Brands are online and engaged on social media, but simply creating more content does not necessarily create more sales.
Justin Emig, director of search marketing for digital marketing agency Web Talent Marketing, explained that brands can find more value by utilizing the information social media users are providing to the platform to create highly targeted ads. Emig spoke on April 4, 2017, as part of Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri.
Emig, who said his expertise covers the intersection of traditional retail and online commerce, said brands are making an investment in social media and online marketing — and they are growing their investments in social media in particular — but they are not getting a strong return on their investment.
Justin Emig, director of search marketing for digital marketing agency Web Talent Marketing, speaks at Petfood Forum 2017. Photo by Austin Alonzo.
In the United States, social commerce — or a customer making a purchase directly from a social platform — is not strong. Only 2 percent of purchasing is done via social commerce, Emig said. However, social media networks are making a strong push to grow social commerce. In Asia, where customers are already used to making mobile payments and one-click purchases, social commerce is already big. In 2015, Chinese consumers made $672 billion worth of social purchases.
While US consumers aren’t making many purchases through social media, they are using the platforms to research potential purchases. He said 63 percent of social media users say they expect to discover products through the services. On Pinterest, 93 percent of users are actively planning purchases through the use of the platform.
Therefore, he said, brands need to make social media advertising part of their advertising strategy. One of the best ways to reach potential customers is through Facebook, which offers advertisers access to a huge trove of data that can be used to hyper-target potential customers. Facebook’s advertising platform — Ads Manager — ask advertisers about their objective, whether it be more brand awareness, website traffic, store visits or lead generation and provides tools to meet those goals.
Targeted social media advertising
Facebook, thanks to the submissions of its more than 1.23 billion daily users, can match advertisers with customers whose interests are closely aligned with the product. This gives advertisers the ability to target people living in specific locations, of a specific age range, gender and native language as well as target people based on their interests. Facebook can also select people who likely exhibit specific behaviors like dog ownership or online shopping and use people’s interests to target ads.
For instance, in the pet food industry, advertisers can ask for their ads to show up on the newsfeeds of those with behavior clues that show they are dog owners, purchase pet food products and shop online and with interests such as being a self-identified animal lover.
Furthermore, Facebook can identify and track which users interacted with the advertisements and then develop a “lookalike audience” of people who have properties similar to those users. Emig showed several real-life examples of how the campaigns can drive interest and sales in pet-specific products for a relatively low price of less than $2 per ad click. He said competing social media platforms like Pinterest and Twitter also offer targeted advertising services.
Brands should also consider using video in targeted social media advertisements. Emig said the videos do not need to be expensive, broadcast-quality material, and with the right targeting they can be far more effective and less expensive than comparable TV ad buys. Brands can also try social remarketing — a practice where recently viewed products from online retailers appear as advertisements on social media feeds. This strategy works particularly well on Pinterest, where users are already looking to buy something.
Why social media is challenging for brands
The social media platforms are challenging, Emig explained, because the brand’s space on the platform — the page, account, etc. — is not owned by the brand but rather rented from the social media platform. Therefore, the platform, not the brand, makes the rules. While using the service is free, the platforms can — and do — change how information is sorted and displayed for the users. To counter constant changes in how social platforms sort and display posts for individual users, brands are simply posting more content. This is not working.
Rather than amplifying and reproducing their message, Emig said marketers need to use social media more for observing and analyzing potential customers. Marketers need to remember why people use social media. He said rather than treating it like a search engine where customers are looking for specific information, social media must be treated as a passive, lean-back experience, based upon self-serving tendencies. Potential customers don’t get on Facebook or Instagram with an intent to shop. Social media is also different than search engines because people will spend hours on social media platforms, and they will more often do it from a mobile device than a desktop computer.
To succeed on social media, brands should focus on high-quality posts and advertisements, Emig said. Those high-quality posts connect with the audience by sharing content that is relatable to customers, inspires customers to action or generates an emotional response.