In 2012, after spending most of the recession struggling to grow my startup, I went to work for Winn-Dixie as their first-ever social media manager where I helped launch the company's brand presence on Facebook and Twitter.

If there's something that the early days of social media--circa 1990's and early 2000's with AOL and MySpace followed by the rise of Facebook--taught me, it's that people control the medium while brands merely ride the wave until the next new channel comes along.

Successful brands and influencers find that by building communities of advocates on the platforms where their audiences live, they're able to maintain such relevancy provided that they also evolve with their audience and platforms. However, social media can be a waste of time for you and your business if you're not strategically positioning your marketing efforts around industry trends.

Below are five reasons brand engagement is declining online, and what you can do about it:

1. Overly Saturated and Noisy

Today, social media users have more options than ever before to engage with friends, favorite brands, celebrities, and creators. Besides Facebook and Twitter, there's Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly and the list goes on. Mix in YouTube and live video and virtually everywhere you turn there's a brand or creator trying to gain your attention or sell you something--which makes it nearly impossible to be omnipresent on every platform. For this reason alone, your brand's social media strategy should be centered on the platform(s) where your target audience is spending the most time vs. competing in a sea of noise.

2. Organic Reach is Dead

On the surface, to you and I, they are social networks. However, channels like Facebook, Twitter, and soon-to-be Snapchat are publicly traded advertising companies that make money by selling ads digitally--no different than print publications. Because of this, an average of only 1 percent of your Facebook fans or Twitter followers see your content. While you may get lucky and hit the jackpot occasionally with a post or two that go beyond the 1 percent threshold, with Facebook ads you can tap into the best user database online--allowing you to run ads that target users based on interests, location, age, household income, etc. If you don't want to go down the route of advertising, keep your strategy centered on direct engagement with anyone who's talking about your brand or competition.

3. Social Media Isn't TV

There's a reason why consumers, more specifically Millennials and Generation Z, are watching less television and are instead turning to social media for bite-size content in the form of Snapchat or even Instagram. It's to escape brands and being sold to, while still being able to chat with friends. For this reason, brands shouldn't continue to treat social media as another place to drop pre-roll ads and professionally produced content like they would a TV commercial. Instead, look to leverage creators and influencers who are already building massive tribes and communities on the platforms to create native content for you much in the way that Taco Bell and Dunkin Donuts have tapped Snapchat influencers Shonduras and Mike Platco in the past.

4. Clickbait and Sponsored Ads

The keyword in social media is "social". Yet in the year 2017, brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs continue to treat social media channels as another place to push out links to their eBooks, e-commerce sites, marketing funnel landing pages, and sponsored posts without investing the time to build a community which is watering down the power of social media very quickly. Community building happens over time through one-on-one dialogue, replying to tweets and engaging in discussions at scale. While most marketers will tell you that "content is king", in reality the community is king because people relate to other people, not brands. Without community, all you have is meaningless numbers and zero results to show for it which brings me to my last point.

5. KPI's and Metrics

In 2012, most social media marketers could get away with boasting about how they've grown their company's Facebook page or Twitter followers. However the days of reporting on vanity metrics are long gone. Today, CMO's are looking for immediate tangible results such as website clicks, new customer growth, and sales as a result of social media marketing efforts. Building a community and driving ROI takes time and does not happen overnight. If you're expecting to run a Facebook ad campaign and see thousands of dollars pour in without investing time in building brand awareness and engaging your limited audience as real people, then you're wasting your time and company resources.

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Published on: Feb 22, 2017