It used to be that on more traditional advertising platforms, advertisers essentially "competed" with one another for the given audience's time and attention. More or less, it was a leveled playing field. Mano e mano.
Today, the same playing rules for advertising on social media simply don't apply, because the competition for time and attention is so much greater. Today, advertisers aren't just competing with each other for people's time and attention; they're also competing with their target audiences' friends, family members, colleagues, stupid YouTube videos, obnoxious memes and the general phenomenon of content overload.
That, coupled with the notion that advertising on social media is largely scene as interruptive and intrusive by personal users, presents a major hurdle for advertisers looking to grow their brand.
And that's where advertisers get social media totally wrong: They try to find new customers instead of focusing on building relationships with their already existing ones.
Unless you have instant brand awareness like the Apple's, Nike's and Coca-Cola's of the world, everyday social media users are not going to give companies they've never heard of the time of day. It's not like we're desperate for new content from new places. We already have more than enough content at our disposal from people and companies that we do know.
As advertisers, this doesn't mean that we shouldn't use social media. It just means that advertising is more effective if we target or retarget people who are already aware of our brand. There are two ways to do so:
Target the people who already like your page with content and various call-to-actions.
However, retargeting is only half the battle. The second, perhaps more important aspect of retargeting is the content that you're deciding to serve these people.
Social media isn't a place to perform sales pitch after sales pitch. Repurposed ads and press releases often fall flat on their face, and anything that is perceived as such doesn't just not help your company; it can actually hurt it. At a time when so many people and companies are vying for our exponentially shorter time and attention spans, the minute we turn people off for lack of interest or relevance, we may struggle to ever get them back.
Instead, us advertisers need to harness the power and purpose of social media: to develop and strengthen relationships with people who are already familiar with our company. Better relationships mean stronger brand awareness and familiarity, which leads to greater trust and brand advocacy. Just like we spend more time and energy with people whom we trust, we spend more money (and recommend our friends to do the same) with businesses that we trust.
In order to develop better relationships with our prospective and existing customers, we need to focus on content that provides obvious, immediate, long-term, credible, authentic and personal value, as defined by:
Obvious: the audience knows exactly what they're getting
Immediate: engaging with the content right now will provide those in the audience with some kind of emotional (i.e. entertainment) and/or practical (i.e. self-help) value
Long-Term: the content is not a "one-night stand" - it's part of your overarching content marketing program, so your audience knows what content to expect from you time and again
Credible: the content is trustworthy and believable
Authentic: free from an agenda
Personal: there's something in it for each person in your audience
Relationship building is not something that happens with one piece of content, or with a single campaign; it's an always-on, always-evolving process that is completely dependent on your company's willingness and ability to develop a formidable approach, in which the entire team genuinely buys in to the commitment of developing real relationships with your customers, relationships that go far beyond the traditional business-customer dynamic.
The key here is to flip the principles of advertising on their head, therefore focusing less on the media and more on the social aspect of social media. This approach may result in a message that reaches less people than traditional advertising has afforded us, but it will also result in a message that resonates with a higher percentage of the people who see and engage with it.
At a time when consumers are more equipped than ever before with self-serve information, and at a time when traditional advertising doesn't resonate with people like it once did, advertising on social media presents an unprecedented opportunity to truly harness the power of relationship building in order to drive more awareness, advocacy, and the most important metric in long-term growth: higher lifetime customer value.