When social media erupted about a decade ago, the business world embraced it as a shiny new channel for reaching audiences at virtually no cost. Since then, social media has dramatically evolved and today, it has become a primary platform for reaching target markets, effectively “disrupting” traditional marketing forms.
That’s why when I received a Salesforce report earlier this year on the “Top 50 Social Media Best Practices,” I read it with interest. While the report was comprehensive and strategic in its approach, it didn’t readily identify the two or three key issues that are really making a difference in today’s social space. So, I turned to my resident expert–– Jake Wengroff––to get his take on today’s social media hot buttons. Here’s a quick summary of what he suggests:
1. Earned media is no longer enough – you need to pay for placement: A big part of social media’s appeal has been its ability to cultivate free earned media. That’s no longer enough. Advertising is now a necessary part of social media marketing strategies. For example, with Facebook continuing to change its algorithms, advertisers––from small businesses spending $20 to global brands spending $5 million––are now well aware that the only way to reach and engage with customers at scale, is via paid posts and ads. As Jake says emphatically, “If you want to get a return from social media today, you’ve got to have skin in the game.” Clients can pay for clicks, website conversions, reach (impressions) or mobile app installs, with creative taking the form of sponsored Facebook or LinkedIn posts, promoted tweets, or pre-roll video on YouTube. And this appears to be happening. According to eMarketer, digital ad spending in the US will exceed traditional ad spend in 2019 and surpass two-thirds of total media spend by 2023. With much of this on social platforms, eMarketer also reports that social video ad spending is expected to reach nearly $15 billion by 2021. (1,2)
2. Controlled advertising is one thing – but it’s the data that matters. Advertising in the social media space offers a major advantage: access to a wide range of data and robust analytics. This not only includes insights about the large swaths of social media users but granular data and analytics provided through digital ads and hyper-specific targeting. Platforms like Facebook Custom Audiences, Google Customer Match, or Twitter Tailored Audiences offer this info and afford clients the opportunity to directly target individuals in their CRM systems based on email addresses and phone numbers.
This creates an even greater incentive for advertisers to use KPIs and metrics to determine an ad’s effectiveness. As Jake suggests, “One recommended approach is using A/B testing to improve results.” A/B testing involves creating two or more small test groups whose participants receive modestly different versions of the same content, typically a different headline, graphic image or call-to-action. Reactions are then measured and the content that performs better is selected for the balance of the campaign. For small or newbie advertisers who don’t have access to a specialized A/B platform, it's good to know that Facebook already has A/B testing built into its platform.
3. Influencer Marketing – there’s nothing like an endorsement. If there is a major trend in B2B marketing this year, it’s influencer marketing. This practice focuses on identifying individuals who have influence over potential customers and then orients marketing activities around them. Influencers typically include well-known industry leaders; NGO and non-profit heads; and journalists and bloggers. There are also “micro-influencers," everyday people who may not have massive followings but whose deep knowledge about a particular product or service compels them to share their thoughts.
Influencer marketing makes strategic sense in garnering the types of meaningful endorsements companies clamor for. It's also easy to see how it applies to social media in working to sway well-defined target audiences. That's why there’s another component of influencer marketing that bears mentioning––payments to select influencers.
Contrary to the widely-criticized high-budget payments to celebrities, companies should set aside some budget and find strategic ways to involve influencers. As Jake says, “Throwing a few dollars to an influencer as an honorarium for participation in an event or conference, can be a smart way to get them interested in your company, products and services. This is how relationships get strengthened and where endorsements ferment."
There may be 50 or more social media best practices out there but in the big picture, focusing on these three hot topics is a smart way to go. We’re now in Social Media Marketing 2.0 and investing in advertising, data analytics and influencer marketing gets to the heart of a successful program.
Feel free to reach out to Maria Lilly or Jake Wengroff with any questions or comments.
 eMarketer editors. "US Digital Ad Spending Will Surpass Traditional in 2019." eMarketer. Feb. 19, 2019.
 Droesch, Blake. "Social Video Ad Spending Will Grow 44% by 2021." eMarketer. March 11, 2019.