Why marketers should cut social media budgets

All too often, brands invest millions of dollars into social media for the wrong reasons. Paid advertising is a more effective way to acquire new customers than investing time and money into a social media presence.

The key to marketing success is to reach as many category buyers as possible. Your users need to be aware of your brand.

It’s a relatively simple concept. If someone thinks of your brand at the point of purchase, it increases the likelihood of a sale. So why do brands still invest so much into their social media presence?

According to The Journal of Advertising Research, social media attracts people who are familiar with, or heavy buyers of a brand. Think about it – you probably wouldn’t like a brand on Facebook unless you’ve already made a purchase with them or you’re already aware of their presence. If you’re going to acquire new customers, it’s important to reach out to new users and make sure they’re aware of your brand. Invest in higher reaching channels rather than focusing on your existing social media followers.

The proof is already out there. Brands will often back away from traditional high reaching mediums (such as television) to invest in social media, only to see a decline in sales. The Pepsi Refresh Project is a perfect example. Pepsi reduced its television investment to finance its social spend. While the project was live, Pepsi saw a consistent decline in market share, resulting in a loss of over $4o0 million.

Although this doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t exist on social media. Social media can be a great tool for customer service, it can boost SEO and act as a content hub for thought leadership initiatives. Paid social advertising is a great way to reach users outside of your current social media following and drive customer acquisition.

The Five Faces of Social Media

Very often, I will be in a discussion with a client where they espouse the virtues of social media. They’ll suggest that social media is simply about people “liking” their brand.

I tend to bristle at the idea that social media has a single face – a single purpose. Especially when that purpose is as a relatively unproductive subscription-based profile better know as a Facebook Page, Snapchat ID or an Instagram profile.

The best way to look at social media is via the “best fit” purposes by which we might use various social media channels, of which there are five.

1. Social Media as a Subscription / Customer Service Channel

Liking / following these channels allows existing consumers to be kept up to date with the activities of a brand (although only a small percentage of people ever see the updates of said brand). This is where social channels attract the most attention – having “likes” and “follows”.

The ability for people to “like” a profile has taken on an almost supernatural power amongst novice marketers, as if the act of liking somehow guarantees reach, brand recognition and even uplift in “brand love”.
Sadly, the opposite is true.

The heaviest consumers of a brand – the people who are already buying the brand as much as they possibly can be – are the ones who are most likely the followers of your branded profile. It’s the people who are rusted on who are the ones liking, not the people who are the most important: your next, newest consumer.

Interestingly, only some of these channels – namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat – tend to attract the vanity metric seeking marketers. Ask most marketers how many people subscribe to their YouTube Channel, or how many emails they have collected in their database, and the answer is often far less clearcut, an indication of how arbitrary most of these figures are.

Therefore, the way in which these channels should be used as is later in the path to purchase – as a means of upselling, reminding or as a customer service tool.

In summary: Use your Facebook / Twitter feeds as a customer service / upsell tool, not a reach builder. “Likes” are of almost no value if you want to attract new customers.

2. Social media as a content channel

Probably the best, most common use of social media is as a low cost, high quality content distribution channel.

For many years, marketers and their colleagues in the IT department argued in favour of hosting their own websites, their own video streaming services and their own empires of wires.

However, social media channels such as YouTube proved that the best tools are free or nearly free. Using social media channels as a content distribution service is by far the best way to ensure your content is seen in the highest quality, on the right device, in the right format. Internal, bespoke content systems are generally vastly inferior, as they are almost constantly out of date, of poor quality and hideously expensive. Further, most of them are not search optimised as well as social networks, so your content doesn’t have the same opportunity of being discovered by consumers.

In summary: Use social media channels such as YouTube / Vimeo / Tumblr / others as world’s best practice content hosting /distribution services.

3. Social Media as an Advertising Platform

Social media is largely monetised via advertising, and in the era of increasing ad-blockers, social media is an extremely powerful way of advertising to consumers.

Reach is more important than frequency. It’s like a leaky bucket: every brand leaks consumers, brands that grow are characterised simply by their ability to acquire quicker than they leak. Marketing is quite straight forward: keep filling the bucket quicker than it empties.

Social media advertising is one of the best and cheapest ways of working towards this – with a variety of optimised ad formats, highly targeted advertising (on the likes of Facebook and Google platforms), and rich media options such as videos and HTML5.

The only reason why social media channels aren’t totally overwhelmed with advertising dollars is that most media agencies can’t earn equivalent rebates / revenues from booking ads on many social media sites, so they prefer other media. This isn’t good for clients.

In summary: Use social media channels as a strong part of your media buying mix. Mark Zuckerberg and the like will love me promoting this perspective: Social media’s best use is as a reach tool – and advertising platform.

4. Social media as an analytics platform

Social media channels allow you a good level of analytics on a per post or per profile level. While not generally as good as web-concentrated services such as Google Analytics, many social networks as such Facebook and YouTube provide an excellent level of analytics, delving deeply into content analytics, per-post analytics and profile / page analytics. You can see what has worked and what hasn’t.

