Social media marketing has emerged in recent years as one dimension of marketing and as a central entity in the digital marketing toolkit.

When it comes to social media marketing, talk is mostly about most common channels like Facebook and Instagram, but often you also find discussion about channels like Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest or Reddit.

Youtube is less often perceived as social media, though it is in many ways. Social media generally refers to communication environments where each user has the opportunity to be an active contributor and content creator. By this definition, messaging applications like Whatsapp can also be thought of as social media.

However, the key to effective social media marketing is not so much understanding all the channels, but the channels that are relevant to your business. Social media marketing is often perceived as a cost-effective or even free way to reach your target audience, and it is at its best, but many ideas about social media marketing were true in 2012, but are no longer true in 2019.

Social media marketing development

Social media platforms have evolved at a tremendous pace and what worked for some in marketing a few years ago is hardly the most effective way to do it.

Most social media has moved in a more personal direction and the visibility of business pages has steadily diminished. The path to this has been paved by Facebook, where development is already at its most advanced. After all, the situation on Facebook is roughly that, whether you have 5,000 or 500,000 followers on your Facebook page, you are unlikely to reach thousands of people with the posts you publish..

Sure, so-called organic, or free, visibility is still available on business pages on Facebook, but visibility has dropped significantly in recent years. Similarly, the use of paid advertising has increased rapidly. The reason behind this development is simply that Facebook users like to consume the content of their loved ones instead of marketing messages from different businesses, and thus maximizing Facebook’s advertising revenue requires the promotion of content from humans, not businesses.

Instagram is following in the footsteps of Facebook at least for the time being, few years behind Facebook. However, the decline in organic visibility on Instagram has already begun to be quite radical.

Twitter and Youtube, on the other hand, operate in their own way, separate from Facebook and Instagram. And again, Snapchat or Reddit is hard to compare at any level.

However, all channels repeat the same thing, people want to follow people. No companies. The only companies that you also want to follow are companies like Red Bull, which generate a lot of relevant content for their target audience and even run certain subcultures.

From followers to sales

When talking about social media marketing, there is still a lot of talk about followers and likes. Of course, it is understood that the goal is to increase sales, but it is thought that the number of followers is somehow a sign of social media marketing success, even though they have very little correlation with the benefits gained.

From my own point of view, this stems from the fact that the number of followers was sometimes very useful proxy fro success and still is useful in a certain context. It is still possible to run a Facebook page that is gaining a lot of visibility from its followers, it is just really challenging. And the real focus should be the sales it drives or, if not now, the reach of the posts.

You should not underestimate visibility, but you should also remember to monetize.

In order to be worth investing heavily in organic reach, it also needs to produce a lot of results and less often it produces those results needed. Roughly speaking, if you were to reach 50,000 people a month organically, reaching them with paid ads would have cost you $ 500. Sure, content matters, and impression comparisons aren’t very relevant in general, but to the extent that reaching 50,000 people organically usually pays much more in hours than it does getting 50,000 paid impressions.

In 95% of the cases, companies should learn what works organically, but focus fully on paid advertising. So it’s not about getting followers on social, but finding the right people with paid advertising. This is often the most cost-effective way to harness the social media, as neither the expertise nor the resources to build organic visibility can be found.

Utilizing paid advertising

The effectiveness of paid advertising on social media is one thing that continues to create quite interesting case studies, and in a way, maintains the social media reputation as an effective “marketing channel”. However, it is essential to understand that paid advertising differs widely across channels and contexts. Even if you could sell children’s clothing to moms on Facebook, you may not be able to sell another product through paid advertising to mothers, even if the product is targeted at the same audience.

Social media marketing works best with products that are somewhat impulse buys. Of course, even with larger purchases, social media often works, but the person who spends their time in social media is less likely to know the new thing very thoroughly, and so when it comes to bigger purchases, they often have to build some kind of funnel.

Especially with Facebook and Instagram, the effectiveness of advertising is not really about low cost advertising or manual targeting, but about optimizing for a specific goal. For example, in the case of e-commerce, install the pixel correctly, build a campaign and set up purchases, and Facebook will learn from purchases who are most likely to buy your product.

In this case, the most difficult thing in Facebook and Instagram marketing is to make the rock roll downhill, so much so that the Facebook / Instagram algorithm learns who to look for in advertising. This means that you do not have to manually limit your targeting at all, but you target the audience as broadly as possible and let the algorithm target for you.

Often, getting a rock rolling is challenging, and typically the rock won’t roll until you get at least 25 purchaces a week repeatedly from Facebook or Instagram from one adset. Officially, the minimum limit to learning on Facebook is 50 conversions (in this case, a purchase), but often a smaller amount is enough.

In summary, social media marketing

There is all kind of legends and stories going around about social media marketing. Typically, however, the biggest factor behind the effectiveness of social media marketing is paid advertising.

Free visibility is still widely admired, but it is good to remember that the time spent is not free either.