Just until a couple of years back, social media marketing was the buzzword in marketing circles. If you've got to build a brand, marketing a product or a company, you've got to engage your audience on social media.

The race was to acquire the maximum Facebook fans and likes for ones posts, build a huge Twitter following and gain users across social networks websites across niches.

Over a period of time, brands realized that simply acquiring fans and followers and getting more likes on their posts didn't really translate into any traction or sales. These so called 'engaged' audience fell flat when it came to getting any return on investment or ROI.

Social media agencies would try and convince brands that social media isn't about tracking ROI, but building an engaged following. (What?)

That was then.

Venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy, who also founded a social media agency in the earlier days says, "Winners have a product strategy, losers have a social media strategy."

Social media marketing (organic), if done exclusively, does not get you any bang for your buck. Try starting to update your Facebook page or Twitter profile with content and posts and you'd know how long it takes to get even 1,000 fans or followers. It could take you well over a year. And of those 1,000, you're likely to get less than 10 people engaging with a post or an update.

In fact, recently with the changes Facebook has made to its product, pages can no longer reach their own fans without having to pay an advertising/promotion fee. This post on the GrowthHackers community highlights the issues marketers are facing.

Does it then makes sense to spend your energy and money on building a following that doesn't even get you traction?

I'm sure you realize where this is heading. There are only a few ways to build traction for your mobile app when you're looking at getting the word out. And the most effective of those are as follows.

Content Marketing

Buffer app acquired its first 100,000 customers purely through content marketing--by producing and sharing valuable content, on their blog and guest posts, that people would love to read.

Their target audience is anyone who uses social media to promote their brand, product or company. Each one of their articles offers valuable marketing or social media advice that helps marketers do a better job.

This helped draw a number of eyeballs to their product and within a year, the company grew from a 'zero-customer product' to a revenue generating business.

Content marketing creates long lasting effects in drawing users to your mobile app. Good content shows up in Google searches and stays longer--further validating the statement that SEO isn't something you do anymore, it's something that happens to you as a result of producing good content.

You can get visibility and downloads from an article you wrote and published 6 months back. It also helps you build a loyal and engaged email subscriber base that wants to hear what you want to communicate.

Digital PR

Neil Patel of Kissmetrics endorses that the best bet in startup marketing is getting press. An effective and consistent digital public relations strategy can draw in the crowds over a longer term, just as in content marketing.

You're more likely to download an app if you read about it in The Next Web than when you see its advertisement telling you to download it. That's the power of a third-party endorsement from the ones that you trust.

Today, however, the scope of PR or public relations has broadened to encompass influencers across different mediums. For example, there are influencers you follow on Twitter whose word you trust and like to read about what they have to say or share. Similarly, there are bloggers in a specific niche or industry that people follow for their perspective and insights.

What people want to hear is a good story. Good PR is the telling of a good story. Connect with influencers across channels who will help amplify your story to your audience. Some of the most well known brands such as PlayStation, The Body Shop and Harry Potter have spent very little in brand-name advertising and invested heavily on PR.

Paid Marketing

This is where social media marketing (in-organic) helps to establish visibility and traction. You pay the platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google, in-game ads, etc), where your audience goes for content, to display your ads.

While this is the quickest channel to activate and start seeing results, it wouldn't necessarily be a profitable one. Paid advertising is only as good as it's active. The day you stop your campaigns, you stop gaining new visitors, unlike in content marketing or digital PR.

Also, it takes a long time (about 2-4 months) to assess what channels are the most effective, and whether the campaigns are effective at all based on the conversions versus overall spend.

Having said that, it does depend on your product and for many, paid marketing is the most effective marketing strategy they use consistently.

Social media alone, as mentioned earlier, isn't nearly as effective as when combined with all these efforts. You shouldn't have an organic social media strategy for your product marketing efforts; rather social media should be a part of a larger marketing initiative.

Published on: Mar 4, 2015