One of the trends likely to dominate social media marketing in 2014 is advertising.
Facebook said that advertising would ensure posts are more visible in News Feed. Twitter continues to push advertising options and newer networks like Instagram are testing advertising models.
The latest social network to try advertising is Google+, which is beta testing an ad format. Called +Post, it works in a manner similar to Facebook and Twitter promoted posts with one exception: instead of showing up in users’ news feeds, ads will appear on the Google Display Network.
Google touts +Post as a way to “amplify a brand’s content that turns Google+ posts into display ads that run across the web. People can join a Hangout On Air, add a comment, follow your brand or give a +1, right from an ad.”
Currently, Google is testing the ad format with larger brands such as Toyota and Cadbury UK. But if the company follows the same path as other social networks, a version of +Post that is better suited to small businesses budgets will likely become available.
What This Means for Merchants
The big story is that, in 2014, effective social media engagement is no longer free. To guarantee visibility and reach, you’re going to have to pay to play.
There are steps to maximize the value of your social media investment other than advertising, such as posting frequent updates and linking social networks to your ecommerce site, but that will only get you so far.
If your best organic efforts are not enough to draw sufficient attention to your brand and products, here are some tips that may help minimize costs and increase the effectiveness of your ads.
- Post helpful content. Where Facebook is concerned, ads that get the most engagement are those that appear in News Feed. That usually means a promoted post. With that in mind, focus on creating the best content possible in the form of special offers, contests, how-to tips, product-related photos and videos, customer testimonials, and downloadable content such as guides and ebooks. Consider the following:
• Test a variety of content types to see what works best, then create more of the same.
• Monitor the day and time when content you publish gets the most attention and then tune your posting schedule to those times.
- Use eye-catching images. Social network users quickly scan news feeds and timelines to find the most relevant content. Posts that contain images are likely to attract their attention, so use high quality, eye-catching imagery.
Create three or four versions of the same ad using different images, then see which gets the most response.
- Target ads to reach different audience segments. Many social networks provide the ability to segment ads based on demographic and other criteria. This is especially true with Facebook.
Target ads that reach specific audience segments down to the smallest increments possible. The goal is not to reach the most people with an ad but to reach the most relevant.
- Know which social networks your customers use. Many, if not most, of your customers will be on Facebook. Beyond that, it’s helpful to know what other networks they use.
For example, 80 percent of Pinterest’s users are women, mostly between the ages of 25 and 44. Younger people are trending away from Facebook toward the use of mobile networks like Instagram and Snapchat. Merchants who sell to other businesses should consider LinkedIn and Google+.
By knowing where your customers maintain a presence, you can promote products using the most appropriate site. Listening to social channels using applications like Trackur, Mention, ContentGems, SocialMention, or Talkwalker is one way to learn where your customers and prospects reside.
Input keywords using your brand name, product name and product category, and set the application to notify you when they appear in social network conversations.