How to Cultivate Brand Advocacy with Paid Social
As a driver of sales, leads, and conversions, we know that paid social works. However, direct selling isn’t necessarily the most important – or attainable – benefit of paid social as an advertising channel.
Because social media is the number-one daily activity for American adults, you might be better off thinking about paid social as a springboard for growing relationships between your brand and your fans.
Paid social campaigns take advantage of social proof to significantly grow exposure and brand awareness. When consumers feel personally invested in a company they support, they’re more likely to share information about the company with their social circles. This, in turn, helps to dramatically amplify your brand messaging.
These fan advocacy relationships have the most potential to lead to more sales in the long run, for two reasons:
- Research proves that people trust and value peer-to-peer recommendations over marketing or ad copy.
- The feed algorithms on social media platforms favor posts from real people over brands, meaning your brand will get better exposure.
Paid social campaigns can work wonders for building better relationships with fans, but to get the most out of them, you need to think strategically.
How Engaged Is Your Traffic?
For fan building, the more engaged your users are on a particular channel, the better. Different niches see different levels of activity on various platforms, as noted in research from UGC marketing platform Yotpo.
For relationship-oriented social ads, the time of engagement matters much more than it does with sales-oriented ads. For instance, when people visit from Facebook, they spend more time on site on average than users who visit from Twitter:
Image via Yotpo
Make it a practice to constantly monitor your traffic engagement from each source so you can determine where efforts are most successful and where campaigns need to be changed.
The metrics that matter most for this type of monitoring include:
- Bounce rate
- The share of traffic driven from each source
- Micro conversions like email opt-ins
The bounce rate will paint a picture of how engaged individuals were with the content once they arrived. The share of traffic driven identifies the percent of traffic from a particular channel or source. This makes it easier to see the value of each channel without becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of visitors. Methods for tracking leads will vary from one company to another, but may include statistics for the number of new people who opt-in to an email list, download a white paper, or register for a conference or webinar.
Understand Your Paid Campaign Objective
The type of paid social campaigns you run will differ depending on what you hope to achieve. The big social networks generally all break down their ad campaigns by objective to help you find the ad solution you want.
Here’s how the interface looks on Facebook:
And on Twitter:
As a default, marketers often attempt to drive sales conversions, but that’s not necessarily the best approach. In fact, according to Rank Fishkin of Moz, it’s completely misguided.
“What really does happen is that people come many, many times” to visit websites before making any purchases,” Rand explained in a Whiteboard Friday video from 2014. “They essentially grow this memory about your brand, about what you do, and they build up kind of what I'd call a ‘positive bank account’ with you. But that bank account, there are not coins and money in there. There are experiences and touches with your brand. Those content touches, and those social media touches, and those touches that come through performing a search and seeing you listed there, those build up the capital in the account.”
It’s totally understandable that marketers find it difficult to focus on accumulating new fans and strengthening their relationships; there is very little immediate payoff for this strategy, and we all know ROI counts. It’s easier to value your paying customers more highly because they are paying you to do so. It’s much more difficult to place a monetary value on would-be fans.
However, it isn’t impossible when you really understand the benefits of fan cultivation. True fans who love your brand will passionately spread the word to their circles. Reaching a new audience and igniting authentic enthusiasm among them will build your brand the way no sales pitch campaign ever could.
How to Leverage the Power of Social Referrals
Social referrals are undeniably powerful. Dropbox is the oft-cited, classic growth hack example of how peer-to-peer referrals can create huge upward momentum for a company. With their referral program (which offered users additional free space for referring friends to the service), the company was able to grow from 100,000 users to 4 million in just over a year. These types of advocate-led referrals boost traffic and engagement because they are from someone the individual knows and trusts. It’s that simple.
Social referrals often get boxed in with social media likes, tweets or pins, but there are other ways to use them.
Going back to Yotpo’s data, when customer reviews are used as part of social advertising efforts, conversion rates are 40% higher on Facebook, 8.4 times higher on Twitter and 5.3 times higher on LinkedIn, compared to advertising that does not leverage personal reviews.
Yotpo’s study also reveals the extent to which using peer reviews as social ad creative changes the game in terms of site stickiness metrics such as session duration and pages per referred visit.
Another important consideration when creating effective advertising campaigns is relevance versus intent as it relates to your audience.
When someone clicks on an ad that has a “Buy Now” call-to-action on it, they’re more likely to actually complete the purchase, because they’re – in theory, anyway – prequalified to be interested in buying the product. It’s easier, cheaper and more effective to use ad creative and targeting tactics that speak to relevance than intent, and this is the goal behind product-oriented ads.
Content-oriented or branding ads, on the other hand, are meant to facilitate the growth of a community, not sell products. They tend to be focused around emotional content and promoting a sense of belonging.
HyperGrowth CEO Samuel Chan explained this in a blog post from a few years back, saying “Sure, enticing copy and the fundamental understanding of intent-based advertising still matters, but on social media platforms the advertiser is required to analyze human interests, behavior, and social interactions.”
How to Bring It All Together with Social Influencers
Conversion-based advertising and fan-building campaigns come together most effectively when influencers are involved. These are individuals who have a strong, trustworthy presence in the niche being targeted. They’ve built their own communities and are passionate about promoting the best products and services relevant to their followers.
Image via Single Grain
These influencers have the ability to reach a greater number of people in your desired market and may even help increase sales initially. However, the true power of brands cultivating relationships with influencers is simply engaging with a greater number of interested consumers on a regular basis and building brand awareness over time.
Sure, you can identify the influencers you might want to work with by analyzing social media profiles and looking for people with large and active followings in your niche. But you’d also do well to think of your brand’s most active fans as possible influencers. They might not have the largest followings, so they might not help much with attracting new community members, but they’ll surely help arrivals to feel welcome – and that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
What level are most of your fans and followers? Image via LiveChat.
Invite these active followers to special events and give them early access to new products or services; they’ll create buzz that will electrify the larger community and prime them for official announcements and releases.
You can also build an ad audience segment specifically targeting these people using social ads with special offers. Social Media Examiner offers some useful tips for these types of campaigns.
The Real Payoff for Paid Social Campaigns
When building your strategy for paid social media campaigns, look to the quality of traffic being driven to the site rather than the quantity. For building brand awareness and nurturing fan relationships, that’s the end goal. Social media allows you to reach a greater percentage of people who will be authentically engaged, even if the total number may be lower than those experienced with more traditional methods of advertising.
Cultivating relationships with customers and potential customers allows you to increase reach and brand equity, eventually leading to greater numbers of sales. Finally, it’s important to remember that there is no perfect fit for every company. It will take trial, error, revision and still more experiments to perfect a paid social media strategy that will reach the right people in the right way. The long-term benefits of this strategic approach, however, are well worth the effort and investment.
About the Author
Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler and author of the bestselling social media book The New Community Rules: Marketing on The Social Web. She blogs about all things tech and social at Techipedia.