Alternative Social Media

Have you noticed that your Facebook and Instagram content seem to be getting less and less attention with each passing day?  Posts that used to reach thousands of people who like and follow your brand now seem to bring in only a slow trickle. Even your ad performance may be dropping. And, that may be making you wonder if it’s time to just give up on your organic Facebook and Instagram strategy and move to one of those new-fangled social media sites. Or, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to make your efforts at social media more effective.  Good news! We’ll explain everything in this article. 

Knowledge drop in 3,2,1…

The State of the Space

More than half of the world’s population – something like 3.96 Billion people as of July 2020 – actively uses social media platforms. And, with 2.9 billion and 115 million users (respectively), Facebook and Instagram have dominated the social media marketplace.  It only makes sense that brands big and small have flocked to those platforms in order to reach the vast numbers of potential customers contained therein.  

However, those brands – and probably even your brand, if you market using those platforms – are now seeing a dramatic and noticeable overall decline in engagement (and revenue) from their organic content. And, it’s making people (marketers included) wonder:  Should we start turning our attention to alternative platforms – those like Pinterest and Twitter, that have been around awhile, or the up-and-comers like Parler and MeWe?

Let’s take a look at where things stand with the big players, Facebook and Instagram, and then we’ll talk about the other options and how to know if they’re a good fit for your company.

So, how bad is it?

Let’s talk about Facebook first.

The decline in organic engagement on Facebook was steep. A study conducted by Trust Insights measuring thousands of brand Pages on Facebook found that the median engagement was just 0.0166% for unpaid content. In 2019, the rate was 0.0215%, which is a decrease of 22.8% year-over-year. To break that down a bit further, about 1 out of every 6,000 people who follow a brand page engaged with that brand’s organic content.

There are a few factors we know of that may be at the root of this drop for Facebook. First, the platform is losing active users.  One report showed a drop of about 15 million U.S active users from 2017 to 2019.  It’s not a watershed for sure, but it’s something to keep in mind. And, reports are showing that the users that do remain are less satisfied with their experience than they have been since 2015. Finally, the age of the average Facebook user is climbing.  The Pew Research Center tells us that seniors are the fastest growing demographic group on the platform.  This means that your content may well need to take this demographic into consideration.

Then there’s Instagram. 

The drop in organic engagement for brands on Instagram was only slightly less drastic. Trust Insights work produced a median engagement rate of 0.372% for unpaid content, which is a 21% decrease from 2019’s 0.472%. That means that 1 out of 268 people who followed a brand on Instagram engaged with its organic content. While it’s 22X better than the median engagement rate for Facebook, the significant decline still gives brands and marketers alike pause. 

But, there’s good news here. Instagram is growing – more downloads, more active users year over year.  And, they’re rolling out some new features that make eCommerce presence on the platform more accessible for brands. So, the issue going into 2021 will be catching users attention.

Another Wrench in the Gears

This summer, Apple announced that it would make a BIG change to the ways in which advertisers/businesses would be able to interact with Apple device user data.  At the center of the change is a code (unique to each device) called Identification for Advertisers, or IDFA.  As users interact with content from advertisers around the internet that code is collected and sent back to the company, essentially showing them where and how the user interacted with their content, and helping them determine if their advertising efforts were effective.  This IDFA works in the same way as “cookies” when you visit websites on your laptop or desktop computer. This little code is the reason those shoes, or that video game, you were checking out seems to follow you all over the internet.  It enables companies to target you based on your interactions. But more importantly for this article, it enables you to target your customers based on how they move around the web. 

Beginning in early 2021, Apple will require any outside company that wants to collect this IDFA and either combine their tracking info with information another company has collected, or share what it collects with another company, will have to expressly ask the user for permission.  Again, this is similar to the permission you give websites online to collect “cookies”, which can limit the data that companies and Google Analytics can see about your online behavior.

This kind of sharing is essential for ad targeting because very few companies have their own native advertising platforms. Almost every company uses Google, Facebook, or another ad network to serve ads based on collected user data. The general expectation here is that many Apple users will say, “no thanks” to being followed around the internet by advertisers. And, this will have very significant impacts on the ability of companies – especially the small ones – to get effective returns on their advertising dollars.  If you don’t know what works, and you can’t target ads, you’re just casting creative into the wind and hoping it sticks to your target audience. 

And, there’s a significant chance that other technology creators will follow suit, changing ad targeting and performance across the board.

Time to jump ship?

We’ve gotten an increasing number of questions from businesses asking if they should just abandon the big platforms and try something else. And our answer is always a very emphatic…maybe.  There are several things to consider before you swear off the Facebook and Google oligarchy.  

