STOP BUYING REACH AND START EARNING IT

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Media is slowly suffocating social media. The relentless optimisation towards media efficiency and mass reach is resulting in shorter, less effective social banner adverts. This is disrupting people’s experience of social and not shifting brand metrics. It is time marketeers shifted their focus away from paid reach and towards organic resonance, writes Jack Colchester, Senior Data Strategist at BBH London.

In 2016, brands spent $27 billion buying media on Facebook, a hefty 57% year-on-year increase.

This is very good news for Facebook, but the transition from an inherently organic, social platform to a paid broadcast channel has had some immense consequences on the quality of social marketing output.

The primary consequence is that with big media budgets come big responsibilities. As brands spend more money they are asking for two things: reduction of uncertainty and proof of effectiveness.

Reduction of uncertainty has largely taken the form of guaranteed reach, through paid media. ‘We will reach 5 million people at a frequency of 2, to ensure your brand and product message is seen 10 million times’.

Proof of effectiveness is a more slippery beast to measure, but companies have shifted the focus away from active engagement metrics such as likes, comments and shares to more high brow efficiency metrics such as view through rates, completion rates, CPV and recall.

With attention spans on social being famously short, the argument goes that in order to maximise the performance of an advert that has reached 10 million people, we need to ensure that it is less than 10 seconds long, has prominent branding in the first three seconds, is formatted vertically and so on. This optimisation towards media efficiency is resulting in the bannerfication of social. In the process, this neglects the very thing that makes social different to other forms of mass broadcast marketing – the potential of immediate earned reach. To achieve it, we need to create work that deserves people’s attention, rather than disrupts it.

In short, earn your reach, don’t buy it.

Earned reach is not as dead as Facebook would have you believe, in fact our last two videos for KFC (here & here) organically reached 60 million people and created headlines across the world . A single organic tweet from Tesco this week about the tampon tax performed better (in terms of resonance and press coverage) than any paid tweet we have ever published.

Social platforms have been reducing organic reach for years in order to generate revenue, however the decline has been compounded by the use of paid media. Using paid media throttles organic opportunities in a ‘media squeeze’. I would suggest embargoing paid media for 24 hours after going live.

Earning reach means creating work that is inherently social and adds to the cultural conversation. This sounds lofty and worthy, but attention seeking, culturally informed work is the only way to combat the utter indifference displayed towards social banners.

The primary objective has to be fame. Achieve fame and all the other metrics will follow.

If you’re in the fame mindset of ‘what would the headline be’? then understandably the next most important thing is the primacy of the idea.

You need an idea that is provocative and culturally informed with brand or product baked in. Will this idea generate high levels of earned reach? Use the plethora of data that exists on customers to aid the strategic and creative process in uncovering what a culturally informed idea might look like. Crucially, this data should be embracing the outliers, you are not looking for generic social insights about how millennials prefer experiences over things. Instead it’s about uncovering social quirks, memes and trends related to your audience. If you want to be an additive to culture, you’ve got to know it.

To achieve the maximum potential of social, we need to stop selling the certainty of reach and start managing the uncertainty of fame.


BBH Live will be giving a talk on the theme titled ‘IS MEDIA KILLING SOCIAL MEDIA?’ at Social Media Week later this year. Stay tuned.

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