Why Paid Social Media Will Increase Your Reach and Scale

Ever get the feeling that you are the only company not using paid social media? Or that you are wasting those hard-earned social advertising dollars and getting a shabby return on investment? You’re not the only one. Many have wasted their fair share on Facebook and Twitter ads and wondered what exactly went wrong.

WHAT SPARKED MY INTEREST IN PAID SOCIAL MEDIA?

Reach. As the most popular social media sites have matured and monetized over the past five years or so — namely, Facebook — one of the casualties has been organic reach. When brands first started posting on Facebook, they would reach 30-50% of their overall audience. For this reason, brands rushed to gain as many followers as possible, because followers meant content exposure. Some have even predicted organic reach will drop to zero in the future.

Everyone remembers the elaborate content campaigns from Fortune 50 brands announcing how they’ve reached one million followers. That meant something when we could reach a significant percentage of those people. Now? Not so much. We have several ways to boost organic reach tactically, like producing excellent content, understanding each platform’s algorithm and engaging influencers.

Right now, the most consistent and strategic way to gain reach and scale among the targets brands care about is through paid social media.

MANY PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PAID, EARNED, SHARED AND OWNED MEDIA. HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT? HOW DO THEY WORK TOGETHER?

The paid, earned, shared, owned model (PESO is the easy way to remember it) is a useful way to differentiate among all the possible channels and activities in a client’s online marketing mix. When the model was created, it assumed a division between social media and paid promotion. A newer model takes paid social media and content syndication into account.

 

Credit: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks

The most important takeaway from the PESO model is, it helps integrated marketers remember the need to think holistically about every program. For brands that tend to post content as a compulsory tactic — “It’s best practice to post three times a week, and we don’t know why.” — PESO forces them to consider not only content, but strategic distribution. In social, adhering to a more holistic model than “post and pray” results in measurable outcomes and, most importantly, increased accountability.

HOW SHOULD PAID SOCIAL BE USED (AND NOT BE USED)?

Paid social should be used when you know the specific business objective you’re trying to affect. If you’re aligning to a SMART business objective (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based), then you have permission to use paid social. You’ll have a difficult time mechanically executing paid social without knowing your audience and business drivers. If you have a clearly written communications objective supporting a business objective, then setting up the paid social campaigns will leave you less frustrated during the process.

“To generate buzz” … Among whom? Compared with what? What type of “buzz”?

Vs.

“To increase the competitive social share of voice in Q3 by 25% among 35-49 yr old female wine drinkers with at least a 700 credit rating.” Oh, got it.

Paid social, like any communications tactic, should not be used without knowing what success means in advance. If you’re simply trying to “amplify” a post that has “done well,” you still need to know the specific audience and have a strategic objective. Beware of any offers to “boost this post for $XX” without a strategy. It’s enticing platform marketing, but it’s a guaranteed way to drain your out-of-pocket social budget.

WHICH SOCIAL CHANNELS DO I THINK ARE THE BEST FOR PAID SOCIAL AND WHY?

It depends on your objectives and target audiences. Twitter and Facebook are comparable when it comes to audience-targeting capabilities, though many are critical of each platform for mostly the same reasons. Twitter’s growth has slowed. Facebook bases much of its targeting on the assumption that Liking a Page five years ago still matters.

Personally, I’m impressed with Facebook’s targeting capabilities most. Being able to dictate reach and frequency (guarantee how many people will see an ad, and how many times they’ll see it), is a differentiator for driving consumers down the funnel. The Facebook user interface is more user-friendly, especially for people just getting into buying social ads. You can even promote ads on Instagram through Facebook ads, without having an Instagram account.

That said, I’ve had a great deal of success with Twitter’s targeting capabilities for foodie audiences. There are several niche groups that still use Twitter as their primary social media platform. If you want to reach a political audience interested in driving grassroots initiatives in local markets, for example, Twitter is the best option by far.

Microsoft’s recent acquisition of LinkedIn means advertisers will need to consider it as the platform becomes more ubiquitous and starts tying directly to Microsoft’s suite. Currently, I think LinkedIn’s strength is in its recruiting, B2B and executive visibility offerings. Being able to target by industry and seniority, for example, is a competitive advantage in social advertising. But beware: These are real professionals you’re reaching in a competitive marketplace, and your cost-per-impression (CPM) and cost-per-click (CPC) will reflect that.

