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Solving the 10 Most Common Social Media Marketing Challenges

Apr 21, 2016 9 min readResources

Today, there are 2.307 billion active social media users around the world. That’s nearly one-third of our planet’s total population of 7.125 billion!

As social media marketing professionals, we’re lucky to reach even .000001% of that population with any one of our posts. This can feel a bit underwhelming for businesses and marketers looking to demonstrate the true value and ROI of social media.

Everywhere we look it appears that brands and companies have it all figured out on social media. With each new post to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter comes thousands of likes, comments, and shares.

Even Grumpy Cat has earned more than $100 million dollars since 2012!

This leaves the rest of us wondering, “What are we not doing right on social media?”

We’ve experimented, made mistakes, and even learned a little bit in the process. From that, we’ve put together a playbook on solving the 10 most common social media marketing challenges.

social media challenges, social media

Let’s jump in!

1. Authentic connection with the audience

We’ve been seeing a massive shift in what it means to be effective on social media over the last few years. One challenge that marketers are facing in this new era of social media marketing is connecting with audiences on an individual and personal level.

Connecting with your audience helps to humanize your brand and build real, authentic relationships.

Solving this challenge:

Connect with your audience by utilizing free or low-cost brand monitoring tools such as Buffer Reply, Mention, or TweetDeck and respond to every single comment on Twitter.

Monitor all additional social media channels and respond to each comment in an authentic way. You can do this by asking questions, linking to other blog posts, providing insights, or offering help with a problem.

You may also consider creating and growing a niche forum or group on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even creating your own dedicated community site similar to or GrowthHackers – this gives you the opportunity to engage with users as well as let them indulge their passions and connect with like-minded people., Inbound marketing, brand monitoring, brands, social media, marketing

2. Creating a social media marketing strategy

You may know what you want to accomplish and why, but without a social media marketing strategy, you won’t have a specific plan on how to get there.

Think of your social media plan as a roadmap to your goals – Sure, you can stop off and check out landmarks along the way (experimentation), but you’ll want to return to the road that gets you to your destination in the shortest time and distance (goals).

Solving this challenge:

Creating a solid social media marketing strategy doesn’t have to take weeks to put together. For me, it helps to have 3 key things written down on paper:

  • Why we’re on social: Simply being active of social media channels for the sake of being there is one of the quickest ways to burn valuable time and resources. First, answer the question of ‘why’ your business is on social and what you would like to accomplish.
  • How we’re going to succeed: Next is to ask the question of how. This can be specific social channels, paid advertising budget, video or image creation, partnering with influencers.
  • How we’ll measure success: Key Metrics, Goals or OKRs that you would like to accomplish broken down into days, weeks, months, and the year. Breaking it down like this will allow you to focus on day-to-day activities while also keeping the big picture in mind.
Social media marketing, social media plan, social media strategy, social media roadmap

3. A dramatic drop in organic reach

What worked in 2012 when organic reach on social was booming vs. what’s working now with the decline of organic reach has many social media managers scrambling to find tactics that work, including myself.

If growing your organic reach doesn’t seem to be working, there may be another solution.

Organic Reach, Facebook, Facebook Reach

Solving this challenge:

Marketers can overcome this obstacle by looking at the decline of organic reach as an opportunity in disguise. That opportunity is paid social media advertising.

Even if you only have $5 to spend on boosting a Facebook post or promoting a Tweet, putting a few dollars behind the content you’ve worked hard to create will effectively get that content in front of hundreds potential customers. Look for posts with high engagement but low reach as a good barometer for potential success.

Use a combination of Facebook Audience Insights and Twitter Audience Insights to learn about your audience and create personas. Once you have an idea of who they are, use those insights to create highly-targeted ads that will resonate with users.

4. Coming up with consistently good content

We completely understand. Managing social media is extremely time-consuming, and can become a full-time job. Which is why staying creative and original is one of the toughest social media marketing challenges to overcome.

The social media manager checklist seems to go on forever: curate, create, schedule, monitor, respond, update, and reuse content across several different social profiles.

That’s why it’s important for social media marketers to find little hacks to optimize their time.

Solving this challenge:

Besides basic content curation and idea generation tactics like monitoring Facebook pages or scouring Buzzsumo and Quora for content, there are other less time-consuming tactics you can experiment with today.

Openness & Transparency: Some of our most popular content and social media posts are ones that feature an inside look into Buffer’s culture.

People love knowing that there is a “real person” behind the social media profile and by giving them a look into your company or brand you will evoke real human interaction.

Original graphics: We’ve also generated some excellent buzz by creating original graphics in Pablo or Canva and posting them to our social channels. This image, for example, received more than 100 retweets on our Twitter account in less than an hour.

To create it, we pulled stats from around the web and put them into a simple graphic, which only took about 30 minutes to create.

Startup Marketing, Marketing Channels, startups, marketing

5. Content quantity over quality

For some brands, the way to cut through all of the noise on social media is to simply post more. While this tactic may work for some, for many it has the tendency to irritate followers.

The Next Web posts 30-40 times per day on Facebook due to the high amount of new content they’re putting out online. But many businesses who are creating less content may struggle to show value from more frequent posting.

