Failure was the only path predicted by many businesses for social media back in 2013 when I started Digital Stand.
The standard view at the time was "what is the ROI of social media?" With many suggesting one did not or would not exist.
But here we are in 2020, and social media has changed the landscape of marketing and for that matter, communication forever.
In 2020, we are going to see the most material shift in social media since Facebook launched back in 2004.
And the hardest thing for any business today will be finding the right guide to help them navigate "what is, to what will be."
Selection of the right social media agency is no different in a lot of ways of selecting the right employee. You need a checklist of key capabilities, their proven track record of achievement, and of course their level of interest in the field. Typically based on how well-read, informed they are on the subject matter.
I will begin with the checklist recommendation and then move to domain expertise.
Before we begin, you must understand that you are no longer choosing a "social media agency," but rather a "growth agency."
As any marketing investment, regardless of the platform, must be attributable to revenue. And if you can't measure it in social and or digital marketing, it does not count. Pardon the pun.
Because if you cannot measure it, budget and resource allocation becomes an on-going frustration.
So how do you choose the right social media agency in 2020? And what exactly is the checklist for selection? What questions should you be asking to understand competence and capability?
Let us start with the checklist for selection.
How well do they understand social media and its capabilities as it relates to your business?
As mentioned, Digital Stand commenced in a period where social was yet to prove in as a viable channel of revenue creation.
Back in 2013, one of our very first clients was a financial services business. In the beginning, we built not only their social presence but also their campaigns across Facebook and a while later Instagram.
From click-through rate to engagement, the campaigns well exceeded their expectations. Still, applications for new loans were not growing, and in turn, revenue was not increasing.
We understood social well, but at this point in our early beginnings, we had taken no time to assess the full customer journey. Which I will go onto explain in greater detail a little later.
In this instance, though when we started to look beyond our campaign and into their digital environment. We discovered that their landing pages were not responsive (mobile friendly), and they sought too much information. Now there are two reasons this is important.
Of the 2.45 billion people who access Facebook, 96% do so via the mobile phone.
They were significantly increasing friction. The latest studies into this by Facebook show that friction is costing businesses 800 billion alone across APAC alone. With friction defined as any point in the customer journey that impedes progression.
Once we resolved these two points, applications and revenue grew.
So since 2013, we have been ensuring a clients environment is optimised for social media. We identify friction in the customer journey and optimises a client for growth.
How well do they understanding social media advertising?
It is vital to put this into context.
In the first instance, there is advertising in its purest sense. Best defined by the ability to "Always enter the conversation already occurring in the prospect's mind." ~ Rober Collier.
In my opinion, advertising is only advertising when it is an unwelcome intrusion. Let me put this into perspective. If you are a passionate cyclist, but see advertising for Hiking products, this is an intrusion. You may respect the activity, but just because you are active does not mean that hiking is on your to-do list.
However, should you see ads for the Sydney Marathon, Nike Vaporflys or alike this while it is advertising and you know it, it is a welcome intrusion. Because you want to know the dates of the marathon, and you are interested in the newest Vaporflys. This to you is not advertising, but rather useful and meaningful information.
And through social media advertising, you enter the conversation in the prospect's mind "When is the Sydney Marathon?" "Cost of entry?" etcetera, or "What is the most current Nike Vaporfly sneaker on the market?"
Thus combining customer desire and hyper targetting capabilities. Connecting to the right consumer with the right brand, and at the right time.
The latest research in neuroscience shows that you have less than 800 milliseconds to engage your consumer. You want to make sure you get your message and targetting right.
You are competing for attention, not just against your competitors, which is true! But you are also competing against anyone that is vying for their attention.
This could include Coca-a-Cola, Bunnings Hardware, IBM or their friends or family.
Most research suggesting that we see at least 5,000 advertisements per day. So yes your ad does need to be well-targeted, well designed, and provide a frictionless customer journey. Just to compete.
And to do this effectively, you need a social media strategy, as a social media strategy takes into account the customer journey. You are looking at what you should be measuring and the optimal path to success.
So what should a social media strategy, or customer journey include?
