Social media is different than traditional advertising in a lot of ways.
One of the most important differences between social media and traditional advertising (think billboards et al.) is the fact that you have an opt-in audience on social media. With most traditional advertising, that’s not the case–and that’s important for a lot of reasons.
If you set up a billboard on interstate 80, any impressions that you get will be sporadic, decentralized, and difficult to track. Any estimates of impression numbers will be approximations at best. But more importantly, your audience isn’t opting-in to see what you have to offer. In 99.9% of cases, anyone driving past your billboard isn’t hopping on I80 to check out your billboard. They’re hopping on to get to their destination, and any billboards they see will be incidental.
Compare that to social media. When someone likes your Facebook page, or follows you on Twitter or LinkedIn, they’re directly acknowledging the fact that they want to hear what you have to say. (Nobody is following your Twitter feed so they don’t hear what you’re saying.) Though some elements of social media–like Facebook ads–are more like billboards than they are like direct opt-ins, most of social media is opt-in.
This is a big deal. Putting aside the fact that billboards and social media are vastly different marketing mediums, one (traditional ads) being incidental and one (social media) being opt-in gives you a whole new realm of possibilities.
You don’t need to spend as much time qualifying who you are and why they should care; if they like or follow you, they’re showing that they care outright. You have more freedom to try interesting or experimental things; your audience knows who you are, and, if they trust you, is more likely to stick with you when you go out on a limb. And perhaps most importantly, you have a clear picture of who your audience is. No wondering who’s seeing it, no wondering how many people are seeing it, and no wondering whether the content you’re publishing is relevant to your audience or not. That’s all information that you have at your disposal if you pay attention to the data at hand.
With that, a reminder: don’t forget that you have an opt-in audience on social media. This is very different than traditional advertising, and opens up a whole new set of strategic doors if you utilize it correctly. When your audience opts-in, they’re showing that they want to hear from you. Take advantage of that and develop a strategy that’s fine-tuned to the people who are listening to you, not the people who might be.
Image Credit: CC by James Emery