Since the early days of Facebook, social media leaders have sought to create advertising opportunities without compromising user experience. In the past year, social advertising, which a tight circle of digital marketers have begun to refer to as paid social amplification, has become more accessible to brands of all sizes.
In 2014, total marketing spend on social media worldwide topped $16 billion, a 40 percent increase from the year before. However, with the endless content shared each day and the growing popularity of new platforms, paid social amplification is only growing in complexity.
Since money alone can’t buy customer loyalty, marketers need to build a foundation for success. When supported by a customer-centric mindset, original storytelling, and a plan for long-term follow-up, paid social amplification can be a powerful tool.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture
Exploring paid social amplification is an exciting endeavor, but marketers should be careful not to view it as a new, shiny vehicle separate from the rest of the organization’s marketing efforts. Instead, paid social should integrate with the brand’s core marketing strategy, showcasing well-crafted, original stories and pulling in the audiences that sit on the periphery.
Paid social amplification may be an engine jump-start or a tire alignment, but the car itself should already be stable and headed in a direction that makes sense.
Speak with the audience
Consumers don’t spend time on social media to find new offers and sales. They go there to connect, laugh, and be inspired. Understanding the lifestyles of audience members is crucial for delivering content that will catch their eyes.
Droga5’s No Bollocks campaign for Newcastle Brown Ale entertains its customers by lampooning traditional beer commercials and beer-drinking experiences.
No Bollocks parodies the awkward and uncomfortable moments that people can find themselves in when nursing a beer, from a Thanksgiving dinner table full of family members looking at their phones to a camping trip with friends unsuited for the outdoors.
The ads work because they are real, funny, and transparent. By following No Bollock’s model and giving audiences stories they can relate to, brands can continue to carve out their own space on the news feed.
For purpose and context, it’s all about timing
Paid social amplification is not something marketers should turn on forever. Eventually, the funds run out. Therefore, making sure the brand is amplifying content at the right time is crucial. Common-use cases for paid social amplification are:
- At the beginning of a campaign, when building a core audience around a new message or product line.
- During “milestone moments,” such as a new body of research or an inspiring customer success story.
- For content reinvigoration, when showcasing existing evergreen assets that prospective customers can still benefit from.
Marketers also need to merge organizational goals with the habits and intentions of their consumers.
Reflecting on the No Bollocks campaign, Ted Royer, chief creative officer at Droga5, talked about the importance of brands reaching customers when they most need to laugh. To do that, they focused on amplifying Newcastle content Friday nights at 7:00 p.m. when their audience is at the bar waiting for their friends to show up and scrolling through their phones. Catching people at the right moment is key.
Cover your bases
The average person spends 3.5 to 4 hours on social media every day, yet the influx of content on each has made it harder to get consumers attention through only organic efforts. Using paid amplification on multiple networks, rather than focusing on just one, will help brands provide a cohesive experience. Effective places to start the process are:
- Facebook: Boosted posts, News Feed ads, and sponsored stories.
- Twitter: Promoted Tweets, trends, and accounts.
- LinkedIn: Sponsored updates for text, images, and video.
- Tumblr: Sponsored posts and video, Radar posts (above-the-fold placement), and the option to syndicate ads in Yahoo search results.
Embrace the process as the beginning
The real work in paid social amplification begins once the ads are turned off and the likes and shares have trickled in. In order for brands to build their owned audiences, marketers need to have a plan in place to learn more about their social audience and generate more personalized experiences. Terry Villines of PhaseOne Communications identified entertainment, brand integration, and meaningful differentiation as three of the four main characteristics needed to establish brand affinity. By following up with more stories that truly set the brand apart, marketers can ensure their paid efforts have long-term benefits.
Paid social amplification is a powerful tool, but its power is rooted in the content it’s promoting, not the money behind it. Before marketers use their budgets to give their content more legs on social media, they need to ensure that it’s worth the exposure and that the audience that catches on will not be left behind.
Andrew Wheeler is the VP of Strategic Services at content marketing firm Skyword.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.