Old social media strategy is new again

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With Facebook’s recent algorithm update that favors news from friends over organic updates from brand pages, the unpaid reach of brands has been hit yet again. We are in a place where social networking has returned to being a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. As marketers, the easy button days are over.

Social strategy now looks like one of two basic models. First, there’s the broadcast model: pay money to spread your updates. This is an advertising and broadcast model, and it looks very familiar to anyone whose media background is television or radio. You pay your money, you get your distribution. It’s easy, it’s clean, and it’s well understood. It also works no matter what quality of content you have, at least in terms of getting eyeballs. For brands with average or good but not great content and financial means, this is going to be the default choice.

Second, the friends and family model. If you are a brand that has a strong base of fanatically loyal customers, those individuals can still share things at scale that will be seen by their friends and by their friends in a ripple effect. This is no different than any other word-of-mouth strategy that you’ve used in off-line word-of-mouth or influencer strategy. The goal in the friends and family model is the activation of as many friends as possible on behalf of your brand. Particularly for small businesses with loyal followings, this will be the default choice.


The model that is truly dead, and has been for quite some time, is the build it and they will come. Those days are over.

Whether we like it or not, this is the state of social media today. We can broadcast and pay for reach, which is good if we don’t have insanely great product, service, or loyalty. Or we can cultivate and nurture our most rabid fans. Either strategy will work; it’s just a question of which is the better fit for your brand and the resources you have. 

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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