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Having been involved in social media marketing since the early days, when brands first began to use the various platforms to grow brand awareness and engage with customers, we’ve seen a lot of change. From increased considerations for brands to shifts in who uses which platforms and how, to new (and obsolete) features and changes to the value of both paid and organic content, social platforms are in constant flux and marketers must have their finger on the pulse to keep their tactics and strategies relevant.


Facebook’s Cliff-Drop Decline

Back in 2010, Facebook launched the ability for users to become a ‘Fan’ of a brand Facebook Page and the ability for brands to run contests and create specialized ‘tabs’ and apps through the platform. Later that same year they launched Storefronts and Ads. Facebook essentially served as a mini webpage, allowing your audience to stay within the Facebook ecosystem while interacting with your brand and various offers and promotions. During those early years, organic Facebook fans were really valuable, with inexpensive follower acquisition and as many as 90% of your Page followers (fans) seeing your posts.

Of course, things have changed a lot since then, with Facebook eliminating tabs and moving to its Timeline format to promote ongoing storytelling. Unfortunately for brands and marketers, alongside these changes Facebook also drastically decreased organic reach for brand pages, reducing from 90% to 30% in 2010, and then to 16% in 2012, 6.5% in 2014 and 1-2% in 2018. Subsequently, paid Facebook advertising has become an increasingly more critical component for growing your audience and increasing reach and engagements.

The way brands use Facebook advertising has also changed with the added ability to drive website traffic and even sales. For example, brands can create engaging video ads that appear in a user’s timeline alongside posts from their friends and family that direct those users back to the brand’s website to purchase. Brands can also do amazing things like create ‘Lookalike Audiences’ based on their customers to find others like them, using the huge (and sometimes scary) bank of data Facebook has collected on all users. Brands can remarket to customers who have purchased in the past based on specific criteria and A/B test creative to consolidate spend on the highest performing ads for each target audience group. Facebook also acquired Instagram and WhatsApp and launched its Messenger app, creating new opportunities to engage with customers and prospects and to share data across platforms. Of course, the Cambridge Analytica and related election-influence scandals rocked confidence in the platform and ultimately resulted in Facebook reducing 3rd party data access, which in turn limited some ad targeting functionality and encouraged some advertisers to look elsewhere. Despite rising ad costs and declining reach, Facebook still drives positive ROI for many brands, so it’s all about creating a thoughtful program to generate the biggest bang for your buck.


LinkedIn Giving Brands a Leg Up

LinkedIn, on the other hand, was initially (2003 – 2007) a place solely for professionals to connect and for brands to post jobs. In 2012 they launched their redesigned publishing platform, giving individuals and brands the ability to share content with their connections and later followers. They created Company pages to allow companies to showcase their products and services, and have continued to evolve these pages. In 2015, brand pages were equipped with analytics capability and a variety of other fields and attributes to help companies create a compelling presence on the platform. In December of 2018, LinkedIn launched its latest evolution of brand pages, including finally adding the ability for brand accounts to share individuals’ posts on their LinkedIn Page. Earlier in 2018 hashtags were also launched and the way they are promoted on the platform and used to expand content reach continues to evolve. LinkedIn has openly experimented with their algorithm, creating greater opportunity for smaller individual content creators to gain additional visibility for their LinkedIn Articles, which serve as blog posts that sit on the LinkedIn platform itself.


The Only Constant Is Change

On Twitter, we’ve seen the platform evolve and grow from a place individuals posted short updates on what they were eating and where they were going, to a place users go for news, entertainment and articles on topics they care about. The platform has also become more conversational over time, with retweets and the doubled character count. We’ve also seen the platform challenged to minimize serious issues involving fake profiles, bot account, and spam messages.

The same applies for Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Every platform has evolved substantially over the years and often the audience using it and how they use it changes over time, as well. And of course ‘tools of the moment’ show up and can be exciting additions to the social media mix for certain brands – from SnapChat to Vine to TikTok, there are always new tools that present new ways of reaching important audience groups that may not have been as accessible through the larger platforms.


Paid Social Follows the Money

Across all platforms, we’ve also seen ad types and ad platform capability adapt to market demands and user behavior. There are always new ways to invest money on social media.

Each ad platform has its own killer functionalities and its own demons and shortcomings. Facebook’s rich demographic, behavioral, and affinity data creates almost unlimited targeting options on Facebook or Instagram (some of that data has, of course, led to controversy). Pinterest has a more limited ad and analytics offering and has experimented with ad types, for example, introducing and later eliminating engagement ads, as well as introducing buyable pins to simplify the purchase process. LinkedIn offers unique targeting options related to specific job titles, companies and industries, and is seen as a relatively expensive channel, but one that offers unmatched access to valuable B2B decision makers. Twitter ads can be particularly effective for certain industries and audience segments, who tend to concentrate their social media time on this news- and entertainment-oriented channel.

There is also the opportunity to use one platform to build an audience for another. For example, by installing the various pixels and insight tags onto your website, you can start a campaign with Top of Funnel traffic generating ads on your least expensive channel, and then build a custom audience for remarketing and lookalike targeting across multiple other channels. This allows you to focus the dollars you spend on more expensive channels on mid- and bottom-of-funnel (i.e. conversion-focused) campaigns that target a pre-qualified audience.


Adapting to Drive ROI

The bottom line is every platform is different and constantly evolving, and as marketers, we need to continuously develop new ways to creatively deploy the right combination of channels and tactics to get the best results. What worked 6 months ago be may significantly less effective today. Investing a larger percentage of your budget on your organic social media program may no longer make sense. That Instagram ad group that converted at 5x Return on Ad Spend is now barely breaking even. Content series that originally drove significant engagement may become tired and overused. A new ad type with a carousel visual converts at a higher rate and lower cost per conversion. Your conversion focused ads are 4x as expensive on LinkedIn than Facebook, but convert at a 6x rate and a 1.5x sale value, and are also retargeting website traffic that was originally driven by top-of-funnel ads on Facebook.

These kind of evolving scenarios are why we must constantly reinvent the way we market on social media. It is why I believe everyone should expect their agency or team to be nimble and data-focused to drive the greatest value. Clients should be wary of big, expensive programs that revolve around beautiful creative and status quo tactics. Look out for an over-reliance on the ‘safe,’ ‘tried and true’ ideas that have been used for the last several years.

It is critical to innovate. To develop new ways of looking at social media data. To look at the latest tools and tactics and experiment to see the next avenue of traction.

We developed our Social Intelligence Optimization tool as a way to better analyze what content performs best and why, and we also periodically rethink our social media offering to ensure we’re adapting it to align with where we can drive the most value for our clients. If your social media program is feeling a bit stale, take a step back and look at how each element is driving value. Are there big-picture shifts you should be making to refocus your dollars and effort to where they’ll have the greatest impact?

If you’re not sure or you’d like a fresh, outside perspective, feel free to get in touch.

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