There are dozens of articles and marketers touting the amazing organic reach and community building that social media can provide. It might seem like the magic bullet to solve all of your issues. Of course, when you actually jump into social media marketing, you notice that your page isn’t inundated with comments or likes and your follow count hasn’t even breached the four-digit figure.
So what gives? Why isn’t your social media marketing strategy bringing you a huge ROI?
It Takes Time
You might have heard that social media marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, but hearing it is one thing, actually understanding and experiencing it is another. Unless you already have a huge following somehow or already have a lot of connections in the industry, chances are it will take you a very long time to gain a following. Most startups take a few years to build up their community. And sure, while you can certainly buy followers or spend money to boost your posts, growing an authentic and engaged audience requires time and persistence.
Of course, your audience won’t miraculously grow if you just wait around. Yes, it might take months and or years to build an audience, but it also requires you put in the hours every day not only to creating great content, but engaging with your audience.
In the beginning you probably won’t get that many comments and mentions, which can be very discouraging. That’s why it’s so important to respond as quickly as possible whenever you do get engagement. It shows others that you’re paying attention and listening. Even something as simple as thanking someone for a follow or for a like will help improve your overall company image.
With that said, a lot of social media marketing means actually being social and liking other people’s posts, responding to comments on a thread and more. You have to be active on all of the networks you’re on in order to gain traction and get noticed. When responding to someone’s comments, avoid promoting yourself. You’re there to add value to the conversation, not talk about your product (unless you think it would actually solve their problem).
You naturally don’t want to just like or comment on every single post you come across as that will take too long and be ineffective. Instead, you want to practice something called social listening. In essence, you monitor your channels for mentions of your brand, competitors and any relevant keywords. From there, you analyze this information and figure out a way to put it into action. It might be as simple as responding to a happy customer or as big as changing your entire brand position.
As you expect, social listening takes time, but ultimately it should be an essential step in your social media marketing strategy as it allows you to focus on what conversations to join and what people to respond to.
You Can’t Set it and Forget it
Maybe you took advice from an article or from a social media expert that promised amazing results in a few months. However, even after following everything perfectly, you’re just not seeing any improvement on your social channels. Take a deep breath and take solace in the fact that you’re not alone.
The truth is, there’s no predictable pattern for success. So what might have worked for one person won’t necessarily work for you. More importantly, you cannot use the same tactic for every platform. Even if your audience spans across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they expect different content on each platform. For example, you probably wouldn’t just post a pretty picture with a simple caption on Twitter nor would you use 20+ hashtags for a post on Facebook. Your audience uses each channel differently, so you need to have a different strategy for each platform.
To make matters even more complicated, social media trends change so quickly that advice from even a year ago might be outdated as Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms continuously change their algorithm. The best social media experts pay attention to any announcements from the various platforms and also notice the more subtle shifts in order to stay ahead of their competitors.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore every piece of advice. Instead, you should tailor the advice to your brand and company. For example, there are plenty of articles listing our the best times to post on the various social platforms, however that doesn’t mean these times would work for you. If you’re just getting started, these suggestions are a good place to start, but once you’ve been posting for a few months, you should post optimize your posting times based on what works for you. This also coincides with best type of content to post, hashtags and so on.
While each platform does provide their own analytics, they’re not all created equal. Luckily, there are plenty of social analytics tools you can use, though most of them aren’t free. With that said, the money you pay for these tools can ultimately save you a lot of time and headache when it comes to understanding your metrics across the various platforms. Tools like Sprout Social allow you to measure brand’s performance across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Other tools such as BuzzSumo tracks how well your content performs on social media.
If you can’t afford the more premium tools you can still pull a lot of information when you combine Google Analytics with something like Facebook Insights. You can see exactly what’s resonating with your audience and on what platform to make the most out of your social marketing strategy.
Of course, you can’t sit on your laurels. As mentioned, social trends change quickly so what might have worked for you last month might not work today. It’s important to keep a close eye on your data and continuously test and tweak your posts to get the best return on investment (ROI).
You’ll Fail…A Lot
Even if you follow all of the best practices for a social media channel, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get any results. In fact, you’ll probably see nothing: no traffic, no sales, no leads for at least a few months. In the beginning, your ROI will probably be horrible. After all, you’re spending a lot of time creating your content, crafting the perfect post for each channel and engaging with your audience. When you account for all of this and potentially spending money on social ads, you likely won’t see any kind of return in your first few months or even year. Of course, over time your ROI will improve so long as you have a good plan in place, but you really only start seeing results as your audience grows.
Speaking of ROI, the definition itself might differ between companies. For example, one company might tout that they were able to see a 200 percent ROI on social. While impressive, you don’t know where they got this number. They could be measuring how many visits they received from their post or actual sales increase. They might not even be calculating the percentage correctly as they might not include the time spent on these campaigns. All this to mean that you shouldn’t feel bad if your ROI doesn’t match with your competitors. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in on them to see what they’re doing and if you can replicate parts of their success.
It’s not just ROI, of course. Success on social media means engagement. And nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder to get organic engagement especially on Facebook. The social media giant has all but eliminated organic reach in favor of pay-to-play model. While it’s not impossible to reach your audience for free, since 2014 Facebook organic reach has bottomed out at less than 2 percent. Most marketers expect this number to eventually drop to zero. Add onto that the shortening half-life of your posts (with Twitter coming in at only 18 minutes) even if you do create a great post, you have an ever shortening time to reach your audience.
And, of course, there’s failing at the basics. Even large companies make social media missteps with cringe-inducing posts. While it isn’t a death sentence, at least not for large companies, for smaller ones, a poorly worded post can lead to a massive loss in trust. The best remedy to a bad post is to apologize, remove it and learn from the mistake. Most people are forgiving, especially if it’s your first offense. However, if you repeat the mistake, they’re less likely to see you in a good light.
You might not be able to avoid failure, at least at first. However, so long as you manage to learn from it, you can learn from your past mistakes.
Social media success is neither easy nor quick. While there might be some cases where a person rises to stardom or a post goes viral, these are the exception, not the rule. For most businesses and influencers, a solid social media marketing strategy takes a lot of time, trial and error and persistence.
In order for you to be successful, you need to embrace the grind and tedium that comes with analyzing your metrics, social listening and crafting your content. There are days where your posts won’t get any traction and other days where you’ll see a lot of engagement. These highs and lows will swing wildly, especially at the beginning but should even out as you build up your authentic audience.
Remember, there is no quick and easy way to grow a solid community. Anyone trying to pitch this idea to you is likely taking advantage of you, so avoid companies who promise something that sounds too good to be true.
What other tough truths have you learned about social media marketing?