One secret to social media marketing success

Show up with lots of money, or probably just don’t try

Andrew Haines
Jan 15, 2018 · 4 min read

Okay, here it is, the one secret to social media marketing success. Ready?

Show up with lots of money. And if you don’t have lots of money? Then probably just don’t try.

That’s a bummer

Yes, it’s a bummer, but it’s mostly true. Sometimes it’s not; sometimes a little bit of money works to create a profit by social marketing. But that’s an outlier, and well within the acceptable margin of error. And in those cases, something else is filling in the gaps, anyway — sweat equity, viral promotion, or an insanely good idea, none of which are very predictable or cheap.

We don’t do social media marketing at Fiat Insight because we believe it’s a bad place for most of our clients to spend their money.

That seems biased

It’s not biased, really. If doing social media marketing turned $1 from a client into $2, we’d do it all day long so they’d have more money to spend on our other services. Experience says that basically never happens, though. And it’s not like Facebook is bad at placing content — they’re exceptionally good, in fact. It’s just that the best numbers really look more like turning $100k into $200k. The first $1k in isn’t profitable; the next $5k scratches the surface, and so on. Most people just don’t have that kind of budget.

Why so negative?

With rare exceptions, marketing is a ground game of trial and error, and fixing errors. Spending a little money is harmless, but you’ll quickly uncover things that don’t work — potential customers don’t convert, or your inventory listing isn’t correct, or something’s not working to capture payments, or whatever. So you make the fix (that costs time and money), then spend a little more on marketing. More trials, more errors, more fixing errors. If all goes well, after a few progressively larger cycles, you’re turning real revenue. But you’re still out the investments you’ve made to date, and you have to be able and willing to wait to recoup them.

That’s why doubling $100k is much more realistic than doubling $1, or even $1k. It’s easy to forget about the ancillary costs associated with marketing that aren’t “marketing” per se. And those rack up quickly. Given successful trial and error testing and a worthwhile product, eventually you won’t run a deficit. But the breakeven point is going to be a lot higher than the marginal value of the thing you’re trying to sell (think widgets or services). Or, the thing you’re trying to sell is at such a high value that the trial and error cycle is slowed to a crawl (think real estate).

So what do to?

If you’ve got a lot of money to spend, just do what everyone says to do. No argument from me. Facebook promotion works because Facebook wouldn’t make tons of money if it didn’t. The rich get richer: Brand promotion, including “organic” reach, is more expensive than ever, and will continue to be.

If you don’t have lots to spend, be decisive to minimize the errors and adjustments you’ll eventually need to make once you start marketing, or even if you never plan to market. Come up with a way to make your product simpler, or to reduce the different versions a customer can buy. Invest in strong branding, content, and customer support documentation before you need it. Work through your site with conversion optimization in mind to decide what paths make sense, which ones don’t, and how you’ll best funnel traffic. Install some competent metrics tracking— and someone to analyze them — so you know you’re working with real data.

Little data, little problems

Think about it this way. If you got 100 users to your site right now, what would you do with them? What are your current conversion rates? What’s the value of your product that you can sell to that converted user base? Are you being responsible with the potential customers you have? Or are you abusing or neglecting them? (Bonus question: How much have you already had to pay to get those users?)

Now, imagine you’ll have to pay to get another 100 users to your site. (Realistically, let’s say, the cost per user would be somewhere above $2 each, maybe a lot higher.) Your conversion rate would ideally be similar to the first 100, but might actually be a lot worse until your ad design is perfectly thought-up and placed. At the (relatively) increased sales values, would your marketing — the raw costs, ad design, analytics, development, strategy, customer support, etc. — pay for itself? Would it be anywhere close? What’s the real revenue value of a single paid customer? And how many of those do you need to break even? What’s the timeline? Are there better ways for you to get to profitability more quickly and easily?

Big data, big problems

Jumping too far ahead obscures the simple calculations that make social media marketing a bad choice for most. On the surface, the secret to success is about how much money you have, need, and are willing to spend. A little deeper, it’s a secret of breaking the cycle of running down bad decisions just because they’ve been decided.

Willingness to complete the things you start is a sign of dedication. But carefully deciding what things you should start, and preparing for them deliberately, is a sign of maturity and practical wisdom.

Fiat Insight won’t do your social media marketing, but we will build you a great platform that makes it easier for you to be responsible with your leads and sell your products. Let’s talk!

Fiat Insight

Building products with purpose. Since 2010.

Andrew Haines

Written by

Co-founder and COO at Fiat Insight

Fiat Insight

Building products with purpose. Since 2010.

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