Media brands must be ready when social networks hit the reset button


You might think that you have your social media strategy sussed. Twitter account? Check. Facebook profile with epic cover photo and followers? Check.

Maybe you have a social strategy for the World Cup.

You might need to think again, as social networks Twitter and Facebook continue to innovate their service to brands, including small-to-medium businesses (SMB).

These innovations are enabling SMBs to be better connected to users and fans while maintaining cost-effectiveness over traditional marketing. Brands now have more ways to get their message out there and to drive sales and generate leads.

Some of the newer features that have been released in the UK, however, are yet to be utilised fully by several brands.

Twitter had a busy fourth quarter in 2013. The social giant not only reported a revenue increase of 110% year-over-year, it also introduced a number of product launches, including the new self-service advertising platform in the UK, Ireland, and Canada.

Many would agree this new platform was long overdue, as a number of publishers/social networks have been doing this for years, and the service was launched to the U.S. market at the start of last year.

Twitter has made itself more accessible to SMBs in these countries, so that you no longer have to develop a working relationship with Twitter to buy ads on the site. This undoubtedly made it difficult for smaller businesses to work with Twitter in the past, due to their small budgets.  

A partnership was launched in the UK with telecommunications giant O2, which has been offering support and resources to SMEs, helping the self-service proposition get off the ground.

Businesses are incentivised with a £50 free credit and can track their progress by sector, region, and size of business. If I had a small business in the UK, I would use this service as part of my strategy, especially with free credits.

Many comparisons have been drawn recently between Facebook and the “new look” Twitter. The large background image and large profile picture were introduced to enhance the user experience. But what’s really interesting is how the tweets with the most interaction are highlighted in big bold text, making them stand out.  

On Facebook, the timeline controls what is highlighted about a particular profile, comments, shares, and likes. It seems Twitter has swiftly jumped a step ahead of Facebook in order to make the experience better for brands by giving them the ability to pin their tweets to the top of their account.

This enables them to highlight a promotion or message to followers who might otherwise miss it.

This doesn’t remove the need to run promoted tweets that land directly in a user’s home page, but it does allow a brand to drive more sharing and, in some cases, sales.     

Facebook also has led the way with ads that have a visual element to them. The social network reports 93% of its most engaging posts are those with photos (see image below). The rest was comprised of videos, status updates, and links. Again, Twitter is only just following suit, launching “Twitter Cards” in the UK at the end of last year. 

There isn’t a better time to refresh your social strategy than now, with endless free tools and resources available online to help you devise a strategy without having to pay for a consultant. Those who I look to include U.S.-based Kim Garst and Social Mouths

It can be slightly frustrating to advertise on Facebook and Twitter, for a couple of reasons: It is continually changing, in terms of the ads on offer and the interface; and they limit the free traffic your posts receive, to persuade you to pay them to deliver fans to your content.

Marketers are well behind the social networks but still are looking for slightly newer ones, such as Instagram and Pinterest, to sink their teeth into. Many are taking advantage of any new opportunity to test new ad formats, i.e. Twitter self-service.  

This post only scratched the surface on why it is important to regularly refresh your social media strategy, no matter what size your business. Analysts expect Twitter to make more than US$1.1 billion in 2014 revenue, according to Thomson Reuters data.  

A final thought: Remember blogging is still alive. It is still a massive traffic driver to your own Web site, so make sure you get involved. Even commenting on other relevant articles/blogs, while leaving behind your Web address, will naturally drive users to your site who are interested in the same topic.

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