Social media and referral marketing play really well together and as most marketers are well aware of: Facebook is making significant changes to what users will see on their News Feed. Before your ad team erupts in chaos about how terrible this announcement is for brands, publishers and other third-party players, let’s take a look at how your company’s referral program can actually use this new algorithm to its advantage.
“Help us connect with each other” - let that sink in.
Broadly speaking, the algorithm change means that brands and professional pages (with more than 500,000 likes) will be “down ranked” in an effort to prioritize content and show users more of what their actual friends and family are sharing.
Mark Zuckerberg knows brands and ad agencies will find a way to stay top-of-mind, tip-of-tongue with consumers. What Zuckerberg knew 20 years ago and continues to bet on in the future is the empowerment of the individual. Allow as many individuals all over the world to establish - and maintain - meaningful connections with others, and everyone wins.
But if everyone wins, why are so many brands, agencies, and advertisers freaking out?
Because they haven’t figured it out yet. They would prefer to keep doing things the established, pay-to-play way.
The Fall of Pay-to-Play Social Media Endorsements and the Rise of Referral Marketing
While most brands’ organic posts are already only reaching less than 2% of their audience, major ad agencies are claiming the new Facebook algorithm will be “the nail in the coffin for organic posts” for brands.
The same could be said for celebrities who have millions of followers and are routinely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote a product or service in a single post.
In the past, these pay-to-play strategies have been great for some of the biggest brands and social media influencers in the world. But with this new update to what users will see, brands will need to look past pay-to-post campaigns and start forming long-term relationships.
One's Company, Two's a Crowd, and Three's a Party
The most meaningful relationship a brand can have with their potential consumer is not a two-man game. Savvy marketers understand that the most engaging brand content, and highest converting posts are not posted by the brand itself, in fact, they are posted by a customer (or real fan, but NOT Beyonce or Justin Timberlake) on behalf of the brand.
You’ve seen this before; heck, you might even be a member of a few programs.
It’s called referral marketing. From Hulu to SAP to Dollar Shave Club to Mizzen & Main, brands are seeing millions of “organic” impressions on Facebook every month, and all they do is ask their customers, fans, and followers to refer them to their networks.
A Referral Strategy to Keep Your Brand in the Feed
It now takes three to tango in marketing - the brand, their real customers and fans, and their shared audience. By recruiting your customers and fans to represent your brand, you’ll gain access to their networks, increasing your marketing reach exponentially.
For your referral strategy to work, you need to have a few core building blocks in place:
A quality product that customers love: While referral marketing can generate dramatic results, it all starts with your product. If your customers are continually telling you how much they love it, they’ll probably be willing to do the same thing with their network. Engage and incentivize them correctly, and you’ll see big ROI.
A captive, engaged audience: If your relationship with customers is mostly transactional and your social following is disengaged, referral marketing might not be for you. On the other hand, if you’ve built up a captive audience of loyal customers, fans, and followers, referral marketing can be incredibly powerful.
A process to track, manage, and reward referrals: In order to move away from the traditional ad-hoc approach to referrals, you’ll need to implement processes that automate the repetitive nature of creating, tracking, and rewarding referral campaigns. This is the only way to make referrals a truly scalable source of revenue.
Beyond those building blocks, the key strategies that drive referral marketing growth aren’t rocket science. More importantly, referral marketing is an authentic way to engage with a larger network via social media and drive better quality consumers to your brand.
“I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”
- Mark Zuckerberg
Marketers have been fighting the quality versus quantity battle for a few years now. And we know that quality trumps quantity in today’s digital customer acquisition landscape. Which is why it’s more important than ever to set your referral strategy and give your customers the tools they need to connect with their networks and bring you more conversions, with less effort, and at a much lower CPA.
Companies across industries are finally embracing this rhetoric and obsessing over usage rates, loyalty, NPS, and repeat purchases - not just over email sign ups and purchases.
The future success of every company depends on their ability to not just create products and services people buy, but to establish relationships with their customers. This strategy creates a tangible social bind between “tribes” of people and the brands they choose to invest in. If your customers choose to validate you amongst their friends and family, the compound benefits of word-of-mouth growth will enable brands to cement their place in the market for the foreseeable future. And, it’s a sure-fire way to keep your brand in the News Feed.