As an advocate for the power of original brand storytelling
, I’m often skeptical about the need for paid amplification of these stories. With more than 100 billion global searches in a month and staggering numbers of active monthly users on social platforms, stories told well should be enough to build and connect with audiences virally. As the head of marketing of a young, high-growth company, I often struggle with the questions of where, when, and why we should loosen or tighten our purse strings. There needs to be a good business case for where we dedicate our budget.
Look Before You Leap
It’s plain to see that many of you in similar positions are choosing to spend on social advertising. BI Intelligence reports total US social media ad spend will top $8.5 billion this year and reach nearly $14 billion in 2018, up from just $6.1 billion in 2013. Marketers are, without question, spending on social advertising. But as my mother used to say, just because someone tells you to jump off a cliff, doesn’t mean you should.
Like all good daughters, I took my mother’s advice and did my homework before taking the paid social amplification plunge. As it turns out, original storytelling and paid amplification make great bedfellows at the right time and place. The goal of many marketers is to build an owned audience—and fast, namely before their competitors can capture the hearts and minds of the same people they’re trying to reach. When it comes to marketing, time is of the essence. So, when you have great stories that are resonating virally, why not make sure you can get them in front of more of the right people?
Take the Plunge
At Skyword, we’ve discovered that putting paid dollars behind written content can double or triple traffic to our site. However, this doesn’t mean a budget can simply be thrown at paid amplification without a strategy. We’ve found our most successful paid amplification efforts are incorporated into our overall editorial strategy and supported by data indicating what will resonate with whom.
Here are five questions that should be answered prior to making paid social amplification part of your brand publishing strategy:
- Who are you trying to reach? Understand who you are targeting with your dollars. What are their interests? What social channels are they using, and why would they be interested at this particular time and place?
- Is this a story they would care about? Personally, I hate ads on my Facebook timeline—they actually anger me. To me, Facebook is all about my friends and personal relationships. I’m not there to look for the latest eBook on content marketing, and I honestly feel like it’s a breach of my privacy when I get one. On the other hand, if I come across a story that moves me emotionally and connects with me on a personal level, I’ll share it, like it, and comment on it. Now, if you were to show me that same ad on LinkedIn, I’d be OK with it.
- Are you sure you can reach the right people? Any paid social program worth its salt should be able to perform some measure of sophisticated targeting. The beauty of social is that the platforms collect all sorts of behavioral and interest-level data, in addition to demographic data. Combine this data with what you know about your audience and you should have a clear target.
- Is your story mobile-ready? With over 70 percent of users accessing social media from their mobile devices, more social advertising spend is going to mobile every year. This makes it more important than ever to share something that translates well on mobile: Is your story snackable enough for a mobile device, and if you’re linking back to your owned property, is that property mobile responsive?
- Can you measure the results? If I’m pouring money into amplifying my stories, I want to know if this strategy is working. Am I building our audience? Which channels are working? What stories are reaching and engaging the right people? Most importantly, what are we doing to create relationships with these people once we’ve been able to connect? All this data should be gathered and reported on regularly. Otherwise, those purse strings are going to get a little bit tighter come the next round of budgeting.
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