A self-employed freelancer, a young digital marketing upstart, a small-business owner and a head honcho of a corporation: what have they all got in common?
The chances are that they have all considered both the glorious advantages and cautious dangers of social media for business.
Now let’s set one thing in stone from the start, the benefits of social media marketing are plentiful. The advantages have been well-championed across the internet, and quite rightly so, as it has proven to be an altogether cost-effective marketing tool that should be utilised by whomever, wherever possible; yet similarly to the offline world there are dangers to be considered when branding and marketing a business through social media.
Here are, in a cosy, bite-sized list, are five key dangers of social media in business.
1. Facebook’s Organic Reach is practically non-existent
Have you ever considered just how many posts are being made on social media per day? Have a guess, then watch the live statistics for some of the top social channels.
The key social platforms are in a current state of content shock, which essentially means that there is far too much content being posted online than can be consumed by the users. The theory, explained perfectly here, is a simple case of supply and demand which has led to a sharp decline in the organic reach of content.
Facebook defines organic reach as “how many people you can reach for free by posting to your page.” This seems simple enough. You create a page for your business, build yourself an audience and post your content out to them, right?
Unfortunately the situation is far more complex.
The landscape of Facebook marketing is predominantly pay-to-play, and it has been for a number of years now. Facebook bosses have chosen to commercialise their platform by placing a news-feed preference on the businesses who put capital behind their content. Failing to explore the possibilities of post sponsorship is a dangerous game to play.
2. Branding and engagement often get forgotten about in the pursuit of traffic
It’s easy to fall into the trap of creating content, posting it out and waiting for the click-throughs to flood in. Unfortunately, the days of pushing out an entirely commercial message are long gone. You must make your content engaging. You need people to click on it. The danger here is that a failure to do so will result in your posts becoming practically invisible.
The aforementioned content shock has led to social feed algorithms that filter consumers’ social experiences, tailoring the feeds to display only the pages they engage with the most (the most recent Facebook algorithm update has seen them place a preference on posts that link to a fast-loading website, it also prioritises family and friends’ posts.)
Simply put, if you are failing to provide engaging content to your audience then your page will fail. With so much information being thrown at the consumer, you have a duty to place an emphasis on brand development as opposed to revenue chasing.
This study courtesy of Sprout Social indicates that the most unfollow-worthy action a social page can carry out is saturating their feed with a commercial message:
Take Adidas as a goliath example, rarely does their Twitter feed express a CTA. Rather than using their feeds to drive traffic they choose to focus on creating sharp content that reinforces their brand.
— adidas UK (@adidasUK) August 13, 2017
With social media’s role to play as a referral source weakening, it is becoming clearer that the tool should be used to strengthen brand image instead. In fact, this is what the general social audience expects of you in 2017. This can be done by:
- Replying to customers. Customer interaction is the key to executing a sturdy business plan as it helps to develop a consumer-business relationship.
- Producing content that they want to share. Every post should have a shareable factor. If that’s outside of your skill set, provide incentives to the consumer base in the hope that they will share the content. Simple retweet competitions are a very effective mechanism to enable this.
- Having fun with what you post. Make it noticeable that effort has been put into the management of the account. If your social feeds come across like an online Yellow Pages ad, they will be treated as such.
3. Diving in without doing your research can end up messy
Every marketing plan should start with an analysis of the business’ current position, as well as a further analysis of the key online competitors. A failure to do so can result in lethargic content that fails in its performance, a key danger in social media marketing.
The basis of any social campaign should start with a simple, effective S.W.O.T Analysis:
“SWOT analysis is a process that identifies an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” – Investopedia
The model provides a sound basis for the analysis of both yourself and your competitors, as it allows you to compare and contrast a set of strengths and weaknesses to determine what level you need to reach with your marketing campaign (the minimum target should be to keep pace with your competitors.) Further, it gives a business the opportunity to optimise a plan by focusing on its intrinsic qualities whilst trimming any past failings away. Without any form of research on the business’ prior social performance, there is no basis through which progress can be tracked.
It is also worthwhile to develop an understanding of some key social media terms. Take your time to have a flick through the analytics pages for the channels you are using, or have a read through a some blog posts to get a brief understanding from the industry experts. A considered approach towards the performance of your page means you can track your progress, or the ROI on your paid posts more efficiently.
