Your job as a social media marketer just got harder. Life is easy when the platforms you’re using grow continually at a rapid clip, right? All you have to do is log in, sit back and wait for your target market to arrive. It’s never been so easy to look like a genius to all your unknowing colleagues in Finance, HR and the executive suite. Eventually, if you push out enough tweets, it feels like likely buyers will come to you. Don’t get so comfortable, though: eMarketer is saying the days of easy hunting will be coming to an end soon.
For the lazy, what’s coming is tantamount to a marketing apocalypse. To the industrious, though, it’s just business as usual.
eMarketer reports on its blog that close to 150 million users per month in the United States will use social media tools. That translates to a reach of 63.7 percent of the online population. Given the rate of saturation, the days of double-digit growth are likely behind us. The number of social users in the United States is predicted to reach only 164.2 million by 2013, translating to a penetration rate of only 67 percent.
So, what does this mean to you?
Well, you’re going to have to get smarter. That’s the implication of a comment by Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the company’s latest report, “US Social Network Usage: 2011 Demographic and Behavioral Trends”. She says, “With fewer new users signing up, social network users will be more sophisticated and discerning about the people and brands they want to engage with.”
And, it gets tougher. Williamson continues, “In 2011, social networks will need to cement their relationships with their users, particularly people ages 35 and older, in order to keep them engaged,” adding, “Marketers and media companies can contribute to this effort by creating compelling user experiences that make people want to stay connected to social networks so they can gain access to experiences, deals or content they may not be able to find anywhere else.”
Simply put: you can’t rely on the social networks to do your job for you anymore. Rather than let them add net-new bodies for you, you’ll need to work harder to segment, locate, engage and convert … you know, your job.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, marketing through social media is becoming at least a bit more like traditional mass media (e.g., broadcast and print newspapers). When these communities were intimate, you could engage more easily and spend time getting to know your friends, fans and followers. That’s less likely to happen now, though. There are hundreds of millions of people on the largest social networks.
Sure, these platforms have tools you can use to locate your target market more easily, but it’s still a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack game. Marketing on Twitter was a hell of a lot different when there were only 3 million people using it, and when it was growing at an incredible rate.
So what should be on the social media marketer’s agenda as the U.S. market approaches saturation?
1. Your game plan: make it a priority to identify your target market on the social media platforms you use. Develop a plan for targeted engagement.
2. Shift from net-new to market share growth: assume that your target (domestic) market in environments such as Facebook and Twitter is effectively fixed. Make it your mission to pick up a larger piece of the pie in a zero-sum game.
3. Get aggressive: you need to make sure that you do more than engage – you need to block out the competition. This means owning trends as they arise (not to mention kicking off a few).