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Forget Social Media. Focus on Your Low Hanging Fruit.

By , On , In Marketing

Clients, especially startups and small businesses, often ask us about social media. Should they use it? Should they use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? What should they post? How often? And occasionally, can we manage their social media for them?

My answer, more often than not, is not to worry about social media yet and focus their efforts elsewhere. Why? Because often there are more effective channels from which to build their business.

That’s harsh. There are lots of successful companies using social media.

Yes, I know. Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a powerful and cost-effective tool. Done right, you can create a ton of new business and brand awareness. But social media is the shiny new object that seems to distract marketers from other, often more effective, marketing efforts. Far too often, marketers have the wrong expectations about social media and what it takes to be successful.

This post is also not intended for everyone. Some people have a natural talent for social media, while others have an eye for striking visuals and stunning photography. Still others—influencers—have the power to attract the necessary attention. But if you’re still reading this post, my guess is that’s not you.

Lastly, it’s also important to clarify that this post is also referring to the organic side of social media—the natural posting and communication with your followers. It should not be confused with the paid side of social media.

Marketers often start with organic social media because it’s free, then start paying for reach without consideration to other, more effective paid advertising mediums.

Perception is Everything.

Imagine it’s 2012 and you’re busy working when your accountant phones with some bad news. He or she has just finished your taxes for the year and informs you that, when all is said and done, your income just doesn’t cover your expenses. You need to increase sales or you’re doomed.

You worry a bit. Sure, we’ve just come out of the worst recession since the great depression, but you’ve been carrying a lot of debt and things in your industry just haven’t picked up the way you expected. You need a way to build sales and it needs to be cheap. Advertising is so expensive, it’s off the table. Instead, everyone’s buzzing about social media. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s the next big thing.

Now fast forward to 2019. Maybe social media worked for you or maybe it didn’t, but all you know is that you’re still in business and things seem to be going well. Maybe even great. Now you want to grow again and you’re wondering how to boost sales. You start thinking about how you can market your business on Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks.

Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of a free platform? Plus, anyone can post a photo with a few hashtags. How hard can it be? Better yet, you can start posting right away!

Good. Cheap. Fast. Full Stop.

1. Social Media is Not Free.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably come to believe that social media is free. After all, you don’t need to pay to set up an account, connect with people, and post messages. But somehow you know deep down that Facebook and Instagram have to be making money.

That money comes from paid advertising on their platforms—which they’ve engineered to maximize revenue. This engineering is in the form of algorithms (Facebook’s algorithm, which was originally called EdgeRank) that would bury content if it was not engaging, so even your followers wouldn’t see it unless you paid.

But if you’re going to pay for exposure, then it’s not free. And if it’s not free, you should be comparing social media with other paid advertising methods. It really depends on what you’re after:

  • Brand Awareness — Compare the cost per thousand impressions and recall rate between promoted social media posts and display or video advertising using Google Ads and YouTube.
  • Lead Generation — Compare the cost per click between promoted social media posts and search advertising or content offers.
  • Direct Sales — Compare the cost per acquisition to that of search and shopping ads.

If you have a knack for viral content, you may be successful on social media. If not, you need to pay. But viral content is extremely hard to create and often risky to your brand and business. Which brings us to our next point.

2. Social Media is Not Free Easy.

Another often overlooked aspect of social media is that it’s not easy and by extension, that means it’s not free.

It sounds easy, but creating content that people want to read and engage with is hard work. It needs to be carefully designed and written. You’ll need a compelling story that your audience finds interesting. Before that, you’ll need a sound social media strategy and a ton of research to understand what your customers want to see, read, and engage with.

You’ll also need to consider where you’ll get photos, video, and audio from. Photographers, for example, and even stock photography (worth using) costs money.

3. Social Media is Not Free Easy Fast.

Posts need to be published at the right time and on a regular schedule. All of those things take time. And time is money. If you’re not posting often enough, you won’t get anywhere near the engagement needed to arrive at your business goals. Social media will take a considerable amount of time in planning, design, and posting.

Then, there’s monitoring and communication. Social media rarely excels without a two-way conversation. So you’ll need to monitor your accounts and actively engage with your audiences. That takes time too as your responses will need to be prompt to get traction.

Consider whether you have enough time to commit to social media and just how much that time will cost. How much will five or ten hours a week cost in labour?

What Should You be Doing?

A good marketer will start by outlining their goals and objectives first. What are you trying to accomplish? If it’s new business, what is your average sale and how many do you need? How long will it take and what investment will it require? These sorts of questions will allow you to compare different marketing approaches.

Search Engine Optimization is the Backbone of Online Marketing.

You probably have a basic idea of what SEO is all about, so I’ll focus on a few key (often overlooked) benefits.

The First Benefit.

An investment in SEO will continue to pay off for years and years. Unlike advertising (which, aside from some brand recognition, will stop paying dividends as soon as you deactivate the campaign), search engines will continue to send traffic to your content as long as it’s the best result for a particular search. In some cases, age has a positive influence on your ranking because authority takes time to build and establish. Although, high-quality fresh content is also beneficial—especially for news and in fast-moving industries.

The Second Benefit.

An investment in SEO often results in a higher quality lead. In other words, customers who find you organically are often better quality leads than those who merely click on an ad. This applies in a couple of ways:

  • First, clients who find you online are often better clients. They tend to do more research ahead of time and have more realistic expectations. They’ve read through your website and possibly reviews of your business. Informed decisions reduce the possibility of buyer’s remorse.
  • Second, clients who find you through organic search often have higher budgets and work well within your process. They’ve planned this purchase for some time and understand the value of the products and services you offer

Online Advertising Remains the Low Hanging Fruit

Would you rather:

  1. Advertise to people who are actively searching for your product/service?
  2. Advertise to people who may have expressed an interest in your product/service at some point in the past?

My guess is that you’d rather advertise to people who are actively searching for your product or service.

This is what makes search engine marketing so compelling. There are very few ways to put your advertisement directly in front of potential clients so close to the point of sale. Do it right and you’ll get the call instead of your competitor.

However, there are always exceptions and the most common for SEM are:

  1. If your product or service is so new that nobody is aware of its existence, you’ll need to create demand with other forms of advertising before you can service that demand.
  2. If you have an unlimited budget and want to maximize the potential customer base, you’ll want to incorporate a variety of advertising tools.
  3. If your products or services have too much competition to build an effective online advertising campaign.

New Isn’t Always Better.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m a firm believer in two very powerful online solutions. This business wouldn’t exist if hadn’t been for a combination of the two, yet we’ve done very little social media. SEO and SEM can be important tools for driving value—often the low hanging fruit.

If you’re interested in learning more about SEO and SEM, we’d love to chat!