Commentary

The End Of Free Reach Is The Beginning Of Great Social Advertising

At the Natural Products Expo West six months ago, the marketing question on every up—and—coming food and beverage brand’s lips was, "What's happened to my [organic Facebook] reach?” Every marketer wanted to know if their brand's crashing social reach numbers were the result of something they were doing wrong, or if others were experiencing the same plummet. Since then, they've mostly all come to understand — if not appreciate — that the price of Facebook going public is that Facebook now has to show increasing ad revenues to shareholders. The free ride was over. Kaput. Kablooey.

What was an annoyance for Big CPG was near earth-shattering for challenger brands who had come to count on Facebook to make their largely organic and natural brands part of the hyperactive foodie buzz in social. Now, CPG brand managers had to ask themselves a tough question — am I prepared for zero? (zero organic Facebook reach, that is).

Big or small, the answers for all CPG brands when it comes to using social marketing successfully, has come down to a few key truths:

1. Ante Up — Okay, so the free ride is over. Enjoy the fact that you built a base while the getting was good. And the getting is still good — you just have to do what you've always done: build a solid paid digital plan across multiple platforms to continue to build and engage your base. Smarter, targeted marketing won't be free, but it's still the way to build your brand and get ahead of your competitors.

2. Measure for ROI — Since when did any brand expect to advertise for free? We're happy to spend if we can identify a positive ROI. ROI on your social marketing can be assessed at virtually any budget level. It's now possible to determine a one-to-one measurement answering the question "did the person who saw my social post go to the store and buy my product?" Worry less about free organic reach and appreciate the fact that you can actually target and measure behavior.

3. Tell a Great Story — Embrace this new golden age of advertising when we have to create great brand stories that are welcomed, viewed and shared by our targets rather than shoved down their throats. Delivering emotional creative that resonates with your consumer is part art, part science (have you studied and optimized your past posts?). As always, great brand stories are founded on an insightful creative strategy and a distinctive brand voice. Too often, in the rapid world of social posts, these keystones to great creative get short shrift.

4. Delivering Content — Producing great content and then getting it in front of the right people quickly demands that you take your production process to new levels never before imagined in a "push" media world. Across our roster of CPG clients, we currently churn out social posts at a rate of one every 21 minutes — while managing multiple platforms and interacting with target consumers an average of every 2.5 minutes. Social was never really "free." It has always demanded a team of content specialists armed with a proven process for developing high quality branded content: delivered at scale yet hyper-targeted, with incredibly responsive turnaround times.

5. Keeping Up on Trends — Wayne Gretzky once attributed his success to "skating to where the puck is going to be." The digital marketing game is a fast-moving puck, and you must invest some time and resources into keeping smart on trends and emerging technologies. Those who were skating to where the puck was going to be didn't have all their eggs in the organic Facebook reach basket when that organic reach took the plunge. Beating your competition in the ever-changing world of digital marketing requires some time and resources invested in getting smart and testing your way to better models.

The end of the free social ride is really the beginning of great social advertising. Now we have to worry about making that paid investment count in a way that can be tracked back to the recipient of your social post buying your brand at retail. That requires the best of what great advertising has always demanded — endlessly curious creative folks searching for a powerful insight and expressing it in a fresh and compelling way.

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