Digital marketing professionals know the frustration of chasing the latest developments or alterations with the way the major social media companies run their platforms. From pushing organic content, to hyping videos, to the rush for Stories to influencers, the market changes fast and is unrepentant when it leaves you behind. What worked in 2018 won’t work as well now, and it’s up to us marketing professionals to be on top of the ball, to provide our clients with the services and results they expect from us.
With that in mind, here are some social media marketing tips that will work in 2020:
Organic Growth is (Mostly) Dead
During the good ol’ days of Instagram and Facebook, you could put up great content, attract eyeballs, grow your brand and reach them with every new post. Those of us who keep track of these metrics have noticed a decided decline in the ability to reach new people. Even more troubling is the almost complete inability of hashtags to garner new followers. Oh sure, the content is still shown in the feed of #sundayfunday, but with 48 million+ hits on that particular tag at the time of writing, your post will get swallowed up in the deluge.
Instagram, through its parent company Facebook, will say it’s a function of so many users that the sheer amount of content makes it impossible to have the same engagement per post as when the user base was 10% of what it is now. And they’re not wrong, but their other newest change has exacerbated this trend: not displaying likes.
The concept of Instagram has been that the more likes a post gets the higher up the hashtag feed it is, the more eyeballs it attracts, the more engagement you achieve, the more followers you gain, the more likes you get for subsequent posts, lather, rinse, repeat. But with Instagram’s new policy of hiding likes, ostensibly to push for quality content over “like bait”, engagement has plummeted and it becomes rare for posts other than those with massive followings to gain traction.
Why on earth would a social media company purposefully limit the engagement of users on its platform? They say it’s meant to “remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive”; however, the real, obvious reason is…
It’s All About Paid Ads
The reality is that Facebook is a publicly traded corporation with a market cap value approaching $600 billion. To keep growing that market cap and profitability, they need to keep finding new revenue streams. If companies or brands get “free” market exposure, Facebook is missing out on revenue streams on their platform. Therefore, you will not get free market exposure any longer.
The good news is that both Facebook and Instagram have developed excellent paid ad platforms. With over a billion people on each site allowing access to their user data, various algorithms have been developed that can precisely target users down to minute characteristics. Therefore, whatever product, service or brand you’re marketing, you will be able to target the exact people who would be most interested in what you’re selling. And the even more encouraging news is that depending on the target geographical area, the cost is quite reasonable.
The Zuck taketh and the Zuck giveth.
For now, the influencer play is still a bubble that’s growing. They’re being hit with declining engagement too, but they’ve built up enough of a user base previously, that in relative terms, influencers are still as good a bet to reach an authentic audience as paid ads. But, all good things will come to an end, and– to refer back to new revenue streams– Facebook will find a way to tap into the influencer revenues which will either raise the cost for marketers or limit the engagement and reach of influencers.
So, Do I Put Up Organic Social Media Content?
The answer is yes, just not as much as before. The strategy in the way back past of 2017-18 was to post everyday to build followers and gain customers for free. While that’s a relic, the new paradigm is to think of your social media feed as your social media website. We market your website as your 24/7 marketing tool, and your social media feeds should take the same approach. Instead of posting everyday, post the best quality content that is most reflective of the brand, services or products. That way, when your paid ads or influencer campaigns are sending users to your profile, they’re greeted with your best representation of the business.
What Should Social Media Spend Be?
Social media spend should be focused more on quality rather than quantity, with marketers adding value by being able to produce precisely targeted ads, with re-marketing thrown in, and producing content that will light up an influencer’s page. The answer then is that social media spend hasn’t so much declined as it’s shifted. Businesses used to pay for a marketer’s time (posting everyday), now they’re paying for a marketer’s skill in navigating paid ads, as well as the ability to come up with catchy taglines.
Social media marketing is an ever changing landscape, which requires digital marketing professionals who will never rest on their laurels. It’s tempting to put it in autopilot and do what we’ve always done, but the competitive landscape requires effective digital marketers to know what changes have happened, how those changes will affect a business and, more importantly, how to best make those changes work for a business.