A smaller budget doesn’t mean abandoning your social strategy.
As a marketer, it is an unfortunate reality we learn early on during our careers: When companies are struggling financially, we see the first budget cuts come from marketing and advertising efforts. However, we also know that one of the biggest aspects of running a successful business is marketing your product or service to the right audience at the right time. See the discrepancy?
Social media is a way for organizations to stay top of mind, keep open lines of communication with their customers, promote new products and services, and build a brand presence within their industry. Abandoning these efforts can only lead to decreased revenue, a lower ranking in the company’s market space, and confusion from their followers.
What if I told you there is a way to decrease your social media spending without completely removing social efforts from your overall marketing picture? I spoke with Lani Fort, Senior Brand Manager at Smarter Searches, for some tips on keeping your social platforms active during a budget decrease … and why this matters more than ever.
Cindy: Why do companies cut on their social media spending during difficult times?
Lani: In an agency, we often see social media as the first service to be cut when clients need to cut back on their budget. This is a huge mistake for many companies, especially because more times than not, when social media is cut it’s not continued internally. When a client is not used to doing their own social, it slips through the cracks. As we’ll discuss later, customers will head to a company’s many social media platforms to find out what they are doing through this pandemic. If there’s nothing to show, the customer will assume that the business is closed. Whether this is true or not, it is assumed by the customer and they are lost – potentially for good.
In 2008 studies showed that 93% of Americans expected companies to have, and use, social media. Imagine the importance of it today! So, cutting social media from your budget is astronomically more damaging than most people realize. If you absolutely must cut social from your services, it is imperative to keep it up in-house.
C: When cutting social media budgets, what are the biggest risks for a brand?
L: We are in a pay-to-play world. That means, the more budget you have, the better (in theory) your brand should perform. If you’ve always been a big player, cutting your budget could be quite damaging – not only to your revenue but to your overall brand image. It’s easy for customers to forget about you when they’re not seeing you daily.
Remember a few years ago when Instagram changed their algorithm and everyone freaked out? That’s how all platforms work now. Simply put, the point is to be shown posts that you interact with. If you engage with a company or brand, you’ll be shown their posts more often. If all of a sudden that brand stops posting, there is nothing to engage with. This means that a new company will take its spot. Going MIA on social is a terrible decision because it makes recovering that much harder. If you must limit your budget, you still need to get something out there organically. Make sure that it’s relevant and what your community wants to see. If it’s not, you’ll get lost in the “sea of social” and it can take a very long time to get back to where you were. Don’t leave that risk on the table.
C: Is it possible to remain relevant with a smaller budget?
L: Yes! It’s possible to remain relevant with zero budget, and there are countless opportunities with a small budget. We’ll start with the basics – organic content. Organic content lives on your page, and it’s the first step of showing who you are as a company. This costs absolutely nothing. Whether your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, just one of these, or a combination of all, they need to know that you are still there. Use your organic content to keep your customers informed of what you’re doing through this pandemic. Let them know if you have adjusted hours, if you’re running promos, if you’re closed, etc.
As touched on previously, people nowadays will check social media pages for information, many times even before they check your website. Your customers or clients need to be able to find this information without much effort. Since everything is easier to find today, people are less patient. They want information and they want it fast. This all goes hand in hand. This is why it’s so important to keep your organic social media in tip-top shape.
Now, if you do still have a bit of budget for social media, you need to use it wisely. Run ads that show how you’re helping the community or how your product or service will make your customers’ lives easier. If you don’t have enough budget to run an ad for a month, promote your page or boost a relevant post. You don’t need much budget to make sure you’re still out there.
Now, more than ever, people want to know that the brands they love are there for them. With as little as $5 a day, you can do that. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what you’d like to see. Take a step back and think as a consumer. Do this and you should be able to come up with a pretty solid plan.
C: How can companies prevent this from happening to them?
L: The most important thing to keep in mind is your brand. No matter what happens – yes! even a global pandemic, you need to stay true to yourself. In the business world and the digital world specifically, the COVID-19 situation isn’t a break, think of it as more of a test. Can you still make everything work through this? The answer is yes. Your company will find a way to get through it, but it will be a lot of work, and it will be very different from your non-pandemic day-to-day.
With that being said, this is where your brand’s image and its overall content come in. You will still need to post, but you need to think more about being a key in the community than selling. When customers feel confident with your brand, you’ll sell yourself. This is where positive, funny, and original content plays such a role. This is where evergreen content (content that doesn’t go out of date) comes in. You can talk about your brand, its core values, how to help your community, as well as positive and inspirational quotes. This type of content will NEVER go out of style. It’s there for you so that you can be there for your customers.
C: What’s your recommendation for those who are struggling to keep their social media marketing afloat?
L: I know I keep saying to not cut social, no matter what. With that in mind, there are parts of social media and various factors that can afford to take a hit. If you use a professional photographer, reduce the number of pictures or time that this takes. If you absolutely have to, quit using a professional altogether – use your iPhone or Android, instead. This quality is good enough for most brands.
While scheduling platforms make everything a lot easier, this could be a place to cut. If you work in-house, talk to your boss and see if she/he is okay with this. You’ll lose the ability to keep everything in one place, but there are ways around it. If you can’t cut completely – for reporting abilities for instance, then look at cheaper platforms. Take a look at what you need for your company or your clients and keep those but remember that there are always ways to reduce extraneous expenses.
The Bottom Line
Going through difficult times doesn’t mean having to abandon your social strategy and, even worse, leaving your followers hanging. Instead, it’s important for brands to understand that a way to overcome financial hardship is by strengthening their relationships with their customers, and what better way to do it than through real-time, personalized content through social channels?
Whether you are focused on retention or acquisition, the main things to focus on are:
Evergreen content that’ll be there for you so you can be there for your customers
Real, honest, transparent posts to show your customers you care
A wise usage of your budget, no matter how low it is
How are you adapting your brand’s social strategy? Leave a comment below!
With a background in B2C marketing, Lani has developed her career around digital marketing and multi-channel campaigns for specific target audiences. Today, she works for Smarter Searches, a Tennessee-based agency, where she manages branding for online retailers, emergency services, local resorts, and financial service providers, to name a few. Lani knows that social media is always changing, but she also knows how to adjust to those changes when situations call for it.