It’s so 2005 to say that social media marketing is the next big thing…

That title has since been bestowed on mobile marketing, VR marketing, and who-knows-what-else…

And yet, it’s often well AFTER a marketing channel is considered “the next big thing” that the real money is made on it.

I know it’s not quite the same thing, but take the humble video sales letter — or, VSL — as an example.  Put your sales letter text on PowerPoint slides, record yourself speaking it, and publish that as your sales letter.

In its earliest incarnations, that alone could double your response.  It was new.  It was exciting.  It was different.  And so it earned attention on those merits alone.

Those were the early days.  And they were good.  ROI was off-the-charts.  And the few marketers who were doing it represented a huge opportunity for a very few people.

Then, VSLs rolled out in market after market.  The format’s uniqueness coefficient decreased.  Which means simply doing the VSL didn’t give the same lift that it once did, because it wasn’t as unique.

Today, VSLs still give you a moderate bump.  10-50% in many markets.  That’s likely due to the nature of the medium.  It holds and directs attention better than text on page.

There’s far more money being made with VSLs today than ever before, because more marketers are doing them.  But the ROI advantage has shrunk dramatically.

Other media have gone through the same curve.

Early on in the Wild West days of Google AdWords, putting ANYTHING there was practically guaranteed to get you massive ROI.  The total market was much smaller.  But if you were there, you were practically printing money.

The same thing happened with Facebook.  And other ad networks.

When they’re new and unique, and the competition is small, it’s hard not to make money.  The total market is small in these early days.  But it grows quickly because of the windfall profit potential in simply showing up.

Then, these platforms and media attract even more attention.  They attract more advertisers as competition.  ROI becomes much harder, even as more money than ever before is made by more players than ever before.

Which brings us back to social media.

In the mid-2000s, social media was hot.  It was on the rise.  It was the next big thing.  What SEO was to free traffic in the early 2000s, social media promised to be by the late 2000s.

And because it was a largely untapped market, there were a few people making a lot of money by being at the front of the curve.

I dug up a stat that in 2004, Facebook had all of 1 million users.  It has since crossed 1 BILLION — it has over 1,000X as many users today as it had then.

Early on, there were fewer advertisers and businesses, too.  In fact, in its earliest days, the only way to advertise on Facebook was to spend $10 to $40 on a “flyer” that targeted a specific college campus.  It wasn’t until 2008 that you could build a business page on Facebook.  And it wasn’t until 2009 that Facebook even started getting serious about ad targeting, so you could efficiently reach your ideal customers.

Ever since then, advertising has gotten far more competitive.  More businesses competing for more customer attention.  All while Facebook tries to minimize advertising enough to keep users on the platform.

Today, it’s competitive as heck.  There is more money being made on social media than ever before.  But it’s also harder than ever to stand out in an increasingly-competitive landscape, and ROI is far from being automatic.

The warnings of direct marketers are more true than ever…

I used to claim the title of “world’s youngest direct marketing curmudgeon.”  Time alone has, I’m sure, eroded that title.

But then and now, I warned that a like or a follower on social media was NOT a customer.

Heck, they weren’t even an opt-in.

When you’re playing on someone else’s platform, the engagement you get there is limited by the rules they set for playing on their platform.

So a bunch of businesses got upset when Facebook cut their organic reach to people who’d liked their Facebook page.

That’s completely natural.  While they liked your page at one time, they didn’t necessarily say they wanted to see your 20 articles per day.

Facebook (just like every platform) protects user experience first.  Because they understand lifetime value.  A user that stops coming back is worth far less than a user that will come back daily for years.  They want the second type.  And are willing to make short-term sacrifices to protect that.

Your biggest advantage in social media is created when you use it to form a relationship OFF social media.  And that is accelerated by being willing to pay for that movement.

Now let’s get into more practical tips for TODAY, on how to monetize an existing social media audience…

My #1 recommendation…

The single-best thing you can do with your social media audience is to get them OFF social media.

Specifically, you want to get them onto a permission-based email marketing list, you can use to reach out to them without Zuckerberg’s heavy hand controlling every interaction.

That means you need to give them a compelling reason to leave Facebook, and join you.

This tends to be through value-driven content.  Something exclusive, such as a tool, template, piece of software, or piece of content you use to compel them to come to your site and leave you their email address.

This should be followed by a series of follow-up emails designed explicitly to help them get to know you better and to convert the warmest prospects.  That follow-up series should be followed through relevant ongoing content that continues to provide value, engage them, and encourage them to do business with you.

Social media is valuable for building your audience.  However it’s not the most natural place to sell.  You are best-off using social media for building that audience and attracting attention, but then moving prospects off social media as they become more likely to do business with you (this movement can also be a marker of their likelihood of doing business with you).

Setting up this system should be your first priority when looking to monetize your social media audience.

Give them somewhere to go that will help them make a buying decision to do business with you.

Next…

Engagement, engagement, engagement…

Once you have the system in place to serve them when they’re willing to come to you, you should do everything in your power to engage them.

This can include compelling content.

Depending on the platform, it can (and should) include more 1-to-1 interaction.

The idea is that the more they interact with you (assuming GOOD interactions), the more they will grow to know, like, and trust you.  And that will predispose them and make them open to seeking out more from you.

Some of these interactions should be pure-value.  Meant solely to make their life better, because they came into contact with you.

Others can drive prospects to click through to your website, with a clear (although informal) call-to-action, such as “Check this out… [link]”

It’s like a little direct response laboratory.  You can create all kinds of content, and see how people respond.  Learn what your market is into, and what it isn’t.  Do more of what they respond to, and less of what they don’t.

All along the way, you’ll be building…

“Invisible” lists…

For my third and final recommendation, I want to point out a very powerful tool that’s continued to develop in the last few years.  It is truly the most powerful advertising tool available today.

Retargeting.

Basically, you can set up a series of triggers, based on past engagement.

Someone visited an article on your website.  They signed up for one email list.  They clicked a link in a specific email.  They left a comment on a specific Facebook post.

You now have the ability to pay to target JUST THESE PEOPLE with hyper-relevant advertising, just for them.

This is where most of the profit in online advertising is made today.

You can pay to develop all kinds of invisible lists of prospects.  For example, you could have a list of all people who’ve visited your website in the last 6 months.  This isn’t quite a cold audience.  Let’s call it cool.

Retarget them and some percentage will respond to an offer for an immediate-download freebie, indicating current interest in your market.

Some portion of that group would also be interested in opting in to your email list for another freebie.

Your email list as well as recent website visitors may be responsive to an offer for your best introductory product, or for product information.

And people who’ve visited the product page or even added it to their cart may be prone to engage with testimonials or special offers to get them off the fence.

All of this is just scratching the surface of how you can use engagement to drive prospects to the next natural step in the sales process.

And yes, it does require investment in advertising, once you’ve started to engage with prospects on social media.

And it requires that system to be in place to make sure you’re giving them somewhere to go that makes sense, when they want to go deeper with you.

It does require more sophistication than ever before to get it right.

And yet, this is EXACTLY what you need to do to fully monetize your social media audiences.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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