Social Media Marketing Strategy
Creativity Marketing Transformation

8 Reasons Your Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Underperforming (And How to Fix It)

10 Minute Read

Most marketers understand the potential power and reach a social media marketing strategy can offer a brand, but struggle to devise and execute their strategies effectively. Often, we find ourselves so distracted by all the available channels, social noise, and conflicting (often unsolicited) opinions of self-proclaimed “gurus” that we wind up paralyzed by choice, unable to tell what’s right for our brands.

Having been through a social media marketing transformation, I know how difficult the process can be. Here’s a quick guide to the top challenges brands face in rebuilding their social strategies, and what you can do to fix them.

1. Using the Wrong Social Channels

Sometimes, the hardest part of rebuilding a social strategy is recognizing that you’re putting effort into an ineffective channel. How do you know if you’re using the wrong channels? For me, it started as a nagging in my gut telling me that something was off. Once I picked up on that feeling, I started paying attention. I quickly realized my instinct was being proven correct day after day and week after week—I just had to look at the numbers.

What it all comes down to is ROI for your efforts. It’s okay if you can’t yet measure actual ROI (meaning, you can’t determine the revenue received directly from your social efforts) as long as you’re measuring something. If after adjusting your strategy and putting in the required effort, time, and money into a social channel, it’s still not driving the engagement or traffic it should, there’s a good chance it’s the wrong channel—and it’s time to meet your audience where they’ll really respond.

It’s okay to experiment with social media marketing, as long as you’re measuring your results. If your numbers say a channel is ineffective, it’s time to move your resources somewhere better.

2. Using Social Channels in the Wrong Ways

This challenge is where expertise and experience come into play. Trying new tactics and working to define your brand’s voice on social media is an important part of the learning process. You can look for guidance from others who have been there, but the fact is, no two brands are the same. From your mission and goals to where your audience is located, there are seemingly endless factors that can determine the best channels to use, and how to use them. In a recent article entitled “Global social media research summary 2016,” SmartInsights proved just that.

by country

As your social strategy progresses, you’ll start to figure out what works and what doesn’t. When you’re paying attention, you’ll see what resonates with your customers and what tends to fall flat. You’ll even come up with new ideas that no one has tried—some of them will work and some won’t. That’s cool. Failure is necessary in social media marketing. Just don’t repeat your mistakes.

Each social channel has a slightly different focus, which is why there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. So when you’re working to figure out which channels can help your brand the most, you’ll want to start by considering what each one does.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the top social platforms:

  • Facebook: For this flagship social media platform, it’s all about the algorithm. Facebook is a pay-to-play platform that requires ad spend for any significant amount of reach. Multiple types of content can work well on Facebook, from photos and videos to long-form articles, “buy now” purchasing integrations, and other direct calls to action.
  • Twitter: This microblogging platform has seen niche success for certain brands. Promoted content is possible, but its efficacy is still yet to be determined. Visual content tends to work best on this Twitter, where messages race by followers.
  • Google+: Google+ has struggled a bit to find its place in the social marketing world. While it does have some devoted followers, few brands consider it their platform of choice for social marketing. Google+ tends to perform well for those in the tech and marketing spaces because of the early perception that success on this platform could translate into an organic search boost as well. That hasn’t been proven to be the case on Google+ any more than on other social networks.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, has long been known as the place for professional online networking. Most professionals have some presence on the platform—myself included. As for its function as a marketing channel, the audience seems best suited to a B2B function. Any overly consumer-oriented content seems to fall on deaf ears or be outright shunned as belonging on one of those other networks.
  • Instagram: Owned by Facebook, Instagram still remains a mostly autonomous visual platform focused on sharing images and short video clips. Brands that can tell a strong story through visuals have traditionally thrived on this platform. Instagram recently introduced Stories—the platform’s answer to rivals such as Snapchat that allow users to push out content to followers in a linear visual format. As with Snapchat, Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest is the preeminent visual sharing platform, and has especially taken off—especially for female audiences. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest allows you to easily categorize your posts, and even repost content shared originally by others.
  • Snapchat: A relative newcomer to the social media scene, Snapchat has captivated a younger demographic by allowing users to connect and share brief moments of their lives with a wide audience of followers. Content shared to Snapchat expires after 24 hours. For brands, Snapchat’s power lies in geotargeted activations, where brand messages can be included in users’ Stories depending upon where they are when they create them. This is especially helpful for marketing around events or with a specific geographic range.
  • YouTube: The old guard of video content platforms, YouTube still boasts that it is the second-busiest search engine, beaten only by Google itself (which owns YouTube). More video content is produced and consumed on YouTube per day than any other platform. What YouTube has struggled with, and is trying to correct, is easy of content discovery and setting itself apart from the myriad of other visual platforms available.

