It's not a revelation that every single Facebook post now needs to not only be supported with spend, but targeted cleverly (custom audiences, one way hashing, exclusions). Coupled with this however, is an industry wide movement away from old metrics like engagement and clicks- towards achieving specific business objectives and establishing the real value of social by closing the loop on return on investment.
In a social calendar week populated by #TicketTuesday, #Winsday, #ThrowbackThursday and all sorts of other nice fluffy ideas, the reality is that all of these now need to be invested in with cold hard cash to have them seen at all. Add to that the time taken up by content creation and pretty soon you start to wonder if a shift in gears is needed.
You see a disjoint has grown between a brand marketeer utilising and implementation of "always on" and a consumer perception of "always on" when it comes to social.
For example: Beer brand A wants to stay top of mind with consumers so they spend lots of money creating 5 days worth of content which they seed out consistently across 12 months of the year. Truthfully, the fairly hefty chunk of this that falls outside of media buying and campaign timeframes only gets seen by 1-3% of their social audiences.
Whereas: Beer drinker X wants to interact with your brand because they've a quality issue with your beer however you're only online Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. Availability is what a social audience value above all else. Don't get me wrong, it's still important to have high quality content that engages and builds brand persona, but if you can't answer queries on social for a beer brand at evenings and weekends online (when the vast majority of your fans are interacting with your product offline) because you've blasted all of your budget in a flashy app or shit hot video series rather than community management hours then you're missing what this is all about.
Research by The Social Habit found that 32% of US consumers expect a response from a brand on social within 30mins, 42% within an hour and a whopping 57% expect the same service at weekends and evenings. Are your response times up to scratch?
So should you ditch the digital agency outside of campaigns time? No. What is needed is a re-focus from consistent content pedalling to a combined service and campaign based content approach.
How to do this? Identify big, bold, scary business objectives e.g. support a new product launch, drive awareness of a discounted offering, highlight a new store opening or big up an experiential stunt and make your platforms work harder at those times as social campaigns, once it's run its course don't be afraid to turn down the heat and scale back.
Now, if you're a mega brand with the cash to throw at TV, radio and display then during those campaigns switch on "Always On" to give punters the through the line experience with consistent social content. And make damn sure you carve out a chunk of budget for social advertising like you would press or TV because ultimately platforms like Facebook are becoming more about reach and nearly comparable to direct response and online display.
Looking at case studies like this one from Facebook Studios noted that 99% of sales that came from Facebook feed content were from users who saw the advertising but didn't actually engage with it. I strongly believe we shouldn't discount engagement completely but I do believe that as marketeers we obsess over it too much and don't place enough importance on reach and frequency.
Another study from Social Code argues that optimising social advertising for reach helps deliver not only the best return on investment but also contributes to engagement in some cases. Overall, targeting good engaging content with spend optimised for reach gives us the best of both worlds.
While Facebook may have its issues and critics, the return on investment for social budgets is still far more effectively placed there than on Twitter. That said, the PR value through using a platform like Twitter is far greater so don't neglect the self service advertising functionality here for topical content.
"Always On" or "Sometimes On", optimising your budgets for reach or engagement whenever you do communicate, one thing is absolutely certain- social never sleeps, and while focus may shift and realign in how we market, in the context of customer issues, queries and contact outside of office hours that is one area that must remain "Always On".
Seán Earley is Head of Creative Services at New/Slang part of PSG Communications in between craft beer fancying and ice cream obsessions he works with clients like HB Ice Cream, Bord Gais, Gala Retail and VFI. He also sits on the board of the Irish Internet Association.