Recently, we’ve been asked about online advertising options such as Google AdWords, industry e-publications, and Medium. While we could take the time to research these opportunities and offer guidance based on what we discovered, it’s really not our area of expertise. This type of advertising is not related to social media. Furthermore, I believe that advertising on social media could be categorized differently than what we do for our clients.
The way I see it, social media has two areas of discipline – community building and advertising. There is a difference between engaging on social media and using social media platforms for advertising.
- Social Media = Building Relationships
- Advertising on Social Media = Sales
Social media for community building
Social media fills the top of the marketing funnel. That’s what makes community building special. Community building takes dedication and the willingness to foster relationships with the audience. As John Webster said, “It can’t chase shiny objects.”
Our company is laser-focused on building long-lasting relationships that increase repeat business, build trust, and generate top-of-mind awareness when a buying opportunity arises. We are building something that our clients can use to market to their audience later.
Our job is to grow a groundswell of people who are possibilities for marketing efforts.
Social media for advertising
If a business is in a situation where they need customers quickly, then they need social media and other digital advertising platform that will perform quickly. This is where social media advertising could help accelerate that process. There is no shortage of advertising options. And, generally speaking, social media advertising is still low cost – and many times, easier to measure – when compared to traditional advertising outlets (such as TV/Radio/Billboards).
There are countless re-targeting options available that make social media advertising a strong way to stay in front of prospects who are in the consideration phase.
The juncture of the two
While our company specializes in community building, there are instances when social media advertising can complement community building. If an organization is just starting out on social media, it’s helpful to utilize ads to jump-start their efforts for the initial build. It can also enhance efforts such as boosting a Facebook post to counter the dwindling organic reach of posts.
When a prospect is in the consideration phase and more likely to buy, they aren’t looking at social media. They are looking at web pages or Google. This is where retargeting can be beneficial.
The argument for community building
Did you know that a company’s social media is 25% more likely to be perceived as credible than its advertising? This means prospects will know (or think they know) you before they’ve ever met you. While social media advertising can accelerate the lead generation process, prospects will have less trust for the company than if they were nurtured through community building.
Every interaction from paid advertising is bought. What people fail to realize is that once they stop utilizing paid ads, the leads dry up. However, community building – even if slowed down for a few months – will continue to pay off for years.
Would you prefer to go to the store and buy your favorite vegetable every week or would you prefer to plant the vegetable and have a garden over time?
Are you ready to build a community?
To engage in community building, there are a few ‘musts’ to make it work.
You must have a WHY. The platforms and tactics you employ are not as important as the message you want to convey. What will you offer the audience to not only attract them to your community, and how will you also position your messaging to strengthen your relationship?
You must be willing to play the long game. Building an engaged community will not work in less than 12 months. It may take that long just acquire a solid following. You can’t just dabble in it. Commitment is essential.
You must be willing to foster the community. Spend your energy on serving the needs of your community by authentically engaging with your audience. Value-based sharing is essential.
The bottom line
Social media is more than just another advertising outlet. Community building will take time, but eventually, it will take over because you will have built a foundation that paid advertising will abandon once the ad dollars are gone.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb