While social media has always been a bit of an unruly beast, Twitter of late, under the stewardship of Mr. Musk, has been going through its own set of unique upheavals. I’m not going to chronicle the issues, but really use them to draw attention to the importance of rebalancing your communication portfolio if you haven’t already.
|I’m sure you noticed that the reach of your posts, especially on Facebook, has dipped significantly. I saw a report the other day that says 6% or less of your fans see your posts organically. So much for building “community.” Like Twitter, let’s not forget that Facebook is a commercial enterprise and that they are interested in turning a profit. Which is fine, until you begin to see dismal performance like this and begin to realize that organic posting has serious limitations.|
Now there are multiple ways to try to increase organic reach. For instance, you can increase posting frequency, create posts with better-quality images and videos, incorporate motion graphics in your posts, and share important news about your organizations. But truth be told, if you want to reach more of your community, you’re going to need to pay for distribution. And for those well-acquainted with Facebook, in particular, that means either boosting or paying for ads. All social media platforms make it simple to boost your posts; usually, it is no more complicated than creating the post you want to boost, picking your target, setting the duration, and then setting the budget. So, inadvertently, what was “owned” is now “paid media. And that means you have to balance your “communication portfolio” among the three tactics: “earned,” “owned”, and “paid” media. Again, the planning principles are the same as before:
1. Determine if your audience is still there. Sounds silly. Of course, your peeps are there. Or are they? Many may have migrated away from Twitter and Facebook and made LinkedIn, Instagram, or one of the lesser-known apps like BeReal, Threads, or Substack their primary, go-to social media app. As with any market, it fractures over time and more and more niche players garner a share of the market at the expense of the market leaders.
2. Know (not just understand) the relative impact of each effort as it helps you reach your goals. One of our mantras is “predictability and control.” While we all love surprise success, the truth is if you have a pulse on your market, you should be good at forecasting your yield. And that means within a 10% margin of error. Any more means you need to revisit your assumptions. For those who plan paid efforts on digital media, most, if not all platforms, will give you an estimate of how many people you’ll reach. And from there, you should be able to estimate how many positive responses you’ll get. If you aren’t planning to achieve a goal, then stop what you are doing and start.
3. Allocate appropriate resources based on results vs. simply boxing to a budget. Said another way, if you still want to use social media (or any earned media tactic), make sure you have a realistic goal in mind. Build a model, work through the assumptions, and then, when you get to the forecast you need. If you are buying adds and boosting, calculate the budget and shift that into your “paid” column. What you might find is that your campaigns were doomed from the start because they never had the critical mass to reach your goals. It is the most common explanation for missing a forecast. It is thinking that simply buying a can of paint will be sufficient to cover a wall. Unless you accurately calculate the square footage of the wall and check the amount of surface the can of paint will cover, you might find your coverage is too thin or there are going to be places you can’t cover.
4. Understand that “earned” media is getting harder and harder to generate. This is the part that hurts organizations that are working with tight budgets. There are far fewer media outlets that you can use to generate “earned” media. And the aforementioned changes in how the main social media channels operate create even more headwinds. So, in evaluating “earned,” “owned”, and “paid”, recognize that “owned” and “paid” might be worth prioritizing over “earned.” This means being open with your leadership and asking for a budget to support those two legs of the communication stool.
|One caveat to all this: in a year, this will evolve. If the past has taught us anything, it is that the media landscape keeps shifting, and you need to be constantly vigilant about how these changes affect your efforts. One thing we know for sure is that carefully balancing the three components of your communications effort is critical to meeting your marketing goals.|
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, before you accuse me of being a pedant, let me explain. After seeing, reading and analyzing consumer behavior for over three decades, I’ve noticed an increasingly aggressive dismissiveness of the institutions that for so long felt like pillars of society.
About a week ago, quite by accident, I read a piece on a postmodernism. While I was aware of the phenomenon, I really didn’t understand its impact until now. Britannica defines postmodernism as a “broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology. in asserting and maintaining political and economic power.” Here is my definition – Postmodern basically means turning your back on authority figures, relying on yourself and your peers and living in a world where everything is fluid. Starting to sound familiar? I’m not going to venture into the political waters or any of the social debates. I’ll stick to commercial communications.
There are two campaigns that are good examples of postmodernism in commercial communications, and they offer some lessons for those of us in non-profits, education, government and health care. The first is the Progressive Insurance campaign featuring Jon Hamm. If you haven’t seen the campaign, here is a link to it. Watch it before you keep reading.
So, why am I making a big deal out of this? Rarely, if ever, does a brand pay big bucks for a celebrity spokesperson and then make light of that person. The traditional approach was to have Jon Hamm’s brand identity rub off on your brand, usually by putting him on a pedestal so his positive brand standing magically transfers to yours. Now what Progressive has done is signaled to its audience, with a “wink and nudge” that they get that celebrity endorsements are bogus, and they know consumers are looking for more substantive content before making a purchase decision. In an industry where it is so hard to differentiate oneself – one that relied on spokespeople and mascots to distinguish one company from another – this is a big shift. If you don’t believe me, check out NJM insurance, which openly mocks it competitors by saying that their initials stand for “No Jingles and Mascots.”
