Q&A: What Startups Need to Know About Social Media Advertising
This post was originally featured on VentureFizz.
Faced with specific financial goals to hit and so many marketing channels to choose from, marketers can easily become overwhelmed. You likely spend a ton of time on research, developing marketing plans, and networking with other marketers to ensure you have the right mix of messages, content, and channels that will enable you to hit your goals. Often, one of the critical components of your marketing strategy – and a good portion of your budget – involves social media advertising.
As a WordPress website maintenance and development firm, our team at WhatArmy is often asked about social media advertising strategy. In an effort to educate ourselves and our clients, we work closely with an incredible company called Social Fulcrum. Social Fulcrum isn’t your typical social media marketing agency. They’re a team of marketing scientists who build data-driven social media advertising programs for startups.
Recently, I recently sat down with Social Fulcrum founder and CEO Andrew Krebs-Smith to gain some key insights about developing a more effective, data-driven social advertising campaign. Read more in the Q&A below.
Chris: What was the impetus for starting Social Fulcrum?
Andrew: There were a few key things happening before I founded Social Fulcrum in 2010. I spent the early part of my career in the agency world, and I often felt frustrated with the inability to explain and quantify results in the traditional agency environment.
There’s no question that we were executing on some incredible work for our clients but, at the end of the day, we had to explain the results. While we could see that a particular program was working or not, we couldn’t really explain why. Many companies were throwing money at these big initiatives, but then felt burned by vendors who weren’t delivering real results.
At the same time, we were seeing powerful new digital tools coming on the scene that were creating a major shift in the digital marketplace. With data more accessible, improved technical expertise around testing and execution in advertising became a huge advantage.
Ultimately, we knew there was a better approach – so we developed the science of social media advertising that removes the uncertainty, replacing it with rigorous analysis that leads to social advertising results.
CM: Explain this concept of the science behind social media advertising. What’s the approach?
AKS: Let’s start by talking about the traditional approach to advertising and the pitfalls that exist.
The traditional agency process that we tend to see goes like this: You toss around some ideas, pitch them to your client and select one of these options. From there, you decide to launch a new campaign. You might conduct primary and secondary research, and you work with some really smart people who ensure that the messages and branding are tied into the campaigns appropriately.
All of this is amazing work but there’s a major issue with this approach – you’re making all of these decisions in advance of having any actionable data. This, in turn, creates a very reactive atmosphere that will likely leave you wondering why you selected this one particular approach over another.
Also, since you set up online measurement and tracking for the purpose of reporting, and not the more-rigorous usage of agile testing, the data you get back won’t help you make granular marketing decisions. For example, many agencies will use just one conversion pixel to measure and optimize for the desired outcome. We use at least six conversion pixels so that we know what’s happening at each step of the decision process, and where any issues are.
Now let’s introduce a much different approach. Start by launching ads very quickly on a platform that gives you lots of data (e.g. Facebook or programmatic display). Test all of the potential options for creative and messaging with rigorous scientific method in order to see very clearly what works and what doesn’t. Then, be iterative by continuously evaluating the results, learning, and adjusting. As we like to say frequently at Social Fulcrum, we assume nothing and prove everything.
CM: What advice can you offer for marketers seeking to develop social media advertising campaigns or to improve upon what they’re already doing?
AKS: There are many critical factors, but here are some core tenets to follow when planning social media advertising campaigns:
- Develop crystal clear objectives. What defines success? Too often, we find that the advertising industry is very used to giving vague answers. But if you’re looking for specific results, then you need to define results-oriented KPIs. If you start with very clear goals, then each step is transparent and you can easily understand whether things are working or if they’re not. Often our clients are using some ratio of two of the following: CPA (cost-per-acquisition, i.e. efficiency), new customers (i.e. scale or volume), and customer LTV (lifetime value of a customer). Those are the metrics we use to define success, not impressions, or clicks, or just number of conversions.
- Keep up with the technology. Marketers are insanely busy these days and there’s so much to know. But it’s critical to understand how the technology works or else you run the risk of developing and executing ineffective campaigns. We’ve taken over accounts where the agency before us was clearly just letting media run on autopilot to a huge, vaguely targeted audience because that was the easiest thing to do. And the client had no idea because he/she didn’t know which questions to ask.
- Budget for marketing R&D. Because the technology changes so rapidly, you need to allocate a portion of your budget to Marketing R&D. For example, it’s great that you have tons of content and creative, but when was the last time you evaluated it? How is it performing? You must continually evaluate the effectiveness of your work by testing, evolving, and taking advantage of new tools.A great example of this is Pinterest advertising. It didn’t exist a year ago, so no one would have budgeted for it. But for many companies, Pinterest is now an incredible driver of sales during the holiday timeframe. For some companies that are nimble enough to act on this opportunity, they have seen Pinterest drive an increase in sales between 10 to 30 percent during this holiday season! Clearly, you need a budget for new opportunities like these or else you can get left behind.
- Beware of false negatives. It’s easy to get sucked into those comments and articles that say things like, “Marketers are leaving Facebook.” There are new comments popping up about each channel everyday and we often get questions about them from our clients. We encourage you not to make assumptions like these and realize that there is much to be learned from the data that is available to us. The power of these social platforms is our ability to understand our audiences at a very granular level and access information that we never could before. It’s really a matter of taking advantage of this powerful data and then testing, analyzing, and constantly adjusting to ensure the best results.