Who said Social Media was free?

WHO SAID SOCIAL MEDIA WAS FREE?When we think of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social media, as individuals, we think of photos, videos, news, friends, etc. But as entrepreneurs, small business owners, the first thing that comes to our minds is: audience.

Yes, the audience that has ‘in it’ our current customers, but above all, a never ending pool of potential clients that we can reach. I can already see the dollar signs (or Euros, if you prefer a more European approach!) in your eyes when you think about it. And you’re not wrong – any one of those platforms is a very powerful marketing tool. And you can actually make a bulk load of money by using social media to promote your business, your products and your services. But watch out, to do that you will have to spend some money in it. Because whoever told you that social media was free, lied (cue disappointment!).

Let's have a closer look at this audience in what the two most used social media in Portugal are concerned – Facebook and Instagram. And no, the order in which I placed them is not a mistake at all! According to a worldwide study conducted earlier this year by the GWI (Global Web Index) research institute, Facebook is still the most used social media in the world, with around 2.8 billion monthly active users (MAU), with Instagram ranking #5, with approximately 1.2 billion MAU (and Portugal follows this trend).

Of course, you and your business are not interested in all those billions of people. But if I tell you that in Europe, and on average, the social media penetration rate (i.e., the percentage of people who use social media in a given territory) is approximately 75%, and 65% in Portugal, it’s easy to understand why (and particularly after Covid hit) literally everyone has a business page or profile on, at least, these two platforms. And rightly so. This is a ‘pot’ you definitely want to ‘get your hand into’!

But let me ask you: and what do you do on your social media to reach all these people? Do you post regularly? Do you create content on what you sell or do? And (the million dollar question) is that enough? You might tell me that you've studied all the statistics and articles that tell you how many times you should post there (according to most studies: once or twice a day, with a minimum of three posts a week, though on Instagram consistency is more important than frequency), and those that state the best times to do it (although in this case there is no general consensus, especially because the (increasingly popular) Instagram Stories ‘messes things up’).

Wonderful, well done! Here is someone who keeps up with trends and stays informed. But I ask you again: is it enough to create and publish content on your pages or profiles organically? And given I keep pushing on this, you’re probably starting to think that there’s more to this than meets the eye! And there is. If your answer was ‘yes’, because there are billions of people that we can reach when we ‘sneeze’ on these platforms and your number of Likes and followers is actually quite good, get ready to cue disappointment in... again. Maybe you don't know, but according to the HootSuite giant, the organic (unpaid or free) reach of a Facebook post is 5.2% (and with a tendency to continue decreasing) and the average organic engagement rate on Instagram is 0.96%.
Using simple maths and round numbers to make it easier – let's imagine that you have 500 followers on each one of these platforms – this means that each one of your posts will be seen by 26 of these people on Facebook, and that only 4.8 people will interact with it on Instagram. Scary, right?

But it kind of puts things into perspective, so calm down, don't start to hyperventilate. What we are talking about here is organic, free, content. And there you go – as I told you at the very beginning, free is something that social media simply isn’t. It is not your posts on Facebook and Instagram that will bring you leads (they may bring some, from time to time, but not enough for those who want a regular and consistent source of business in the online segment, and let's face it, we all want that!). The harsh reality is that the Likes and followers of each page do not translate into sales, per se.
However, at the beginning of this article I clearly stated that social media is a very powerful tool in terms of digital marketing, especially for small businesses... am I losing my mind? No. What you need to understand is that these two premises are not mutually exclusive. You can and should use all the power of these platforms to promote your business and to sell your products or services, just don't expect to do it for free, that is, be prepared to pay for it.

It's time to add a new layer to your social media marketing strategy – paid advertising (campaigns and post promotions or boosts). Keep in mind that you will only spend money (I do prefer the term invest, to tell you the truth) on those people who really interest you. The targeting options that Facebook (and inherently Instagram) offers its advertisers are profoundly advanced – you can limit in terms of territory and/ or age group, gender, language, profession and an endless number of interests that will allow you to find your ‘needles’ (to be read customers) in that haystack of billions of users. We are not talking about ‘more or less’ or ‘on the outskirts of’ – a target audience there can be created with surgical precision (so long as you know how to do it, but that's something for another day).

And in terms of objectives, you just need to choose what you want! You can promote your last post, with that product you want to stock off, to reach all your followers or those who don't know you yet. You can create a campaign to take Facebook / Instagram users to your website. You can prepare ads to interact and sell directly on these platforms. You can even advertise using completely different content from what you publish in your page or profile. And, since Facebook and Instagram are one single platform in terms of advertising, this audience will see you (your ads) on their Facebook or Instagram feed and/ or Stories, on Messenger, on Marketplace, etc, etc, etc.
So, is it then worth wasting all that time creating and publishing organic content on these platforms? Yes, it is. It adds credibility, confidence and increases your brand awareness (although this is also an objective you can choose for your social media advertising campaigns!). It just has to be complemented with paid advertising, so it can translate into leads and sales.

When to start? Yesterday. Yesterday is a good day to start doing it. And hurry up, you're already running late!

For more information, bespoke strategies and efficient digital marketing solutions, just contact the Clarity’s girls through info@yourdigitalclarity.com or visit our website at yourdigitalclarity.com.

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