Social media is an essential element for businesses, as I outlined a couple of weeks ago in ‘Reports: Social Media has never been more important for brands‘. Yet it’s never been harder for companies to overcome the challenges of social media and to get visible in the right way. When we founded The Media Marketing Co in 2009 it was one of the first agencies to specialise in social media marketing, and social media was a very different beast for brands.
In fact, it’s fair to say that it’s changed a lot in the last 12 years.
In the beginning
Mostly this is because everyone saw everything and there was no advertising, which levelled the playing field for those brands who were savvy enough to be using social media in 2009/2010, right through, in fact, to 2014/15. However, then algorithms, which are the processes that the network uses to determine who sees what content, were developed and these have now become very sophisticated and often like echo chambers, so you will only see what you choose to follow or content that you engage with, and even then not always.
Since people like to engage with other people, and aren’t keen on reading boring brand’s update or post (understandably so) then most people now only see content from the people they like and follow, not the updates from brand pages they follow. In addition, it is rare for a brand to be invited into a conversation or be part of a group, and if people ignore brand output (which they usually do) then the algorithms will learn not to show that brand’s updates to that person, or indeed their group.
This is modern online invisibility, and it’s rife. So how do you overcome the challenges of social media and use it effectively to raise your brand’s visibility?
Zero organic reach?
Social media networks tell brands that they can correct zero organic reach using social advertising solutions using targeted data i.e. they created the problem in order to get brands to spend on the solution. Which I guess is fair enough if the products actually worked well, but they aren’t fit for purpose in most instances, whatever Facebook et al tell you.
In addition, most brands using digital advertising are being ripped off, with half of all ads never been seen by a real person and a lot of ad spend being used to fund hate sites or fake news. Then there’s the issue of click bots, which are used to drive up so called viewing figures but are clearly a con, and can lead to an even more serious issue than just losing money. That ‘more important’ part is the effect all this can have on a website’s real time visibility on search (where 90% purchases still start), because if there’s a click to the website that then bounces straight off (as click bots do) the website’s ranking will be negatively affected, as I explore in much more detail in Social Goodness.
And then there’s the thorny issue that most people hate being advertised at, and are getting increasing good at being totally blind to advertising wherever and however it appears. In fact, an increasing amount of people choose to mute or ignore a brand entirely if they see too much advertising from them.
So what’s the answer?
Organic reach curtailed, advertising that doesn’t work, consumers ignoring boring brand posts, and then not even seeing posts. What’s a brand to do?
It is a challenge for sure, and the solution is to be a business that is not just invest in social purpose, but to do it properly, not as a cynical, “Oh that’s what people want, so we will just pretend we are ethical and sustainable, they won’t know any better” kind of way. Because they WILL KNOW. And that can led to visibility for all the wrong reasons. So if you behave badly, for example, by not paying your staff or suppliers, investing in polluters, being racist, or greenwashing, people WILL find it out and if they care enough they will use it to undermine and attack you on social media, which will likely knock your reputation, can cause a social media crisis, and is very likely to affect your staff and your profits.
If you do it properly and ethically, however, and be supportive, sustainable and ethical, i.e. become a good business that people like, even love, and so will include in social conversations and recommend to others, then you can really turn around your brand visibility. If you also invest in content that the people looking to buy are actually actively searching for, and find useful and inspiring, then you can create social traction, which can get your brand to the front page of google and visible on social media.
However, the whole topic is huge and interconnected, with one thing inevitably influencing another area (for good and bad) so it’s only possible to give an overview here.
1. Be human and engage – The only reliable solution to brand invisibility is to invest in organic engagement, which means engaging as a human being, avoiding advertising and marketing bots to promote your brand, and walking the talk by proving again and again that people can trust you to provide them with the solutions and insights they are looking for, and that you won’t keep trying to make a profit off them or sell them stuff before you’ve barely been introduced.
2. Walk beside your community – Know what they like and don’t like, what makes them laugh, what keeps them awake at night, what would make their lives, their jobs, easier. Understand how you can help, what solutions you can provide and be generous with your thoughts, knowledge and expertise. Behave as a human being, a friend, and prioritise relationships with people on social media as well at every other touch point. Be gracious, and prioritise using social media for good, as I explore in the many successful case studies outlined in Social Goodness.
3. Be a good business – Ironically when social media algorithms make brands ever more invisible, the transparency of the internet means anyone can find out anything about every business and its personnel. The trend data shows that people are increasingly fed up with businesses putting profits before people and the plant and are increasingly coming together to expose bad behaviour and ensure bad businesses change – or go out of business.
And if you want more detail, context, or support, do grab a copy of Social Goodness or contact us to see how we can help you raise brand visibility and pivot your business to one that is loved and not avoided.