that, more than ever, companies need to be hypervigilant in their vetting of any social media posts before they reach the deployment stage. This is why having a social content calendar is a great idea.
Keeping corporate messaging on point with popular culture is a challenge that is evolving as the world continues to change. The ideal ad today is not going to hit the mark tomorrow, for example. The traditional marketing media image aimed to present the subject audience with the model, ideal, or perfect person they want to be like. That tactic of marketing may be changing and has in the last two years. As Vigo (2019) writes, “recent trends in new tech and social media reveal a cultural undertow whereby it is no longer desirable to represent what people want to become but rather new technology is selling us the image of who we might already be” (Vigo, 2019). Making brands relatable is a challenge that may prove to be essential for companies to remain completive in the coming years. Having systems in place to mediate conflict is a must and if you can create distance between the potentially harmful voice and the majority of your consumers’ ears, then do it. Moving off the main thread to a private forum is one example of a de-escalation tactic that many companies find successful (Honigman, 2020).
The most critical message that can be conveyed to the socialites on your platform of choice is a consistent and impactful message. Generating trust in what your companies brand stands for will likely become a key success factor for companies looking to survive the COVID-19 flood (Clark, 2020). The daily barrage of commentary has left many feeling devoid of trust for most of the loudest voices in the media space. This is an opportunity for companies to change tactics and begin 2021 not as the loudest voice but as the most consistent and connected to the consumer.
Buffer. (2018, July 11). Social Media Engagement is the New Social Media Marketing. Medium. https://medium.com/social-media-tips/social-media-engagement-is-the-new-social-media-marketing-27482dd632e1
Clark, A. (2020, May 10). Why Content Marketing is Going to Be Hot in a Post-COVID World. Medium. https://medium.com/strategic-content-marketing/why-content-marketing-is-going-to-be-hot-in-a-post-covid-world-572eb4011f2a
Holt, D. (2016, March 1). Branding in the Age of Social Media. Harvard Business Review, March 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/03/branding-in-the-age-of-social-media
Honigman, B. (2020). What is social media marketing? https://www.linkedin.com/learning/social-media-marketing-foundations-3/what-is-social-media-marketing
Krost, C. (2018). The power of content marketing. https://www.linkedin.com/learning/marketing-to-millennials/the-power-of-content-marketing
Vigo, J. (2019). How Internet Marketing Creates Cultural Change. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/julianvigo/2019/09/05/how-internet-marketing-creates-cultural-change/
 For details on social content calendars see (Honigman, 2020).