4 Ways to Build a Successful Paid Social Strategy

Even though social media has now been around for more than a decade, many brands are still wrestling with how to use it effectively.

A recent eMarketer survey found 90 percent of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees are on social media. However, in a recent survey from the DMA, just 48 percent of marketers said they see a return on investment using social media.

That means many marketers are caught in a bind: social media is too important to abandon completely, yet, since it’s now impossible to get significant traction with organic posts, marketers feel they need to keep paying for social media advertising. This is an untenable position. While most brands struggle to figure out a paid social strategy, though, the following four steps will get your brand on the right track for creating ROI.

Pick the right goals

Too many social media strategies are based on reaching arbitrary metrics that don’t intersect with business goals. Likes, retweets and comments are all irrelevant if the goal is to increase traffic to your website, gain visibility, generate leads, prompt app installs, boost event attendance or increase sales. Ignore such proprietary metrics and focus instead on the objective for the campaign. Whether it’s brand lift, purchases or sign up, the campaign should be tested using a randomized control group. For instance, run a Facebook-focused campaign in one city but not in a comparable city and compare the results to see how much the campaign contributed to those goals. Action step: Decide on your objective and then use randomized controls to test whether your campaigns are meeting them.

Correlate online campaigns with in-store purchases

The antidote for social media metric myopia is to draw a line between social media buys and consumer purchases. Programs like Facebook Offline Conversions can connect exposure and engagement on that platform with actual in-store purchases. Snapchat also provides a “Snap to Store” metric that shows a correlation between visibility and incremental visits to a retailer’s store. Until fairly recently, marketers didn’t have these kinds of tools that connect online exposure to offline purchases. So, use them. Action step: When you run a campaign, set up a mechanism to see if they’re affecting offline sales.

Use third-party data, depending on your needs

Ideally, firms would have a critical mass of first-party data that helps them identify their customers on social media platforms. Such data can be used to increase loyalty, retarget or upsell consumers. But third-party data can help boost acquisition efforts by using first-party data to create look-alike audiences. Look-alike audiences are new customers who are statistically likely to be interested in what you’re selling because they share many traits with your existing customers. Pairing one data source with another can also yield insights. Articles that are read, for instance, can be an indicator of interest and intent. When coupled with location data or shopping data, they can expose new occasions for serving up marketing messages. Action step: Use third party data to create lookalike audiences.

Work with your social media partners

Social media is constantly evolving. Facebook, Twitter and Snap, for example, continue to test new products, ideas and formats. Maintaining communication with your social media partners will help you stay up to date on the newest placements, understand their applications and negotiate inclusion in beta programs. Action step: Form strong relationships with social media partners to take part in their new initiatives. Social media can be a frustrating channel because it is new enough that best practices are still being developed. However, social media is no longer a specialized area of expertise. Social media skills should be distributed in every team and weaved into all marketing outreach to help find that ROI that has been so elusive.

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