The situation in social media advertising is dire. What successful marketers must do to stay in business is outlined below.
As I explained in March on Marketing Land, social media marketing is on the brink of collapse and can only be saved by using tried and true strategies. Yes, I believe it is worthwhile to preserve.
This month I’d want to talk about mass manufacturing, a strategy that I think has been used well past its usefulness.
The good ol’ (bad) times
Mass production was formerly hailed as one of social media’s primary benefits. It became commonplace as more and more social media sites exposed their APIs and as more and more companies developed third-party products that made use of those APIs.
The ability to mass produce social media platforms has made them a favourite of online marketing teams. Some even speculated that social media might eventually replace channels like search engine optimisation (SEO) due to its scalability, low cost, huge reach, and micro-targeting capabilities.
It would be foolish of me to ignore the advantages of mass manufacturing methods. Business owners now have access to a plethora of previously unavailable analytics (follower count, engagement rate, number of reshares, etc.) all thanks to the rapid growth of social media as a marketing platform.
Automation and mass manufacturing have a strong draw, yet they are not inherently bad. Without them, most of the globe wouldn’t have access to the plethora of cheap and readily available food and consumer products that we do now.
However, when applied to a human scale, the “mass” approach generally fails. We are learning that there are costs associated with mass production and consumption (Have another hamburger!). Cost effectively!
Which is why we put “bad” in the “good old days” category. Although mass manufacturing had many positive effects on social media, there were also unintended drawbacks that were mostly ignored.
Reasons to celebrate the decline of mass-market social media
Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that mass manufacturing and automation should be completely disregarded in social media marketing, I think it’s time to accept that they were always more of a habit than an actual best practise. As I will explain below, they delivered an immediate high from seemingly large numbers and the impression of widespread dissemination at the expense of social media’s true strengths.
While the majority of the aforementioned shock waves have just appeared in recent years, there have been warnings that mass scaling is not delivering on all of its promises.
We marketeers tend to overindulge when we find something that works. Like the 49ers in the California Gold Rush, millions of us are risking everything to get what ultimately turns out to be a limited supply.
We weren’t dealing with physical gold, but rather the interest of Internet citizens. There is a certain amount of time a consumer can spend consuming media each day. Their daily content intake increased from the dozens to the hundreds to the thousands, all thanks to automation. In the heady days of free mass social media dissemination, nobody wanted to hear that content inflation would lead to lower audience attention.
In retrospect, it’s obvious that social media platforms’ attempts to curb the spread of material didn’t account for the whole drop in brand-related reading. It was theoretically impossible to keep up the same degree of focus on an ever-increasing amount of material, even without such restrictions. In fact, I think things would have been far worse without the network restrictions.
Marketers shouldn’t have been surprised by the findings of the aforementioned BuzzSumo survey, which found that social sharing has dropped by half since 2015. Most of us have observed that the reach of our postings across most social networks, Facebook especially, has been steadily decreasing over the past several years, with the exception of the occasional (and more unusual) viral post.
The fundamental law of supply and demand dictates that when more material competes for the attention of a finite number of viewers, engagement per post will inevitably decrease.
Rewards and punishments
In my March column, I mentioned that those of us who keep up with the SEO industry could feel like we’re experiencing “deja vu all over again” with the current state of social media. Google realised it was losing a Cold War weapons race against SEOs a few years ago when they saw how easily search rankings could be manipulated.
As a result, Google put a lot of resources into developing machine learning-based algorithms that might identify such widespread cheating. Professional search engine optimizers who cared about their sites’ long-term viability eventually realised they were better off cooperating with Google than trying to compete with it.
The amazing unintended result of that change was an improvement to the quality of the Internet. Why? Because what Google was advocating with its ranking increase carrot and search penalty stick was in fact beneficial to people. That meant that SEOs who were attempting to play nice with Google wound up making better, more user-friendly content.