Most businesses today have some visible social media presence. In fact, as of 2015 – although not all actively engaging in an on-going marketing strategy through these platforms – more than 50 million businesses have a company Facebook page alone.
When done right, marketing on social media can be very effective. It allows you to generate and spread awareness, create a dialogue about your brand, increase conversions, drive offline actions and increase sales leads. This is vastly evident from Fortune 50 companies all the way down to home-based crafters on Facebook. After all, it’s all about creating a marketing strategy that aligns to your core business goals, then using the most effective tactics and channels to achieve them.
However, many brands have been disappointed to realise their social media efforts are not paying off as well as expected, and that social media isn’t as suited to build meaningful customer relationships as they might have thought.
What’s more, despite any mention of social media being enveloped in terms such as ‘social,’ ‘network’ and ‘engagement,’ it is becoming increasingly recognised that social media is NOT necessarily the place to build meaningful engagement with consumers.
This is, in part fuelled by the fact social media is often used as a channel to communicate at scale – a mere tool used to shout messages to the masses. Fundamentally, social media is considered just like any other traditional distribution channel available. The only difference being emojis, likes, retweets and followers who might hear us when we shout our messages at them, and they may even shout back.
No magic bullet
But here’s the key: simply opening an Instagram account does not automatically earn you a ready-made and loyal base of fans engaged in conversation – that conversation which is key to any social media marketing success.
According to research by Forrester, social media posts only reach 2% of their audience on social networks and is only shared or liked by 0.2% of those. It also appears that being active on Facebook and engaging with branded content aren’t mutually exclusive. The average Facebook user only likes an average of 10 business pages and even when a consumer actually clicks the ‘like’ button, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a desire to engage. The stark reality is that social media messages are not only, not reaching their intended audiences, they are not engaging with them either.
So, as organic reach on social networks plummets, brands are searching for alternative means to accommodate their customer-centered engagement requirements, in ways that social networks alone cannot accommodate. For marketers to make this happen, they need to take an inward look and bring engagement home.
Own the media
Now is time for brands to focus on connecting with consumers on their owned space. By establishing community platforms on their own websites, organisations can build up a membership of individuals with common interests aligned with the company’s offerings. Marketers can set the tone of conversations and facilitate dialogue that will impact the bottom line.
Unhindered by limitations associated with public social media platforms, such as the squeezing of brand organic reach on social media, brands are realising that branded communities offer an opportunity to fill the ‘engagement void’ social media creates. They essentially create a brand-consumer dialogue way beyond the more one-sided relationship social media channels offer. Bringing engagement home, to a fully owned online community makes complete sense in a customer-centered strategy.
That is not to say that I advocate brands not investing in their social network presence. Facebook and LinkedIn are extremely worthwhile ‘pay-to-play’ networks for targeted and personalised reach. However, they are no longer reliable as the sole networks for organic conversations, or as a complete solution for supporting customer questions. Both social media and branded communities should be in your toolbox if you’re trying to engage with your audience, whether that is your customers, fans, partners, or prospects.
But to truly to stand out from the crowd and create meaningful, valuable and long lasting relationships with your audience, you must put your website firmly at the heart of your customer engagement strategy, leveraging innovative social business technology. This is the way to win in today’s digital marketplace.