You Get What You Pay For: Why Social Media Isn’t A Strategy

​Too often, we find businesses that have drank the “social media is all we need” Kool-Aid. They’ve gone to seminar after seminar. They’ve listened to Chamber members tell them they need to be active on Facebook. And yet, they’ve done everything they think they’re supposed to do, and nothing’s bringing in the revenue.

Does this sound familiar?

Everyone’s talking about social media’s importance, but no one seems to know what they’re talking about.

More than 60% of small business owners can’t prove a return on their social media activity – yet half of them will dedicate increased time and money to social media instead of cutting back.

Our question is – WHY?

We understand the power of social media. We built Insilico on our last $100 – investing in business cards, a web server, and our email addresses. And in just over 3 months, we had 8 clients. We built a business that brought in over 60 clients within the first 2 years, and had the opportunity to bring on eleven talented individuals to represent our brand.

However, we coupled our social media marketing with search engine marketing, email marketing, and good old fashioned guerilla marketing tactics, including sales calls.

Companies that are relying on social media because it’s “free” are missing the point of social media. Social media should compliment your advertising strategy. It is not a strategy. It’s not a standalone medium to advertise.

Small businesses have flocked to social media because it’s free. Who doesn’t love to cut costs, right? But what they’ve forgotten is that social media is free, and you’ll get what you pay for (or don’t pay for).

Social media’s increasingly making it harder for brands to be successful. Even if Facebook didn’t continually make changes to their algorithm to “keep it social on social media”, local Mid-Ohio Valley small business owners forget one important battle they are fighting: social media hoarding.

Think about how long Facebook has been around:
2004 for colleges and universities, 2005 for high schools, 2006 to anyone over 13 with a valid email address.

Since then, users have began a digital hoarding pattern.
Friend hoarding – who doesn’t love seeing how many “friends” they have on social media? So much so, that Facebook had to limit “friends” to 5,000. And many people have at least 1,000 “friends” on this social platform. Though Facebook says the average number of friends (across all users – worldwide) is 338, that’s still a lot of friend status updates to compete against, as a small business!

“Like” hoarding – users accept requests from anyone who sends an invite to “like” a page. Facebook users “like” an average of 70 pages. That’s a lot of pages to compete against.

Think about all of the activities people can be exposed to on Facebook:

  • Updates from friends
  • Updates from people they’re not friends with, but “follow”
  • Updates from brands they “like”
  • Updates from brands they “follow”
  • Updates from the groups they’ve joined
  • Updates from the groups they’ve been added to
  • Updates from events they’re “going” to
  • Updates from events they may go to
  • Updates from events they’ve been to
  • Notifications of people who have interacted with them

Additional statistics that may open your eyes:

  • 49% of users like a Facebook page to support a brand they like
  • 40% of users don’t like any brand pages – meaning paid adverts are the only way to reach them
  • Average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes. What this means for you: You could have a short time period to make your impression, so use it wisely with relevant, interesting and unique posts and offers in order to get the most return on your efforts.

To be successful in today’s oversaturated social media-reliant world – you’re going to have to use social media the way it’s meant to be used: to socialize with your potential customers.

You can’t rely on social media as a standalone marketing strategy.

Ideas For Good Content Creation For Your Small Business

Nearly every time we ask a small business owner to produce content for their website, we get that eyes-glossed-over look. From the outside looking in, we always wonder, “why is it so hard for a business owner to write about their business?”

We’ve created a multitude of worksheets to help the business owner take their content beyond the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how” that are no-brainers (well, we hope, anyway).

We do understand that writing interesting content for your business is tough. You have to keep the content professional (or, at least on-par with the environment the customer will experience while working with your brand), and you must keep it enjoyable to keep them engaged.

One way we suggest businesses can create great content is to make a chart with three sections: “critical”, “important”, “extra”.

  • “Critical” is all of the information that is critical for the customer to know, which includes: whether that is about your products/services, your hours/location, team members, or even just your “why pick us” elevator sales pitch.
  • “Important” includes all of the supportive text for the “critical” level: MSDS sheets, information regarding your weather closing policies, refund/gift card information, alternative routes to your location if the main route is currently blocked (construction, weather obstruction), etc.
  • “Extra” is anything else you feel necessary.

Once you get the basics out of the way, remember to factor in your audience. Are your customers well-educated, or should your content speak to the “everyman”? Are you selling to businesses, or to customers, or both? Do your customers plan their purchases in advance, or are your products/services more ad-hoc? Are your customers trying to find you when they’re in immediate need?

While creating content might seem like an “easy” thing to accomplish, many business owners immediately become overwhelmed when they have to answer a lot of our questions regarding their business.

If you’re in need of content creation, contact us today to receive our whitepaper, and see if we can be of service.

Need advice? Contact Nicole at nicole@insilicomediagroup.com.

Need a proposal for services? Send an email to info@insilicomediagroup.com.

Need to schedule a meeting? Call 304-615-8921 to reach a real person today.

How Do Facebook’s Changes Impact Your Small Business?

Facebook’s recent announcement has left many Mid-Ohio Valley small business owners running circles around their thoughts, wondering “how can my business overcome this?”  And, as predicted, we‘ve received several inquiries from our clients, and our non-client friends, about this new Facebook update and what it means for your business.

Honestly, we’re optimistic nothing seriously world-shattering is going to happen. Why? Because this has been happening as early as January 2015. (source: an Article “straight from the horse’s mouth” in November 2014: https://www.facebook.com/business/news/update-to-facebook-news-feed)

While some local social media consultants may be running scared right now, trying to organize paid seminars to regain some of their lost revenue due to client cancellations due to their overall ineffectiveness, the Insilico Media Group team is excited to be in the middle of another productive month for almost all of our clients (and we’re maintaining momentum for those routinely impacted by the winter weather months).

We’ve been saying this for years – YOU NEED MORE THAN SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TO BE EFFECTIVE FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS.

We’re still focusing on a minimum of 7 social media platforms, plus the major search engines, over 25 local search engines, local marketing (geofencing, beacons, etc.), email marketing, and website maintenance for all of our clients, for as low as $500 per month.

One of the most popular questions we’re receiving is “should I put up a post to remind my followers to engage with my page?”  Our answer: NO.