First, where will you go? 

There’s a lot of interest right now in up-and-coming platforms Clubhouse, MeWe and Parler..  New users are flocking to these sites in droves. But one major limitation of these platforms is that they are currently ad-free. Parler is considering an influencer-based marketing offering for individuals and businesses, but at this point any content shared on these platforms will have to gain traction organically.  The audience on those platforms, or that level of investment may not be the right fit for your brand right now.

There are several other tried and true platforms you may not have considered.  Pinterest has over 300 million monthly active users, and use of the platform requires interaction with content presented there. Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok all have their own benefits and can be incorporated into your current social media strategy fairly simply. Of course, like we’ll discuss in more detail momentarily, these platforms are only a good choice if they make sense for your business. 

Added bonus, these platforms are still performing fairly well for advertisers so a paid strategy may also make sense there. For example, Twitter saw a 27% increase in engagement with paid content (and a 9% drop in cost per engagement) between 2018 and 2019. 

However, before you make the decision to change your social media strategy (paid or unpaid) by moving to a new platform, there are two primary things to consider:

    • Is your target customer likely to be on that platform? Understanding where your key customers are is imperative to a strong social media strategy, and you should always use this criteria FIRST to determine whether a platform is a good fit for you.  If your target audience is over 65, for example, TikTok may not be a great fit for you. If your product doesn’t represent well visually, Instagram and Pinterest are likely not your best option.  You get the point.
    • Do you have what you need to use the platform well?  No matter what social media platforms you choose for your business, you will need to have someone on your team (or access to someone) who understands the basics of social media engagement and can dedicate the time to helping you grow your community.  Then, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools and knowledge to do well in the ways each platform requires. Twitter, as an example, is a fast moving conversation. Brands that do well are able to stay active and responsive in that quick moving environment.  Brands that just broadcast tweets several times a day, without much response, don’t build the same traction.  Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest require high-quality, interesting visual content. If you don’t have a means of creating that content consistently, you won’t be able to build the kind of relationships you need to be successful on those platforms. 



Taking a Different Approach 

If the idea of moving to new and different platforms gives you pause, that’s ok! There are some alternative methods of driving engagement on the big players that may fit better with your business needs. 

Influencer Strategy

If you’ve heard the term “social media influencer” it probably calls to mind young and/or glamorous people trying to convince you to buy weight loss tea, vitamin gummies, or some other product.  But we promise you that there is MUCH more to the practice of influencer marketing than that. 

Going back to the data gathered by Trust Insights, we know that people are more likely to engage with content from influencers than they are to engage directly with brand content. On Facebook, 1 out of every 451 people who follow an influencer’s page engaged with their content. When we compare that with the 1 of 6,000 that engage with brand content, there’s a lot of potential for interaction there. On Instagram, the numbers are even better: there, 1 in 85 people who follow an influencer account interact with that content.  

And, the costs associated with influencer marketing don’t have to be high. Depending on your niche, you may find influencers willing to trade content for product, or who are willing to to work with your brand on a continuous basis for a retainer. 

Facebook and Instagram Shops

Both Facebook and Instagram have rolled out features that allow eCommerce businesses to build shops directly on their social media platforms. You can link to products in your posts, and even encourage people to browse your store without leaving your profile.  These tools won’t necessarily help you build engagement or visibility with new visitors, but they may make it a little easier for you to convert those new faces into customers. 

Looking and Planning Ahead 

As you move into social media strategy planning for 2021, we hope that we’ve been able to answer some of your questions about why your social media content may be underperforming, what you can do to combat that, and what’s happening with these new platforms. 

But the fact of the matter is that any of the tactics we’ve talked about above is going to be underwhelming when applied on its own.  Effective digital marketing has to take all of your online marketing efforts into account to create a synergistic strategy that capitalizes on your company’s best assets and meets your customers where they’re most likely to interact with your brand. Competition for customers online is fierce and each of your digital marketing channels has to be performing at its best. 

Take a closer look at the other channels you’re using to connect with your audience, like email marketing, Google Ads, and search engine optimization. How are those performing? Examine areas in which there is room for growth and consider investing in those opportunities, as you may see a better return on investment with those channels than with social media marketing.

Need help figuring out where you are now, and where to go next, with your digital marketing efforts? We would love to help you discover where you’re performing at your peak, and where there is room for improvement.

Classy Llama offers a full-suite of digital marketing services from auditing and consultation to full-scale management, and we’d love to talk with you about how we can partner with your business to help you see greater success.