Which comes first? The marketing strategy horse or the social media cart?

January 16, 2021
January 16, 2021 Kate Neale

Which comes first? The marketing strategy horse or the social media cart?

Cart before the horseRight now, social media platforms are in the spotlight for (some say) selectively restraining free speech. But a DigiDay article is claiming the voice of the social media manager is already often muffled by indifference, ignorance or a view that their role is inconsequential. If a social manager is expected to manage the dialogue and discourse with an entity’s public, the question must be answered: which comes first, the marketing strategy horse or the social media cart?

The nature of free speech on social platforms means the conversations often can and do take on a life of their own, making diplomatic management of the content critical and enormously stressful. Ironically, however, although social managers can be found at the helm of social discussion for a business/brand, some say they are not always as present when internal discussions of strategy are had.

As a consequence, there is often inadequate direction, cohesion in the communication of values, and allocation of resources for creative and visual elements. If this is the case, it’s the result of putting the tactical cart before the strategic horse. I often see people rushing headfirst to get a presence on social media because these platforms have become so popular as a communication mechanism, but they’re often used at the expense of all others.

Social platforms are certainly a useful marketing tool, but social media is not a strategy, it’s a medium that needs a strategy.

The companies that send their (inhouse or contractual) social manager to the front without their contribution being considered as part of a collaborative approach to their marketing, are thinking tactically, not strategically.

“Social media professionals say they are asked to wear the hats of a graphic designer, visual editor, copywriter, strategist, community manager, and data analyst.” DigiDay.com

Most businesses in Australia are SMEs, so I expect if the role of the social manager is outsourced, they would prefer to find a supplier with most of those skill sets, if not with the intention of doing that work, at least understanding its value on a strategic level. But I find it confounding that so many people will charge into paying for social and search campaigns before they have completed an overall marketing strategy.

This is a fundamental error that is forecast to lead to literally billions of wasted or misplaced ad dollars from SME’s globally. To see how your ad dollars could be some of those billions, check my previous blog article here. The message, where it’s put, and anything related to preparedness for any response it generates, cannot be decided effectively without a well-considered and researched strategy being in place.

“Is it safe…?”

I wonder how many of you will know which movie that line was used in…? In more recent times it’s a question gaining more and more traction as the powerful social media players lose their way or are in the firing line by those who understand how to exploit their facilities.

It’s no coincidence that 80% of Facebook’s revenue comes from SME’s. In 2019 that meant that of 140 million businesses, the top 100 advertisers by ad spend only account for 20% of their revenue. While there are concerns around brand safety as discussed in a recent eMarketer article I’ve quoted below, the issues are far broader.

“Brand safety was a major topic of discussion across the ad industry in 2020, as the problems of misinformation, disinformation, and other controversial content continued to grow in social media. In 2021, we expect more major marketers will pull or severely restrict their ad spending on social media platforms due to brand safety or ethical concerns.” eMarketer Deborah Williamson Jan 15, 2021

“But everybody’s doing it…”

Yes they are and here are some further statistics from an earlier blog I wrote entitled ‘Will your online advertising dollars be the ones wasted this year?’ that might encourage you to put a bridle on that strategic horse of yours:

Paid search advertising will grow at 8% p/annum to reach US$107 billion by the end of 2019, then US$123bn in 2021, when it will account for 18% of total ad spend, but here’s the thing:

  • 90.88% of pages get zero traffic from Google search (Ahrefs 2018)
  • 80% of users ignore sponsored search results. (Search Engine Land) This shows the advantages of ranking organically instead of paying Google to pin your page to the top of search results. Not only do most users ignore sponsored search results; they’re also more likely to distrust the brand that’s advertising itself.
  • 51% of content consumption comes from organic search. That means more than half of all content on the web is accessed through an organic search.
  • 92% of traffic goes to the results on the first page of Google. More than nine out of 10 users will select a result from the first page of Google. If you’re on page two or three of Google, your chances of being found are extremely low.
  • 70-80% of search engine users are only focusing on organic results. (MarTech, 2018)
  • 75% of users will not scroll past the first page on Google (Hubspot). Page one rankings are attractive to users because they’re viewed as being more trustworthy and likely to have the most relevant content result. Three-quarters of searchers don’t go beyond page one when searching.

Saddle up!

Consider this before you charge headfirst into the social media malay: is it possible that you could capture, convert or conscript just 100 or 1,000 grand champions of your product using more direct means? DTC (Direct To Consumer) doesn’t just have to apply to a form of digital B2C interaction. DTC can be done at Little Athletics on the weekend, at a local cafe, in community interest groups, or anywhere your target market actually LIVES ie. lives their life.

Think of these traditional direct-to-consumer tactics like talking to people one on one at a market stall or cellar door. Hosting small events to demonstrate and talk through complex operating procedures. Requesting employees to introduce and promote the product to 10 of their associates and monitor their reviews and experience.

The digital world provides us with efficiencies indeed, but marketing is not just about efficiency. It’s about being relevant, valued, and satisfying consumer needs. Misdirected or ineffective social media and paid search marketing can be as fruitless as a spam email.

So, by all means, charge forth with your social media campaign if and when you have validated the true needs of your customers and discerned which medium is best to reach them. Spend your marketing budget when you’ve factored in logistical, seasonal, and operational variables and have everything in readiness to deliver on your value proposition.

If you would like to put your strategic horse before your social media cart, contact Wanted Consulting – Reward Offered.

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