Social Media Marketing isn't Just about Gaining Likes and Followers

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-05 00:26

Facebook-based social media marketing functions best when using paid advertising.

Many businesses turn to social media to gain traction among their consumer base. Regular posts, high-quality content, and engagement with social media followers are thought to be effective marketing strategies. Popular businesses with many likes and followers turn their social media audience into active customers—or so we think.

Researchers from Tulane University recently published a study on how a company's Facebook page affects customers' behavior. According to their findings, an active social media base does not necessarily become an active consumer base. Engaging people on social media isn't enough; targeted ads are still the most effective way to gain customers.

Misconceptions about Social Media Marketing

Because Facebook is primarily for socializing, marketers need specific techniques to use it effectively for social media marketing.

There's no denying that social media can make a significant impact among large groups of people. Businesses have thus poured time, energy, and resources into capitalizing on the pervasiveness of social media.

Companies often make sure to closely engage their social media followers. In social media marketing, frequent and regular posts are a must to keep followers engaged and boost the brand's popularity. “Most companies think that those social interactions will lead to more customer loyalty and more profitable customers,” says Daniel Mochon, lead author of the study. However, likes and followers won't always translate to actual profit. People may follow you on social media, but how many of them actually transact with your business?

Into the Mind of the Average Facebook User

The researchers sought to understand how businesses can make the most of their social media interactions with their audience. To do this, they experimented with a business's Facebook page. They worked with Karen Johnson, general manager of the insurance company Discovery Health. Discovery Health had a Facebook page for its wellness program, Discovery Vitality, on which customers earn points by living healthfully. Customers can then exchange those points for rewards.

The team sent survey invitations to new customers and randomly invited them to like Discovery Vitality's Facebook page. Another pool of people who weren't sent invitations served as a control group.

After four months of monitoring, both groups had not earned a significant amount of reward points. This meant that they didn't live more healthfully than usual. Through this, the team surmised that involvement in the page's social media community was not enough to change offline behavior.

Targeted Ads

Businesses can use targeted ads to make sure that their online presence reaches their target user base.

Because of this, the researchers decided to test how customers react to targeted advertising. Discovery Vitality paid Facebook to boost two Vitality posts per week to the group that received invitations. After two months, the team found that people in that group earned more reward points than people in the control group.

These findings indicate that taking advantage of Facebook's targeting algorithm and paid ads is more effective in changing customer behavior. Though a business posts regularly, it cannot guarantee that its followers will see the posts. Having Facebook boost content and paying for ad placement increase the chances of actually being able to reach customers. Social media marketing is even more effective when businesses make the most of the social media platform they use.

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