But this isn’t the only example. Check out this spot about Hulu’s new service. I love the casting and art direction, but what puts it over the top is that it acknowledges that a catchy product name won’t convince you to switch to a new service. The service will be the reason you switch. And, to get that point across, they chose a “stupid” name. One more in this vein: Liberty Mutual’s commercial with teenagers having fun – here’s the link to it. Yep, another traditional communications tactic cut down at the knees.
The point is that this self-deprecation is meant to show today’s consumers that companies and their brands want to connect with consumers as equals. No more selling some unrealistic utopia based on bigness or heritage or superiority complex – no more commercial mansplaining. They get it, so you can get that they aren’t the usual “take themselves too seriously” company.
So, how do we, the education, non-profit, government and health care sectors, exist in this postmodern world? You can’t use self-deprecating humor like an insurance company or cable service can. And, it isn’t showing a lot of smiling people in your communications, either.
So what should you do?
1. Build facets and components into your product and/or services that are absolutely unique. If you are a “me-too” organization, then you need to build that differentiation into upcoming upgrades. Otherwise, you will undermine any brand promise you make. If you are asking a person to choose you and promise them you will deliver a superior product or experience for them, the promise is more believable if you are distinctive. In other words, what makes you unique is what makes you a better choice for them.
2. Most consumers want to know you sincerely care about them. Not being a “number” means being sincerely open to them. Have you made it as easy as possible for them to interact with you? Do you respond in an appropriate fashion when they reach out to you? Do you show sufficient flexibility in dealing with them? Trust me, it’s more than scripted dialogues, it’s honesty, transparency and being helpful.
3. And finally, and as always, all your communication needs to be an “Unforgettable Conversation with a Friend.” If you treat your consumers as friends and speak to them about things that matter to them, they will be open to your messaging. This will never change, even in a post-modern world.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
Yep, it’s the middle of the summer and I am about to take some time off. But that’s not exactly what this post is about. It’s about making sure that no matter what time of year it is, you use the right message distribution technique for what you are offering.
In the old days, this was called “media planning and strategy.” And, unfortunately, in most cases people don’t really think beyond the tactical when it comes to media planning and message distribution. Many will focus on the more tactical considerations such as do they skew their budget to digital vs print and broadcast? Do they invest in email or launch a PPC campaign? They might say, ‘we’ll measure it on the backend and adjust accordingly.’ All widely-used tactics, but they don’t constitute a proper message distribution strategy. Its not their fault, because the data has overwhelmed the message distribution decision making process. Data is good, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t be the sole determinant of what message distribution strategy to take. You have to align it with your target’s decision making process as well as your competitive advantages.
Now if you will indulge me, let me expand on the fishing analogy and how it illustrates the three basic media strategies that can work for you. Just keep in mind that good message distribution factors in two of the three “R”s in a communication strategy: the right person, and the right time. I think we know why it’s important to reach the right person at the right time — the closer you can get to a person who is on the verge of making a purchase decision, the more likely you’re able to register a conversion or a sale. Asking me to buy your suntan lotion while I’m in a meeting is an example of what you don’t want to do.
Okay, here we go with the fishing strategies:
Bait Fishing. What that basically means is that you figure out what your main messages are as you scan the water and paddle out to where you believe the fish are gathering. You drop your line there with the hope that the fish are going to buy. This technique has been used for literally decades prior to the explosion of digital media, but it’s still an effective strategy. And in some cases, it’s still important because regardless of how precise your communications efforts are, you still benefit from less intentional, more casual consumers. These are the consumers who didn’t think they were in the marketplace for, let’s say, a pair of shoes, but saw an ad for a nice pair and decided they wanted them. In some cases, 20 to 30 percent of all purchases can come from this type of consumer, so, they shouldn’t be written out of the equation when you develop your marketing and communications plans.
Net Fishing. This is where you put a net across a stream and catch whatever crosses the net’s path. What you catch depends on where you place the net and the size of the net’s openings. This technique is good for any organization that has data and information on their target audience, related to life stage or lifecycle – academia, for example. Most academic institutions seeking to recruit students cast a net across whatever communication stream they use, and set it to capture as many students in a certain age group as they can. Another group that can benefit from net fishing is one that has a symbiotic relationship with another product or service. The best example I can think of is car insurance. If I buy a car, I’m going to need car insurance. Net fishing is the most efficient message distribution strategy because it allows you to target audiences at the right time. If you can, you might want to deploy this strategy in place of what you are using now.
Spear Fishing. This works best for organizations that cater to very specific audiences. Think of the scuba diver who targets one particular fish. Many nonprofit organizations and those that sell luxury goods use this technique. For spear fishing to be successful, an organization needs to have detailed information on what constitutes the perfect target and needs to make sure the message delivery mechanism allows delivery of specific criteria. A bevy of software programs exist that can help you figure out if someone is qualified to be one of your customers and worth the time and effort it takes. Social media advertising is another way of executing this strategy, but it has its limits. While social media advertising can target the audience, the message can get muddled in a cluttered social media environment. The most effective delivery of this message strategy is in a more personal, one-on-one conversation. For a school which is identifying a very qualified student, or for a non-profit which has profiled a candidate, it pays to pitch them personally.
So, you can see, if I put up a sign on my door that says, “I’ve gone fishing” it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m idle. It may mean I’m figuring out how to get you more qualified leads and manage your relationship with customers and prospects.
As always, if you have your own thoughts or want to let me know what you think, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org