Reach in social media is considered by many companies to be the most important metric for measuring the success of their own marketing. Wrong, says German online marketing expert Gero Pflüger in an interview. Increasing reach cannot be the primary goal in digital marketing.
Industrial media: Mr Pflüger, marketers like to argue their campaign planning with the desire for reach. In a much-discussed blog post, you recently wrote warned againstto overestimate reach as a metric. Reach, you wrote, is "a dead horse that is being ridden by the advertising industry even in the second decade of the 21st century". Why do you think marketers like to get on this horse so much?
Gero Pflüger: Because reach is a learned and completely legitimate parameter from the print world. There, reach, i.e. the distributed circulation multiplied by the number of readers, is a meaningful and actually the only meaningful indicator. But in digital marketing, reach is only of limited importance; it is an empty phrase, especially in the B2B sector.
Industrial media: What is it about then?
Ploughman: I have to relate reach to another value, otherwise it is worthless as a ratio. An example from normal life: We are both on the phone with each other right now and have not yet met in person. If I tell you that I weigh 85 kilograms, what picture do you have of me? Exactly: none at all. You lack a meaningful reference, for example my height. If I am 1.50 metres tall and weigh 85 kilograms, then I am probably quite overweight. If I'm over two metres tall, I'm probably starving right now. And it's exactly the same with digital marketing. Many entrepreneurs only look at their follower numbers or, for example, at the number of hits or users on their websites or in the media, but they don't use any meaningful benchmarks. All this says little or nothing. In the case of social media, it may depend on the rate of interaction with the users, and in the case of web presences such as those of media, of course, also on how large the theoretical audience can be and what its quality is.
But even in the B2B sector, there is a psychological reference value that often comes from the B2C media market. The marketing manager of a B2B company might expect the Instagram presence to have at least as many subscribers as a fashion influencer.
That is the problem. The marketing manager should rather think about whether he has as many records in his customer file as an online fashion mail order company. If he sells special machine tools, then probably not. In this respect, he cannot expect to reach such a large audience with his appearances - and apart from that, it would also be completely pointless. Reach always needs to be in relation to the respective market. It depends on what goals I want to achieve with my campaigns, whether in social media or on news portals. In any case, inflating the reach cannot be a goal. Increasing the loyalty of customers, on the other hand, can be a goal. Or to raise the brand image.
From your experience, what is the basic mistake when companies decide to become active in social media?
Exactly that. Some choose to be active on social media as if it were an end in itself. Merely being active, however, is nonsense economically. You first have to decide what you want to achieve with this presence. With a complex product, for example, you could set up a support channel on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook to help users get to grips with the product. It's certainly not about getting lots of followers, but helping those who have a problem with your product quickly. Basically, in my experience, companies sometimes don't make a thorough enough effort to change their perspective - to take the position of the customer. Content has to be useful for the customer or educational, even entertaining.
Which brings us to content marketing. Where did content marketing last convince you personally?
I recently bought a house and remodelled it. You have to know that: I have two left hands and no idea about handicrafts. But I was ambitious and wanted to plaster my walls myself. So I looked on YouTube for the best way to do it and came across a video by Knauf. It was in Bulgarian. I don't speak a word of Bulgarian, but the video showed so well how to plaster walls that I got all my knowledge from it. Knauf's product was barely visible in the video, it was just standing around on the edge. I bought two bags of the product afterwards because I had confidence in their competence. Content marketing is like that: it is always based on the benefit for the customer, never on the mere momentary interest of the company. For the latter, there is classic advertising.
How much time do you need to see that content marketing as a whole is starting to work?
That's another important point: you need patience. When I take over a company's brand presence, it's only over a longer period of time. You can't expect - as with SEO - that there will be noticeable results immediately. It drags on for months; only then is the effect of the measures really sustainable. But then it also works.
Thank you very much for the interview!