5 of the Biggest Social Media Marketing Challenges

  • Challenge #1: Defining Marketing Goals
  • Challenge #2: Identifying the Right Platform
  • Challenge #3: Understanding the Target Audience
  • Challenge #4: Declining Organic Reach and Engagement Rates
  • Challenge #5: Increasing Ad Cost
  • Challenge #1: Defining Marketing Goals

    It’s surprising how many marketers struggle with goal setting for their marketing campaigns. Marketers face difficulties in creating social marketing strategies that align with the goals of their business. 47% of them cite this as their biggest challenge.  

    While increased brand awareness remains a top goal for 70% of marketers, many are still unclear about which KPIs matter. 

    Image via Sprout Social

    If your goals are not well-defined, you will find it hard to measure your marketing performance and demonstrate its value to your stakeholders. This can adversely affect the budget for your future campaigns. 


    Solution

    Start with big-picture goals. Ask yourself, why your business is on social media. This exercise will help you identify the business objectives you hope to meet through social media marketing. Then, you can go about planning your social media marketing goals.

    Next, set SMART goals for each campaign. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. SMART goals keep your campaigns on-track and prevent you from deviating from the set budget. 

    • Specific: The kind of engagement, platform, and target area should be well defined.
    • Measurable: You can use the analytics of each social media platform to measure your reach and engagement.
    • Attainable: Ensure that the goal can be met by organic and paid campaigns.
    • Realistic:  Set a goal that you can actually achieve in a specific time frame. Use your past performance as a benchmark.
    • Time-bound: The time frame should be well-defined to help you compute accurate metrics.

    The SMARTer your goals, the more effective your campaign. Plus, you can measure your KPIs against your goals and get buy-in from your management for your next budget.


    Challenge #2: Identifying the Right Platform

    The next hurdle marketers face is in the selection of which platforms to leverage. Few marketers research their target markets thoroughly enough to identify the platforms where their target audience is active.

    From the chart below, there seems to be a disconnect between customers and marketers. You can see that LinkedIn is used by 38% of social media marketers whereas only 6% of consumers use the platform to follow brands. This means marketers are wasting their efforts and resources on platforms that are not bankable.

    Image via Sprout Social

    Investing in the wrong platforms can exhaust your budget, especially if you regularly use paid ads. If the decision-makers in your company are not sold on the idea of social media marketing in the first place, they might just pull the plug if you commit this misstep.


    Solution

    In a way, if you overcome the first challenge of goal setting, you are well on your way to overcoming this challenge too. 

    For example, if you want to establish a personal connection with customers, Twitter is your best bet. On the other hand, Instagram is great if you want to leverage influencers to spread brand awareness.

    However, if you need information on how other marketers select platforms, you can use the chart below as a benchmark:

    Image via Sprout Social

    Take the time to get to know your audience. Which platforms are they active on? What are their main activities on social media? Dissect your audience demographics to learn about their genders, ages, and locations. Then, meet them where they are active. A lot depends on the nature of your business as well. B2C brands need to be active on visual platforms like Facebook and Instagram to grab the attention of consumers. 

    B2B brands can benefit from local SEO on Google My Business and Bing. They should also post regularly on LinkedIn to make useful connections with brands. You also need to keep tabs on your competitors. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is very true for social media users. If you don’t have a strong presence on channels that your competitors are acing, you’re bound to lose a lot of conversion opportunities. 

    Social media listening can help you track the brand mentions of your competitors. Identify the channels where they are garnering attention. Then, plan outreach on those channels. 


    Challenge #3: Understanding the Target Audience

    There are many brands that do superb business in-store but fail miserably on social. The difference is that in brick-and-mortar stores, customers approach brands, whereas, on social media, brands have to seek out customers. And, do some brands have no clue how to do this.

    Too often, marketers create content first and figure out the target audience later. They have the misconception that great content converts, even if it is not targeted. Though great content gets engagement, it might not generate leads if it isn’t tailored to your target audience’s needs. 

    Directionless marketing relies on a spray-and-pray approach that seldom gives the desired returns. In fact, it can damage your brand’s credibility. You run the risk of getting blocked or reported if you bombard people with irrelevant content. 

    Image via Sprout Social


    Solution

    Do you know who your ideal customer is? Have you created a precise buyer persona? Dig into your existing customer base, ad analytics, and email subscriber list. Create a fictional customer avatar from the data you collect.

    Get personal with the data. How many kids does your customer have? How do they spend their weekends? What kind of music do they love? Gather as many insights as are relevant to your business.