Businesses have been posting these status updates periodically for years now. If your followers see that post, chances are they’re seeing your other posts. If the followers don’t see your posts anyway, chances are they’re not going to see that post. Why bother your followers with an irrelevant, and seemingly pathetic bandwagon jump attempt to get your followers to briefly interact with your brand?

“But, but, but…. we can always sponsor this post, right?” Sure, waste some money. Sponsor a post to your page “likes” to beg for them to continue to like you. Beat the dog while it’s down.

What will this post do? Well, it’ll spark those already seeing your post to engage with it once. Successfully, maybe you’ll get these people to engage with your page a little more often for a week or two. Then, they’ll gradually fall off and get interested in the next latest-greatest-shiniest. What then? Make another post? Waste more time? More tactics to get “liked”?

Newsflash – Facebook’s big crack down is based on brands shamelessly begging for likes and engagement.

Want to know a better way to go about this? IMPROVE YOUR CONTENT. ENGAGE YOUR FOLLOWERS. SPARK CONVERSATION.

Facebook is cracking down on business posts because (SHOCKER) they’re a SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM. They want to keep their users using Facebook. They want their users to be social. Make your brand social.

You don’t need a marketing team to run your social media. You don’t need to pay a consultant to join some “training” seminar filled with high-level “DIY tips” you can get for free off of a Pinterest infographic. You can do this 100% on your own, for free.

What do you need us for?

  1. Engaging content that gets that 200%, 600%, 3,000% weekly increase in engagement, conversation, views, likes, shares…
  2. Eye-catching images that are going to make people stop swiping up for a minute to see who’s posted something witty, pretty, funny, emotion-sparking, thought-provoking…. well, you get the point….
  3. We stay on top of trends so you don’t have to. That means things like this, where people think the sky is falling down on them, we can be there with the lollipop and remind everyone that, no, really, it’s all ok.
  4. We’re just really cool people to hang out with. We make people laugh.
  5. We also have a very cute little office baby.

Need advice? Contact Nicole at nicole@insilicomediagroup.com.

Need a proposal for services? Send an email to info@insilicomediagroup.com.

Need to schedule a meeting? Call 304-615-8921 to reach a real person today.

New Study Finds Facebook Page Reach Has Declined 20% in 2017

 

So many clients come to us telling us that they think people aren’t seeing their posts.  It’s not just you and your Page – according to new research by BuzzSumo, the average number of engagements with Facebook posts created by brands and publishers has fallen by more than 20% since January 2017.  BuzzSumo analyzed more than 880 million Facebook posts from publisher and brand Pages over the past year, noting a clear decline in engagements since early 2017.

That’s likely no surprise to most Facebook Page managers – organic reach on Facebook has been in decline since late 2013, according to various reports, with continual changes to the News Feed algorithm re-aligning the priority of what users see.

Indeed, in the past year, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has seen a range of updates which could contribute to this decline:

In August 2016, Facebook announced a News Feed update focused on improving the individual relevance of the stories shown to each user
In January 2017, Facebook released a News Feed update which sought to better identify and rank authentic content
In May 2017, the News Feed got another tweak, this time to reduce the reach of links to sites covered with ads
Also in May 2017, Facebook released a News Feed change which aimed at reducing the reach of “clickbait”
And in August 2017, Facebook re-iterated the need for mobile optimization but announcing that links to non-mobile optimized pages would be penalized.

But then again, none of those changes individually correlates to the decline noted by BuzzSumo, which, as you can see, shifts significantly in January.

As listed above, the January News feed update focused on ‘authentic content’ is not likely to have been the cause of this drop – that was more aimed at weeding out posts that artificially seek to game the algorithm by asking for Likes, and on pushing the reach of real-time content. Maybe Facebook’s increased focus on live, real-time material has had some impact, but it would seem unlikely that it’s the cause of that January drop.

What’s more likely is actually another News Feed update introduced in June 2016, which put increased emphasis on content posted by friends and family over Page posts. Facebook’s always looking to get people sharing more personal updates, and those updates generate more engagement, which keeps people on platform longer, while also providing Facebook with more data to fuel their ad targeting.

In terms of News Feed shifts, this one appears to be the most significant of recent times, but then again, the impacts of that would have been evident earlier in BuzzSumo’s chart. Maybe Facebook turned up the volume on this update in January? It’s obviously impossible to know, and Facebook’s doesn’t reveal much about the inner workings of their News Feed team.

In terms of which posts, specifically, are driving engagement (or not), BuzzSumo found that:

“The biggest fall in engagement was with image posts and link posts. According to the data video posts had the smallest fall in engagement and videos now gain twice the level of engagement of other post formats on average.”

Again, video is king – if you’re concerned about declines in your Facebook reach, then video is where you should be looking. Of course, video posts are also seeing reach declines in line with the overall shift, but they’re outperforming all others, and are likely to be your best bet in maximizing your reach on the platform.

So what can you do? However you look at it, Facebook is a huge driver of referral traffic for a great many websites, with many now having an established reliance on The Social Network to push their numbers.

For one, these figures again underline why putting too much reliance on Facebook is a strategic risk. Diversifying your traffic sources and building your own e-mail list is sometimes easier said than done, particularly given Facebook’s scale, but the figures do underline that it’s important to consider how you can maximize your opportunities outside of The Social Network.

In terms of how to improve your Facebook performance, specifically, there are no definitive answers.

Some brands have seen success in posting less often – back in May, Buffer explained that they’ve been able to triple their Facebook reach while reducing their output by 50%. Less is more is an attractive strategy, but whether that’ll work for your business, it’s impossible to say.

Others have switched to posting more often, something Facebook recommends in their own documentation on how journalists can make best use of the News Feed.

“Post frequently – Don’t worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.”

In fact, Facebook notes that some Pages post up to 80 times per day, which seems excessive, but when you consider both the reach restrictions (less than 5% of your audience will see each of your posts) and the fact that most people will see your content in their News Feed, as opposed to coming to your Facebook Page, the chances of you spamming fans by over-posting or re-posting are far more limited than they used to be.

If you post more often, and you get less engagement per post, that could still average out to increasing your overall numbers – though you need to watch your negative feedback measures (unfollows and unlikes).

