Social Media Purpose and Tactics – The Truth About Content and Engagement

Social Media TacticsRecently eMarketer released a new report that purported to cover Social Media Tactics and which work best. Though the report has a lot of valuable information, most is based on a highly misguided view of social media to begin with. In this post I am going to outline two of the points in the report and attempt to give you some straight talk about them that is intended to help you adjust strategy and be more effective.


Early in the report there was a statement that stood out to me as a huge red flag:

the greatest percentage of respondents from both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies considered customer engagement to be the primary purpose of their social media marketing.”

With so many marketers seeing engagement as the primary purpose for their social media marketing, it is no wonder why the respondents answered the way they did on other segments in the report. Engagement should simply be a part of the process within social media marketing, not the goal or purpose for it. The goal or purpose should be a clearly defined objective that is different for every business, but that should include things like increased sales, revenue, customers, traffic, etc. Real results and measurable metrics that make the time-consuming activities in social media worth while.

Content Creation:

A huge misnomer in the report is the repeated theme of the content creation requirement. Yes creating content is required. Photo’s, graphics, articles, blog posts, etc are optimum drivers when focused on the interests of your audience and delivers real value to them. However, there are two issues that need need to be dissected about this segment:

1) Average Small/Medium Businesses – Content creation can be an effective tool for driving social media marketing results, but the hard facts are that most SMB’s do not have the staff, resources or budget required to constantly create fresh creative content. In fact in most cases establishing a budget for this purpose for most SMB’s would not result in anything close to a return on investment. Larger companies and bigger brands are able to leverage their previous branding, resources and huge budgets without the need for real measured results and this is highly skewed in this report.

Most Difficult Social Media Marketing Tactics

2) Content Sharing – Since the overwhelming majority of marketing professionals that responded, reported that the top tactics of “content creation” were also the most difficult to execute, this leaves many scratching their head for what to do in their social media marketing. Not once in this report was a reference to content curation, aggregation or sharing, let alone a strategy around sharing. The average business must have a content strategy that involves posting content that others have written; content that is interesting and relevant to their target audience, provides value to that audience and starts conversations.

Reports like these can be incredibly insightful for the largest brands out there, or those that work with large brands, the fact is that small and medium businesses just don’t have the resources to execute social media this way. Furthermore, many of the larger brands do social media marketing in direct contrast to how it should be done, therefore spending most of their efforts pitching their products, not responding to their audience and producing content that are more liken to commercials than content that adds value to their audience.

If you are not a large brand, don’t let this report discourage you. Use the information to establish an effective strategy of content sharing and do what level of content creation you are able to, focusing on delivering value to your audience and building real relationships. THESE are the tactics that actually get real results.

10 thoughts on “Social Media Purpose and Tactics – The Truth About Content and Engagement

  1. I don’t get the engagement as a tactic thing. I actually wrote a post about how Twitter has engagement as a key metric to track paid tweets. True, we should pay attention and perhaps there is even an argument to track engagement but it shouldnt be the only thing you look at. Consider how your other metrics change when engagement patterns change – does it even matter? I actually discovered when I had less engagement, I had more conversions. And conversions are way more important to me than a retweet. Just be cautious of what you measure and how people tell you to measure. Dont pigeonhole your dashboard :)

  2. I like this post because you offer perspectives that make sense, and deal with what’s happening in the “real” world of business. So many buzzwords are used in this industry and serve to confuse SMBs, who are led to believe that delving into social media alone can “fix” their businesses. There is no magic bullet. Social Media is not a panacea. Just like “engagement”, it’s just one aspect of a holistic / “eyes wide open” approach to marketing and selling any business product or service.
    Just like off-line marketing, person to person, online marketing is based on the same, time-tested universal principles of actually building relationships through conversations which lead to sales opportunities (the “all important bottom line”). Companies, small, medium, and large, who understand and practice this daily, are the beneficiaries of valuable currency like social credibility, loyalty, referrals, and yes, cash in the coffers.
    Thanks for this timely and insightful post!!

    1. It’s how I roll Lynn. Impossible for me to fluff or write about shiny objects. People need the straight truth and guidance on what to do, not theory and hype.

  3. Excellent article here once again Mr. Post. You’ve distilled the most important factors for small businesses out of a somewhat overwhelming report. Social Media Marketing can be such a big concept that small businesses are almost afraid to dive in. You always help make it accessible.

    And Lynn, “online marketing is based on the same, time-tested universal principles of actually building relationships through conversations which lead to sales opportunities” may be one of the most ‘on-the-money’ statements I’ve ever read.

    1. Thank you Jason! I agree with you and Lynn. I’ve said many times that the effective social media marketing formula is:

      “Content leads to conversations, conversations build relationships and relationships result in ROI.”

      That said, you must have the proper content strategy that sparks the right conversations, with the right target audience. Otherwise you have a lot of relationships with people that are not your target audience, therefore no results…

  4. Once again Robert you have demonstrated that you actually understand business AND digital marketing. Unfortunately too many business people do not understand social media, and too many social media people clearly do not understand business.

    Superb article! thanks for putting it out.

  5. Great post. Agree with you very much, especially about conversations > relationships. I think people are beginning to realize this but as you say the engagement that good content can bring shouldn’t be the goal: it’s all about the relationship building – with a goal that aligns with your business goals.

    Knowing your audience is vital too as you mention too.

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