    You can use social listening tools to capture insights. You can drill down into customer conversations around your brand, product, and niche. Understand the consumer sentiment and pain points to shape your campaign goals and content.

    Kraft Foods used social data when they were planning to introduce mini-burgers or sliders. Using social listening, they identified slider themes popular among different customer segments. Social research guides the brand’s product strategy as well. Their super-successful Mayochup was a result of one such research.

    Image via Trust Insights

    Social listening will also help you understand the “why” behind customer actions. Why are they following a particular platform? Why did they unfollow your brand? Why is your brand mention volume low? Use the insights you gathered to establish a personal connection with customers and create more appealing content. 


    Challenge #4: Declining Organic Reach and Engagement Rates

    Organic reach on leading social platforms is plummeting. Simultaneously, the cost of paid ads is increasing. Brands are struggling to strike a balance between goals and budget. 

    Take a look at this chart from Trust Insights. It analyses engagement on one million posts from 4,097 brands on Instagram. 

    Image via Trust Insights

    As you can see, the number is declining significantly. The median engagement rate for unpaid branded content on Instagram stands at just 0.31% now. This means if you have a follower count of 1000, only 3.1 of them will engage with your content.

    Facebook defends the trend by saying that people prefer to see content from their friends and families, and not brands. But their claim falls flat as 90% of Instagrammers follow businesses too. 

    Brands were just coming to terms with the bad news when Facebook and Instagram rolled out new updates to help brands monetise their content. Instagram’s Checkout feature is the latest addition in this series. Though the thought is great, brands have to pay a commission to the platforms. For a small business with a few hundred followers, these updates could mean near-zero organic reach. 

    That’s not all. Instagram’s influencer industry is also waning. In 2019, Trust Insights analysed the profiles of 4,462 influencers. The reported the median engagement rate for 632,379 unpaid posts fell by 41.2% in just one year. 

    Image via Trust Insights

    This means that the brands will have to rely on sponsored influencer content to make their presence felt on Instagram. 


    Solution:

    Make your platforms work for you. Know the algorithms well. If Instagram is your main platform, leverage Instagram Stories. They have great engagement rates and allow you to tell your brand’s story effectively.

    Going live is another simple way to maximise your organic reach. You can use IGTV if you want to broadcast long-form stories. You can collaborate with influencers to host interviews, podcasts, and interactive Q&A sessions. 

    Optimise your social content for the right specs and posting times. Video marketing is big these days. Use videos to showcase your knowledge and troubleshoot customers’ problems. Cross-promote all your social content to grab more eyeballs organically.

    Smart marketers leverage user-generated content (UGC), which can be generated free of cost. Think of ways to get your followers to share content that you can reuse on your social media accounts. 

    The social proof will add to your brand’s credibility.

    Airbnb uses this strategy and almost-exclusively posts UGC on its Instagram page.

    Image via Instagram

    Hashtag contests and giveaways are guaranteed to produce a lot of UGC. If you instruct followers to tag their friends, you can earn more followers and leads. 


    Challenge #5: Increasing Ad Cost

    Brands with deep pockets may prefer to buy engagement through paid ads on social media. But even that is becoming challenging. Ad costs are increasing and competition is stiff. It’s getting harder to recover your investment and make a profit from paid ads. 

    One reason behind this trend is the immense popularity of paid ads, especially Facebook ads. In Q3 of 2019, there were 7 million active advertisers on Facebook. With so much ad content, marketers are finding it difficult to cut through the noise and reach their targets.


    Solution:

    On Facebook, you have many placement options like mobile or desktop news feed, right-panel ads, messenger ads, and Facebook’s Audience Network. We suggest that you opt for mobile placement since Facebook has an extensive user base among mobile users. 

    If you want to know more about the different ad formats and placements, go through Facebook’s quarterly earnings reports. You will get a good idea about the unique ad impressions that each format garners in a day. 

    Returns from paid ads are measurable. So, make sure that your advertising goals are in place before you start your ad campaign. This way, you can find out if your campaign has fulfilled its goals.

    Use advanced targeting to reach prospects who aren’t your followers. Using the buyer persona we mentioned before, cover as many target segments as possible with your ad. Avoid overlapping audience types that just eat up your ad budget without driving returns. Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences can help you zero in on your ideal customers. 


    Ready to Tackle These Challenges?

    All types of marketing come with their own set of challenges. Social media marketing is no exception. Now that you are familiar with these issues, you are better prepared to handle them. Use the tips and strategies mentioned in this post to risk-proof your social media marketing efforts.

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