The one constant that you can count on when it comes to marketing your products and services online is that nothing ever stays the same. Just as soon as you think you have both the spoken and unspoken rules down, the powers that be, the search engines and social media platforms go and change everything - again!
The Debate Between Original Content vs Social Media Only as Marketing Strategy
For some time now, there's been quite the debate among business owners and online marketing specialists as to which is more important: a website with original SEO content and authority building blog posts, or a social media only strategy that relies solely on ads on social media sites such as Facebook and frequent posts on the various other social media sites. For a while, most agreed that a strategy that combined aspects of both is the best to generate organic traffic to your site and boost visibility and sales.
Why Organic Traffic is Important Regardless of Which Strategy that You Use
Organic traffic is the bread and butter of online visibility - word of mouth, advertising, and connecting with one's clients and customers. Most recognise the wisdom of using a strategy that combines targeted advertising on social media sites and social media posts, in addition to original SEO content and blog posts, to drive organic traffic and build followers and authority in your niche. When you have little organic traffic, not only does revenue suffer, it becomes almost impossible to tap into the wants and needs of your target market so that you can create the innovative products and services that they desire.
Your Strategy Must Change or You Won't Survive
Sadly, the way that you encourage organic traffic to your site is about to change, and in a way that's not likely to help the bottom line of your business.
Remember how you used to be able to post a Facebook ad and then tweet it to encourage sales at your business? Those that used a blended strategy would have also tweeted, pinned or posted their latest blog entry onto their social media accounts. When you posted to your business's Facebook account, it would immediately show up in the news feed of your followers and friends, for free. Followers and friends would then see the post, and if you were lucky, they would share it with their own friends and followers and then like wildfire your post would spread, generating free organic traffic to your site.
In January, Facebook will begin to limit how the posts from businesses show up in the news feeds of their friends and followers. It's increasingly looking as though businesses will need to pay to boost these posts for them to become visible to friends and followers as well as recommended to others unconnected with your business. The other major social media platforms are likely to follow suit, and if you've been relying on solely a social media strategy to drive traffic to your site, you will literally be dead in the water.
Why a Social Media Only Strategy is Dangerous Even Without This Change
Even if Facebook wasn't changing the way it does things, there were already severe limitations to having solely a social media strategy. For example, while a social media strategy that relied solely on social media posts was great for existing large, multinational companies and brands to get the word out about breaking news, such as an upcoming offer or sale, these posts did little to raise awareness and drive organic traffic to the websites of small to medium sized businesses.
Without original SEO content and regular blog posts to establish authority and encourage visitors to become regular, repeat followers, what traffic that was derived from the social media only strategy was short lived.
Why You Need Greater Control Over Your Message and How to Get It
It's also important for you to remember just who is in control of your fans and followers on your social media sites and the content that they see. Do you mistakenly believe that it is you? Every day posts, tweets, and pins are removed by various social media sites, and the number of posts that appear in users newsfeeds are already limited.
The best way to ensure that can directly connect with your fans and followers is to ensure that all of your posts and marketing efforts serve as a funnel to direct fans and followers to your site that you own, where you have complete control over the content and how you connect with your viewers.
Your strategy should also include prompts to encourage your fans and followers from other sites to follow you by email to ensure that they don't miss any important posts or communications from you, as well as to grow your own email list. Direct marketing via email still remains the surest way to reach your target market and increase your direct sales.
Once you've tied the traffic from your social media posts back to your own site, not only will you be able to more directly encourage visitors to return to your site more frequently, you will then be able to control your online marketing campaigns from your own site where you can try out different strategies to increase viewership and sales and have greater options to tweak the campaign. All of these factors will give you greater control and opportunity to improve your results.
The Silver Lining in All of This Change
If you've been using a social media only strategy, the coming changes are not all gloom and doom. The silver lining to the change is that it will hopefully prompt you to adopt a more diverse marketing strategy which should ultimately increase your traffic and sales.
You also shouldn't completely do away with your social media accounts as the impact of the change becomes apparent. Despite the upcoming change, the importance of having a social media presence and a social media strategy will probably not completely disappear. There will still be a place for social media posts and ads, but going forward, these posts and ads will need to be more selective, more highly refined and specifically targeted to drive traffic to an existing site that is focused on converting the visit to organic traffic which will return to the site repeatedly and on a regular basis.
As you adopt a more diverse and comprehensive online marketing strategy going forward, keep one thing in mind. Just as soon as you start to become comfortable with the upcoming "new normal," it will change - again!
Sophie Andrews is the author of The Creative Collection, Director of the Australian Bookkeepers Association and CEO of The Accounts Studio, a bookkeeping and cash flow consulting agency specializing in working with creatives and entrepreneurs.
Follow Sophie Andrews on Twitter: www.twitter.com/accountsstudio or visit the website www.accountsstudio.com.au