There are five critical areas in a social media customer journey, and they are as follows.
1. Track the right metrics
What does success look like? Are we chasing engagement, likes, reach, brand recall, or the only thing that matters an incremental lift in revenue.
Do we know that what we are doing on social is driving your business forward? And are our efforts optimised towards your actual business objectives? Every piece of social media content and your content creation plan is an overarching part of your strategy. It is focussed on your business objectives and outcomes.
By tracking the right metrics, you are focussed on agreed objectives that can be jointly measured.
While many agencies may tell you social media is different from other forms of media, and you should not measure it the same way. This is true because you should hold it far more accountable in terms of measurement. From click to conversion, you can measure the full customer journey.
Platforms like Facebook are even now offering the capability to measure the customer journey from social to a physical store.
2. You must jointly understand the results social media drives
Is your investment driving sales you can see and are they incremental to your business performance? Irrespective of your other marketing activities.
Are you not only seeing a lift in revenue, but also building brand awareness, in terms of brand recall, loyalty, and awareness.
Once it is clear what the investment is returning to the business, you can understand where social fits into your growth trajectory. Social can then be optimised for faster and measurable growth.
3. Optimisation and leverage.
Does the social media agency you are considering or working with understand that creative is data, and data is leverage.
Let me explain if you are building a campaign on social you are going to want more than one ad to assist and usually six different pieces of creative.
You may start with different images and the same copy, or you may start with a different headline and the same image. Remembering in any performance-based test, you only want to measure one variable before iteration. So you know what component is moving the needle.
Once you identify the leverage point, you can then iterate around this. Moving to test other variables looking for ways to leverage the creative to drive the result for your brand.
But the creative is only one point of leverage for your brand. The audience you target can prove to be a material leverage point across any campaign. Testing demographics, location, and income may result in some surprising outcomes.
We have found sometimes split testing age; female, male demographics can bring in noticeable changes for our clients.
And while one piece of creative works very well with the 18-24 year age group, another piece resonates much better with the 25-34 bracket. The copy may be shorer for gen z, and longer for gen x!
Of course, this is where the testing becomes multi-layered against both creative and demographic. If you or your social media agency apply the right principles, and iterate one position at a time
4. Social Media's Role In Your Media Mix
A mature social media agency realises that social media advertising is part of an overall media mix and not the media mix!
Trying to ascertain cross-device behaviour impact and measurement outcomes. And how social media compliments and or compares with other media platforms. Is social media part of a multi-touch campaign and what attribution should it receive for revenue lift.
According to Neilsons 2019 Measurement Breakthrough report:
"74% of CMOS today have little confidence in their ability to measure digital campaign performance."
This, of course, is an issue and should not be the case. Having a single-source view of the data eliminates any variable errors. It also increases confidence in attribution performance and leverage opportunities.
And with better data? You, of course, have a better social media strategy, and allocation of media spend is justifiable.
5. Allocation of media spend
How much should your budget be, and to what social media platforms or digital channels should you be allocating more budget too?
What conversation should you be having about increasing budget based on performance? And of course, the tools and resources you might need?
As a side example, a client we have now been working with for 12 months, has achieved a 256% return on investment with us. Based on this return, it is effortless for them to justify additional resource and spend, and increase the revenue line materially.
Often a lack of accurate attribution means a social media agency and or a CMO can struggle to justify their social media spend or investment. A clear focus in this area means with better data, comes better decisions, increased budget and revenue.
And the right social media agency will help you measure ROI because by doing so, you are on the right journey together.
When we talk about the right journey, this also includes a vision of the future.
While we put together a b2c and b2b social media trends guide for 2020 that is free to download. I will outline the key areas for consideration as we move forward into the next decade.
As you should know by now direct purchase on Instagram and for that matter, Facebook is imminent. This will mean as consumers scroll through the social media feed; they will be able to see products and brands liked by their friends and peers. They will then be able to purchase on the feed without ever leaving the platform.
I must re-emphasise this point. Without ever leaving the social media platform!
