April 1, 2016

There are hundreds of social media providers available to every business owner. Most of them offer a free version of their service as well as inexpensive apps to promote a business, offer contests or enhance advertising.

According to Social Media Today, there are 21 top tier providers in the U.S. social media arena, but the obvious standouts are Facebook and Twitter. If your business is taking full advantage of these two providers, you are reaching the greatest number of potential customers.

If you are one of the millions that personally use Facebook and Twitter, you probably log in every day or even multiple times a day. The constant interaction with these providers is what makes them so valuable. Once a page or account is “liked” or “followed” on Facebook or Twitter by a user, your business has direct access to that person going forward and has the ability to speak directly to them.

Although these providers have great potential for your business, there is a fly in the ointment. Those of you who use social media have probably noticed the uptick in commercial posts. Even though social media has proven to be a wonderfully inexpensive and effective advertising vehicle for retailers, there will probably come a time when consumers will stop clicking on blatant ads and even block those posts. These social media providers are, after all, positioned as “social communities” and people don’t log on every day to watch advertisements.

That’s where stealth marketing comes in. Anyone who has been in the marketing field for a while will remember the 1990s, when advertorials were first being introduced. There were several versions of this, including ads disguised as articles, TV infomercials and various forms of guerilla marketing. These forms of advertising have fallen by the wayside due to the steady decline in print media, especially newspaper outlets, and the huge amount of TV channels now available that require multiple placements to reach the general public.

The good news is that print advertising hasn’t stopped working. Print venues have added revenue channels such like digital news and social media that are more likely to appeal to the 18-44 year-old demographics, which are the gold standard when it comes to consumers. According to the Pew Research Center Newspaper Facts Sheet, old school advertising still works with online news outlets, since that revenue stream seems to be growing, but it doesn’t really resonate with people logging onto their choice social media provider.

Building a strategy that will allow you to maximize social media advertising is one of the best options going forward. Such a strategy reaches potentially interested people who may engage with your business, rather than the traditional advertising that online news providers offer. These post an ad whether or not the consumer is a match for it—though for an added price you may be able to target a few demographics.

Creating a stealth advertisement is simply creating a post that you think will attract your followers and has the potential to be shared by them with their friends or fellow enthusiasts. As an example, if you are a marine aquatic store, you could write an article about the newest skimmer or lighting system that everyone is talking about and post it to your Facebook page as a review. This is likely to get interested consumers to “like” your post and potentially your page so they can see future content from your business.

There are many ways to use the stealth marketing approach. Try a post about Lyme disease prevention during tick season. Maybe post dog food recall notices as a public service. And now with the Facebook button choices, you can add a “Learn More” button that steers customers to a deal or discount at your store or online shopping cart.

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t have enough followers to my Facebook page or Twitter account to make any of this work for me.” That may be true—but at least for Facebook, if you budget $10 to $15 a day to boost your “article” or most interesting posts, you can build a following. Once someone has “liked” your page, you’ll have ready access to them multiple times a day.
From my experience with my manufacturers, the ideal follower number to begin to produce real revenue is about 11,000 followers. With Facebook’s advertising tools, you can restrict your “paid” posts to specific zip codes. If you have an online store, you can target states close enough to your store to control freight costs.

Any way you look at it, the market and the ways of advertising to customers are changing. Don’t be left out because you didn’t change along with them.

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