Solving this challenge:

An excellent way to think about the quantity vs. quality is to treat every piece of content—every tweet, every Facebook post, every CTA, every press outreach email—with the utmost care, as Leo explains in our Buffer marketing manifesto.

People will naturally follow your brand over time from posting great content, not posting more content.

Marketers can benefit from embracing the “everything matters” mentality when generating content for their blog, graphics for social media, and forums for connecting.

6. Getting content to a large social audience

Now that you have all of this great content for your blog and social media channels, people will surely follow, right?

As marketers know, this isn’t always the case. Promoting content, partnering with brands and influencers, and capturing audiences’ attention is a whole new social media challenge in itself.

The encouraging news is that if your content is enjoyed by a few people on your blog, then the chances are that people on social media will enjoy it as well. The challenge is getting it to those people.

Solving this challenge:

Just like in investing, the “Compound Effect” is a powerful idea that works with social media promotion as well.

Let’s say every one person on Twitter has 100 friends that follow them, and those 100 friends have 100 friends that follow them. Even if only 5% of the total friends share your content, that’s still a massive amount of shares and impressions.

The key is not to sit back and hope that people share your content, but to actively seek out people that you know will benefit from it. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Email your friends, family, and coworkers
  • Direct message influencers–in a genuine way–on social media
  • Join LinkedIn groups or online forums in your niche market
  • Syndicate your content (A complete guide from Neil Patel)
  • Republish content to Medium
  • Ask questions and respond to comments on Quora
Promoting Content, social compound effect, social media, marketing

7. Finding ways to encourage sharing on social

One thing that is particularly challenging on social media is finding ways to avoid what I like to call a “creative rut.” A creative rut is when social media managers find a tactic that works a few times and then continually go back to them over and over, even though the results may be even or declining.

Only posting blog links on Facebook, quotes on Instagram, or links to your own articles on Twitter are examples of content that is good, but could maybe use a creative boost.

Solving this challenge:

Think “share first” by getting inside the mind of your audience. Before posting ask, “Is this something that I would like, comment on, read, or share on social media?” If the answer is “no” that may be a sign to look for other types of content.

The New York Times once published an excellent study on the psychology of sharing. It boiled down to the fact that sharing on social media is all about relationships. The study indicated that 49% of respondents said they share to bring valuable and entertaining content to others.

Jeff Bullas shared an excellent list of 10 ways to create contagious content with some fun ideas including:

  • Telling Great Stories
  • Making Your Audience Look Smart & Classy
  • Using Emotional Appeal
Social Media, Emotional Appeal, Social, Marketing

8. Using data to back intuition

How many of us wing it when tracking data in order to guide our social media strategy? I know I’ve been guilty of this a few times!

Previously, social media data was hard to access, difficult to understand, and seemingly useless. But these days, there are so many amazing tools out there that accessing data is a must-do for marketers looking to take their social to the next level.

Solving this challenge:

Start by creating a simple Excel spreadsheet with each of the social media channels that you’re managing on the left and the most important stats you would like to track across the top.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the sheet I use: (Download the full Social Media Metrics Dashboard):

social media data, social tracking, social media

Tracking metrics week-to-week and month-to-month helps me to visualize if my intuition is working. That way I can quickly implement experiments, track the data, and pivot to another tactic if things aren’t on the rise.

Check out the entire Buffer Social Media Strategy to see how we pulled the data from each network so that you can start tracking your own.

9. Creating quality visuals and graphics

Visuals and graphics are the second most important factor for success on social media right behind the quality content. But creating quality visuals and graphics are another challenge on their own, regarding skill level and time it takes to create them.

Seeing as how visual content is more than 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content, there’s never been a better time to invest in visuals of your own.

Solving this challenge:

Two of our favorite go-to sources of great visuals are high-quality stock photos and original images created by our team.

For high-quality stock photos, we’ve put together a massive list of 53+ free image sources. For original images, we suggest either Pablo or Canva. Each is fun, easy to use, and allow marketers to customize each image size based on the targeted social media channel.

A few design rules of thumb:

Visual Content, visuals, graphics, social media

*Infographic created by Ethos3

10. Focusing on the things that matter most

A common thought in the social media sphere is that there’s a silver bullet of growth and engagement. The truth is that it takes a lot of work to create a community of engaged followers and brand advocates.

Growth and engagement are a result of a variety of factors, but figuring out which activities to focus on is an important challenge in social media marketing.

Solving this challenge:

When putting first things first, it’s helpful for me to refer to Brian Balfour’s Growth Machine. Brian points out that a lot of marketers focus on tactics first, rather than creating a growth process.

Tactics first is putting the cart before the horse.  You need a process that will help you build a scalable, predictable, and repeatable growth machine.

Brian Balfour

The most important part is having one growth process and sticking to it no matter what.

Know your channels, your audience, and your market inside and out and make strategic experiment decisions based on those learnings. Doing so will help to focus on the things that matter most.

Growth Machine, Brian Balfour Growth Machine, Brian Balfour, social media growth

Over to you!

Thanks for reading! What challenges do you often face when it comes to social media? We’d love to hear from you below!

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