3. Spreading a Social Media Marketing Strategy Too Thin

Social Media Apps

There are hundreds of social channels, tools, and networking platforms available to brands today. Search Google Play or the Apple Store for “Social Media Apps” and you’ll find a list that will make your thumbs bleed before you get to the end of it. The options are overwhelming—and the number of them that will only serve to drain your resources is too high to count. And because each app plays its own unique role in a social media strategy, it’s easy for brands to see all those choices and commit to a presence on too many of them.

If you’re among the largest global brands, and you have dedicated teams creating content and messaging around the clock, you may be able to participate in many dozens of channels effectively. But small brands (and even medium to large brands with limited teams and resources) have to be smart in deciding which platforms they’ll choose.

Before spreading your brand too thin, start your strategy with these three important questions:

  1. Where is my audience? Identify your audience’s location based on demographic, geographic location, or other relevant factors.
  2. What type of content can we produce? Too many brands fail to produce content at the scale and for the length of time required to prove its efficacy. Be realistic about what types of content you can produce and commit to for a duration that would allow you to determine if your efforts are worth your time.
  3. How frequently can we realistically create that content? Content frequency is a key factor to success on most social channels as well. Posting and interacting only once per week just won’t cut it. You’ll have to commit to a strong presence on all of your chosen channels.

4. Taking the “Social” out of Social Media Marketing

Even the most experienced senior leaders seem to focus on social as a “push” channel for marketing purposes. They want to know what type of messaging will go viral, and they’re solely focused on push messaging. That can be a huge mistake, as more and more consumers view social media as a way to interact directly with a brand, rather than a way for brands to reach (or talk at) them.

No matter what your chosen social channels are, interaction with your users and followers should be part of your strategy. Engage with them: comment on their feedback to you (both positive and negative), Like the content they share that relates to you, interact with them on a regular basis, and be social. Don’t just use social media as yet another way to let customers hear you. Make sure you hear them, too.

5. Regurgitating the Same Content Across All Platforms

Creating content at scale is a huge challenge. Sure, you can reuse certain messaging and content across platforms, but you have to be really smart about it. There are two key ways to be smart about adapting your content to your social platform:

  1. Follow known best practices for content creation on the platform of choice. For example, if you’re sharing a post and photo to Instagram and Twitter, be sure to create two versions of the image. You want to create two distinct versions because the way those images display on each platform is substantively different. Not only that, but if your audience is following you on both channels, you won’t want them to feel bombarded by the same content and messaging everywhere they look. They’ll want to see something more. Remember: if content didn’t catch your audience’s eyes on the first platform, you still have a chance with the second. Make it count.
  2. Take different angles with your content depending upon the platform. Let’s say you’re promoting a local event. The content you share to Facebook may have a good amount of information related to the specifics—when, where, why, how much, etc. The content that you share on a platform like Snapchat may have a different focus. Perhaps you show a “behind the scenes” sneak peek or something similar. You can promote the event on both channels, but in much different ways.

6. Failing to Treat Social Media like a Content Publishing Project

You’re actively publishing on social media, and that’s a great first step. But are you treating it like a dedicated content publishing platform, or are you just winging it?

The fact is that social media is the new “ground game” for marketers, and winning at it takes patience, time, and investment. You have to be in it for the long haul—because the purpose of a social media strategy is not just to build audience, but to engage and eventually convert that audience into happy and loyal customers.

7. Waiting to Invest in a Social Listening Tool

Billions upon billions of messages are posted on social channels every single day. Most of those messages have absolutely nothing to do with your brand, but there are a handful of them that you should be listening to and even acting upon.

How do you filter out the noise around your brand and allow your marketing teams to focus on what matters most? One of the best ways is by deploying a social listening tool. Social listening tools can be programmed to scour the web for content and sentiment trends that you need to know about.

Here’s a list of 46 social listening tools to get you started. The bottom line is to pick a tool and try it out. Anything is better than nothing when it comes to social listening!

8. Sharing Only Your Own Content on Social Media

When you’re at a dinner party or networking event, do you talk about yourself nonstop, or do you compliment your friends, ask them about their lives, congratulate them on their achievements, and say positive things about them to others?

Probably the latter, right? The same goes for social media. One of the best things you can do in your social strategy is to find and partner with complementary brands and share, like, and comment on their content.

This is a really popular and natural practice in the healthcare field, and one that other industries could possibly learn from. For example, I work for a healthcare organization that includes the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, FL. There’s almost a kinship among childrens’ hospitals because of our common goal of healing children—which is a pretty powerful thing to witness. To that end, on our social channels, we share heartfelt stories, milestones, and other wins (and losses) from around the country. It’s difficult to deny the energy that can be generated when organizations work together toward common goals online—our example alone is proof of that.

What challenges have you faced with your social media strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Daniel has been a software development and digital professional since 1998. He currently serves in a digital marketing leadership role with the 2nd largest healthcare system in the state of Florida. In addition, Daniel is a current member of the Samsung ImageLogger program, a published author and supplements his written work with beautiful, unique and tailored visual content.

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