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Social Media Planning Guide - Part 2

One of social media's most defining characteristics is its constant rate of change. Just a few years ago, it was seen as a novel time waster, these days businesses are recognising the evolving relationship between social and business goals.

In 2015, social media marketers will be dealing with many of the same problems and pitfalls as they have in the past, down to finding the right way to think about marketing opportunities on social media, which are different from any other medium marketers and advertisers have dealt with before. In Part II of our Social Media Guide to 2015 we look at Paying to be Social.

#4 PAYING TO BE SOCIAL

What Changed in 2014?

As social networks continue to grow, getting your brand in front of customers is becoming harder and more expensive. Twitter introduced Twitter ads as the platform took on a more Facebook focus on growing Even Snapchat has seen marketer sit up and take notice of the marketing opportunities Snapchat offers.

What to Do in 2015?

Social has become the top media platform for small and medium businesses when it comes to usage and spending, according to a new research with 74.5% of small and medium businesses - defined as those with fewer than 100 employees - now using social media to advertise or promote their businesses.  Small businesses also spend an average of 21.4% of their total media budgets on social, more than on any other media platform, according to the survey.

Facebook:  For small businesses, Facebook represents an unparalleled opportunity to increase their reach. With unsurpassed audience reach and strong targeting options, Facebook is a great choice for businesses hoping to increase foot traffic to stores, web traffic to their site, or maximize brand exposure. While the organic reach of Facebook traffic has fallen steadily, there are numerous opportunities for paid search advertisers to get their messages in front of Facebook’s vast audience. However, Facebook appreciates its position as the top dog in social media. As such, the expense of Facebook ads may be prohibitive to some businesses, and certain ad formats may not offer the kind of ROI to justify their cost.. Consider that Facebook advertising rates have increased 10% in 2014. Don't expect this trend to reverse anytime soon. 

Twitter: Though its user base may be relatively small in terms of global reach, Twitter has a strong dedicated fan base who use the service frequently.  Twitter ad performance at least mirrors that of traditional paid search ads, but leverages the power of mobile in a way that is not overly intrusive to users, which is a major plus. The service’s extensively customizable targeting functionality enables advertisers to tailor their messaging to highly specific demographics of their target market, and integration with televised broadcasts offers excellent brand awareness opportunities.  However, for small businesses, the costs of Twitter advertising may be prohibitive. The cost of a Promoted Trend, for example, recently surpassed $200,000 per day, putting this ad format out of reach for all but those with the deepest pockets.

LinkedIn: The two biggest advantages to advertising on LinkedIn is its growing worldwide audience and the breadth of options available for user targeting.  However, LinkedIn ads suffer from two significant drawbacks. Firstly, the minimum CPC of a LinkedIn advertisement is $3.50, making advertising on the platform very expensive compared to other channels. Secondly, there are currently no remarketing options available, meaning that advertisers could be missing out on significant conversion opportunities.

Google+: Google’s remarketing options make Google+ ads a strong choice for advertisers who want to recapture missed conversion opportunities. The potential control offered by the Display Network’s Contextual and Placement targeting functionality also makes +Post ads a contender for businesses that know where and when they want their ads to appear. Finally, the highly interactive nature of +Post ads can significantly boost user engagement, thus improving ROI.   Of course, restrictions on who can create +Post ads is a major drawback, particularly for smaller businesses or those new to social advertising. The potential costs of ads with high impression volumes may also create problems for advertisers with limited budgets.

Instagram: Love it or hate it, Instagram is big business when it comes to social. Facebook’s acquisition of the image-sharing social network propelled Instagram into the big leagues, but it was popular with the cool kids long before Zuckerberg and his crew got their hands on it.  Instagram has a potential reach of approximately 200 million active users. However, the platform’s integration with Facebook means that advertisers hoping to leverage the power of Instagram may be able to reach significantly more potential customers.  The biggest drawback for small businesses hoping to advertise on Instagram is its sheer popularity. Instagram operates on a CPM advertising model, meaning that advertisers are charged per 1,000 impressions their ad receives. The problem is that due to the number of Instagram users, and the platform’s popularity with major brands, the costs involved are likely to be prohibitive for the average small business.

Pinterest: A relative newcomer to the social media advertising party, Pinterest could prove an interesting platform for advertisers in the future. Although Pinterest’s user base is much smaller than those of its peers (with just 70 million registered and 20 million monthly active users), many Pinterest fans are highly loyal to the platform. Major brands such as Etsy have experienced tremendous exposure thanks to Pinterest, meaning that for the right businesses, the platform could be worth looking at from an advertising perspective.  However, Pinterest has just one advertising format – Promoted Pins – and it’s too early to say how effective they are, as the advertising program is still in a closed beta testing phase. As such, no performance data has been made available.

Before choosing a social channel on which to advertise, consider your needs and budget carefully. How will you calculate the ROI of a social campaign compared to a traditional paid search campaign?  Social advertising has transformed the ways in which brands interact with their customers.  Just because big brands were early adopters of social advertising doesn’t mean that smaller businesses cannot benefit from leveraging the power of social media in their promotional efforts.

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