Really, no one has the answers, because it’ll be different for each Page, each audience. The only real way to counter such declines is to experiment, to encourage engagement, to spark conversation and generate more reach through interaction. That takes more work, of course, and you then have to match that additional time investment with return.

Again, it’ll be different for every business, there’s no magic formula. But Facebook reach is clearly declining. Worth considering how that impacts your process.

Understanding Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm is the Key to More Brand Attention and Sales

 

On its surface, Facebook’s News Feed algorithm appears as a helpful tool that delivers only the information most likely to appeal to its users’ unique likes and personality. It’s the ultimate customer-centric device.  “Our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a public Q&A in 2014. “We’re trying to personalize it and show you the stuff that’s going to be most interesting to you.”

Zuckerberg has also revealed that to achieve this level of personalization, out of the 1,500 or more stories aimed at each personal profile every day, Facebook delivers only a fraction of that. Adding all 1,500 to your News Feed would make the platform overwhelming and drive users away. This means each post you see on your News Feed won out over more than a thousand others.

The algorithm is a practical solution, but its constant tweaks (on top of the new features Facebook frequently adds) drive marketers nuts.

The platform’s increasingly in-depth knowledge of each user’s habits and interests also freaks out social scientists.

In the beginning, Facebook’s engineers leveraged each user’s likes, shares, and comments to determine which posts to deliver. Each like or share clicked helped them build a better picture of what you wanted to see.

Today, the algorithm involves as many as 100,000 variables to determine whether a post is “relevant” to each user.

And the variation in content delivered can be significant. A Wall Street Journal feature – titled ‘Red Feed, Blue Feed’ – involved WSJ creating two alternate Facebook profiles, one which followed only conservative outlets, and another which followed Liberal pages. The experiment delivered some eye-opening results – on the topic of “Donald Trump”, for example, the system delivered entirely different posts to those it determined were liberals and those it considered conservatives.

The Wall Street Journal’s piece illuminates how the Facebook algorithm chooses which articles to post in every individual’s feed. While Facebook perceives itself as serving its users, social scientists worry that it’s also creating “echo chambers,” where people see news solely from those who agree with them.

In 2014, Nicholas Diakopolous of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism warned:  “Software and algorithms have come to adjudicate an ever broader swath of our lives… algorithms, driven by vast troves of data, have become the new power brokers in society. And the automated decisions of algorithms deserve every bit as much scrutiny as other powerful and influential actors.”

The algorithm shift may be the most significant shift in our media consumption habits in history. And the implications reach beyond just news content alone.

Algorithm Awareness is Critical for Advertisers

While Facebook as an information gatekeeper may put academics on alert about our society’s future, advertisers aiming to get their brand messages out there need to focus on the realities of here and now.

For 62% of American adults, Facebook is their primary source of news. Any advertiser hoping to win meaningful results must understand which posts Facebook is most likely to put into its users’ feed.

That Facebook changes its features and algorithm with an enthusiasm only Google can match keeps marketers scrambling to catch up.

Facebook’s developers say they make these changes solely to keep their company the ultimate social, political, and entertainment distraction. Considering its monthly active user base is now nearing 2 billion, they must be onto something.

Review these recent changes to the Facebook algorithm to ensure your business has as broad a reach as possible.

Responsive Facebook Strives to Be a Worthy Platform

“Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people.” – Mark Zuckerberg in a November 2016 post

A medium of the people, Facebook certainly responds to criticism. Advertisers should know that the changes it makes spring from its efforts to deliver more honest and transparent information. Becoming the internet’s National Enquirer will cause it to lose market share quickly.

First, to address public fears that fake news posted on Facebook was swaying political events (especially the 2016 United States presidential election), Mark Zuckerberg vowed to increase efforts to weed out inaccurate information from the News Feed. Since 2016, Facebook has stepped up to this promise, implementing ways for users to flag hoaxes, offering tips and advice for identifying “fake news,” and cracking down on misinformation suppliers to hinder their financial gain.

In the lead-up to the 2017 French presidential election, the social media giant removed 30,000 fake accounts from its platform and promised to “keep getting better.”

While Facebook has made it clear that it’s a platform and not a news publisher responsible for upholding the truth, it has also shown a devotion to shielding its users from harmfully inaccurate information.

Facebook also recently adopted a “Stories” feature, initially cribbed from Snapchat by Instagram. As the owner of Instagram, it was only a matter of time before Facebook decided its users, too, wanted to upload pictures and video which disappear within 24 hours. Typically, these photos are strung together to tell a story.

Native Advertising is Now Transparent

Most know by now that “content” – or helpful and interesting informational pieces – is winning more eyeballs than traditional display advertising.

While the brands have been filling their websites with content, they’ve also worked to convince popular online publishers to present this sponsored content as articles from their own publications. Overt, or covert, calls-to-action are placed at the end or within these articles to get readers to visit the brand’s website.

Feeding the profits of The New York Times, BuzzFeed and others, these articles have been labeled “native advertising” or “branded content” because they resemble content the publication is known to produce.

For The New York Times, the company or brand writes something serious. For BuzzFeed, a lighter, more fun tone dominates. But the full potential of the ad doesn’t stop with simple upload to a publisher’s site. The publisher posts the article on Facebook, implying that it’s one of its own informational (NYT) or entertaining (BF) articles. Experts speculate that a huge slice of BuzzFeed’s profits come from this service.

The publications separate these native ads from their own “true” content by setting up “partner” sites on Facebook. The New York Times created ‘T Brand Studio’, which enables it to benefit from the integrity of the Times logo, while maintaining a safe distance for credibility. BuzzFeed more candidly started ‘BuzzFeed Partner’.

Until 2016, posts linking to these native advertisements appeared without an attribution to the sponsoring brand. T Brand Studio, for example, posted the piece below to Facebook as if it were strictly informational when it was, in fact, a native ad for Goldman Sachs.

Posted in March 2016, this article looks like an informational piece, aside from the URL to paidpost.nytimes.com.

As of June 2016, again to promote transparency and quality on its site, Facebook began insisting that companies behind these ads identify themselves.

Below, The New York Times comes clean on native advertising pieces by listing the brand name beside the publisher’s at the top of the post.

Here, the native advertiser is revealed.

