Social media provides marketers with the long sought after holy grail: direct access to the thoughts of the consumer and the ability to target content or advertisements to consumers based on interest, location, and other variables. Access to consumers' minds and the ability to target consumers in a highly calibrated manner is very useful when wanting to "sell stuff" in a cost effective manner.
Organic Marketing on Social Media: It's Not as Simple as We Thought.
Despite popular belief social media marketing isn't free advertising. It's also a lot more than simply crafting a "cool" post ("viral marketing" died off for a good reason).
There are many technical variables that affect a marketer's ability to directly connect with a consumer in order to market to them. This blog covers six of the most important variables.
It's important to note that advertising methods (Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc) override some of these variables. Many networks are shifting to a pay-to-play model (even Pinterest and Instagram are beta-testing ads), but these six variables provide a simple way of comparing their readiness for organic marketing campaigns.
6 Social Media Platform Features Required For Organic Marketing Success
- User Information: Does the social network allow users to signify interests, affiliations, location, etc?
Examples: user bio, location, about section, interests (Likes), published content (Posts)
Almost every social network allows users to tell people about themselves. This is the most basic element of a social network. All the major social networks facilitate the publication of user information.
You need the ability to determine whether User X is a marketing qualified lead. For instance, would they buy what you're selling?
If a social network allows users to display their background and interests, you can generally figure out how likely they are to buy your product or service.
- Accessibility: Does the social network allow you to access User Information?
Examples: privacy settings...
Privacy settings can be a major roadblock to marketing campaigns on social media. Using the phone book analogy, imagine I hand you a phone book of potential leads, but rip out half the pages and hide them. Not helpful.
Facebook essentially only gives marketers access to user information if they pay for ads. LinkedIn almost exclusively requires a paid subscription, or an ad, to get in touch with people beyond your 2nd degree network.
Take a look at Facebook's hashtags: they're limited by privacy settings, which means they're virtually pointless. If you try to look at a hashtag feed on Facebook, you can only see a small handful because of user privacy settings.
- Usage: Are there large numbers of your potential buyers using the social network interactively and often?
Examples: publishing original content, engaging with other users
If you are looking to sell luxury men's suits in the US, don't go to Pinterest (80% female users). Your target demographic isn't using the network very much.
But for the most part, the major networks (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube) have a wide variety of demographics available. Just be sure to evaluate the network before spending a lot of time and money on it, especially if you're looking at smaller networks (Quora, Flickr, etc).
- Culture: Is there a culture conducive to contacting strangers on the basis of mutual interest for a transactional purpose?
Many people on Facebook feel weird if a stranger contacts them about working together. Same thing with Instagram and Pinterest. Neither has much of the business (transactional) culture necessary for direct interaction.
Of course, users on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are very comfortable being advertised to - it happens all the time. But the professional cultures of Twitter and LinkedIn are very conducive to direct contact.
Most importantly, be aware of user sensitivity to overt marketing campaigns on different networks.
- API (Application Programming Interface): Does the social network have an API that allows 3rd party developers to create apps that facilitate use of the social network?
Examples: Twitter's API makes it possible apps like ManageFlitter to succeed, and ManageFlitter can also post to Facebook and LinkedIn because their APIs allow it
Very few apps integrate heavily with Pinterest or Google+. They have released relatively limited APIs, which means developers can't make really useful apps.
ManageFlitter is able to do so much with Twitter because Twitter's API is powerful and open. For successful marketing campaigns, you will absolutely need 3rd party applications to streamline and analyze your efforts.
- Algorithm(s): Do the algorithms employed by the social network hinder or help organic growth and engagement?
Examples: Facebook's EdgeRank and Graph Search algorithms, Pinterest search results, YouTube search results
If a social network has a ton of content getting published by users, they may choose to sort and filter it for a better user experience. The problem is, this results in marketers scrambling to not get filtered out.
Facebook is the prime example of this: Facebook just announced in November that less than 4% of people who Like your page will see your content. Ouch.
Why? Algorithms. That's the fancy-schmancy word for content filtering methods used by social networks.
Of course you can always pay for an ad and largely override Facebook's algorithms. But still, ouch. You get the idea.
Twitter Is The Only Social Media Network That Has All 6 Of The Above Required Features!
Let's take a look:
- Users can display information about themselves easily on Twitter, in their bios, location fields, names, and Tweets.
- Twitter has only one privacy setting (Protected Accounts) and almost no one uses it. Twitter user information is easily accessible. Even if you don't follow someone on Twitter and they don't follow you, you can still see their bio and tweet stream.
- Twitter has plenty of users (second only to Facebook in active monthly users), and probably has a significant population of your target demographic.
- Twitter has a professional networking and business culture, so it's not weird to market to Twitter users.
- Twitter's API rocks, and is actually 3 APIs, one of which is the "Firehose", which guarantees delivery of 100% of Tweets that match criteria a developer specifies. In 2011, Twitter counted over 1,000,000 apps that integrated with its API.
- Twitter has virtually no algorithms that affect users ability to see your content. Twitter streams therefore get notoriously busy, but Twitter has Lists so you can sort which users you want to look at.
Here are the main weaknesses of other networks:
- Facebook: poor transactional culture, painful content algorithms, strict privacy settings.
- LinkedIn: strict privacy settings, not many users publish consumer interests very often (only professional interests).
- Google+: not many active users other than the tech industry, very limited API.
- Tumblr: poor transactional culture.
- Pinterest: very limited API.
- Instagram: very limited API, poor transactional culture.
Again, paid ads make Facebook and other networks useful platforms at times. Other networks can also be better for certain types of campaigns, like image-based campaigns on Pinterest.
The point here is: only Twitter offers you a network primed for organic marketing at high volumes.
Social media is a constantly changing landscape. Leave your thoughts below and let's dialogue about it.