Social Media is the tool to go with when you want to deliver your message to large audience, usually, with affordable cost that doesn’t implicate huge impact on the marketer’s budget. This cost comes usually with mass reach comparatively with traditional media such as print newspapers, magazines, etc. While TV and radio have sustained their position with slight decline due to audio books, ASS and video platforms [e.g. YouTube].
Marketers now have more challenging media mix to challenge. Social media remains the most attractive and available tool for them, but TV remains as the strongest platform to use to communicate the business’s messages to large audience. Although TV is facing viewership challenges, for instance, the 2017 Academy Awards ratings have been rated the lowest in 9 years at 32.9 million viewers, with -4.4 percent from last year, major shift to online viewership was increasingly noticed throughout Super Bowl.
Let’s talk more about the Middle East, a 2017 whitepaper from Damian Radcliffe and Amanda Lam at the University of Oregon provides an analysis of how people across the Middle East are using social networks, highlighting the rise of messaging apps, visual social networks like Instagram and Snapchat and occasional regulatory and other tensions. Consumption of social media in Middle East is rapidly growing, as per the study, although smartphone ownership in the region, at just under 50 percent of mobile connections, is below the global average of 53 percent, the number of smartphone connections has doubled in three years, to 319 million. According to the trade body, the GMSA5 this figure is expected to grow to 65 percent by the end of the decade, in line with the global average.
The dilemma that we are facing is; out of 246 million people, 147 million smartphone users and 93 million social media users, why it is still difficult for businesses to gain quality reach, engagement and ROI?
There are several reasons that goes behind the challenges that brands are facing when it comes to dominate their presence on social networks, particularly when it is faced with competition from other brands. Among many factors, few remains crucial to success which consumes big chunk of the marketer’s budget in a hope to grasp as many loyal and engaged users as possible in a chance to convert to a dollar ROI or maximize the word of mouth.
There are few challenging factors to contend with here:
With Competition Comes Media Inventory Limitation
As much as it is easy to pay for reach, particularly via Facebook, the latter uses similar media inventory scheme as Google does, just with different dashboard and with more openness to receive budgets without indicating any reach limitation. There is only 93 million users on social media with hundreds of brands trying to reach out. Latest Facebook update comes with algorithm change that favors Friends and Family updates over Ads. Inventory is going low and therefore cost of reach is going up. It usually ends up with big number of reach and very shy engagement rate, and therefore, the investment can’t be properly justified from ROI point of view.
With Media Inventory Limitation Comes Content Quality
People wants relevant ads. I have personally faced several situations during using my own social platforms when I was exposed to so many irrelevant ads. Where Facebook and other social media platforms collects massive amounts of data about its users, it still can’t address the ultimate advertisements relevancy to each user. This comes with challenges for brands when they need to compete on the user’s newsfeed along with other distracting contents. Although many social platforms give you the tool to determine your target audience by segment, it fails to favor relevant content. The solution is always at the marketer’s end by understanding the brand’s value proposition, target user segments and relevancy of communicated message to them.
With Content Quality Comes Fake Accounts Reach
For instance, Facebook recently announced it estimates 3-4 percent of fake accounts exist on the platform; the company disabled 694 million and 583 million fake accounts in Q4 2017 and Q1 2018 respectively. The marketer cannot tell the quality of reach outcome from the campaign simply because no one knows until Facebook takes action, and here when the marketers sees huge drop somewhere on analytics dashboard that no one can justify.
Although you have identified your target segment, and you have relevant and quality content, you might still face the challenge of delivering it to fake accounts, you can know only later. If Middle East Facebook users estimated to be around 93 million users (as per HubSpot) then guesstimate the 4 percent Facebook estimate means 3.7 million fake accounts.
The list of challenges can go on, however, we didn’t answer the fundamental question, why many brands can’t dominate their presence on social media or sustain their current status?
One key reason for this is brands do not use social media for what it is fundamentally meant to do — socializing.
Most of the marketers and brands I’ve met focuses on social indicators that helps quantify their KPIs and therefore justify their investments. Although usage of social media remains fundamental for brands to spread the word, maximize exposure and increase awareness, however, marketing managers still faces the challenge of justifying their investments, simply, because the language of social media still new to business executives and decision makers at the top of the pyramid.
Indicators that justifies KPIs from the kind of e.g.: Reach KPI, Conversion KPI, Engagement KPI, etc. still doesn’t translate the investment cost to generate sustainable sales funnel and therefore long-term profits. This happens because the brands and marketers use social media to enforce one-way communication with the excited social media users such as telling the product’s message, explain company’s latest technology, ask users to engage in some conversation or call to action.
These efforts become repetitive for users to see the same approach via several brands on their newsfeed, which encourage users to bounce out, unfollow the brands or possibly just hide it from their newsfeed.
The accurate and most rewarding use of social media is for brands to use it for socializing, while considering converting users to potential leads and customers, the main approach should be in creating a conversation. Humanizing brand’s presence on social media can lead to an increase of trust and loyalty, spread of content, and drastic increase in engagements.
So, how to humanize your social media presence and win the game? There is many ways to be closer to your audience and to open a two-way communication with them, despite the challenges stated above, ultimately, your goal needs to evolve around growing organically, investing in conversion campaigns with solid digital assets, or probably, activating some ecosystem that allows your marketing efforts to bring meaning to the business.
Few steps that can prove success are:
Reduce Automation: Although we need to attain users requests quickly, but majority don’t want to talk to robots. Specifically, if user wants clarification on service or products. Sending users to a website via templet response doesn’t generate loyalty, in fact, it harms your credibility, remove human-touch and increase bounce rate.
Be Funny & Approachable: People don’t use social media to make formal relationships, and if you want to deliver a specific message, don’t make it so serious. It is a space for friends and family and you are an outsider trying to merge. Make people smile and feel comfortable reaching out to you.
Ask People To Engage With You: Ask them open ended questions that helps people to talk to your brand like talking to one of their friends. Magic happens when you ask users’ feedback because they want to feel as part of your brand. Also, there is no harm in that. For example, ask them what do they think of your latest product? Take their answers as an advantage to your market feedback and pass it on to product managers and R&D divisions.
Demonstrate Your Brand’s Human Resource: Those who follow your brand page want to know how the brand values the people behind its success. Gratitude between the business and its core human resource places greater trust between brand and users. It increases trust, humanizes your communication and places the success credits to alike persons.
It’s Traditional, But It Works: Sign your responses with some person’s name. Make your interaction more social and more personal. If you are writing a post about new product review, tell people that Peter or Sally, from the marketing team or R&D have brought this news to them.
Stay Simple: Don’t use complicated terms, tech jargons or industry terms when you talk to mass audience. Remember, it’s not your business partner briefings. You are talking to people who have or haven’t used your products and who want to know more. Just make it simple for everyone to understand.
With all the challenges, businesses need to simply understand that on the other side of the screen, there are actual people who use social media for socializing. While people generally tend to use social media to create content, chances are that if you socialize enough via your social media, results will surprise you.