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Dispelling the biggest myths about social media marketing

Posted on May 27, 2020

Being an important part of the overarching digital marketing strategy, social media advertising offers advertisers precise options to support and to reach individual marketing goals. However, several myths about social platforms persist and may influence advertiser’s marketing activities. We have uncovered the biggest myths and provide helpful tips for advertisers to use the network’s full potential and to reach the best possible media outcome. 

The increasing possibilities in digital marketing enable companies to reach their advertising goals more and more precisely. Social media marketing plays an important role in the overall digital marketing strategy. With their different focal points and different user structures, social platforms offer a wide range of advertising opportunities that can be integrated into the marketing mix and thus make the best possible contribution to the advertising objective.

Despite the increasing establishment of social media marketing in the media plans of advertisers, some myths about the social platforms persist and influence the marketing activities of advertisers. Sandra Nachstedt, Marketing Manager, and Isabel Rosinski, Senior Account Manager, deal in a guest article in the print edition 22/2020 of "new business magazine" with various myths that persist in social media marketing.


Myth 1: Fans and followers are the cornerstone of social media marketing

Many companies still measure their success in social media marketing by counting the fans and followers of their page. The more followers, the greater the reach of their own content and the greater the interaction with them- that is the assumption.

Even if the organic reach of fans initially seems very attractive for advertisers, they only reach a fraction of their potential target group this way. Consequently, a very high number of fans and followers is needed to achieve the campaign goals. However, the initial costs of acquiring fans are not in any lucrative proportion to its benefits. Thus, it takes several years - often even decades - until a fan has been amortised. Instead of building on high organic reach or occasionally boosting the reach of organic posts by using some budget, companies need to take a more strategic approach and focus their overall marketing objectives. Social platforms offer numerous advertising formats to achieve specific campaign goals. For example, reach and brand awareness campaigns to increase awareness of a brand. Advertising formats with a visual focus, such as video or photo ads, which are placed in the feed or in the story and attract the attention of users by means of an expressive image or video, are suitable for these advertising objectives. If the advertiser's goal is to sell products, marketer can conduct link-click or conversion campaigns. Link Ads or Lead Ads are suitable advertising formats for those campaign goals. Link ads direct users to a target website via a link integrated in the creative. By using Lead Ads companies can contact users quickly and directly. When clicking on the Lead Ad a contact form opens automatically and allows users to register in just a few steps, for example for newsletters or test drives. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Co. are highly efficient advertising environments with a variety of advertising formats and optimisation options to achieve campaign goals. The native embedding of the advertisements in the content on the platform means that the attention to their content and thus the advertising impact is high. The effectiveness of campaigns on the social networks can be continuously increased through the granular targeting options, the various options to adapt the campaign setup to the individual advertising goals, and through a "Test & Learn" approach. Tools such as A&B tests or split tests enable advertisers to test ads against each other and optimize them according to the results. Brand Lift Studies can also be conducted on many platforms to determine the actual benefit of advertisements independently of other marketing measures. The challenge is to find the right mix of advertising measures in order to get the most out of the media budget across platforms and channels and thus efficiently achieve the overall marketing goal. Fans and followers are just one of many possible target groups that can be tailored to the company's needs and that must be used in the best possible way through correct data and target group management.


Myth 2: The customer journey is not relevant on social media platforms
The end of a successful customer journey is the purchase of a product by the customer. The fact that the customer journey is also relevant for social media is often neglected; it is even assumed that campaign planning along the customer journey is not possible. 
However, the marketing funnel and the passing through its various stages are also enormously important for consumers in the social media sector in order to ultimately be able to make a purchase decision. Conversion campaigns, for example, show better performance values if potential customers have been made aware of the product beforehand using a branding phase and interest has already been aroused. From inspiration, to discovery of the product, to the completed purchase, the entire process can now take place almost seamlessly on one platform. With the introduction of new "shoppable" advertising formats and the implementation of checkout functions on individual social media platforms, the topic of social commerce is becoming increasingly relevant. Social Commerce enables companies to have the complete customer journey taking place on the platform - from the first point of contact to the purchase. This makes the shopping experience easier for users and eliminates the need for forwarding to external sites. In contrast to the classic online shop, the handling of the entire journey on the social platform offers the advantage that the customers can be addressed in a granular and interest-based manner until the purchase. The increasing popularity of social commerce makes it clear that social media advertising should not be used as a separate marketing instrument, but rather as a sub-sector of marketing that must be integrated into the cross-company marketing strategy. Depending on the advertising objective, each company must decide individually at which point social media marketing can optimally support the objectives of the digital marketing strategy. 


Myth 3: Companies should be active on as many platforms as possible
Social media marketing is only successful if a company is represented on all platforms?  No way!

A presence on all platforms costs a lot of time and money, but does not necessarily support the marketing goal. Not every platform fits the individual advertising goals of the companies. The user structure, the users' behaviour and the users' mindset differ from platform to platform. While Facebook, for example, focuses on interaction with friends and groups, Pinterest is inspired by ideas and products. Instagram focuses on sharing users' personal moments, while LinkedIn serves as a network for professional contacts and business messages. Companies should advertise where the potential target audience is active. It is advisable to focus on just a few platforms rather than accept too much wastage. A professional social media strategy therefore does not refer to the mere number of platforms that are served, but to the right choice of these and the content that is published. The platforms and their users must suit into the company's overall marketing strategy in order to make a sustainable value contribution to the overall marketing objective.