And a fun one for SMBs who want to reach Millennials (should be everyone): Snapchat has a self-service module for creating geofilter lenses. This means when people use Snapchat filters in a specific location, your event could pop up in the mix. Creating a Snapchat geofilter is one of the few truly easy and cheap social media advertising tactics. Simply create the transparent file, draw the map, set a run time and upload for review. Not a designer? You can even choose from free templates. Reviews typically take one business day. Try it here (while you still can).

ARE THERE ANY COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT PAID SOCIAL?

There are two prevailing misconceptions about paid social media: It’s expensive, and it’s too difficult to execute. If you have SMART objectives and a little time to learn the ins and outs of paid social ads execution, you can launch a cost-efficient test-and-learn campaign in an afternoon. 

IF SOMEONE HAS NEVER DONE SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING BEFORE, WHERE WOULD I RECOMMEND THEY START? ANY RESOURCES, BEGINNER TACTICS OR TOOLS?

Start small. Experimenting with small budgets is a low-risk way to see what works for your organization while becoming comfortable for when larger opportunities come along. For smaller clients and pro bono work, I’ve had success with hyper-local awareness targeting (think a one-mile radius around a local business) for as little as $5-$10 per day. Check out free platform tutorials resources like Facebook Blueprint and Twitter Flight School to learn what’s possible.

IF I COULD ONLY SHARE THREE PIECES OF ADVICE RELATED TO PAID SOCIAL, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

  1. UNDERSTAND THE BIG PICTURE: Every single tactic you execute should be tied to SMART business and communications objectives. If your paid social approach is to amplify your message to “the public,” take a step back and be more specific about your targeting and objectives. You’ll save time and money.
  2. EXPERIMENT NOW, BE READY LATER: You don’t need a million-dollar ad budget to make an impact in social. Test-and-learn with a modest budget now. You’ll have the audiences and insights you’ll need to make a larger impact at scale later.
  3. DON’T FORGET YOUR REPUTATION: When it comes to social media ads, you can’t set it and forget it. Be sure to monitor all paid posts and respond to consumers as quickly as possible. Pay attention to the news. If something trends on Twitter that aligns with your ad, consider adding those key terms to your targeting to increase engagement. 

LET'S CONNECT.

First, what are your thoughts about paid social? Let me know in the comments, or connect with me here and on Twitter.

REBRANDING THE COMMUNITY MANAGER – THE 7 SKILLS OF A COMMUNITY DIRECTOR

(This post has been amended and first appeared on Advertising Week’s Social Club and Social@Ogilvy blog. Written with Rachel Caggiano, Social@Ogilvy)

Last week, as part of Social Media Week (#smwnyc) in New York, we spoke with experts from Ford, Whole Foods and iHeartRadio about the evolution of the role of the community manager.

Not too long ago, the role of “community manager” might have been relegated to an intern. Or, the role was added to the list of tasks juggled by an inexperienced social media manager (who was also expected to answer the phones and send out the email newsletters). But today, the profession is being seen as one of the most important roles in social business, and smart brands are looking for experienced business directors with deep expertise in content marketing, digital strategy, public affairs and crisis management.

What’s changed?

We’re not just seeing growth in communities; we’re seeing them exercise greater impact on brands’ business bottom lines. As you’d suspect, managing communities is becoming more complex. According to LinkedIn, the community management profession is experiencing a 29% year-on-year growth.

The necessary skill set is also evolving. It is no longer as simple as being a decent relationship manager who understands the brand voice and can create a content calendar. Today’s community manager needs to be a fan segmentations specialist, an ad and content targeting expert, a crisis radar technician, and a leader of multiple content creators across the organization. A real business director with the necessary gravitas to get the most out of the community, as well as the brand, to really drive value. The list goes on.

In 2010, Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang created the first Community Manager Appreciation Day (#cmad).  This year, the #cmad tag was a trending topic in three countries (full recap here) and generated an estimated 72.9 million impressions from 15,450 Twitter mentions. Industry leaders were talking about the qualities of an effective community manager, and the future of the profession itself.

