Most social media campaigns are doomed from the beginning.
Nothing you can't recover from. But if you start off on the wrong foot, then it's hard to convince others (or yourself) to keep persevering in the face of lackluster results.
Because these "troughs of sorrow" inevitably occur. And if you don't have the right frame of mind from the start, then you'll be easily pressured to give up or give in -- before you actually start to see the real upside and benefits.
So here are three mistakes to watch out for, and how you can fix each one.
Read any blog on social media and you'll see a plethora of hyper-tactical posts.
Which is great, because everything evolves so quickly that it's important to keep up and stay abreast of what's going on.
But there's also a downside...
It gives people tunnel vision. It makes us think that the reason we aren't driving enough traffic from Twitter is because we're not using enough hashtags. Or getting enough retweets.
Sure, that might be the case... on a very small level. It might improve your performance by 5-10%. But what about 100% growth? Or 1,000%?
Corrective Strategy #1: "Want to move the needle? Then stop looking for social shortcuts and go back to Marketing 101."
Social media hasn't changed marketing -- it's just provided a few different alternatives for delivery and distribution. But classic marketing principles still apply.
For example -- two of the 4P's are Promotion and Placement (distribution).
Promotion refers to things like partnerships, events and public relations that get your name out in front of your target audience repeatedly and consistently. And guess what? They still work! Find partners, run a cross-promotion, put on a virtual (or offline) event for potential customers, get your brand in major media publications, etc.
Distribution is about making it easy for your target customers to see and find your marketing messages. Don't have that many Twitter followers of Facebook fans? That's fine! Use Twitter or Facebook advertising to drive visits for $1 a piece. You're not trying to directly acquire a customer per se, but you're driving awareness, distribution and placement.
Or go to where the buyers already are online. For example, I get more benefit from content marketing -- one good guest article -- than I do from Twitter all month. I get increased brand awareness, build thought leadership, get targeted referral traffic, links for SEO, and social signals (like follows and mentions).
Facebook fans and Twitters followers sound nice on a press release or in a meeting. But beyond that... what do they accomplish?
Vanity metrics are shallow numbers that might present a rosy, pretty picture. But they don't truly impact your business all that much. But why are vanity metrics so bad?
Because expected outcomes inform our actions. If we're focusing on improving Twitter followers, then that number might go up. But other ones -- the important ones that might contribute more to our business -- don't.
Corrective Strategy #2: "Add context to raw data so you can glean actionable insights that drive ROI."
Raw numbers and data by themselves aren't very helpful. But if you can add context to the data, then it all starts to make sense.
The best place to start is with your online marketing and sales funnel. What actions or steps does someone take to go from being a stranger to a loyal customer?
Every business has a few of the same ones -- like awareness, interest, engagement or trust, and conversions. So you can then identify key business performance metrics for each and start to plot them on a graph:
Now you can clearly see the bigger picture. And by improving a few key actionable metrics like these, you'll be able to see how your individual marketing campaigns start to connect to business goals like increasing demand or improving customer support.
Most marketing campaigns fail due to poor execution. But many times, they're set-up to fail from the start.
If you don't give or receive proper buy-in (in the form of resources -- money, time and people), then you can't expect to succeed either. Social media isn't a silo. It intersects Operations, Customer Support, Marketing and Communications. It's critical that expectations are managed from the beginning, so everyone's on the same page and knows how to assess it's value.
Corrective Strategy #3: "Get social media buy-in by managing people's expectations of what social media can and can't do"
Social media will never drive sales like SEO or paid search. Social users don't have the same intent and need awareness, and SEO or paid search is also easier to track or measure directly (so it's more accurately reported -- whereas social media tends to be under-reported).
So if someone -- a boss or client -- believes that they should compare sales from social media against other channels like SEO, then they'll undoubtedly be disappointed. And you've set yourself up for failure.
But how are you supposed to explain the benefits if they don't even understand how it works?
Use proxies. Frame the issue by using things they can relate to. For example, describe social media as a (1) communication channel, and (2) a brand marketing channel. Brand advertising/marketing -- like television ads, billboards, and sponsorships -- may correlate to improved sales, but they rarely have a quantifiable ROI. So why should social media be any different?
And besides, social media also gives you other benefits like increased customer support and scale that these other channels would never provide. You can compare the brand impressions or awareness you're receiving from social media against what the same would cost would be from another advertising campaign or medium. Then it's easy to see how cost effective social media can really be.
Social media can significantly improve key business metrics like sales, support and awareness. But only if you have the right approach and give it time to breath.
Because you might be making a few simple mistakes that are sabotaging your effort. So throwing in the social media towel after only a few months is unfair and shortsighted.
And if you can quickly fix course and get on the right path, then you'll start to see promising results that will give encouragement to stick it out for the long term.