Viral is vanity: the biggest pitfalls damaging your social media ROI

Viral is vanity: the biggest pitfalls that hurt your social media ROI – ClickZ

Viral is vanity: the biggest pitfalls hurting your social media ROI

This year has seen some wonderful viral moments for brands. In September 2022, Amtrak tweeted ‘Trains’ and sparked a trend copied by countless others, from Starbucks to Star Wars. One of the best is budget airline Ryanair, whose sarcastic style sees it consistently score high amounts of organic engagement. At first glance, this sounds like a dream come true for social media ROI.

Screenshot of the tweet
The tweet that launched a thousand ships

But here’s an uncomfortable truth for most brands: By focusing and relying on organic social media, you may be wasting time, talent, and resources.

Ryanair’s social media manager, Michael Corcoran, is proud of Ryanair’s belittling attitude on social media, let alone its impact on less engaged users. However, he acknowledges that what works for the airline is unique. If not, Ryanair would have to find a new way to differentiate itself.

Corcoran discusses the five pitfalls that see marketing budgets thrown into a social media black hole.

Five pitfalls hurting your social media ROI

1) Believing that viral organic impressions are the holy grail

How do you allocate resources between paid and organic? A series of viral posts that organically increase impressions, drive traffic, and influence unengaged users seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, that’s all. The reality is quite different.

“The biggest pitfall is thinking that organic social is going to boost your brand. It won’t work for 99% of people. Ryanair is the exception, not the norm. Taking a paid approach is the right way for most people to build their brand.

2) Create an unbalanced social media team

This misconception about paid versus organic results in distorted team structures. Moreover, since social media platforms offer so much more than lead generation, they become difficult to manage.

“The investment in people and time (for organic) represents a huge cost for the company. If you used payment as an efficient model, you would invest more here. You would reach many more people with smart creativity and smart awareness, consideration or conversion.

It can be much more efficient to reallocate resources from an organic-focused team to spending on paid media campaigns.

3) Ignore the context of your larger communication plan

Your social media strategy should be informed by how your media works elsewhere. If you invest heavily in other marketing communications, you may not need to use paid social media campaigns to build your brand. Social media marketers need to develop their understanding of traditional marketing practices.

“Learn the fundamentals of what marketing is and how to deliver communications. Find ways to implement the timeless traditional truths of marketing through social media.”

4) Over-targeting highly engaged users

The temptation for social media marketers can be to target an extremely specific segment of users. It can be your friend or your foe.

“If someone is already highly engaged and will likely see a message, those aren’t the people you’re looking to reach so much. Don’t miss low-engaged users who are looking to buy your offer because you’ve over-targeted.”

5) Choose vanity over reason for social media KPIs

The scope and prints are attractive. But they can only take you so far. Marketers should strive to better understand the performance of their campaigns. Beyond the KPIs associated with the traditional marketing funnel, consider:

“Look at brand surveys, focus groups, and other methods to understand how social media is changing the mindset or perception of your customers, and if it’s a channel where people see the message and act on it to buy.”

Going viral has been an undeniable success for Ryanair. This does not mean that it is suitable for all brands. To learn more about each of these pitfalls and hear more insight into Michael Corcoran’s social media strategy, tune in to the latest episode of the ClickZ Marketing Masters podcast.


00:12 – Presentation

00:53 – What do you think makes a good marketing leader?

03:18 – What makes a good social media marketing leader?

06:30 – What are the biggest pitfalls of social media marketing?

09:58 – What are the pitfalls of paid social media marketing?

12:01 – What tips do you have for people measuring social media ROI to help them spot wasted resources?

13:23 – What future challenges in social media might there be for marketers?

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