It seems minor enough, but brands and advertising writers know the tag on the post lessens its value. Facebook users – in that millisecond of attention they give to it – are more likely to identify this content as an ad and thumb right past it. The more covert method may have a better chance of generating more clicks.

Play Facebook’s Game with Algorithm-Pleasing Posts

So given all these changes and features, how can your business play nice with Facebook’s News Feed algorithm and maximize it’s organic reach?

As mentioned above, 100,000 different factors feed into Facebook’s algorithm. Marketers can control the items below to increase the odds of landing in consumer’s News Feeds.

  • Create meaningful content – Facebook measures how long a user stays on a video or “Instant Article” (an article by a brand but on the channel itself). The longer they remain, the more favor Facebook rewards the posting brand. Robust, engaging content that delivers on the promise of its headline and addresses reader needs and pain points tends to get the longest, most comprehensive views.
  • Experiment with live video – Users consume live video three times as much as uploaded video. Facebook has noted that video is the most popular content consumed on mobile devices. Live, in-the-moment video gets attention. Brands that produce live video are rewarded by Facebook by being featured higher in News Feed . You can broadcast live video to a personal profile, a business page, and even a group if settings allow.
  • Post only the best content – Publishers get to post on Facebook all day long if they want. Facebook wants to be the ultimate personalized newspaper, and the Facebook brand is improved every time The New York Times posts breaking news. Consumer brands don’t have the same freedom. Don’t flood Facebook with every idea. Instead, start on Twitter, see what wins engagement, and then migrate those posts to Facebook. More engagement on Facebook will attune the algorithm to your popularity.
  • Use Facebook’s Audience Optimization for preferred audience targeting – Facebook enables brands to select a specific audience for a post, even without paying for an ad. This means that, even for organic reach, brands can limit the audience to those most likely to engage. More engagement means more algorithm love. .
  • Add engaged followers – This is a tip for Pages with fewer than 10,000 total Page Likes -when you create a post and people like it, click on that list of names of those “like”rs. A dialogue box showing each name will appear. If the user doesn’t already like your Page, a button appears to the right of his or her name with the word, “invite.” When you click that button, Facebook sends an invitation. This is an easy way to gain new followers through your Facebook posts.

Facebook has certainly moved beyond its initial business model of connecting Harvard pals. Today it’s an über-newspaper, with the ability to micro-target audiences by interest, geographic location, age, and more. It’s even rolling out a feature to let users pay for news subscriptions, further embedding it as a company intricately involved in the production and sharing of news.

Most marketers encourage businesses of all sizes to engage there, but doing so gets more complicated by the day. Striving to understand the various workings of the News Feed algorithm may be the way through the thicket of Facebook options.

Inside the Instagram Algorithm

In regards to Instagram, the key measures they use (or considered using) to determine relevance and decide which posts show up higher in your Instagram feed are:

  • People who’s content you like
  • People you direct message
  • People you search for
  • People you know in real life

Now, how exactly each of these elements might be weighted is hard to say, but these are the measures Instagram initially considered in their testing, which means they’re also very likely the same measures they use now.

An internal study from Instagram showed Instagram users weren’t seeing around 70% of the content matched to them in the chronological feed. 

Now, Instagram has not necessarily weighted any of these elements at all, but they’ve instead focused on engagement, and using any engagement as an indicator, but it’s interesting to note the various ways in which that engagement can be measured, which could then result in certain posts by certain people appearing higher in your Instagram feed.  An important note is that algorithms help networks deal with ‘a problem of success’ – that being that they become too popular, and there’s too much activity happening for users to find all the most relevant content on their own.

Essentially, the content from users you engage with will rank higher, and Instagram takes all of these forms of interaction into account.

 

Because you can’t insist that people follow fewer users so they see content important to them, Instagram tested a second theory using their algorithm based on engagement, and they saw significant increases in all key metrics when the new system was rolled out to a small percentage of users  The only metric which went down was the amount of searches users were conducting, which they actually saw as a good thing as it showed people were finding more of what they wanted for without having to seek it out themselves.

All of those efforts have obviously paid off – the platform added 100 million extra new users in the second half of 2016, taking them to 600 million monthly actives, 400 million of whom now log in daily. The introduction of Instagram Stories also played a part, no doubt, but it’s important to recognize the significance of the algorithm also in this context.

It’s an interesting insight into the workings of Instagram’s system – it doesn’t provide all the answers, and the onus is still on you to create compelling content to inspire engagement and rank higher in people’s feeds. But it does give you some idea of the various elements potentially at play (Instagram may, of course, have refined their system since their initial testing).

Facebook Updated Their News Feed to Penalize Non-Mobile Optimized Websites

In August, Facebook announced another News Feed algorithm update, this time focused on reducing the reach of websites which are not optimized for mobile devices.

As explained by Facebook: “We’ve heard from people that it’s frustrating to click on a link that leads to a slow-loading webpage. […] During the coming months we’re making an update to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load, so they can spend more time reading the stories they find relevant.”

Just as Google has moved to give priority to mobile optimized sites, Facebook’s now following suit – and given that some 94% of Facebook users access the site via mobile, the focus makes sense.

So how will Facebook measure mobile responsiveness and use it as a ranking factor?

“With this update, we’ll soon take into account the estimated load time of a webpage that someone clicks to from any link in News Feed on the mobile app. Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding webpage will be considered. If signals indicate the webpage will load quickly, the link to that webpage might appear higher in your feed.”

But this is nothing new.  Facebook has actually factored in the device and connection you’re using within the algorithm since 2015:  “For example, if you’re on a slower internet connection that won’t load videos, News Feed will show you fewer videos and more status updates and links.”

In addition to this, Facebook also has another existing algorithm penalty which is relevant to slow-loading sites – back in 2014, Facebook started taking into account the amount of time people spend reading a post after clicking on a link.  “If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted.”

If, as Facebook also notes, some 40% of website visitors abandon a site after three seconds of delay, that would see them coming straight back to Facebook, so there are already penalties in place for slow-loading sites. This new update just adds further emphasis, and underlines, once again, the need for all businesses to ensure they have fast-loading, mobile-friendly systems.

Facebook says that they don’t anticipate the change will significantly impact ‘most pages’ – but ‘most’ is a subjective term. Facebook does say that webpages which are particularly slow could see decreases in referral traffic.