YouTube in particular has extremely powerful video analytics services, allowing realtime video tracking, drop-offs, and various other ways to understand and optimise content.

In summary: Use social media as a content-based analytics platform to examine how popular / engaging your content is.

5. Social media as a consumer data source

One of the strongest and most enduring assets that Facebook has is the quality of user data. It’s very difficult to “lie” to Facebook about our activities, in the same way it’s very easy to “lie” to most other online services, for example when we sign up to a new service and claim to live in “Afghanistan” because we couldn’t be bothered scrolling past the first country to appear in the pop-up menu.

Given that most people upload their real names, their date of birth and many other true pieces of data (let alone the copious amounts that Facebook collects about us via ambient means), the ability to harvest and analyse this data is a particularly powerful marketing tool.

Whether by uploading email / phone / contact details and generating a “Lookalike” market for further communication, or by advertising to an incredibly tiny and specific market of people, or by simply analysing social sign-on data for trends and insights about our consumers, social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin, are a wonderful and deep source of data about our consumers.

How Facebook Reactions will change social media

Facebook has confirmed it’s now testing a new Reactions feature in Ireland and Spain which may be soon rolled out worldwide. Essentially the Reactions feature is similar to the traditional ‘Like’ button but it provides users with a spectrum of emotional responses. The new addition will allow users to Like, Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad or Angry a post.

Users will be able to click one of the Reactions located in the same position as the current ‘Like’ button. The Reactions are symbolised by an emoticon which reflects a particular mood. This change allows users to express themselves beyond just ‘liking’ something.

One of the biggest problems with social media is the limit of expression and the absence of nuance. On Facebook in particular, there has been a tendency to react in bipolar extremes, either liking something, or trash canning and abusing it. Twitter is similar in that you only have a 140 character word limit to communicate, making it difficult to express rational thought – only an extreme of emotion or outrage. For example, if someone announces the death of a family member on Facebook it seems odd and actually quite disrespectful to ‘like’ it, however, with Facebook Reactions you will be able to express sadness through the sad option which would be an acceptable response.
This new spectrum of emotional responses on Facebook could have multiple implications. What could this mean for the future of social media?

Like inflation
We may see “likes” fade as we all migrate to “Love”. This may lead to a furthering of extremes of expression online.

Social sharing Button inflation
If Facebook introduces 6 new engagement metrics this will take up a lot of space on third party websites – physically going from “Like this” to a wide variety of buttons on any given web page. Imagine what will happen if everyone else does this – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks all deciding to move from simple, single buttons, to thirty to forty variations of reaction to a post.

Big data and attribution marketing
Will the intersection between location, mood, natural language programming and “Reactions” give us the most advanced view of mood, attitude and mental health ever assembled? This may have a broader effect on our understanding of nuance of human emotion, and the science of why we buy, what we are aroused by, and what impresses us.

Increased engagement
People will be able to react to posts beyond just liking them. This opens up far higher engagement on individual posts. More options for engagement will most likely increase user engagement which may increase Facebook’s ability to charge money for advertising – as engagement rates rise.

Sentiment analysis
We will be better able to analyse which content causes which emotional response by analysing the Reactions.

Emotion overload
Are these emotions just the beginning? Will Facebook bring in the whole spectrum of human emotions?

Emotional targeting
Will the new addition spark a new way of targeting? Will Facebook allow advertisers to target users based on their current mood? If one person has an angry reaction to various posts will advertisers be able to target them specifically? ‘Angry, stressed? Take a holiday. Airfares on sale NOW”.

Proving people DON’T love brands
This will most likely prove that people don’t actually ‘Love’ brands. We may blame the thought that people don’t “Love” advertising, but it’s not the advertising they don’t love, it brands. Most of the time, people barely like brands, let alone love them. This will undoubtedly lead to a backlash by less intelligent marketers that in order to raise “Love” metrics, we should reduce the amount of branding on our advertisements. The opposite is true – we should never assume people love our brands, only assume people have no interest or have forgotten our brands – and in doing so, assume every piece of communication is the first piece of communication people will ever see. Don’t worry about “Love”.

From search to social to emotional discovery of brands
Will it impact on Facebook’s algorithm? Will Facebook show users more Loved content vs Liked content? In the past, we discovered information via search. Increasingly, we discover information via social referral. Now, we discover via attribution marketing fed with big data. So, emotional discovery may become a key driver of information discovery – people who are permanently grumpy may receive more bad news. People who are permanently outraged will receive hand-wringing news of global injustice on a consistent basis. People who are happy may continue to be served fantastic memes.

YouTube already has a dislike option and it doesn’t impact on anything at all. People don’t pay it much attention. Will this be any different?
Either way this new addition will provide users with a better way to express their emotions. As one PENSO team member expressed: “I love them, I’ll use them all the time”.

Read my article in Mumbrella here.

2015 Super Bowl ad review: PART 2

As I wrote two weeks ago, unbranded ads are a waste of time and money. TSN just released the results from its analysis of the 2015 Super Bowl ad campaigns, which highlighted that the unbranded ads added no value to the brand.

