“There’s just so much noise, you can’t afford to put out content that isn’t relevant to people.” – Sam Paterson

Most marketers are on a tight budget.

In fact, according to a July 2021 article in Forbes, marketing budgets south of the border were reduced this year to an extraordinarily low percentage of company revenue. Those working for a small business, non-profit or start-up in Canada likely have had their belts tightened even further.

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It also stands to reason that you must spend a significant portion of your already limited dollars on social media. A 2020 report released by the Ryerson social media lab shows that “an overwhelming majority of online Canadian adults (94%), have an account on at least one social media platform.”

In short, your audience is on social, and you’ve got to be there too (alongside all your competitors).

If you manage or coordinate a social media account, you’re likely caught between the social frontier and your bottom line. It’s getting harder to balance the demand of the social market with your business needs. Limited dollars must still yield results and still compete with a huge amount of noise on all channels.

I recently connected with Sam Paterson, Senior Communications Services Manager at the Office of Advancement, University of Calgary, to hear how she approaches this balancing act. She offers some strategies for maximizing limited resources to get the best results in social marketing.

1. Get involved early in content development.

What works in one channel may not work in another.

“Social content is specific to the social platforms,” Paterson says. To support the variety needed, “an integrated approach is always best. Whenever people are crafting for other channels, someone who has responsibility for social media should have early insight and help influence content.” If you’re involved in story development, you can identify and suggest ideas before they’re fully baked. For example, will your journalistic team be conducting an interview? Perhaps your creative team can leverage the footage to create a 30-second trailer for Twitter or Instagram. Or, if your colleague is writing an article about a hot topic in business circles, maybe they can also suggest a compelling question for a LinkedIn poll.

2. Celebrate your audience.

What if you’re at the tail end of content? Sometimes you can’t avoid it. The one question you should always ask is about your target audience. What’s really in it for them?

“Where there’s nothing in it for the audience to share or get excited about, it doesn’t feel like a very equal value proposition,” says Paterson. Instead, she suggests that we “build in opportunities to celebrate the audience. Make them enjoy the channel and feel that the channel is for them, not just you trying to promote things. There’s just so much noise, you can’t afford to put out content that isn’t relevant to people.”

3. Focus on metrics that tell the real story.

It can be difficult to pinpoint the measures that illustrate the connection between social activity and meaningful results for your business. For example, your leadership may request reports on followers.

According to Paterson, follower growth is an overestimated metric.

“Followers are people that at one point connected to your brand. But there’s a very small percentage of those people who are actively engaged. The only metric that’s going to further your goals in your business is engagement.”

4. Dedicate resources where it counts.

Depending on the budget and scope of your social profiles, you may want to invest in tools that help you create or manage content. However, according to Paterson, there are two must-haves to support sustainable social media strategies:

  • A second administrator. Thinking one social admin is ok is a mistake, which you’ll find out the hard way if you get hacked or experience a crisis. It also means you’re always on. Even during quiet times, a social admin needs to take a break to avoid burnout, according to Paterson. “Social media can wear people out. What we’ve learned especially during COVID-19 is that people need to unplug.”
  • Paid content. “People overestimate organic reach. In the early days of social media, you could get a lot of eyeballs without a paid budget, but now we’re in a very different world. Paid should be mandatory.”

So, if you’re a cash-strapped social media manager, focus your team’s efforts on the real story and making meaningful connections – with your audience and your team members. Check out these resources recommended by Paterson to help you build a sustainable, impactful social strategy: 

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