Is it possible that all of the hype about social media marketing’s potential appears to be falling flat?
As multiple big brands have discovered, collecting fans and followers doesn’t always convert to sales. Both Facebook and Twitter business users are struggling to find the promised connection between revenue and a large amount of followers. As a result, many are shifting their strategies to making deeper connections with fewer fans rather than chasing the big follower/friend counts.
Quality, not quantity, matters. For example, as hotel chain Ritz-Carlton began to increase their brand followers on Facebook they realized that quality, not quantity, should be the goal. They currently have about 489,000 fans, much lower than some of their rivals, but they are using this group to analyze social interactions and understand guest preferences. It also uses this base to reach out to people who have never stayed at their chain of hotels.
Other companies are doing the same after several frustrating years of chasing fans and followers across social media. Instead of seeking out the likes and follows, they use social as a monitoring tool. They search for mentions of their brand across the networks and then engage as needed.
Engagement matters. “Engagement is key, and is something that can in turn further grow your audience,” said Ross Hoffman, Twitter’s directory of brand strategy in an article in the Wall Street Journal, “The onus of good content is on the marketer, and we are working with brands and agencies to hone this skill.”
However, consumers are becoming highly aware of brand publishing on social media and are resistant to marketing messages on this platform. A Nielsen Holdings NV study found that global consumers are more likely to trust ads on television, print, radio, billboards and during movie trailers than social media ads. According to a recent Gallup poll, 62% of consumers said that social media had no effect on purchasing decisions, while just 5% noted it had a great deal of influence.
More questions. It’s a blow to the social media marketing myth for sure – and as the myth is questioned more, social media companies may be at risk. Twitter in particular has had a tough year following its IPO, one of the most looked forward to in recent tech history. In the last few months, chief executive Dick Costolo has replaced nearly every executive in key positions at the company. Insiders say that it’s a result of Twitter struggling to keep people involved in the service and court new users.
The nature of the platform. The problem may be in the nature of the platform itself. Even with 255 million monthly users, the product is a tough sell for many consumers who find Facebook easy and convenient to use. With just 140 characters and a flood of information, many consumers turn away from the noise.
Twitter’s strength is in bringing people together for real time events and news – but that’s hardly something that can be used to build a consistent advertising program around. In addition, growth slowed down throughout 2013 and 2014, which was disappointing to investors. Many expected Twitter’s growth to continue to reach Facebook-like proportions.
Although Facebook has five times as many users as Twitter, advertisers there are not having any more luck at reaching them than they are on Twitter. The social network made algorithm adjustments that switched from a chronological stream of information to one that would deliver the news that users would most likely want to see. As a result, brands went from reaching 16% of their fans with Facebook posts in February 2014 to just 6.5% (EdgeRank Checker).
Facebook was quick to remind companies that they were warned about the diminishing return of their ads, and that fans should be part of a means to an end – and not an end itself. In fact, brands are more likely to reach new non-fans on Facebook as their fans share content from their pages. This shifts the focus to the conversation (such as the content being shared and interacted with on and from a company’s page) instead of just focusing on social media as a one-way broadcasting channel.
Strategies are ever-changing. That’s why strategies are changing, as well as advertising budgets. Companies that choose to remain on Twitter and Facebook will do well by listening as much as publishing and promoting.