The Grain of Truth in the Advertising World of Social Media

Contemporary social media has become an ad-centered world. Most marketing companies in Orange County will design a social media strategy around this advertising core. However, it is important not to neglect the other part that lies at the center of a successful social media presence: your brand’s story.

It’s pretty hard to deny just how much Facebook and the other social giants have become pay to play. We can tell ourselves that, unlike other advertising, we get the opportunity to “connect” or “listen” when our company puts itself out there on social media. To a degree that is still a truth of the platforms; however, that truth today sometimes feels more like a distinction of between types of advertising media, rather than a difference between advertising and other, more genuine forms of communication.

Is social, then, just business as usual? Do we just put up our advertising junk, pay to boost our posts and get our followers, each year opening up a bigger and bigger chunk of our marketing budget for social media buys? Are we done here?

Not quite.

There is still something fundamentally different about social media. Social still offers us something we could never have with traditional advertising: a forum to be a real person. While there are limits to the degree to which you can show your real self for your brand, especially for larger companies, social represents an effective way for your company to be itself, and tell its story, and when you do this, it’s almost always more engaging.

In your company’s social media use, you may have already experienced the difference a story can make. On one hand, you have the posts with canned creatives and a predetermined marketing message, all scheduled to go out at their predetermined time. On the other hand, you have a real social post—for example, you had a team building event in Disneyland, and posted a photo of everyone with Darth Vader. “Real posts” could mean different things to different people and companies, but compared to marketing posts, they tell a story about your company. They show that you have fun, maybe that you do things out in the real world—that you think Darth Vader is cooler than Mickey Mouse. In short, they show that your company is made of real people. Odds are, these posts will get a stronger response than the canned posts that look like everything else.

…But is that Marketing?

This brings up some important questions: Who cares if people see my employees standing next to Darth Vader? Does this “real content” move the needle in a way that justifies the time and effort? Is that post even marketing?? This opens us up to the weird back-and-forth calculus that makes social media such a balancing act for businesses and marketing companies in Orange County. If your business’s social page is pure marketing, it will eventually be tuned out by your audience. If there are too many social posts, you run the risk of not effectively benefitting your business.

It’s true that, by itself, that story-rich social content won’t sell more units, or get more clients, or otherwise measurably make you money. In that respect, it may be better to think of it in a different way from traditional marketing with its emphasis on measurable ROI. That doesn’t mean, however, that it has no value for your social media strategy. As we said, social media’s pay-to-play structure may have transformed it into nothing more than another forum for advertising—but that’s precisely what makes posts with a story all the more essential. Those authentic, storytelling posts show who your company is on a human level. They are structurally important to your social presence, grounding your social account, holding it together, and making it stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, real posts remind your customers, employees, and you yourself why it is your company exists in the first place: to connect with people.

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