Social Media Has Left the Building
By Michael Nelson
One of the most common conversations I have with clients and potential clients is about whether it makes sense to pay us or any other company to handle their social media for them. The challenge is there aren’t many upsides to social media at this point, if any. Here are my top 3 reasons why social media is no longer the goliath it used to be. For those of you searching and hoping for a reason to stay on social media just skip past these and head on down to the conclusion.
Cost of Audience Development
Not long ago, businesses had it made. If they wanted to get their brand in front of people and engage with their audience, it was as simple as creating a business page and posting content. Sometimes the content did not even need to be good. You could garner likes, shares, and followers with just a few clicks—and it was 100% free. It seemed like every post gained a new follower and every offer attracted a new client. What a time to be alive! Until suddenly it wasn’t. It was like watching the lights go out after you flip the switch. All at once, brands that used to get hundreds or thousands of likes went down to maybe 3. Brands that saw dozens of new followers a day went down to zero– unless you wanted to pay. What used to happen for free now has a price tag and it rarely offers a sensible ROI. By some estimates, a new Facebook or Instagram follower costs as high as $2-$4. When it comes to scaling, the math isn’t difficult. You could easily be thousands of dollars into audience development on marketing channels that have limits on who sees your posts based on…The Algorithm.
Over the last few years, the word algorithm has been everywhere. In the social media world, The Algorithm is the boogeyman that decides which posts live and die. Which posts are seen by millions… or by none. The Algorithm and its complexities have spawned a whole new industry of people who claim to know and understand it. They promise to optimize your posts, increase engagement, and generally outsmart The Algorithm. A promise that likely won’t be kept. By our estimates, organic (i.e. unpaid) posts are seen by less than 4% of your total audience because of The Algorithm. LESS than 4%. Now let’s run those numbers: at a new follower cost of $2 (the low side), gaining 10,000 followers would cost $20,000. Of those 10,000 followers, only 400 would see the post. How many of those will even interact, let alone make a purchase? Don’t take my word for it though. A quick look at major brands like Pepsi, Nike, or even Black Rifle Coffee (who used to create great content in this author’s opinion) will bring home the point. To check their engagement rate, just add up their engagements from a recent organic post, then divide that number by their total followers. The result will be surprising. I know it would surprise me, but that’s also because I haven’t looked at my social accounts in over a year. Truthfully, I’m just tired of social media. And I’m not alone.
Some say it’s information overload, too much data, or that the media overall is the problem. The Social Media companies claim it’s a myth because their overall user count keeps rising. What they don’t address is the number of accounts that are either fake (“bots”) or duplicate. They rarely address how many of these accounts are actively engaging and they never address how many active accounts are under management. I personally have an active Facebook account that I never access because my team manages it. We have an office full of marketing professionals, writers, and creators who will openly profess their disdain for social media. They’re still on it, but not nearly as much as even a few years ago. Most real humans we speak to say something similar. In fact, I’ve been hard pressed to find someone that speaks positively about social media. Most complain about the toxicity, the politics, the opinions, the fake news, and the censorship. These items create a fatigue in users until they no longer engage, post, or even log in anymore. They’re tired. Can you blame them?
There are still uses for social media, but they may not come with a dependable ROI. Our current guidance is to use social media as a communications channel. It’s no longer where customers are finding you, but it’s helpful for building credibility in a brand. We suggest companies do their own social media and focus marketing budgets on more effective strategies. For those of you that are still hoping for results like it’s 2016, social media has left the building.
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