‘Particularly slow’ is also a bit vague – basically, if your site is not optimized, you can probably expect your Facebook Page reach to decline. By how much, who knows, but don’t be surprised when you see it.

So what can you do to ensure your page is up to scratch? Helpfully, Facebook has also provided some tips on how to make your site faster and more mobile-friendly, which includes a listing of free tools you can use to evaluate and get suggestions on how to up your page performance (including Google’s PageSpeed Insights), and ten tips on changes you can make to improve your page speed.

Even if you have optimized your site, it’s probably worth going through the tools and suggestions to see if you can improve it further, updating wherever you can to avoid any penalties.

The changes keep coming with Facebook’s algorithm – just when you think you’ve got a process down pat, they add in another factor to keep you on your toes. And while the constant updates can be tough to keep up with, the reality is that they’re going to keep coming as Facebook learns from user behaviors and works to evolve in-step.

Theoretically the impact of this change should be minimal, as Facebook says, as most websites are no doubt optimized by now, but it’ll be important to keep an eye on your analytics to assess any significant shifts.

This quarter, we’re dedicating our Mondays on social media to exploring common misconceptions in marketing.

Over the last three years, our team has heard all of these at least once, in the Mid-Ohio Valley.  We’re here to debunk these myths and educate our audience with some valuable knowledge to convince them that they need to market their business – whether we’re by their side, or they’re doing it themselves.

Get comfortable, and enjoy our many myth-busting replies:

1. “Marketing is a waste of money”—When this thought comes to mind, you’re effectively saying that your service or product is a waste of money. Think about it, you want to grow your business but you’re not willing to invest in marketing it, so aren’t you kind-of saying you’re services are not worth promoting? You’ve already invested in your business, now it’s time to invest in growing it. Without marketing, your business will have a very hard time getting you a return on your investment.

2. “It takes too long to see a return on my marketing investment”—If this is the case, your marketing strategy just might be the wrong one. There are a bunch of marketing opportunities out there and some can provide fast results, while others are more of a slow burn. Having marketing experts as a resource (who have been there and done that) will help you to know which strategies will bring rapid results and which strategies will build brand loyalty.

3. “A friend of mine is a designer and can help me market”—This is half true, your friend can design something for you and help you market your business. But does your friend know how to design and target the audience you need to grow your business? Oftentimes, people put together a look for their business without considering the feel of that look. Professional designers and marketers know not only how to create a look, but also a feel for your business, instilling trust with your customers.

4. “I just want to put a little bit of money towards marketing until I see results, then I’ll invest more”—Is this a good marketing strategy? Maybe, maybe not, actually most likely not! We’re not trying to be the bearer of bad news here, but like we mentioned earlier, marketing is an investment in yourself and your business. Would you hire a personal trainer and say I’ll workout with you once every other week, and once I start seeing results, I’ll workout with you more? Common sense tells us you won’t see real results from putting forth minimum effort, you have to push the limits. When it comes to marketing, it’s important to strike a balance between what you can invest and what you should invest. There are strategies available that will get you amazing results for the best price, and having experts in your corner will get you there.

5. “You should only focus on acquiring new customers.” – No, you also need to keep them. If you only focus on bringing customers in, you’ll see them leave as quickly as they came. Work on generating lifetime value that’s higher than the cost of acquisition. Give users a reason to come back—an incentive to engage with your brand.  Never assume your customers are yours for life. Everyone who buys from you needs regular reinforcement of the reasons to continue buying from you and not from one of your competitors. Promote to prospects, but always promote to customers, too.

6. “More is better.”– Don’t make the mistake of thinking that quantity is more important than quality when it comes to users or leads. Getting cheap users is easier but not more lucrative. Sure, you can get leads for free or cheap, but they’re harder to retain. You need to find and keep quality users through engaging marketing that is (mostly) tied into social media.

7. “I Don’t Need to Do Much – Marketing Is an Organic Process” – Some businesses think that since their product or service is so good, marketing will happen naturally.  The reality is, you need to communicate with your target audience to get your product or service out there – or your competitors will get there first. You need a strategic process to determine how you want your brand to be perceived, recognized, experienced, and shared.

8. “Marketing is Advertising”—Well, yes and no. Without advertising, marketing is much less effective and without marketing, advertising can be a waste. In order to truly grow your business, you need both. Advertising is a branch of marketing through which your services can be presented to your audience, whereas marketing is the essence of reaching them.
9. “It Isn’t Possible to Accurately Report the Results of Your Marketing Campaign, and Therefore You Will Never Know your ROI” – With the tools marketers have at their fingertips, you are likely to be amazed at what you can see! Full reporting means you will be able to see which landing pages are performing the best, are receiving the most hits, and converting into leads. Find out which contact forms are the most effective, which pieces of content are attracting the most visitors to your website and are engaging people for the longest, and which links they are clicking on. Discover which pages on your website your leads are looking at and which ones they are just clicking through, and which emails are opened or deleted.

10. “Your industry is too boring (or traditional) for content marketing” – “Complaining your industry isn’t glamorous tells me two things about you: you don’t fully understand your customers need/pain points/ wants and you are boring.” ( Lisa Barone of Overit) The opportunity to create high-quality content is there, regardless of what industry you serve…. Just because your topic is toilets (or insurance, or telecom, or stained-glass windows), doesn’t mean your topic has to be 100-percent toilet focused.  Find those interesting periphery topics, or the topics your customers are passionate about, and create content around them.”

11. “We have a marketing plan: We’re running ads.” – An advertising campaign can be a valuable marketing tactic, but it’s a tactic – just one of the many ways you might deliver your marketing messages to your target audience. You need an integrated plan that spells out multiple tactics and how they’ll work together to achieve your goals for awareness, lead generation, and sales.

12. “My Marketing Department Is Responsible for My Company’s Marketing Campaign” – This is incorrect. A marketing strategy needs to come from the top down and it needs input from everybody in the company.  Talk to all the departments in your company and get feedback from those that are customer facing; salesmen, drivers, receptionists, cashiers, and anyone that deals with your customers and identifies leads on a daily basis. They can give you a valuable insight into the company’s prospects. Tap into these sources for important insights on attracting and capturing new customers.
13. “My Marketing Strategy Is in Place – So I Can Forget About It” – Just as the options for reporting are virtually endless, the capabilities for content marketing are always evolving. Once you have formulated your strategy, reporting will be an ongoing process. This will enable you to refine your marketing strategies as things change or as you release new products, services and special offers. Ongoing tweaks and improvements will ensure that you maximize your ROI and stand out as the industry expert in your chosen field.

