A reader wrote to me recently: “I was curious if you had any posts on social media marketing or the way to get by without hiring a fancy and expensive agency.”
My first thought was: “No, of course not. Look who you’re talking to!” My social media accounts are dead-boring barrages of titles and links, with the occasional retweet when someone says something nice about my company or one of my articles.
Then two things occurred to me:
This is by design.
I just described 90 percent of marketing on social media.
Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the other 10 percent is just memes and skinfluencers. But then, I don’t pay much attention to social media overall.
Again, this is by design. I could blame my age, but to be perfectly honest, I was doing social media before it was called social media. One of my startups was YouTube before YouTube, and another was Facebook before Facebook but with more and better words in the posts. I predicted social media would turn into a swamp, and then I watched it happen without taking a victory lap because I understood why. I still appreciate good social media marketing. It’s just that there’s so little of it.
Social Media Branding vs. Social Media Marketing
Social media should be a good thing, but I think we’re beyond that. And by now, I’m tired of arguing about it or bemoaning what could have been. I no longer use any social media for personal or entertainment purposes.
But personal and entertainment is what social branding is about.
When Chick-Fil-A uses a Spiderman meme to take a dig at Burger King , and someone chuckles at it as they scroll past the other memes their friends posted or some distant family member’s unsolicited political rants, that’s social media branding. It’s like remarketing for short attention spans in the digital world.
But that shouldn’t be confused with social media marketing. And it usually is.
The Difference Between Branding and Marketing on Social Media
- Social media branding is a viral whisper.
- Social media marketing is a balanced, bonafide strategy.
If you search for information on social media branding versus social media marketing, you’re not going to get a lot of answers. And if you just search for social media branding, you’ll see the term is often interchanged with social media marketing. You’ll also get a lot of ads for agencies and packages with guarantees and pricing up front.
This is because most people confuse memes and influencers with social media marketing.
Social Media Should Be Part of a Balanced Marketing Strategy
Social media marketing is the reason I still have a score of accounts on the major platforms. Those accounts have a purpose, but it’s not for branding. It might be someday. The bigger startup I work for boosts its branding through several social channels, but that’s a late-stage growth startup with a marketing team that isn’t “fancy,” but is indeed sharp.
That said, the social media branding they do is only part of a larger marketing strategy.
So if you’re going to hire anyone, be it a single marketing consultant or an entire fancy agency, that’s what you need to be buying: a strategy — not a meme generator or a viral whisperer. But honestly, this is something you can probably do yourself or with the resources you have on hand, as long as you have the time.
And if you don’t have the time, make the time. Because marketing isn’t something you just hand off.
Marketing Should Add Weight to Everyone in the Customer Funnel
All marketing, even branding, has one goal: Get everyone it touches from the wide top of the customer funnel all the way down to the narrow bottom, with a purchase at the end.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and the channels and the methods you use will depend on everything from your industry to your product to the demographic and psychographic elements of your target market. Prestigious accounting firms with high-net-worth clients don’t post Elmo memes on Instagram.
All together, those channels and methods and what you choose to communicate in them make up your marketing strategy. But social media is only one part of that strategy, touching only certain parts of that funnel, usually near the very top.
Your marketing strategy should be dictated from the bottom (the purchase) up. This is another mistake a lot of startup founders make. A top-down social media marketing strategy might get you likes and followers all day, but if that strategy isn’t part of a broader plan that is rooted in an eventual purchase, all those likes and follows are worthless.
For example, with Teaching Startup, my marketing strategy is grounded in knowledge-based content, amplified through content marketing and email marketing, with social media at the very top. I could try to go viral socially, but the odds are that 99.9 percent of the people that entered my customer funnel through a viral social media post would immediately bounce back out.
Instead, my social media marketing is a title and link that 99.9 percent of people are going to yawn at. The ones that don’t are going to sink a little further into the customer funnel.
At the bottom of that funnel is a compelling message about my company, my product and how it benefits customers. More elements of that message are exposed as the prospect travels further down the funnel until they reach the bottom.
Now, who knows your own message better than you? No one.
So if you hire anyone, hire someone to help you craft that message and the overarching strategy to expose it. From there, getting it down to 280 characters or a compelling image is something anyone can do.