It wasn’t so long ago that we were struggling to convince businesses of the value of online marketing. Thanks to a myriad of social media gurus, online marketing gods and PPC whizzes, our challenges today consist of quite a lot of myth-busting and effort put into getting businesses to accept that online marketing is a tool not a magic potion one resorts to for instant and unmatched success.

If you’re thinking about using one of the many tools in online marketing’s toolbox to help boost your brand’s visibility and improve your bottom line, here are the things you should expect to accomplish through online marketing.

Make your brand visible not viral

Much has been said about virality, both in terms of content and branding, to the point that many expect their products and services to become viral by implementing a set recipe. It’s not the brand managers’ fault, it’s the agencies who oversell a campaign’s potential. Brands and agencies don’t determine if something becomes viral, audiences do and they only care about the value behind a piece of content, regardless if it’s a product or service.

Setting the Right Expectations for Social Media MarketingAn experienced team can have the insight and experience needed to determine whether a specific target group will react better to the entertainment, informative, shock value, etc of a specific piece of content but they cannot manufacture viral content. What they can do, is understand what audiences need and through that understanding create a strategy that will cater to said need, creating a connection between the brand and its intended audience.

It’s also important to consider that viral content spreads like wildfire well beyond the audience of a specific brand, as the common element of interest for those who consume it is the value generated by said content, not the fact that it was created by one brand or another. This means that creating viral content will not make your brand viral and, in some cases, it might not really make it all that visible either.

What to aim for: 

Instead of promising to make a product viral, focus on a target reach and corresponding actions you want your audience to perform. That way, in the very likely event that your content doesn’t go viral but does reach your desired number of people, who then meet your conversion goals, you’ll be able to recognise your success as opposed to deeming it a failure simply because you’re expectations were too high.

Simmer down complaints

You can’t stop people from expressing their opinions online. You may try to limit their reach in environments you control, by deleting negative comments or posts but you won’t be able to stop them from taking their complaint to another, perhaps even more public, forum. In all likelihood, any attempts at censorship will only fuel an unhappy customer’s disappointment and anger.

Another ineffective tactic to quiet rowdy customers is to be more vocal then they are, in an uninspired attempt to drown their complaints in more content. Aside from this being a complete waste of effort, you’re likely to end up with re-posts of those negative comments or even being called out on ignoring the problem, which would simply amplify their negative impact.

“Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem. ”

– Alan Weiss, Author “Million Dollar Consulting”

What to aim for: 

Accept that social media is free for all and consumers will let you know if they’re unhappy, wherever they can find you and whether you like it or not. Instead of viewing them as scary, negative complaints that will drive other potential customers away, use this opportunity to very publicly, quickly and effectively solve problems, turning a potentially damaging experience into a learning opportunity.

Make bad products better

Every marketing effort should strive to emphasize the value a product or service can bring to its consumers…where there is one. There’s always a measure of wishful thinking in marketing and social media can easily promote an idealised version of your product, but if that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when that product reaches your audience, you’re business is virtually doomed.

Setting the Right Expectations for Social Media Marketing

The snowball effect caused by consumers who feel cheated and are becoming vocal about it on social media is strong enough to ram through the most honest of businesses, let alone those with rubbish products sold at a premium.

What to aim for: 

Don’t try sugarcoat what your product or service can offer. Be realistic and honest about its value and use social media as a tool to learn from your consumers and gradually improve your product to a level where it can be sold at a premium. Let people know you welcome their views and that you want them to be part of your business’ growth, building not just great products together but a real experience.

The Bottom Line

Social media can do a great many things for your business, as long as you learn to manage your expectations correctly and recognise that the key to its success is opening up and communicating, treating it like the true experience that it is. Hint: It’s right there in the name.

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