Myth 4: Only young target groups can be reached with social advertising
There is a widespread assumption that mainly a young target group can be addressed by social media. But: Social advertising offers companies the advantage of reaching users of all age groups. 

Of course there are platforms, such as Snapchat or TikTok, which are more attractive for and more used by younger people. But the situation is different with Facebook, Twitter, XING or LinkedIn. While young users were increasingly active on these platforms at the time the platforms were established, an ageing of their user base has been observed over the course of the platforms' existence. Today, the networks are used by all age groups. For example, more than a third of Facebook users are over 35 years old, and on Twitter around 45 percent of users are in this age group. A similar picture is emerging in the business networks XING and LinkedIn. Over 40 percent of users who have indicated their age are even over 40 years old on both platforms. The fact that social media exclusively address a very young target group can therefore be negated. 
In addition, the granular targeting options of the various platforms make it possible to reach the relevant target group efficiently. Different age clusters can be precisely defined and addressed. Likewise, the targeting options of the platforms make it possible to address different age groups with advertising and subsequently compare the performance values in the different age groups. As a result, advertisers not only have the opportunity to address their target group precisely via social media advertising, but also to gain even more insights into the age structure of their target group and to continuously optimize targeting. Due to the granular targeting possibilities and the different user structures on the platforms, social media marketing offers comprehensive possibilities for each advertising target to precisely reach relevant target groups of all ages.


Myth 5: Social media and B2B marketing - it doesn't fit together

B2B target groups are not found on social media channels and social networks are not relevant for B2B marketing - is a widespread myth in social advertising. 

It is true that marketers in B2B are faced with different challenges than in B2C marketing. Advertising is often difficult because the professional framework (supposedly) has less room for emotions and the usually complex products often require further explanation. In addition, it is challenging to define target groups, since purchase decisions on B2B products are often made by several stakeholders in a company, who need to be identified and convinced with advertising.
Ultimately, however, these B2B purchasing decisions are still made by people with needs and interests who can be emotionally bound to B2B brands as well as B2C brands and who can be distinguished by various characteristics - which means that social media platforms are certainly qualified as effective B2B advertising channels. As in B2C marketing, however, B2B marketers must first define their advertising target and derive from this the target group they wish to address, the criteria by which this target group is formed, the platforms on which this target group is active and the KPIs that make sense to represent the defined marketing goal. With the right campaign planning and a clever targeting strategy, decision makers in the B2B context can be reached via social networks. The decisive factor for success is the most precise determination possible of those characteristics that are most suitable as targeting criteria for addressing a heterogeneous target group. Purely interest-based targeting, can only be used to a limited extent in a business context, since people who represent the needs of a company in their role as employees do not necessarily have a private interest in the topic and would therefore be addressed by interest targeting. Those who are not familiar with these characteristics in the run-up to a campaign can also identify them with the corresponding campaign strategy via social networks. For this purpose, the campaign is started with a more unspecific targeting, which, for example, only covers a certain age range and the industry of the target group, and the analysis of the campaign performance determines those characteristics of the target group for which the performance values are particularly good. In B2B marketing, it is also important to think long-term and strategically, as purchasing decisions are often based on operational conditions and business considerations. With a well-planned and target-oriented B2B marketing strategy, social media platforms can therefore be strong supporters in achieving goals.


Myth 6: Success in social media marketing is hardly measurable

Many companies think that the social media strategy is successful when the content goes viral. This means high reach on social networks and success can be measured in terms of "likes" and comments. There are no more options, are there?
This fallacy may be due to the fact that social networks have developed rapidly and many advertisers are unaware of the fact that nowadays much more is possible to make the success of advertising measures visible on the platforms. Depending on the chosen campaign objective, social media advertising can monitor numerous meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) and the achievement of objectives can be made measurable by implementing pixels. External service providers also offer the possibility to verify values. However, not all of the values measured are relevant to the individually set advertising goal and provide information about whether the activities contribute to the company's goals. Classical performance measures such as impressions, cost per click (CPC) or the cost per mile (CPM) are becoming less and less important. There exsist  far more precise ways of measuring the success of a campaign than using such approximate values. For example, the conversion rate is better suited to measuring the success of a sales campaign than the number of link clicks, in order to determine whether the largest possible proportion of the addressed users make a purchase. Basically, it is useful to look at the KPIs that reflect the campaign or marketing objective as clearly as possible. A combination of several KPIs often provides the best information about the advertising impact of a campaign. A well-designed social media and campaign strategy thus offers precise possibilities for pursuing the advertising objective in the social network environment and optimising the content in a targeted manner using meaningful KPIs.


The myths of the social media world presented here show that social media marketing is subject to some persistent prejudices. It is important to face these assertions attentively and critically. After all, such myths lead companies to make false assumptions about individual platforms or social advertising in general and fail to exploit its full potential. 
It is therefore important for every company to examine what exactly is the overriding advertising objective and how digital marketing in the social media sector can help to achieve this objective in the best possible way. Social media marketing should be integrated into the media mix as part of digital marketing. Instead of thinking in terms of channels or platforms, advertisers should always focus on the advertising objective in order to achieve the best media outcome.


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