Social media strategy on a shoestring budget

While many company Facebook pages seem trapped in a limbo there are a number of ways they can make the most of social media without spending a fortune.

Flick through some of the corporate pages on Facebook and you get the impression that some of them are trapped in a social media limbo. There are a whole lot of companies still stuck with a low level of followers, posting content into the wilderness with little user engagement or response.

It’s safe to assume that a lot of these pages were established with an assumption that they would bring them guaranteed user engagement at almost no cost. It’s amazing to see how many companies fall into the delusion that users will flock to their brand because if it can happen for the corporate giants why won’t it happen for them?

Well, the reality is that all of the social media corporate heavyweights spend millions crafting their image and cultivating an audience on mediums like Facebook and Twitter. The fact that Telstra recently announced that it employs 60 full time staff to monitor its social media channels is just one indication of the type of effort that is required.

Social media just isn’t a poor man’s marketing tool – you need to pour time and resources into it to get the most out of it. But there are ways in which you can maximise your output while minimising your costs as digital marketing expert Dale Eastman pointed out at this year’s The Internet Show in Melbourne.

Shaking out Polaroid parable

Eastman played a key role in Polaroid’s Australian social media strategy and it literally embodies the concept of building a social media strategy on a shoe string budget.

Polaroid has always been known as a popular photography brand, but the company actually filed for bankruptcy in 2001. It operated as a pale shadow for another eight years until PLR IP Holdings purchased all of Polaroid’s assets including its brand and intellectual property in 2009.

According to Eastman, the aim of the acquisition was to restore the company to its former glory, and leverage the century old brand’s faithful global fan base. The task of resuscitating Polaroid in Australia was given to Hagemeyer Brands, which immediately looked to social media.

The phenomenon was yet to fully take off among Australian businesses at the time so the strategy was considered a risk. Eastman says it was a bit of a hard sell to convince Polaroid’s management that a social media strategy would be successful but eventually they were granted a slither of funding to start a campaign 

“Our budget was the same as the price as a flat screen TV [a couple thousand dollars],” Eastman says.

Yet it turned out to be enough money to turn this dying brand around in Australia. In fact, Polaroid has managed to turn itself into a thriving social media giant with the help of a couple of celebrity endorsements from social media heavyweight and pop star, Lady Gaga and a fan base from its pre-established brand. The brand now has around 200,000 Facebook fans worldwide, 11,000 of which are based in Australia. While Eastman says that most companies will be able to get similar results if they invest in an agency to manage their social media output, the reality is that smaller companies may not have the budget for such endeavours. 

However, Eastman gave three tips as to how companies can best leverage Facebook on a shoestring budget and without Hollywood help.

As there is no one size fits all approach to social media, Eastman says that all companies should have their own unique strategy. But the following tips are well worth considering.

Defining and targeting the audience.

From a marketing perspective, social media is all about grabbing the attention of users. In that respect, Eastman says that businesses need to understand their audience in order to target them. While it may be easy to target large categories, like gender or age brackets, the deeper you’re able to target your audience the higher the likelihood your message will reach them.

He gives the example that when a dating website learned he was under 30, single, male and an Essendon football club fan, they sent him an ad via Facebook asking him if he “wanted to meet Essendon girls”. “It was clever,” Eastman says.

He adds that one sure fire way to target the audience is to divide them into sub-divide your more general audience into finer more particular audiences, and pinpoint to that particular type of user. Having a generic broad audience means competing with marketing heavyweights for attention. So the narrower the focus the more likely the message will get through.

 Learning the basics

The second important aspect for businesses is to understand the basic mechanics of how Facebook works and even a bit of HTML code. For instance marketers should understand what makes a post appear on a user’s newsfeed. He says that this will not only help an organisation deal with any external companies that it might later contract to help manage the Facebook account, but also  ensure that the posts actually reach their intended audience.

Eastman also added that companies should look to make the most of the low cost add-on tools for Facebook that are available from third party internet developers. One example is ShortStack.com, a custom app building tool that allows users to create their own unique applications for a fraction of the cost of a web developer.

Be the brand

In the realm of social media, companies can’t sleep. They need to respond to social media every hour, every day, every week because once a fire starts online it can be hard to put out. Eastman says that the personnel charged with the social marketing responsibilities in a company need to monitor the corporate account as much as they would their own – checking a responding to any interactions with the account outside of business hours. The same people should be the ones attending company events and seeking feedback on their social media output from their audience in person and adjusting their strategy accordingly.

Start now! 

Perhaps the most memorable message to emerge from the forums of The Internet Show is that there’s no point swimming against the social media tide.

David Warwick, the director of technology and services at bWired told the audience that soon social media won’t be known as technology.

“It will be like the fridge,” he says. “Soon we’ll just accept it as being part of our society.”

Until then Warwick warns that it’s up to businesses and organisations to explore social media and become adept at using the medium to push as message.