14. “Content Marketing is not for Google” – When done right content in content marketing will speak to Google. If your content attracts an audience, they will backlink to it. They will share on social platforms. They will recommend your content and rate it well. Being able to place content on high quality outlets gives you the opportunity to produce high quality backlinks to your site. Search engines try to record all of this – because they love quality. The one thing Google is trying to accomplish with all the recent updates is to bring users useful content they are searching for. Even if your content creation is focused on bringing good content to your audience without any thoughts about keywords, Google will eventually appreciate your efforts and help you get your content to your audience. So, even while content marketing is not SEO and should not focus on satisfying Google, your SEO can profit from your content marketing efforts – or even more you should make sure that your content marketing and SEO go hand in hand.

15. “We’re too small. We don’t need a marketing plan.” – A marketing plan is the blueprint for how you present your organization to the market. It outlines your target audience, messages, channels, tactics, offers, and budget. Without an integrated, cohesive plan, you could be confusing your prospects and wasting money. Every business – even a one-person business – needs to plan their marketing to get the best return on their marketing investment.

16. “The website speaks for itself.” – Today’s marketers understand that content is king. Without engaging and creative content, the viewer won’t know what they’re looking for and definitely won’t consider buying. Make sure your content is clear and concise. Extra points for publishing case studies or any sort of social proof. Most buyers want to know what their peers have to say. Additionally, many websites, especially drag-and-drop DIY websites, are lacking a clear “call to action”, resulting in an overwhelming amount of content that users can get lost navigating through. When this happens, the user doesn’t read your site.

17. “I Know My Business and I Know Where I Need to Target My Marketing” – Any strategy should start with an analysis of what has been happening to identify the positives and the negatives, or, what your business does well and what it could do better.  Ideally, analysis should come from a separate department or third party for honest, objective feedback.  Too many companies forget about this all-important analysis or allow departments to analyse themselves; the result is that they fail to identify a baseline, or a starting point, as to where the company needs to improve, grow, or change the most.

18. “The Same Approach Can be Used for Every Company” – This could not be further from the truth. Every company will have a different set of challenges, according to which stage of the customer’s experience they are dealing with, even companies within the same industry.  Each set of problems will need a customized approach and solution. You will implement your chosen strategy after careful consideration of the facts in relation to your customer’s persona.
19. “We already know what our customers think.” – People just like your current customers are your best prospects, so it’s crucial to understand your customers: Who they are, what they think, how they feel, and why they choose to buy from you. Many marketers believe they know what their customers think, but what if they’re wrong? Customer research by an independent, professional resource is a critical first step to gaining this insight.

20. “Every content is good content” – Being active online and in social media, I sometimes get the impression that there is a competition going on who creates the most content instead of going for the best content. The truth is: you can gain more with one outstanding piece of content in the right outlets or channels and it will give you much more attention, feedback and branding effect than hundreds of cheap pieces of content no one really needs or wants to see. The risk of creating too much (and possibly irrelevant or even bad) content is: it can easily backfire and mark you as a spammer.

21. “Marketing Strategies Are Easy to Create”– This misconception stems from the fact that the internet is free and pretty much anyone can create a website or social media account. However, do not underestimate the skill involved in creating the right content and ensuring it reaches your audience in the most appropriate way.  The research and information gathering is a huge process on its own. Of course, creating a strategy based on assumptions might be slightly easier, but it’s also the quickest way to fail.  A strategy has to be based on evidence in the form of real, tangible, relevant date. Perform A/B split testing to establish which method performs the best, and then run with the option that provides the best results.

22. “A Strategy Can Be Implemented Quicker Than You Think” – Once a strategy has been created, the hard work begins. This will involve optimizing your content and website for keywords that are identified as those that are most likely to boost your visibility with search engines. You will need to create contact forms, landing pages which are engaging and relevant, off-page SEO to generate backlinks and visitors to your site, and automations to ensure you nurture captured leads. Since content marketing is all about establishing and building relationships with customers and other businesses, it can take time to see results.

23. “I Don’t Need an Online Marketing Plan” – As more and more consumers make purchasing decisions based on what they see on the internet, it is absolutely crucial that your company embraces digital content marketing. You must stay abreast of the changing trends in the way your customers find you, interact with you, use your product or service, and talk about you afterwards. An online presence is not just about having a website; you need to produce informative content and bring customers to your site using blogs, social media, ebooks, and other techniques.

24. “I Can’t Afford to Have a Marketing Strategy” – You can’t afford not to! You need a marketing strategy that effectively promotes your product or service to your audience to stimulate growth.  Don’t put it off until another day – it needs to be an ongoing process and it needs to be in place as soon as possible. “We’d love to try that marketing channel, but we can’t afford it. Marketers often make incorrect assumptions about the cost of marketing channels like broadcast advertising or direct mail. Don’t rule out a channel because you think it’s too expensive. Explore your options thoroughly. You may find that channels you thought were out of reach can be accessed affordably.

25. “We don’t need to be on social media.” – No matter what you sell, you can be certain your customers, prospects, and competitors are actively using social media. If you don’t take part, you’ll be left out of conversations that are shaping your marketplace. Get started with social media now.
26. “SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALL WE NEED.” – So, I assume not a single customer that purchases from you, or hires you, has ever researched you on Google? Enough said.

27. “Sales are down, so we need to cut our marketing budget.” – Tough times force companies to make tough budget decisions, but marketing is one place you should try not to cut. Not only can effective marketing can help you break out of a sales slump, but if you stop engaging with your customers and prospects, competitors will be standing by to take your place. Don’t give them the opportunity.

28. “Content Marketing is a new Concept” – Marketing with (relevant) content is neither new nor an invention of Internet. Selling of content marketing as a new concept is truly dangerous, as it can prevent you from learning from past examples. Having a history allows you to do better in the future and hopefully build on past success.