4. User generated content can be dangerous
User generated content, by its very definition, is a type of content created when consumers interact with a brand initiative. This usually involves inviting consumers to engage with a hashtag or digital platform, branded content will then be displayed on their personal social media accounts, essentially doing your digital marketing for you.
Simpler forms of UGC are easy to manage, such as customer testimonial tools and hashtag campaigns; however, history indicates that complex UGC campaigns take businesses down a path of social media danger.
Back in May 2017, Walkers crisps ran an innovative Twitter campaign dubbed ‘#WalkersWave’ that invited users to send selfies in a competition for UEFA Champions League Final tickets. The selfies would then be randomly digitally-imposed onto video content with long-time brand ambassador Gary Lineker. At least, that was the aim.
The result of the campaign was an infamous hijacking courtesy of the Twitter community.
— Alain Tolhurst (@Alain_Tolhurst) May 25, 2017
It was a stark reminder of the dangers that user generated content brings with it, things can spiral out of control – fast. In this case, the auto generation of the posts was detrimental because there was no moderation in place. After that crisis, you would think that creative agencies collectively went back to the drawing board? Lessons were surely learnt.
Earlier this month, The National Lottery ran a very similar Twitter campaign to create engagement with sports fans, thanking them for their support during the World Athletics Championships. Here’s an example, albeit a rare one, of the campaign working effectively:
In principle this is a fantastic idea. Just by retweeting (which in turn raises brand awareness for The National Lottery), users are sent personalised video content that is sent straight to their mentions.
However, the automated process grabbed the users’ account name as the basis for the content. Large sections of the Twitter community exploited this.
The National Lottery apologised profusely for the mix up, but one wonders who signed off on the idea in the first place.
We are aware that some people are maliciously targeting our British Athletics Twitter campaign with offensive and abhorrent content. (1/2)
— The National Lottery (@TNLUK) August 15, 2017
We are dealing with this as quickly as possible and are hugely sorry for any offence caused by this malicious act. (2/2)
— The National Lottery (@TNLUK) August 15, 2017
5. No matter your business size, establish brand guidelines early
As part of any social media plan it is essential that a series of guidelines are set. These help aid employees in keeping true to your desired direction, and ensure that your online presence remains consistent across a multi-channel approach.
Here are three points worth considering when putting a brand guideline together:
Set out a content calendar:
Planning out your content for the months ahead helps a business to make sure they are hitting key dates, by organising their content and effectively distributing resources to fit the calendar. Establishing a content calendar is proof that organisation is the key to success.
Decide on a post ratio and stick to it:
Are you of the ‘less is more’ persuasion, or would your social channels benefit from a fast-and-frequent approach? Decide on what is the optimum for your business and stick to it. Having a concrete post ratio means both yourself, and your employees know exactly what output is expected.
Confirm a tone and a voice:
With so much focus on creating content with top visual quality, tone and voice often get overlooked. Consistency is key, and that is especially true with regards to the text you put out online. A lot of it depends on your audience, are you looking to develop a corporate look and feel or would you benefit from going off-the-cuff?
It's 50 cents.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) June 29, 2017
While the majority of fast food restaurants use their social channels as a customer service platform and advertising tool, Wendy’s execute a sarcastic tone perfectly. Not only does this set them apart from the rest of the competition, but it provides a human element to their responses that leaves the consumer feel like they are being talked to by a person rather than a brand.
Limit human error:
Human error is ultimately unavoidable, but it is a danger of social media that can be limited by putting procedures in place. The assignation of clear roles within the process is a great start, at a bare minimum all posts should be cleared by a senior who has final responsibility for the output.
Social media is an extremely powerful tool, but at the slip of a finger, you can take two steps backwards. By ensuring an internet etiquette is maintained you lower the risk of a PR crisis.
Social media campaigns play a big part in what we do here at Pixel Kicks, after all, a crisply designed website needs a strong social presence alongside it.
Have any questions regarding your own social media strategy? We’re happy to discuss how you can avoid the dangers of social media directly with you. Contact us here.