The Return of Good Old Fashioned Advertising (On Modern Channels)

Okay, not that old fashioned.

I’m sometimes criticised for stirring the pot without providing an answer. Like my last tirade against brand immaturity on social media. If you didn’t disagree with that post but were wondering what to do – here’s how I’ve been strategically thinking about brands on social.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I think their customer service sucks, they lie to brands, they pulled a rug from under us and Mark Zuckerburg is Lex Luthor. But Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Despite its flaws, its cannot be dismissed.

Most brands know this, and have jumped in head first. But they suck.

Since I started freelancing the most common conversation I have with clients is telling them they’re social media strategy is bad. They’re wasting time, effort and money. Often because of an approach sold to them by parties with vested interests or a limited understanding of how advertising works.

Here are some red flags you might raise with your current agency/snake-oil-social-media-expert:

  • You measure success (or worse, invest) based on page growth/likes/followers
  • You measure success on engagement
  • Your strategy is built on ‘organic reach’
  • Content is promoted indiscriminately
  • You spend more on content creation than content distribution
  • You’re creating more than one piece of content a week
  • Your content consists of stock imagery or is sourced
  • You don’t know what a Relevance Score is

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat – they are all media channels. And we must treat them as such.

This means a return to good old fashion advertising. But using the new opportunities these modern channels bring.

The notion of building communities or interaction is a myth. And largely it exists on unproven hypotheses, and a good dollar margin on content production. Content creation can be very profitable, and therefore is an attractive recommendation for vendors. What they won’t tell you is to be most effective you should be investing 80% of your budget into media. Because here the margins are a minimal (and continue in their race to the bottom). It’s also a skillset that doesn’t sit with a traditional creative agency.

The truth is, there is no content beast that needs feeding. The most important word in social media is not “social” but “media”. Do not invest in high volumes of content, instead focus on reaching potential buyers.

Of course, making good content is still important. Facebook rewards brands that do (if you haven’t already, research Relevance Score and its role in increasing your reach).

Brands should be doing fewer things better. Create only a few killer content pieces and nothing more. You know where the rest of the budget should go. I’m going to take a guess and say you’re not at risk of over saturating your audience. If you’re feeling bold, make one great piece a content a quarter – setup the media to reach many with a low frequency.

There’s no need to post daily, or even weekly. This means content calendars are largely redundant.

Instead think about programs. One of the key technology benefits in digital is the ability to target people through a marketing funnel towards conversion. Use your marketing plan to build relevant messages for each audience at each stage. Definitely do not worry about International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Another benefit of digital is our ability to measure. Forget about vanity metrics, instead build actually useful plans to measure brand and ad metric uplifts based on exposed versus unexposed audiences. Or use third party shopping data to understand actual buying behaviour.

This is how brands should be building social media strategies in 2018.

In many ways, it’s a return to the basics. Create ads that build saliency and distinctiveness. Then spending money distributing them to refresh memory structures.

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