Revenue-Generating Social Media Strategies

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"The biggest thing people don't understand is that quality content is so important to marketing to anyone under the age of 40 right now. Anyone in that demographic discovers a business for the first time by either: (A) Google searching or (B) finding their content on social media. If you are not crushing it and focusing on the content that you put out on the most important social platforms, you're going to become mute and obsolete..."

That quote comes from an article by Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, who has become quite the social media star. I became familiar with him many years ago when my brother in northern New Jersey told me that the owner of the nearby Wine Library store had given his son—Gary—the green light to take it to the next level. He did that and more.  

What stands out for me about that quote is the phrase, "most important social platforms." It seems there's a definite disconnect going on. Social media continues on such an upward path, yet because we don't see direct, money-making examples, it gets downplayed.

Charlene Finck, chief content officer, EVP, Farm Journal Media, told a BIMS audience in November that they are making money from social media—almost $250,000 in 2016. "A very high margin," Finck said. "A very wonderful niche to be in. And it's truly driven by data... We know who our audience is online, and we're able to take our clients' social media campaigns and to deliver them to the right people for them. We have about 145,000 Facebook users that we have full demographic data on, plus their behavioral targeting. Then we have about another 800,000 of our e-newsletter names... that we can target on Facebook. That's been a huge opportunity for merchandising. In 2017 we're budgeting that we'll at least double that revenue."

Kevin Novak, founder and CEO of 2040 Digital, also pointed to the value of data in succeeding in social media. Too many people make the mistake of "trying to be all things to all people," he said. "Have you sat back and reviewed data? The first step [is to] define your targets. Who are you trying to serve, the current customers or prospects? If you try to speak to everybody, you're not going to be able to measure and you're going to sit there and scratch your head..."

Finck pointed to a blizzard in the Midwest last winter as "an amazing opportunity for us." Farm Journal literally became a reporting arm for the local media. "We were getting tweets and posts from farmers who were really experiencing it," she said. News outlets and sheriffs weren't plugged in like Finck's team was. "We won an award for that coverage; also gratifying was that we hung on to a ton of the [social media] traffic."

Both Finck and Donna Jefferson, CEO of Jefferson Communications, have had success using Facebook Live. Jefferson recently hosted an event in her offices on an important topic for her parent-centric audience. "At the end of an hour, 1200 people had seen it," she said. "Then we embedded it on the landing page for the event, and within four days, 2700 people [saw it]. It's the most successful social media thing we've done." (Read more about it here.)

I particularly like this quote from Finck: "We found that only 12% of our ag-related audience was engaging with us on social media. But it just has to be the right 12%."

Added Vaynerchuk: "In 2017, if you are a business or organization of any kind that wants to be heard in the world, refocusing on the content you put out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Linkedin, Medium, and whatever else has the market's attention at the time, is a huge factor.

"For the last two to three years, people have dismissed organic content because of the rise of paid advertising. And yes, paid social media has enormous upside and, in my opinion, is the best deal in all of advertising... However, what has emerged in the paranoia of everyone thinking social media only works when you spend money, is a lack of hustle and a lack of understanding that great content, especially when amplified in subtle ways, can be unbelievably effective."

Jefferson showed that with her Facebook Live gathering. And Finck did as well, by having information about the blizzard that no one else had. Plain and simple, social media cannot be ignored. It just has to be maneuvered. "We let [our audience] guide us on what they like and try to follow," Finck said.

SIIA members can listen to Beyond the Hype: What Does Success Really Look Like on Social Media? as well as 50+ additional sessions from BIMS. 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…