29. “Content Marketing is Digital” – As stated before content marketing has a long history. Business people have been marketing with content for centuries without feeling the need to come up with a term for it. Content marketing strategies that have been used long before the web was in existence include: conferences, lectures, seminars, workshops, articles in industry magazines/papers, industry report, customer news papers, special magazines, guides and publications for clients…. Content Marketing is the art of producing and promoting useful and/or relevant content. There are many forms of content that businesses use to reach and communicate with current and future customers. Limiting your content strategy to digital and online marketing is limiting your action radius – and just because online marketing gives you new ways of reaching your audience does not mean you should ignore the traditional ways. In most cases the ideal strategy integrates both.

30. “I CAN WRITE BLOGS AND POSTS SO I CAN MARKET MYSELF.” – You are producing content, so you think you are a content marketer? Let me disappoint you: most likely you are wrong. There is much more to content marketing than producing content. A true content marketing strategy has to include concepts for content distribution, communication and interaction with the audience. You have to have a clear idea about which goals and which target group you want to reach. Depending on your strategy, you need an editorial calendar and might need to include your company’s departments in your strategy for producing and distributing content.

31. “My Competitor Is Not Doing Anything So I Don’t Need To Either” – Well, this would be a seemingly brilliant strategy if it wasn’t for a few simple facts: First, new competitors pop up all the time, meaning some new guy could start his company next week, focus a lot of effort and money on advertising, and steal a huge percentage of your market share right out from under you. Second, that’s a huge opportunity for you to take advantage of a wide-open playing field without much headache.

32. “THERE IS NOT A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEO AND SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING.” – Google is a friend of good content and Google is a powerful tool to give your content the attention it deserves – so far so true. But producing content for search engine optimization is not content marketing and optimizing your content for search engines (i.e. keywords etc.) does not necessarily give you success in content marketing. Focusing on SEO content strategies leaves out all the other great possibilities content marketing might hold for you. Content in content marketing is created for an audience. This audience wants a well composed, informative and entertaining piece of content. Keyword staffing and optimization can kill the user experience and you are lost – Google might still bring people to your content, but you will not successfully market with this content. It works better the other way round: producing quality content that your audience likes and recommends produces backlinks and social signals that improves your search positions in return. Google loves quality content.

33. “Content (Marketing) is for Google” – Content Marketing is for a target audience. Google might help you reach this audience, but you are still creating content for an audience and not for Google. If you are creating content for Google, you are doing SEO, SEO is not content marketing (see above). Content in content marketing is created for people: your target audience. It is meaningful, interesting, informative and entertaining – it is created to speak to your audience and not Google.

34. “Content Marketing is an ad campaign”  “Content marketing is not a campaign — it’s an approach, a philosophy, and a business strategy.“ – Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute. This sentence says it all. You can have a video, a famous article or eBook – that does not make you a content marketer and it does certainly not make your company successful in content marketing. Content Marketing is much more than the content, it is the strategic and well tuned combination of producing, publishing, sharing content, communicating and interacting around content and being part of discussions with a goal in mind.

How Does Social Media Impact on SEO?

One of the most common questions Insilico Media Group has centers around social media marketing is how it’s connected to SEO. The answer is, “it’s complicated”. But we’ll try to clear the clouds a little — So, let’s start by saying this: while social media marketing and search engine optimization are often thrown into the same ‘digital marketing’ basket, the relationship between the two is not exactly direct.

This is important to understand, because while an increasing amount of people are conducting more and more of their daily interactions on social media platforms – justifying more emphasis on social media interactions – search still remains a key driver of traffic for most websites, and as such, it’s a crucial consideration for business. Insilico has spent the last three years monitoring the analytics of our clients, both marketing clients and web clients. We’ve compared and contrasted referral traffic for clients that have hired us to focus on search and social marketing against website clients that manage their own marketing efforts (aka “I post on Facebook a few times each week”), and measured them against website clients that have opted to do nothing – no search or social media efforts. Time and time again, search beats social in referral traffic and conversions from visitor to paying customer – yet, time and time again, clients have that “if we build it, they will come” mentality, and waive marketing service package options.

Over the years, Google’s search algorithms have evolved in incredibly complex ways, taking in more signals to ensure that the sites that rank highest in search are the most relevant for every query. And while social media, as part of the wider online eco-system, does now play a part in the overall process, Google still doesn’t factor in associated social media performance directly. Think of it this way – if everyone could get to the top of Google by posting their website link in their Facebook posts, Facebook would be nothing but a field of posts with links.

Here’s a clarification of how the two processes are linked, and why each requires its own, specific focus.

Ranking Content
First off, a basic rundown of Google’s query matching process – when deciding which websites best match each user query, Google assesses hundreds of factors in order to determine the most likely match. Of those, the two strongest, controllable signals are backlinks and page content.

In the case of content, Google examines the text on your pages to determine their relationship to a search query – for example, if someone searches for ‘basketball’, Google refers to its database of all the pages that mention that term to find the most popular match based on a huge amount of qualifying data, including your location (and what other people in your location have also searched for in relation to the query), the most visited websites, the latest news, etc.

In times past, it was possible to rank higher in Google by adding your target keyword to your website as many times as you could, as Google’s algorithms assumed a site with lots of direct mentions would be more relevant, but these days, their ranking algorithms are significantly more complex than that. The addition of their AI-fueled RankBrain system alone puts Google’s algorithms far beyond the understanding of- well, pretty much any individual person.

In the case of is backlinks – which refers to how many times other websites have referred to a site by linking to its pages – the idea is that if there are a heap of sites, especially reputable ones, referring to a website, and those sites have some relation to the search term also, that increases the likelihood that it’s a good match for what you’re after.

This is a basic overview, of course – as noted, the full calculations in play are beyond what pretty much anyone can comprehend with our feeble human minds – but the concept is that Google utilizes the reference links and data points available to provide the most relevant match for any query, with page content and backlinks providing the best indicators of likely relevance.
These are the core principles of SEO, and from this, we can determine how they relate to social.

Social signals
The first thing to note with social is that Google does not use signals like how many Likes you have on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter as direct search ranking factors for your website.

The logic behind this is that Google can’t actually access all of the data on social platforms – Facebook, in particular, is not wholly searchable for Google’s purposes, with privacy restrictions and system limitations in place which stop Google’s crawlers from accessing all the relevant information.

