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"social media" (2)

When it comes to marketing (and just about everything else), there are right-brained thinkers and left-brained thinkers. The right-brain thinkers are more subjective and often more creative and would not like the concept of social media having two options. It makes it too black and white. Left-brain thinkers are guided by logic and wouldn't necessarily believe that there are only two categories in social media marketing. In other words, neither type of person will likely agree with the assertion of this article, at least not at first.

One can make an argument that there are definitely multiple sub-categories, styles, and strategies that go into social media marketing, but there are really only two stances that businesses should take. These two categories can be called "outbound" and "inbound" social media strategies. They shouldn't be confused with inbound or outbound digital marketing strategies. In the case of these social media categories, we're being a little more straight forward than that.

An outbound social media marketing strategy is what most who believe in social media want to achieve. They feel that social media is a venue through which to reach people, communicate, improve branding, and expose the company's messages. Its goal is to be aggressive and take advantage of the fact that the masses are using social media regularly. In many cases, customers are spending more time on social media than any other digital activity.

An inbound social media strategy is very different from a pure inbound marketing strategy. It can be viewed as a defensive posture, a way of covering social media without much time or effort. It's about checking off the social media task box. This is the type of strategy that a business should employ if they either do not believe in social media as an appropriate marketing venue or they do not have the time and/or budget to put a true effort towards an outbound strategy.

Let's take a look at each strategy in more detail.

Outbound Social Media Marketing

This is an "all in" strategy. It focuses on the beliefs that lots of people are on social media, that sites like Facebook have the data that can be used for hypertargeting them with the right messages, and that either ideas or website clicks can be driven through an aggressive advertising component.

In the case of car dealers, for example, social media offers a venue to target people who intend to buy a certain vehicle in the near future. By taking advantage of this data and putting the right messages in front of them, dealers are able to pull people in from social media sites onto landing pages on their website.

To do it the right way requires an investment. It can take time to craft the messages, monitor the profiles, and participate in conversations. It takes advertising dollars to get the message out to the right target audience. Social media in general and Facebook in particular is a pay-to-play model. The old concepts of organic reach are dead.

Inbound Social Media Presence

You'll notice that I did not call it "marketing". With an inbound strategy, a business is simply creating and managing a presence so that they are there without putting in much effort. It's not a defeatist strategy by any means. For many, they have not found the benefits of social media or they're not ready to invest what it takes to have a strong marketing strategy, so they simply get their social media covered.

This is important because people will visit your pages and profiles. Most businesses have buttons that lead to their social media profiles right there on their website. The search engines will often rank social media profiles and pages high on search results for the business by name. Making sure that your pages have an ongoing flow of content is important while not being too time consuming or expensive.

It doesn't look good when people visit your social profiles and they haven't had anything added to them in some time. It's even worse when people are going to these profiles to converse with you or to leave a comment (such as a review) and it goes unnoticed. In extreme cases, Facebook pages can be "hijacked" by spammers leaving their links to unrelated pages. When this type of spam is found on a page, it can be worse than an embarrassment.

Why There's No In-Between

Some will balk and say that there are ways to have a good marketing strategy without going all-in. They are wrong. The benefits of a toe-dipping, low- or no-budget strategy that is trying to do more than establish an ongoing presence are no greater than a purely defensive inbound strategy. In other words, you can spend very little time and money on a basic inbound strategy or you can spend some more time and a little money on an attempted lite marketing strategy and the end results will be the same.

The gap between a basic presence and a "good" presence is minimal. However, the difference between a "good" presence and a full-blown outbound strategy is huge. If you're not going to go all-in, then you should focus on having a good presence rather than trying to work in a little marketing. It's a waste of time and money to go halfway. Either invest into it or keep it simple. There's nothing wrong with either strategy; they both have their benefits. Trying to be there in the middle, not quite bought in but more than just covering the basics, is a limbo that yields nothing more than keeping it all inbound.

It's a lot like poker. On some hands, you'll play it tight, particularly if you believe your hand is weaker than your opponents. On other hands, you'll play aggressive, even going all-in when the time is right. The fish in the middle who are trying to tiptoe through hands are the ones that end up losing their chips the quickest.

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Today, using the “free” social media platforms as a marketing tool without spending money on them is about as useful as playing the first level of the freeware version of iPad game.

It used to be so exciting to think about how to market a business on social media. We would read articles, watch videos, go to conferences, exchange ideas, try things out, and come up with the very best way to reach the people. Just a few years ago, it was exciting to be in the social media marketing world.

Things have changed. Many of my contemporaries who have been working in social media for nearly a decade have talked to me lately about how it’s all going downhill, how organic reach is gone and that the pay-to-play model has ruined the industry. They say things like “money makes the crap float to the top” or “there’s nothing creative about paying for exposure.” I agree with them during these conversations, not because I believe what they are saying, but because I’ve found that the exact opposite is true. I’m just trying to avoid an argument.

The reality is that the death of organic reach on social media sites is the best thing that could happen to creative social media marketers. Does it mean that some of the bottom line dollars must be spent in order to get the content the exposure it needs? Yes. Does it also mean that the crap that once filled news feeds across sites like Facebook have been yanked in favor of a proper mix of profile posts with a sprinkling of important, targeted, and paid-for exclusive posts? Absolutely.

It was once pretty futile. Sure, a few posts could get some pretty good exposure, reach, likes, retweets, shares, +1s, or whatever, but there were times when the best content didn’t reach the audience at the degree it deserved. Relying on organic when organic was still an option was a poor strategy. Now that there needs to be a budget (a very small budget, mind you), the potential exposure for high-quality content has actually increased due to the shift in need towards social media advertising.

Facebook and Twitter are the two obvious choices for embracing the paid model and in both cases, the shift was a very positive thing. Our messages can’t get muscled out by the big players just because they’re more popular. Paying to get the attention to the best content or most important posts is a sure-fire way to make certain that the message reaches the right people every time.

The thought that it killed creativity is ludicrous as well. In fact, the dollars attached to the campaigns mean that more care must be put into them. Nobody wants to waste money, so embracing a higher standard of post quality is now at top of mind. As much as we’d all like to think that we were putting out incredible content every time before, the reality is that everyone has days where they’re going through the motions. It’s on those days that a free post can slip through that is terrible. With the paid model, we must pay more attention. It’s better for everyone involved.

We all got suckered into it. We didn’t want to pay for it and for many of us, the reason that we got into this game in the first place was because we could gain exposure for our own pages or our clients’ pages by being good at the game. The paid model doesn’t change that if you really think about it. By paying, we are more invested and will perform better across the board. It’s part of human nature.

They got us to try it. In many ways, it’s like the freeware games that we download that try to get us hooked so we’ll pay for the full version. We got addicted to this world of social media marketing and now we can’t get out of it. Thankfully, the shift is starting to weed out those who are ineffective at taking advantage of what’s given to us all. If you’re not willing to pay to play this game, you should probably find another. Organic reach is dead on social media. Perhaps getting better organic search rankings is better suited for those who can’t play in social media anymore.

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