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How big brands get social media marketing completely wrong

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Big brands, especially ones in trendy, fashionable industries should be killing it when it comes to social media marketing, right?

Actually, there's fairly obvious evidence that they are wasting a lot of money on social marketing campaigns that are not generating returns.

This is good news for smaller businesses that are prepared to use social media correctly, because it levels the playing field for those without endless budgets.

This article will highlight how one brand that should be mopping up the social media arena is visibly floundering. I'll then contrast this with some strategies on how to get your social marketing working properly, in order to start generating great returns on your investment.

Social marketing: You're doing it wrong!

Garnier is a leading cosmetics brand that produces hair care and skin products - arguably a niche industry that should be really, really popular on social media.

Garnier USA a pretty successful mass market cosmetics business and, from the plethora of high budget, slick commercials they produce, they are obviously no strangers to traditional marketing.

But traditional marketing is just that - traditional.

The online world is completely different because people are no longer captive audiences.

If they don't like what they're watching or reading, something else is only a click away.

This alters the equation because instead of delivering a message, you have to deliver something of value in return for users' attention.

This is where Garnier are doing it wrong.

Advertising vs. engagement

Online promotions are all about content. It doesn't matter whether you are writing a blog or running a social media campaign for a global brand.

You have to produce content that:

  1. is focused on a target audience
  2. offers something of value
  3. is interesting and engaging

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, simply delivers a message - the more often it is shown, the more likely it will be to sink in.

The difference being that a traditional strategy (as used by Garnier) "tells" people something. Content "engages with" people about something.

The problem with content is that it takes time to build up trust and authority. You have to consistently and persistently be creative and thoughtful about the value your content offers.

This is what most people don't like about inbound marketing, because the returns are generated over time, and are kind of "vague" and "fuzzy". They can't be plugged into a nice formula and presented to the investors.

Proof that Garnier is doing it wrong

So let's consider two alternate universes, one in which Garnier is applying proper, content based engagement strategies to their YouTube campaign, and this universe.

How would we distinguish between the two?

Evidence of social success

Well, consider the alternate universe in which Garnier has invested their resources into creating lots of really cool videos on how to style your hair, or expert tips and advice on making your skin radiant, etc.

Assuming they were doing a good job, one would expect them to have:

  1. many channel subscribers
  2. each video with many views
  3. videos attracting lots of comments and likes

In addition, one should be able to track the steady growth in popularity of their content channel - something which is the hallmark of well implemented, content based campaigns.

Garnier's social campaign

Let's take a look at Garnier's YouTube channel, to see how it matches up:

  • Approx 4 500 subscribers
  • Average views of approx 2 500 per clip
  • Most popular clip has 1.4 million views

Ok, so on the surface of things it might seem like they have a small but active social media channel. But let's dig a little deeper.

Their most popular clip obtained nearly one and a half million views, but their subscriptions number only a few thousand. This means (and this is my deduction - I don't know for sure) that they paid to advertise that clip.

In order to pay for a million views, you are looking at about $100 000 - but feel free to correct me if you know different. And, what's worse, out of all those viewers only about 30 people bothered to rate the clip.

This is strong evidence of absolutely no engagement whatsoever. And why should there be? The clip is an advert.

Taken together, you can be pretty sure that Garnier is spending a lot of money for very little ROI (Return On Investment).

I don't mean to pick only on Garnier - in fact, many (if not most) big brands get social wrong. It's just that Garnier is in an industry that is so easy to get right online - it's visual, exciting, well understood, established, in demand, and so on.

So what lessons can be learned, and how do you get it right to start driving real engagement, leads and conversions from social media?

Social marketing done right

I'll say it again:

All Internet marketing starts with great content!

Before you even bother with social media, which can be very time consuming, expensive, and ultimately a huge waste of time if not done properly, learn how to create engaging and valuable content FIRST.

Even if you have tried your hand at social media before, if you aren't confident that your content is high quality and engaging, stop what you are doing and go back to the drawing board.

You aren't in the business of Internet marketing until you know how to create fantastic content that drives engagement!

I would suggest following these steps to get your social media strategy on track (regardless of whether it is YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc):

  1. Start identifying and segmenting target audiences
  2. Start creating valuable content that speaks to highly focused segments of your audience
  3. Analyze and refine your content and its performance
  4. Build up a broad and deep reservoir of great content on your own Web properties - i.e. blog, website, forums, etc
  5. Once you have established sufficient trust, authority, and followers via your content, start producing content focused on a specific social media platform
  6. Promote that content aggressively to get existing followers to adopt it
  7. Grow your content and engagement on one social media platform until you are confident that the process can be repeated on another, without endangering your current interests

This is fundamentally different process from the one adopted by big budget, big brand businesses, who approach the online medium the same way they approach TV or print.

For small business, recognizing that you have to earn trust and authority by providing great content is a less humbling experience, because you don't have to go back to the drawing board - unlike larger businesses.

In addition, because the online market is so vast, small businesses that do a good job with social media can make a very big dent in real world market shares.

So that's my analysis of how big brands are messing up social media and costing themselves a lot of advertising dollars for very little return.

But, I hope that I have also offered a sensible strategy to turn things around, and, over time, start to generate real engagement that will lead to plenty of prospects, conversions, and ultimately, profits.

What are your thoughts on big business social strategies? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.