From Engagement to Optimization
Graph Search was built to allow people to search for information through the context of their social connections. Looking for a great sushi restaurant? Find one nearby that a friend has checked into. More than ever people can leverage the connections between friends and brands to make decisions.
This means people are able to take brands out of the equation. Instead of going to, for example, a brand page for information, people can query their friends with instant results.
Social media strategies, which primarily focused on engagement, must shift toward optimization. Brands need to consider how they connect with consumers when they are not part of the equation. The good news is this opens the door for stronger analytics and a results-driven mindset.
The social networks know this. Facebook’s Graph Search is just one way it’s moving in this direction. Twitter launched an ad API this week that will allow marketers to launch, test and optimize Twitter advertising quickly and automatically.
The Rules Are Always Changing
Consumers are growing leery of brands in the social space for a lot of reasons. They feel their privacy is being violated; they find brands intrusive and so on. Engaging with your brand’s advocates and building your followers is still important, but that’s only part of the equation.
“While overwhelming consumers with chatter is already a problem, with 53% of online adults already saying they’re annoyed by the amount of advertising they see and 37% saying that they would rather not be contacted frequently by brands, marketer blabbing is about to explode,” stated a recent Forrester study.
Consumers are not demanding what brands are offering… at least not to the level brands would like. Every brand has a limited pool of people who will ever want to connect with them and get their updates on an ongoing basis.
That’s okay. Brands can still go beyond that pool of people through social channels:
- Earned and Paid: The myth that social media is cheap and/or free needs to be put to bed. Effective social media marketing is the result of time, capital and skills. There’s also a paid advertising element. The ability to engage an audience on any social channel is limited without a paid initiative behind it. Using Facebook ads to reach a greater percentage of your fan base, leveraging Twitter ads to get your brand noticed in the context of a real-time conversation, putting paid search behind a company blog and so on should be part of a social media strategy. Creating content is only half of the equation. The next step is giving it a boost to break through the clutter.
- It’s Not Just About Engagement with the Brand: The vast majority of social media interactions are between people, not between customers and brands, so brands should focus on how they can have a presence in the context of those interactions. Paid ads are one way, but another, more organic approach, is to encourage the creation of social signals. Encourage people to check-in at your store, tout your product reviews and create content engagement. The creation of social signals allows your brand to appear more relevant to search engines, giving your brand more prominence when people are looking for information. Graph Search is a great example that specifically uses signals like ‘likes’ and check-ins to organize search results.
- Stop Building and Start Generating with What You Have: Growing a follower base is good, but brands should look at the base they currently have and determine if they’re getting as much out of them as they could. Many brands have overemphasized building their follower counts and neglected to engage the base that's been established.
Engagement is still critical, but brands solely focused on that will be left behind.