I invited Jordan to Marketing Smarts to talk about a recent Forrester Research report on 2015 trends. Forrester observed that social media is no longer evolving at the same rate, and it predicted that branded communities will take on greater importance as organic reach on social platforms diminishes.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Microsites are back; build campaign sites to bring your audience to you (03:35): "If you go back five or six years ago, most brands started utilizing Facebook and Twitter (Instagram didn't exist yet, so it was Flickr and YouTube). They started using those channels as the primary distribution channel for their content that they were creating, and the problem with that was that they became very reliant on those third-party channels (that they don't have any control over at all) in order to distribute their content out to their audience. Fast-forward five years, and most brands area realizing that in order to maintain long-term value in their audience and maintain control over how they grow their audience and how they get data from their audience, they have to build their own distribution channels. They have to build their own destinations for their fans to come participate with them as a brand, so it is a little bit 'Back to the Future.' The term 'microsite' is actually coming back around again. You have brands talking about building campaign sites and microsites for their new product launches."
To recoup your investment in building an audience, build it on your own real estate (05:50): "You have to think about how much money brands were spending driving traffic to Facebook pages. They're spending in totality billions and billions of dollars a year when you add up all the dollars being spent on TV media buys and print media buys.... There was about a three-year period where all of the calls to action on their media campaigns were driving to Faceboom.com/the-brand-name. When you add up all the dollars that were spent building 'audience' on Facebook, and then you look at the value they're able to get out of that audience today, that's the most disconcerting thing for brands....
"We're getting down close to 1% organic reach that brands have into their Facebook fan pages now, so when you consider the amount of investment that had been made in building that audience and how little value they get out of that audience now, that's what has brands most frustrated. That's why there's this renewed focus on investing in their own properties, driving traffic to their own properties and, as a result, having a long-term control and understanding of that audience and growth of that audience, where they know they'll be able to get value out of it in the long-term."
Facebook still matters, but it's a paid channel, not an earned media channel (07:37): "When I ask the question [during presentations] 'How many of you have social media departments who buy your Facebook ads,' half the hands go up, because they're still treating it...as a social-media/earned-media strategy. Then the other half go up when I say...'are your media strategists the ones planning your Facebook campaigns?" Those are the people who are treating Facebook correctly. They're looking at it as a paid media channel, and their media strategists are buying Facebook campaigns, buying media on Facebook in the same way they strategize around buying media in other channels. And those people are seeing success on Facebook.... The other half—who have social media managers buying Facebook ads—are not feeling as much success, because they're still treating it more like an earned channel."
Fans who join your brand community are more valuable than those who just "Like" your brand on Facebook (09:30): "The truth of it is, you're not going to see [organic content on Facebook] anyway, unless [a brand you've liked, like Johnny Cupcakes] is going to pay for the ad and put it in your feed. The organic reach is down close to 1%, so there's a 99% chance that you won't see that Johnny Cupcakes piece of content in your feed unless Johnny Cupcakes is paying for it to be distributed into your feed.... Just because you've liked their Facebook fan page absolutely has no bearing on whether or not you see their content unless that brand is paying. But if that brand is paying to get that content into your feed anyway, you don't need to like their page in order for that to happen.... For Johnny Cupcakes to get long-term value out of you as a huge fan of their brand, to do that off of Facebook is where they're going to gain the most value....
"[Some people say] 'Aren't I limiting myself as the brand if i make people come to me to register or participate in some way?" The answer is, the value of me participating on your owned and operated properties—going to JohnnyCupcakes.com and participating in some action or activity that Johnny Cupcakes is putting forward to their audience in order to get them to engage with them directly. If I have 100,000 people that do that, there is far more value in those 100,000 people (who have gone the extra mile to say 'I love this brand and I want to participate here and I want to be a part of this') then there is to get a million people who tacitly click a Like button and never see you or go back to that page again.... Your owned and operated properties are where your most engaged and passionate fans are going to go—and you have to as a brand give them a place that's meaningful to them to do that, and they'll become even more connected to you that way."
To learn more, visit Livefyre.com, or follow Jordan Kretchmer on Twitter: @jkretch. To see more insights from the Forrester Research report "Predictions 2015: Social Media Grows Up," visit Forrester.com.
Jordan and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Jordan Kretchmer, founder and CEO of Livefyre, a technology company that helps organizations engage consumers through a combination of real-time content, conversation, and social curation. Follow Jordan on Twitter.