There are also questionable elements of social signals which may skew the results – for example, and as noted in this tweet from SEO expert Mark Traphagen – fake accounts on social can inflate metrics like followers and re-tweets, which clouds the relevance of social signals, and would open the door to SEO scammers, if it were applicable. Some studies reveal a whopping 48M of Twitter accounts are actually bots. Researchers say up to 15% of accounts on Twitter are “autonomous entities known as social bots”. For these reasons (and more), what you do on social is not used as a direct ranking factor, it’s not directly tied to your SEO performance generally. But even with that being the case, there are some exceptions which connect the two.

As noted, Google looks for backlinks and page content, and individual social posts and profiles are considered the same as any other webpage which Google can index. That means that if you have a lot of people visiting your social profiles and content, they can individually rank in search – in fact, for a lot of entities, you’ll find a Twitter profile, in particular, will show up high in search results (this has been helped by the fact that Twitter and Google have an agreement to index tweets).
hat Google/Twitter deal can also help your tweets rank, individually, and a study of more than 900,000 tweets published earlier this year showed that tweets with more Likes do have a better chance of ranking higher in Google results.

“But you said Google doesn’t use social signals?”

They don’t, in terms of ranking your website – these results relate to individual entities, not your page, so it’s not necessarily helping your overall SEO rankings, just rankings for that individual tweet. Google also doesn’t index all tweets, so focusing on this as an SEO strategy would be a bit hit and miss. Also, Google can’t rank all Facebook posts, as noted, due to system limitations.

So can a highly re-tweeted tweet help you rank higher in search? Not really – that tweet would rank higher (and interestingly, Likes appear to be a considered a stronger signal than re-tweets by Google), which can help boost brand awareness, but it won’t necessarily drive traffic to your site. Well, not directly, at least.

Another aspect to consider in the social SEO connection is content dissemination and the role social platforms play in content sharing. Social platforms enable you to share your content to a wider audience, which, in turn, helps generate more exposure for your pages, which can then impact your search rank by increasing the activity and backlinks to your pages. So in itself, sharing content and generating engagement on social won’t help your content rank in Google, but more traffic and backlinks definitely will, which social can facilitate.

As you can see, while the connection between social and search is not direct, the two processes are aligned, and being active on social will most definitely help your SEO efforts – though not necessarily in the way you might expect.

Social media can definitely help you facilitate this process, but each element requires individual, specific focus and consideration.

10 Instagram Statistics to Keep in Mind When Planning Your 2018 Strategy

Digital marketing changes very rapidly, so it’s important to stay caught up with new platforms, strategies and tactics. At Insilico, we know that 0% of our sales come from our Instagram, so we largely ignore the platform to focus on interacting with our clients, and future clients, on those that do bring business: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. However, we know Instagram brings in a significant percentage of business for our clients, so we have become huge Instagram fans.

One thing that can be extremely helpful when trying to stay ahead of the game is keeping an eye on statistics – while we are always careful and consider the source of said statistics, they can help us predict trends and isolate opportunities in the market to make an impact. This is one of many advantages small businesses have when hiring an agency to help with their social media, rather than trying to do it themselves.

Because we firmly believe in educating our clients and our friends, so they understand how and why we do what we do, the following Instagram stats could prove extremely valuable when planning your Instagram strategy for 2018. (note: these ten tips won’t make you an #InstaSuccess – but they’re a good start!)

1. 70% of Hashtags on Instagram Are Branded
Brand engagement is notoriously higher on Instagram than other social channels. Brands have accepted this and decided to deploy their own hashtags to help organize the conversation.
Keep this in mind when planning campaigns in 2018 – having a campaign-specific hashtag can be very useful when tracking performance.

2. 71% of US Businesses Are Using Instagram in 2017
Brand saturation on Instagram is constantly rising, bringing more competition.
With more than a million brands now advertising on the platform, it’s more important than ever to tell your story in a compelling way that will give users a visual representation of why you’re unique.

3. 80% of Users Follow At Least One Business on Instagram
As noted, more brands are adopting Instagram, and the data shows that users are open to connecting with them.
Consider Instagram a unique opportunity to place your brand in an arena where social consumers actually don’t mind interacting with it.

4. Instagram Expects to Accrue $4 Billion in Mobile Ad Revenue in 2017
Businesses that aren’t testing advertising on Instagram are missing the boat.
As competition increases, so does the cost of clicks and engagements. We highly recommend allocating some budget to Instagram ads while the cost per result is reasonable.

5. Posts with a Location Get 79% More Engagement
Want to get more engagement on your Instagram Posts? Tag a location.
This helps users find it in search and is proven to statically increase engagement.
Location tags also work in Instagram Stories

6. 70% of Instagram Posts Don’t Get Seen
Did you know a clear majority of Instagram posts don’t get seen?
Set a consistent posting schedule, use appropriate hashtags, tag appropriate accounts and use location tags to ensure that your content has a better chance of getting in front of your target audience.

7. Instagram Photos Generate 36% More Engagement Than Videos
While it seems like video is taking over the web, photos still get more engagement on Instagram.
This could be due to data usage or user attention span. We recommend using both photos and videos where possible.

8. 65% of Top-Performing Instagram Posts Feature Products
Despite the old adage that “social media isn’t for selling” the top Instagram posts feature products in them.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should blast all your goods across your account, but it does mean that you should be conscious of using images which show the functionality of your products, or re-posting (with credit) user generated content that may feature your items.

9. Photos with Faces Get 38% More Likes
People like to see people in Instagram posts.
From personal experience with large national brands, custom creative tended to perform worse, engagement-wise, than an authentic image focused around people.
Humanize your Instagram content and nab more engagement.

10. User-Generated Content Has a 4.5% Higher Conversion Rate
Studies have shown that leveraging user generated content can increase overall engagement, lower cost per click metrics and increase click through rates for paid advertisements.
If your main key performance indicators are moving in the right direction, your conversion rate is sure to follow. Give a human touch to your Instagram content (especially ads) and use a little UGC.

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Insilico Media Group is a full-service marketing agency offering affordable web development and marketing services to local small businesses.  In three years, we’ve helped over 60 brands grow.  How can we help yours?