A Series on Social Media Marketing: Part 2

Social Media Marketing is still an often-misunderstood field. With few clearly articulated paths to success out there, you may find it difficult to parse all the noise to find the winning formula.

SocialFlow thinks a bit differently from the rest. We believe this kind of thinking translates into winning strategies for our clients. This series looks to elucidate the concepts, terms, and strategies that drive our customers’ success on the social graph.

This is part two in a multipart series of posts by Frank Speiser, SocialFlow Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer.

Making the Most of Channels Into Your Audience

Following up on our last blog post, where we outlined the different methods of connecting to your audience on social media platforms, here we take a brief look at how to best connect through paid, earned and owned channels. By understanding the ways you can connect to your audience and what they mean, you can allocate time and money more efficiently to get the most from your approach.

Rewards and Penalties from Publishing to Your Owned Audience

On a social graph, people can choose to voluntarily and pro-actively connect with each other. As your audience builds up, it is there for you to message for no cost as platforms like Twitter and Facebook will carry the cost of delivering that message. You’ve earned the audience, and now you can interact with it at your discretion. However, audience can leave at any time or opt out of your messaging whenever they’d like.

From a messaging standpoint, this absolutely means you can over-message your audience. If your audience becomes less effective on a per-user basis, or (assuming you’re growing your audience like you should) on a week-over-week basis, you’re able to see this effect without complex measurements.

Spray-and-pray does not work when messaging a social audience. In order to see value from any audience that has elected to follow you, you’ll need to provide content that is both useful and interesting. You are, after all, competing with the other things this audience sees in their social media feed like journalistic content, brand messaging, and friend status updates.

Smart Paid Publishing and The Impressions Fallacy

There’s no guarantee with social media. Even if your messaging gets in front of users it can be ignored quite easily. People do not have to pay attention to you in order to get what they want out of the experience. For this reason, all of your interactions on social should seek to be relevant. This goes for paid as well as owned publishing.

You do not want impressions as a measure of success, and you do not succeed by way of impressions. If your message is not welcomed, it will be ignored: you show up in a stream of other messaging which the user has specifically elected to receive. It is almost impossible to force your way into a conversation. Think of the paid media piece of social marketing as publishing to people which haven’t yet elected to follow or “like” you.

With this in mind, it is important to understand that by jumping into Facebook Newsfeeds and Twitter Timelines which have not specifically invited you, the deck is already stacked against you being successful. If you haphazardly or widely target your users without regard for their appetite for conversation, or their conversational context consider yourself ignored or even worse. There are more than a billion participants in the social universe, so it stands to reason that the people who are capable of giving you value are out there – and are out there right now. The questions you must solve:

  1. How many people want to receive your message right now?
  2. When will those who aren’t ready right now be receptive to my message?

Timing is Everything in Social Search and Discovery

This is sort of a temporary version of “owned” media. People look for a certain topic and engage with that topic towards a set of fairly specific ends. If they searched for a topic – they want to read about it, or share it, or subscribe to future updates. It is not a great idea to try to target topics that are searched on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter). However, if you are timely and relevant, publishing a Tweet or and update when people are searching is a great way to land in front of many users who may not yet be following you. Timely publishing of relevant content can work to bring down your cost of audience acquisition substantially when done properly.

The benefit of showing up in searches of users that are not currently following you is obvious. You do not pay to reach users that aren’t following you. They are also very likely to be interested in the topic they are searching for, so you stand a great shot at winning new attention. However, you need to be near the top of the results to see much traction. It is not enough to be successful with a message, but you should be RECENTLY successful. Rather than paying to gain access to these users, you have to do something even more difficult: be good at messaging your audience. If your owned media strategy is working, and it is reaching the right audience, your appearance in search results works a lot like good karma. If your messaging is consistently good, and you have content related to big social events, you will be rewarded with outsized results by simply being in the right place at the right time. You don’t get there by being lucky… you get there by being good (timely and relevant).


Owned is not paid. Paid is not search. Each channel into your individual audiences on social networks require different approaches. However, those approaches all follow people-centric rules. Therefore, as a person, you possess all the talents you need to connect with your audience. Just follow the data and when the complete data picture is not available, simply remember the rules of etiquette in a conversation, and go with those.

By understanding what people in each context (owned, paid, search) are looking for, you can capitalize on the misunderstanding of your competitors, and deliver your messaging in the right context. By being right enough times consistently, you’ll start to see your audience work on your behalf and accrue results much more economically and with less effort.