Social Media Marketing: Volume Wins
When it comes to marketing on social media, relevance gets you an audience, volume keeps them. The challenge is that marketers overemphasize relevance and deemphasize volume. The consequence is that marketers are missing moments to connect, and it’s the moments that matter in social.
"Plentitude, Not Scarcity…value is carried by abundance, rather than scarcity, inverting traditional business propositions."
Kevin Kelly included this idea in his seminal book “New Rules for a New Economy” as one of the core principles of the Network Economy. If these are in fact the rules of the modern economy, why do brands cap the amount of content they push out to to their audiences? They do so because they strive to achieve the highest engagement rates possible on each post. That is the working model of success from our collective TV experience. What brands need to consider is how plentitude systematically increases the probability of connecting a relevant message to their customer, thereby building total engagement.
To build this argument, let's start by understanding the assumptions of the status quo.
At the top of the funnel, modern marketing has been built around engaging your audience to create moments of common culture that create conversation. It’s the conversations that add fuel to the fire of purchase intent and move the customer down the funnel. This concept has been ported to social media with modern marketers talking about limiting volume of posting to increase average engagement. The higher the engagement, the more likely the user is to pass the communication organically.
Buddy Media came out with a report that 1-4 posts is the best number to post each day. Nestivity did a study of 739,000 tweets and found that quality was better than quantity. Sysomos claims that more than 20 tweets per day is too many. These services looked at engagement per post and landed on their conclusions. These are accurate data based judgements; however, they are founded in the idea of scarcity as the prime value. The fundamental problem with scarcity is that is assumes that when you do post, what you post will be engaging to a wide audience. Fifty years of TV ad creation with its attendant billions in ad testing and research has taught us that it’s impossible to guess how an audience will react.
We simply can’t increase the probability of engagement per post. What we can influence is the probability that we increase total engagement. By total engagement I mean the sum of all the engagements on all the posts published in a period of time. The way we increase that probability is by publishing more. In the Network Age it’s stream media that dominates. When you begin to think about maximizing your exposure across a range of daily moments, your brain switches from how do I engage, to how do I publish relevantly across the entire daypart. Relevance is table stakes; the prime challenge is to be there in the stream when your customer dips in.
There are a few marketers talking openly about the power of volume in social. In 2009 Hubspot, a bit ahead of its time, found that those people/brands that publish at least 22 times a day were the most successful at gathering audiences that engaged. A recent article in Digiday talked about media companies' push for volume, mentioning Forbes as a company who posted their best financial results since 2008 on the back of a high volume posting.
While it’s not surprising that we see media companies pushing volume, what’s encouraging is to see unexpected brands picking up on this strategy. In full disclosure, two Percolate clients prove to be excellent examples of this movement towards volume. University of Phoenix has averaged about 2.13 tweets per day over the past two years. However, in the past few months something has changed. University of Phoenix has been ramping up their content production to 8-10 posts per day. The key to this change has been the community manager’s ability to identify valuable information. The community has been responding positively to this shift, both in terms of engagement and growth.
I saw this same story play out when I was leading social strategy for Denny’s. The top line is that Denny’s went from posting ~40 times per week on Facebook and Twitter to posting in excess of 200 times per week. This change occurred because when we looked at our statistics we saw increasing reach, increasing engagement and increasing cultural relevance the more we published. As we steadily increased the volume of communication we kept our eye on two key measures: unfollows and unlikes. If these spiked beyond the normal rate we would know that we had pushed too far and truly annoyed our audience. We never saw that spike, and when I left Denny’s to join Percolate in June of 2013, that trend of increased volume was continuing upwards and all those KPIs were climbing alongside.
Denny’s and University of Phoenix are not traditionally social brands, but they have figured out that relevance + volume is a recipe for social media success. In an economy that rewards plentitude over scarcity, I think that it’s fair to say that this is a recipe that nearly every brand should be following.
Brands must have the confidence to publish at scale. To build that confidence you must have tools to ensure that what is posted is relevant. You must also have a tool that helps you find relevant content to post and to be inspired by. Ultimately you need to become a real time content marketer, and in this day and age, real time means volume. Start pushing your volume envelope today.
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