A couple of years ago when social media was the buzzword of the day everyone wanted to get in on the action. Companies were creating profiles on any platform they could find and everyone with a Facebook profile was a social media specialist. Fast forward to today, and the scene is somewhat the same, but also very different. Most companies have acknowledged the benefit of having an active and engaging presence on social media, yet as social media professional, we still face battles when it comes to getting budget assigned for social media campaigns.

The ever-changing environment on social media makes convincing our clients to allocate budget more and more difficult, but all is not lost. I will be using my recent experiences with Facebook as the basis for this article.

The death of organic reach
In the past, we could get maximum exposure for our clients on Facebook with a relatively small budget. With Facebook’s frequent tweaks to their algorithms, it has now become increasingly difficult (read costly) to get your clients the same kind of exposure they were used to. What’s more frustrating is that even if we do get more budget, the organic reach numbers continue to plummet. Ogilvy reported that some brands have seen their organic reach crash from highs of 12% to a mere 6% in just 6 months. This after Facebook said 2 years ago that on average 16% of fans see our clients’ posts.

What does this mean? It means the end of free exposure. Competition for the limited news feed space has intensified, and to some degree, the low-budget campaigns would simply get lost in the clutter. We are placed in a position where we have to request more budget allocation to social media, but the numbers are not as great as they used to be. Naturally, a drop in organic reach goes hand in hand with a drop in engagement rates. This leads to budget holders questioning the value of their social media campaigns, making our job as social media professionals even more difficult.

Smarter targeting builds better fan bases
Blanket targeting used to work really well. Think of it like a sardine run where you could cast your net far and wide and be assured of a healthy catch. The sardines have gone, and we now have to earn our keep by doing research into your clients’ target markets (not that we weren’t doing that in the past). A recent campaign I ran for a client in Nigeria proved exactly this. One variation of the campaign used blanket targeting of all individuals above a certain age in the country. Another variation used the age and location criteria but added some interest targeting into the mix. By the end of the campaign, the targeted variation added more than double the number of fans when compared to the blanket variation. Even though this was the outcome I was expecting it was still strange when looking back at past campaigns, where the results were usually reversed. Not only were the results in terms of page likes better, but reach on the targeted variation was also more than double, while the CRT was the same. Better reach + solid CRT=better results. From an ad-spend point of view, the campaigns ran neck in neck, with less than $0.005 per like separating them.

It isn’t more expensive to do deep targeting, it just takes a bit more work. In the end, it is worth it since you are building a fan base who is captive and interested.

Dealing with difficult clients
Now that you have a fan base comprising of quality fans, what kind of content do you push? Quality of content is more important than ever. We already know that organic reach is sinking faster than a certain luxury liner, so we need to be smarter in the content that we come up with for our clients. There is another challenge here, and that is clients who want to supply their own content. This can be particularly troublesome when the content is, shall we say, below average and the client is adamant that it be used. In scenarios such as this, I take a hard stance with the client. I explain to them that, while their content is great, it is not necessarily great for social media.

I am fortunate that most of my clients have complete faith in my ability to create their content, but there have been instances where ideas have clashed and content from client ended up being used. I have found that linking the quality of the content to the allocated budget works best. Explaining that poor content leads to low or no engagement, which in turn could lead to fan drop-off and wasted budget often helps soften the client’s position.

Thinking out of the box
You were allocated budget, built a fan base, and there is an understanding about content creation between you and your client. How do you keep the fan base engaged? This is where the most fun is to be had. Content strategy sessions can be a mixed bag of tricks. Sometimes the ideas flow forth like water, while other times you are hard-pressed to come up with anything fun or exciting. The latter being the real problem. In scenarios where there is limited room for creativity, I use linked messaging to build content.

Here’s a scenario: client A is a cat food brand. You can reasonably assume that most of their fans on social media already used their product. Naturally they are not going to create content based on competitor products, but in reality, there are only so many things you can say about a tin of cat food. This is where you start thinking out of the box. You have to create content that is relevant to the fan base beyond that of pure advertising. For instance, get a veterinarian to give a weekly health tip for the furry felines or partner with animal shows in the client’s target area to promote their events on a barter exchange basis. Once you start thinking out of the box the options become limitless. The key is to create content that the fan base is most likely to engage with and share, while at the same time creating top of mind awareness of the client’s product.

In the end, all you and your client really want is:
(A) For fans will see your client’s social media as a go-to source for their interest,
(B) For your client to see increased reach leading to increased sales,
(C) For you to stand tall as the social media hero which they hired you to be.

The proof is in the pudding
Social media is hard work. It’s a lot like baking actually. If you follow a good recipe, use quality ingredients, and pay careful attention to the oven temperature the end result is well worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to write new recipes either. Just be prepared for some broken eggs along the way.