If Isaac Newton had lived to see social media, he would’ve reminded us: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.
Platforms like Facebook connected people across the globe, which created ideological clashes. They brought new people into politics, which gave rise to (mis)information that disaffected others. They entertained their users, which caused many to use them to the point of misery.
But social media hasn’t just given users a hard lesson in Newton’s Third Law.
By using social media to broaden awareness of their brand, marketers initiated another reaction: Many built audiences so wide that, slowly but surely, they lost sight of who they were trying to reach.
The engagement trap
Most marketers know that trying to reach everyone is a recipe for reaching no one. Some have even discovered for themselves that social media ads are more effective among narrower audiences. Yet those same marketers blindly chase Facebook likes and Twitter followers.
Likes and followers are known as vanity metrics for a reason: They’re nice to watch, but they are a lot of times not tied to sales. Ignoring, for the sake of argument, the fact that up to 15 percent of social media “users” are actually bots, growing follower and “like” figures still doesn’t correlate to ROI.
No marketer in her right mind would complain about her brand gaining followers, of course.
But social media marketing ROI is less about how many and more about who and why. In other words, are those follows or likes from members of the brand’s target audience? And if so, did their follow or like bring them closer to a conversion or purchase?
Taco Bell may be doing great on Twitter, for example, but how well do its witty tweets sell tacos?
Taco Bell’s humor has broad appeal, but Millennials are a big target audience for the brand. In prioritizing the “share worthiness” of its own posts, Taco Bell could also consider that some sources show Millennials value peer endorsements above those of brands or celebrities.
Taco Bell fell into the social media trap that so many marketers do: Instead of going deep — say, by focusing on share of voice among Millennials — it went broad by maximizing likes and shares. By trying to reach everyone, a brand can miss out on the opportunity to connect the buyer personas critical to its brand.
Four ways to align social media posts with marketing personas
Many whip-smart brand marketers still find themselves in danger of leaving their actual buyers behind. No matter how confident you are about your own social media marketing skills, we recommend following these four steps.
1. Choose metrics wisely
Like most areas of business, social media marketing should begin with a goal. Think beyond vanity metrics to those that actually matter: Do you want to grow your share of voice? Click-through rate? Engagement?
To choose your metrics, think about how your customers buy. Domino’s, for example, lets users use the hashtag #EasyOrder to order pizza via Twitter post. In this case, hashtag use count isn’t a vanity metric, but a measurement that directly ties social engagement to revenue.
2. Run prior posts past a focus group
Shares and likes can be deceiving — not just in number, but in spread. A post that gets attention on social media might look like a winner, but it doesn’t do a teen brand much good if its message resonated with geriatric users.
Check past social media content by assembling a focus group of your core customers. This can provide insight into the attitudes and behaviors of specific users, letting you peek behind the numerical curtain. Ask open-ended yet specific questions like “What do you like best about this post?” and “How does this post influence your view of our brand?”
3. Refine personas with focus group and platform insights
Once you have a better picture of what your audience likes and dislikes about your existing social content, use it to enrich your buyer personas. Then, augment them further with platform-specific tools like Facebook Insights.
For instance, you might learn through focus groups that your Millennial customers particularly like posts that signal corporate social responsibility. But to discover which causes resonate best, individual comments won’t cut it.
Instead, look at platform data: Perhaps environmental causes received the most engagement among cause-related posts. Put those pieces together, and you’ve got the backbone of a social media strategy.
4. Plan paid and organic posts together
As sponsored posts on social platforms grow by double-digit percentages, social media users are seeing them mixed in with organic posts.
The trouble is that the marketers in charge of a brand’s paid social content aren’t always the same ones firing off its daily tweets. And because so-called “dark posts” don’t show up on the brand’s timeline, it’s easy to forget they exist at all.
Communication is the only fix. Get your social media team together each week to plan sponsored, boosted, and organic posts.
Build them around the buyer personas you refined, and run timely organic posts past paid planners to avoid messaging conflicts.
Doing so may slow things down, but inconsistent messaging undermines the customer experience and impedes ROI — which matters much more than speed.
Newton may have lived centuries ago, but his insight into motion still rings true when it comes to social media. He understood that everything, including popularity, comes at an equal and opposite price.
Gaining a mass following can make it tough to reach targeted consumers. But Newton knew that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. If Newton were a marketer today, he’d recommend getting started on a new strategy; once you’re moving in the right direction, it’s a lot easier to keep going that way.
Tiffany Delmore is the Founder and CMO of SchoolSafe.