The recent float of Facebook has brought into focus a number of questions about the effectiveness of marketing through social media. Marketers are asking, “How does social media actually fit into our marketing effort?” and, “Does social media marketing actually work?” These questions are exactly what should be asked as they get to the heart of a social media, and broader, digital marketing strategy.
The recent news that US-based General Motors has ceased its $10 million Facebook display advertising provides a great example of marketers not asking these questions early enough. So what went wrong? The General Motors Facebook page starts to tell the story. Once you land on their page there is a lot of great content. There are some well-produced videos, some great images and the timeline has been well developed to tell a story around their brand. Facebook users are engaging with GM and the brand is being well managed. However, there is nowhere obvious to sign up for a test drive, nowhere to get in contact. In short, there is no clear conversion goal. So no matter the investment in advertising, it is unlikely they would see an impact on sales without a connected conversion process to back it up. Even if they directed Facebook clicks to another destination outside of Facebook to address this, it is unlikely to be successful. Users don’t like to leave Facebook during a session.
What GM failed to do was to understand where Facebook fits into broader social media campaigns and overarching marketing frameworks. It is a common mistake. The regular attention that social media demands means brand building, corporate communications, customer service and customer acquisition can get confused. These different organisational objectives are often run in separate departments, and can be poorly integrated. The problem is the customer doesn’t care about these differences. They perceive a brand as a single entity, and they expect a cohesive message.
A well developed social media strategy defines what your customer will be doing when they get to your page and what they expect. It also understands what frame of mind they will be in. Think of it in terms of awareness. Traditional marketing works well close to the time of purchase (unless you can spend a lot on broad spectrum branding), search works well when your market is researching a product, and social works best before any of this. The customer may not be thinking about making a purchase, but you can capture their information and begin to lead them down the right path, meaning that by the time they get to Google they are searching for your brand, not your category. This means spending less on search, display and above the line marketing. You may not replace them but you can spend wiser.
This is why spending the time and money to develop a quality social media strategy is so important. It defines why you are investing in social media, what you are expecting the audience to do, the most valuable data to collect, the way to measure success, and how you are going to convert interest into sales.