We see the job of the community manager evolving to a more senior role. One that demands a specific set of professional skills. One that demands a new name:

Introducing….the Community Director!

THE SEVEN SKILLS OF A COMMUNITY DIRECTOR:

1. Orchestra Conductor of a “Symphony of Content” 

The most effective community directors know how to produce live, responsive content. But rather than being the single source for content creation, today’s professionals know how to inspire and mobilize across the enterprise, to work with various content creators. They not only know how to tap into content creators for rich  “peak content,” like videos, apps and webisodes, that pull in a wide range of valuable customer interaction. They also know how to navigate internal halls of legal and public affairs, to swiftly produce timely, highly relevant, often witty responses to trending memes. Think Oreo’s “You can still dunk in in the dark” ad and Ford’s response to Jeremy Iron’s Downton Abbey/Ford Fiesta remark.

2. Relationship Manager

The Community Director manages the direct relationships with thousands, sometimes millions of customers. They know when these folks are enjoying the brand. They know when they are having service problems. They must relate to a broad range of fans, and never lose their compassion or their cool. The Community Director knows how to cultivate millions of customers around the launch of a new flavor, but understands how to move an enraged customer to a happily engaged one through direct, speedy customer service. Zappos understands this, leveraging social shopping via Pinterest, while delighting unhappy customers with exceptional social care via Twitter.

3. Brand Voice

The Community Director is the living embodiment of the brand voice. They agonize over defining it clearly, so that all who manage the brand publicly will stay true to how the brand talks, looks and behaves. They understand how the brand voice informs their content marketing strategy, and how their content lets that persona shine through and through. Take, for instance, the quirky, oddly manly voice of Old Spice tweeting with the sassy, witty voice of Taco Bell.

4. Crisis Radar Technician

While every brand ostensibly has a crisis plan in place, and regularly trains its people to prevent major crises, it is the Community Director who has an ear to the ground, and can detect whispers before anyone else in the organization. Brand’s Facebook pages and Twitter handles have become a magnet for issues and concerns. Which ones will become actual crises? This person not only detects all possible issues, but also evaluates how they evolve over time. The Community Director must anticipate the worst, but never over-react. Having learned a lot about communicating with the public around crisis-level issues over the past couple of years, BP (client) recently used its Facebook page to deliver information around Hurricane Sandy-related fuel shortages in the NY/NJ area, allowing customers to more easily find stations with fuel supplies.

5. Content and Advertising-Targeting Expert

Staying on top of the latest developments from the top platforms and API partners, the Community Director works tirelessly to play a key role in segmentation strategy, and to know which types of content resonate with each set. As the tools inside social networks like Facebook become more sophisticated, the Community Director serves as an expert at complex targeting of content and advertising stories. Recently, P&G’s Tide brand took advantage of Facebook’s Premium ads to target its fans and friends of its fans to draw attention to its role in cleaning up chemical residue from a NASCAR racetrack fire, later using Facebook’s Reach Generator to promote a post asking fans to create a caption for a photo of the clean-up.

6. Fan Segmentation Specialist

Communities form around affinities – passions and interests that bring people together. The Community Director knows which people matter to the business, how to use the right tools to find and attract the right fans. New tools like Facebook’s CAT tool allow for a much deeper and more refined look at our fan-bases. The Community Director must use that data to attract the right fans, deliver the right content to important affinity segments and, in general, grow their use of social data to make a richer community experience for fan and brand. British Airways (client) knows it must engage the US and UK in different ways, and used targeted tweets and the #HomeAdvantage hashtag to encourage British residents to stay in the country for last summer’s London Games.

7. Performance Analyst

The Community Director listens, sets benchmarks on conversation engagement with content, sentiment, and other important metrics, to measure the effectiveness of any marketing campaign. How much conversation did we generate? Are we getting more people talking positively about our products and services? These are some of the fundamental questions the Community Director can answer. They know how to distill true KPIs from the litany of data that we can all measure and report. They are discrete and thoughtful as to what they report about. They have a strong POV, about which measurements matter to the business goals. When Ford Motor Company (client) chose to use Facebook to reveal its Ford Explorer in 2011, it rightly knew that sales impact was the KPI to track, showing how more likes equaled more sales, tracking how the Facebook launch drove 3,500 pre-orders for the vehicle five months before it even became available.