One of our people was telling this story in the office one day, so we asked him to write it down. We now offer it up publicly, and please take away from this a valuable lesson. Be careful who you work with when building a social media presence for your marketing needs. Not all “followers” are created equal. The most engaged following is the most valuable. Yes, you need numbers, but you also need numbers that take action!
How We Wasted $15K on Social Media
This is a cautionary tale that I’m recounting in hopes that those desiring to successfully market on Instagram (and other social media platforms) read – and take heed. I’m intentionally leaving out the names of the parties involved, but the story and lesson can apply to any business looking to market its product/service on social media.
In 2018, I was working with a company that had created a new digital platform to connect service providers with consumers. The company had invested heavily in building a web platform for providers and consumers, and iOS and Android mobile applications for consumers.
The plan was in motion – we had performed market reconnaissance and found what providers wanted in a booking service AND what pricing they were willing and able to offer consumers. We had built and tested the platform with providers and a select group of consumers. All efforts were returning generally positive results.
Time to Start Marketing on Social Media
We reached the point where we were ready to invest in marketing efforts to bring consumers to the platform and to our providers. During our initial surveys, it was found that the largest concentration of our target consumer market could most effectively reached through social media. Specifically, the 18-30 age range were shown to be more responsive to businesses who properly marketed themselves on social media than those that used “traditional” marketing (i.e., print, direct mail, etc.).
We looked at 5 different social media “expert” firms, one of which was very convincing in how it could successfully market the platform on Instagram and promised to have at least 5000 followers in our target demographic within 30 days. We thought it was too good to be true! The social media experts then shared with us a few “client” Instagram accounts, pointing to the tens of thousands of followers they had on each, as well as the marketing creative that was supposedly driving sales for each. With all the “proof” we were given – and being naïve in social media marketing – we moved forward in paying the experts to manage our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. A contract was signed for a minimum 90-day engagement, at a cost of $5,000.00 per month.
Sure enough, within 30 days each of our social media accounts all had gained anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 followers. There were typically 2-4 posts per week on each, with different messaging but a similar call to action. However, we had not yet booked a single consumer referral to a service provider.
We passed the 60-day mark – same results. More followers on each channel, however nothing booked yet. We were told it was “just a matter of numbers” and that “soon we should see bookings.” After speaking with some other marketers and trusted business colleagues who had successfully marketed on social media, it was clear that we were not getting the full picture. Where were the analytics beyond follower growth? What posts were performing better than others? When was the best time to post?
All of these questions and more were posed to our “experts” who assured us we could review those “over time.” Still not convinced, I turned again to a trusted friend who works in social media (but could not work directly in promoting our company and platform at that time). Within 48 hours she was able to find that over 80% of the followers were all fake – accounts that appeared to have been created starting around the same time that our marketing campaign began. These accounts had very little or no activity on the related platforms other than liking and following our platform’s social media pages/posts/accounts.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, it was brought to our attention that Instagram actively discourages people from buying fake followers. This is clearly spelled out within Instagram’s terms of service. If you go violate this, Instagram will not only purge your fake followers but they also have the right to suspend any accounts willfully ignoring their terms of service.
We immediately sent a cease and desist to our social media marketing vendor. With some help and referrals to legitimate parties that were much more transparent in their services, we were able to save our social media accounts and eventually gain bookings for our service providers. But it was basically starting all over again. We made some small tweaks to creative (text, images, and videos used in our posts), but more importantly, our posting frequency was increased based on the channel, and we were able to daily and weekly look at post performance, and make improvements from there. Within 60 days of this new initiative and approach we had booked our first 30 appointments. We were finally trending in the right direction, rather than looking at a flatline – and paying for it. And by the way, the new initiative cost the company less overall.
So as you enter the world of social media marketing, don’t be fooled by the hype of “gaining followers quickly” and “becoming an influencer in your space”. True success is seen over time with diligent work to promote your product or service. And real followers can be some of your best marketing. We found that once we were reaching actual people that connected with our message and offering, they would even repost and share our service with others!
At Basal Smart Solutions, we have built a tool – the OneForAll Social platform – that reduces the time spent in posting to multiple channels, allows scheduling of posts, provides analytics and insights in your posts, gives team members the ability to collaborate, and more. This combined with smart marketing and diligent review can bring long term success. As we’ve said before – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Please feel free to reach out to us today. We would love to be a part of your success story.