The power of this is not to be underestimated by any brand that transacts online. Social proof, as coined by Robert Cialdini, describes the "psychological and social phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation."
Essentially in the absence of all the information, we need, what do we do? We, of course, choose the path chosen by those we trust or the crowd. When we are faced with so many decisions every day, it removes friction to follow a position taken by those we trust.
Social commerce + social proof is a deadly formula for success and removes friction from the purchase process.
Frictionless lead attainment
If you have a business where lead acquisition is a critical step in the customer journey? You want to make this as easy as possible for both you and your clients.
Irrespective of whether you are seeking to acquire leads from a B2B or B2C perspective.
You probably know that LinkedIn and Facebook offer an ad-based solution to acquire leads from their platform. This is, of course, without the user ever having to leave.
From a consumer or business lead acquisition perspective, this makes it frictionless for them, and in turn easier for you to get leads.
Now while the above is not new, and hopefully also not news to you if you have been working with a social media agency. This is a frictionless way to acquire leads.
Google, as of late 2019, has just launched the same capability. And this is a material shift for lead acquisition.
As you would know, we often search on Google when we are ready to make a decision. Enabling searchers with the capability to fill out a form quickly is a game-changer on their platform. It is also a game-changer for any business who takes advantage of this first.
And for any brand that is acquiring leads and does not know this exists? It presents a significant material risk to its growth strategy, especially if their competitors do.
Interaction and communication
We now live in an environment where our customers and or clients expect immediate answers and seamless communication.
Sometimes our potential customers want to also maintain a level of anonymity before deciding to engage with our brand. Enabling them to do so, though the use of AI messenger services is a seamless and low-cost way of communicating with potential leads.
And of course, removes another friction point from a client engagement.
Enabling an intuitive way for customers to interact with your brand improves customer engagement. It also increases loyalty and knowledge around our customer base.
As a real-world example, when we implemented a chat service for an E-commerce client, in only four months, they had over 1k chat conversations with potential new customers.
They have been able to educate the client at the point of purchase and in turn, increase incremental revenue.
They have also gained a more in-depth insight on how to improve product pages.
Provide more relevant information where this was absent in the past, but they were unaware of the issue.
And is a simple, cost-effective way of removing friction, just like automation is.
Marketing and sales automation provides the ability to create frictionless customer journey paths. You are moving leads through a journey until they become customers and advocates of your brand.
Through marketing automation, you can essentially move leads through four distinct phases.
Strangers - I don't know your brand
Prospects - I am interested tell me more
Customers - Ok I want to be a client
Advocates - I am happy to promote your brand
For every business we deal with each of these stages are unique to their environment, but the overarching principles remain the same. They need growth through new clients while retaining existing clients.
Should you not be using a marketing automation environment in 2020, you are behind the game! While this may seem to you to be a strong position to take if this is your business. It is a reality.
You need a single source of the truth, full lead and customer attribution capabilities, a way to automate lead nurturing and sales. Then using this data and to gain deep insights on your client data is a must as we move forward into the next decade.
Marketing automation capabilities have continued to grow over the last 10+ years. They are allowing brands who moved early to do more with the less and to identify leverage points for growth — a vital component of any brands success.
A brands ability to grow is only impeded by the unknown. And a brands ability to leverage the known.
Marketing and sales automation provides the ability to remove the unknown from the equation.
And once the unknown is removed, we can identify leverage and opportunities to accelerate growth.
1. Measuring attribution across all media channels.
2. Identifying conversion paths and customer journey paths.
3. Enabling smart content and automating the nurturing of new leads.
4. Using data parameters to provide meaningful business insights.
5. Identify brand advocates and empowering them to promote our business.
6. Reducing the sales cycle
As stated at the outset of this article, you are no longer choosing a social media agency or social media services in 2020, but a growth agency.
One that converts social engagement to revenue, and ensures you are always ahead of the competition.
Should you wish to understand any of the above in greater detail, you can contact us here. And please feel free to download the latest copy of our 2020 social media playbook below.
Digital Stand is headquartered in Sydney leveraging social media locally and globally to grow brands exponentially.
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