6 years ago we would put together marketing strategies for our clients that did not include an online strategy. 6 years…wow! It’s not even a decade ago but so much has changed that it feels like a lifetime ago. Today, the majority of our marketing strategies have a section on digital and often, we find ourselves creating stand-alone digital strategies for some of our clients.
You see, 6 years ago, we asked ourselves if social media really made money. There was then a lot of scepticism about social media. Although we all could see how popular these sites were, at the time many brands here in Kenya still did not see it as a marketing tool.
In the early stages, people were being told “you need a social media presence” but they weren’t sure why or what benefits it would bring. Yet during the early years of social media, organic reach was excellent. At the time, they had a chronological algorithm, which meant that everyone that followed your page would see your posts in their timeline, practically guaranteeing you an audience. All you had to do was grow your followers and page likes. To be fair, the number of social media users wasn’t as high as it is now but there
Social media was also great at humanizing brands. Companies stopped being this large inapproachable entity and were able to build personalities that one could have a conversation with, from any corner of the country and any part of the world.
By this time, quite a number of brands had started having social media pages. Moving with the times for businesses and companies meant creating an online presence and so we began encouraging our clients to do the same.
When we started to convince our clients that social media marketing was a viable marketing option, they then realised that you could raise awareness and manage some aspects of customer service (build brand trust) through being on these platforms, just by attracting followers. However it was very much a hit or miss as you weren’t targeting people who were predisposed towards your brand or category – the followers were just anybody.
We started off by creating business/company profiles for our clients. A lot of our clients wanted to grow their social media presence organically so we did this with an “Always On” approach, which included:
- Daily posting: always creating content that appealed to the target audience of each business.
- Community management: making sure to be available to engage with the audiences’ i.e. answer questions, encourage product enquiries and just have fun conversations.
- We also did a lot of trend jacking: taking advantage of trending topics or hash tags and using them to our advantage to get our brands noticed and increase our presence on the internet. This got us a lot of organic traction.
A few of our clients were open to spending a small portion of their marketing budget in growing their social media influence. With this, we immersed ourselves into the world of online advertising.
As the popularity of social media grew, so did the number of users and the number of businesses on the platforms. Organic reach declined and it became more difficult to ensure your content reached your followers timelines. Social media advertising stopped being an additional boost to your social media efforts and started being a necessity to stay ahead. You needed to spend money to ensure your content was seen. This worried clients, but we educated them that it is much more cost effective than traditional advertising as you can narrow in on your specific target group. Audience targeting had come a long way from country/city, gender and age. Now you could target your audience based on interest, behaviour and keywords.
Next, as we reached our target, could we use these tools to generate leads and convert in to sales? Once again clients were sceptical. But we were able to demonstrate that you can generate leads from social media and convert those leads to sales while still managing your cost per acquisition. We used analytics to improve our targeting, messaging and overall strategy.
We have done this very successfully across multiple categories including the finance industry with micro finance institutions, the tourism industry, FMCG and the hospitality industry. With every success we’ve had in creating an online presence, raising awareness (especially for new businesses and products), driving traffic to websites and in acquiring enquiries and leads for our clients, we have seen the growing need for digital marketing that now requires a sophisticated online strategy and plan. And our online budgets for our clients now exceed traditional marketing spend.
2019 is a new chapter in online marketing. Social media is no longer the new kid on the block. Almost every brand has a Facebook page and a Twitter handle fighting for the attention of the same users. So yes, the market is a bit crowded. The algorithms have long changed from the initial chronological order and have been revised and revised and revised again to ensure that the content shown to users is content they would be interested in. Organic reach has since declined heavily and now success in social media marketing cannot be guaranteed without a social media-advertising plan.
But, after years of conducting digital marketing we can now answer the question we had 6 years ago. Yes, social media does make money. It is, in comparison to other forms of marketing, a more cost effective marketing option. And, there is a return on investment with the right structures and procedures in place.
The online space has become a very lucrative and competitive playing field. Businesses are going to need to put in more thought into their online marketing strategies than a “social media savvy” intern to post on Facebook.
In our next blog we show you what businesses need to do to remain competitive in the social media space in 2019.