The research found that Budweiser’s ‘Lost Puppy’ ad had a 26% share of ad mentions online, however, “it achieved a poor score on personal relevance, thus failing to translate into memory – and ultimately value – for the brand”. 

The article mentions that the product only features at the end of the ad and is barely noticeable.

Budweiser wasted their media budget and missed out on an opportunity to build brand salience.

Budweiser should have:

  1. Introduced the brand as soon as possible
  2. Included the brand as often as possible
  3. Ensured the brand was big enough and clear enough for viewers to see
  4. Used a branded hashtag

Facebook’s new call-to-action button

Facebook has just released a new call-to-action button for company pages.

The call to action button sits on the right hand side of a page’s cover photo and will take users directly to your app or website.


The button can read either Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up or Watch Video. This means it will be beneficial to all types of businesses, for example a retailer could have a Shop Now button, a bank could have a Use App button, and a hotel could have a Book Now button.


You can also choose a different destination for iOS and Android devices. For example a travel agency that only has an iOS App now has the ability to send iOS users to the App store and Android users to their website.


This is a great example of how Facebook is becoming a hub that links together your whole online presence.

Twit-hype – Half of Twitter have never Tweeted!

This from Marketing Charts: Half of Twitter Has Never Tweeted.

So… 60% of people on Twitter abandon it after the first month.

And now we find that half of the people on Twitter have never tweeted. Furthermore,

80% of users failed to provide a homepage URL
76% have not entered a bio in their profile (vs. 20% last year)
69% have not specified a location

And we know that Twitter is for old people – people under 24 are not on Twitter.

We have seen media events broken via Twitter – or is it that the media focussed on Twitter as an additional story hook? Is it that Twitter’s limited 140 character capacity is forcing participants to provide brief and rapid updates – rather than longer, less frequent updates? Which is better?

So – what’s the future of Twitter? Is it a tool for media people to keep in touch with each other? Is it for self-promoters? Or will it evolve to become something largely useful, rather than just a handful of interesting things between tweets about outrage / quality sandwiches / coffees / weather?

Google Squared – Definitely Not for Nerds

Google has released a fantastic new search option called Google Squared – it structures unstructured data, puts it in a table, and makes compiling lists and information MUCH easier.

This a great evolution of search engines, making it simple to find relevant info at a glance. Instead of search engines providing a list links where the content might eventually be – they will evolve into a place where they curate and collect multiple reliable structured data sources and give us the ANSWER. We may well look back on the pages and pages of unstructured lists that make up search engines today and think – “how uncivilised”. Google Squared acts to structure this content, and provide some commonalities between the types of content.

How it is prioritiseed will be an interesting question – will Google prioritise based on typical search engine optimisation rankings of popularity of quality data, or will it now begin to prioritise based on the spread of quality data – for example a coffee shop that lists not only the description, address, business hours and cuisine – but also payment methods, disabled access, coffee bean menu, and other, more imaginative things like whether it has a YouTube identity by which it provides video barista classes? Alternatively, will Google provide sorting options – based on user criteria?

Whatever the case, it’s a stronger incentive for organisations of all types to ensure they build a quality, structured, informative presence across all content platforms.

SmartCompany: Me on Twitter’s churn and burn

I’m is quoted in this Patrick Stafford piece in SmartCompany. It’s about Twitter’s appalling churn rate of over 60%.

Some of the reasons why Twitter’s retention rate is so bad:

  1. It’s limited – 140 characters. No video / audio / rich media / expression / detail / depth – yes you can link to those things, but that’s it.
  2. It’s neither a mass broadcast mechanism nor is it targetted. Fine if you want to get a message out to a number of followers in a single moment, but terrible if you are using it for reach or for a more personal or limited conversation.
  3. It’s very easy to set up, so there’s little in terms of “purchase investment”. You register, follow a few people and if you walk away / forget, it’s not like you’ve spent hours of your time – there’s little to “lose” by abandoning it.
  4. It’s a media phenomenon. The media are going nuts over it, when the punters are far less interested. It’s like Second Life – not a day would go by when the media wouldn’t write about Second Life – it drove a spike in interest, but didn’t drive long term usage.
  5. As written in a previous post, Twitter is for old people. Young people couldn’t care less and aren’t using it in any substantial numbers. Older people either don’t have the time, or the interest, so they join up, look around and leave after a while – they don’t keep the ball rolling.
  6. It’s not customisable. I might enjoy some tweets of some people (person focussed), or some tweets by all people (topic focussed), but definitely not all tweets by all people. It needs to be customisable. Right now, whether I like it or not, I have to read the tweets of all of the people I follow on Twitter. You could argue that there are multiple plugins and applications that allow for customisation of Twitter, but the basic beginner user isn’t interested enough (or capable enough) to then look for filters and plugins. So they get bored / frustrated and stop using it.

Read the full article here: Research casts doubt over whether Twitter fad will last – Business news, business advice and information for Australian SMEs | SmartCompany.