Come on folks, it's almost 2017 and some of you still don't understand what to expect from social media marketing. Shame on you! Ok, to be fair, there are still many emerging brands who are just starting to venture down the road of influencer marketing and paid social campaigns, so let's just say this piece is for you.

  1. Social Media is a Long Term Strategy

    There are very few brands that have instant fame and exponential growth on social media, just as there are very few overnight successes in business.

    Brands need to be realistic about their growth on social media and understand that social media is a very necessary evil when it comes to brand marketing.

    A 2015 survey by Marketing Profs of over 26,000 brands showed a median annual growth of 42% with the highest growth rate on Instagram. The month over month growth rate? 6-8% with approximately 23% of that growth on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn...just to give you a point of reference.

  2. You Must Pay To Play

    Gone are the days of organic engagement. With social media brands (ehem....Facebook) changing their algorithms all the time, it has become harder and harder for brands to penetrate new markets and capture market share.

    In fact, the statistic is that even within a brand page's own audience only 10% or less of that audience sees their daily postings. What that means is that in order to hit growth expectations and see real engagement and movement, brands have to utilize the advertising tools made available to them. The good news? You can still have a large impact, even with a small dollar spend.

  3. A/B Testing is a Gift, Use It

    A lot of brands complain that their advertising isn't returning the user base and engagement that they hoped and therefore don't believe that advertising is a useful tool for their marketing efforts. Whenever I hear brands complaining about their advertising not being effective I always ask if they are testing their imagery and their messaging.

    That's the brilliant thing about social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. You can develop a strategy based on real time data and feedback from your audience. In other words, your audience will tell you exactly how they like to be marketed to, if you listen.

  4. Engagement is (and has always been) the real "Like" It's always exciting to see exponential follower growth for a client, but the proof is in the engagement. Engagement means that your audience is actually talking with and about your brand, which is the most meaningful type of metric that a brand can look at when setting social media metric goals.
  5. Develop Proprietary Assets

    One of the best ways to create engagement is with great content. Society reads less and less (not you obviously) as the years pass, which means developing beautiful, funny and engaging digital assets (videos, memes, images, etc.) is key to social media success.

    They are infinitely more likeable, shareable and more engaging, especially for visual, lifestyle brands in the food and beverage space. There's simply no substitution for a great photoshoot and with today's digital cameras and editing apps, there is no excuse not to have great visuals to use on your social platform of choice.

  6. Metrics, Metrics, Metrics With digital marketing as the norm, marketers around the world should rejoice, as the amount of data available for reports is scary. While it is a little "big brother" it means that marketing dollars can be spent wisely by even the smallest of brands with the most limited budgets. Data is powerful and the numbers don't lie.
  7. Don't Fear The Red Just like those numbers on the scale over the holidays, your metrics are not always going to be in the green. There are seasonal changes in traffic, constant changes in algorithms that affect traffic and engagement, and a 24 hour news cycle that can affect even the biggest brands. Fluctuations in weekly reporting are normal. The goal is an upward trend in the numbers month over month, quarter over quarter and year over year.
  8. Social Media is Not Your POS

    If I get any point across today, this is the one to pay attention to. Facebook still dominates the social landscape especially as it relates to sales and conversion, but brands should NOT be depending on it as a sales tool. It can definitely help push sales in a non-salesy way, but brands that believe that social should show a one to one ratio, or even a high conversion will usually be disappointed.

    Social media is still absolutely relevant and a necessity for brands (yes even b2b), but brands who expect it to be the be all, end all in their sales cycle are being unrealistic about social platforms. Social media is a network, one of many touch points and the top line funnel for a brand's sales cycle. It's important that brands are realistic about social media KPIs based on their existing audience, brand vertical and advertising budgets.

Published on: Jan 10, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.