Since the days of Web 1.0, social media has grown in tandem with internet communications technology. According to market-research and business-intelligence specialists Statista, worldwide social network users grew from 0.97 billion in 2010 to 2.46 billion in 2017. Based on their data analysis, Statista expects similar growth going forward.

Where the public goes, enterprise follows. For example, corporate resource investment in direct advertising on social media platforms is rising. In the United Kingdom alone, advertising expenditures have increased at a much faster rate than the number of users, surging almost eight-fold between 2011 and 2017.

The Problem with Social Media Advertising

Implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) throughout the European Union since the end of May 2018 is the latest in a series of events that highlight the growing public concern about data privacy on the internet.

Advertising in social media has taken a big hit. Bad actors such as Cambridge Analytica have exposed the questionable ethics surrounding the relationship between user data and advertising at an infrastructural level on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This undoubtedly makes it more challenging for both aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to leverage the potential of such mediums, and the burden of proof in terms of transparency and ethics has appreciated considerably.

It’s a Matter of Trust

It’s one thing to bait readers or potential customers into visiting a piece of content on your web page or associated profiles. However, the real challenge comes in converting visitors into customers or subscribers and ensuring that the rate of conversion and retention remains on a positive trajectory.

These are matters of reputation and trust, and you can’t fake integrity. If you can prove these traits to your audiences then you have won half the battle, and if you can prove them on a consistent basis there is little that can stand in your way.

1. Influencer Marketing

One of the greatest and oldest tricks in strategic marketing is to develop trust by establishing valuable partnerships with influential affiliates across the industry and media.

This has been true since before the internet, although the aesthetics have changed. Independent influencers such as social media personalities are now just as important as traditional industry-focused print and online publications.

During a recent chat with Jonathan Foley, he said:

Influencer marketing is one of the most undervalued marketing strategies by big brands. Most people are still stuck on traditional media such as radio and TV, when everyone is looking at social media. Influencers have fans that love to listen to what they have to say. Find an influencer in your relevant niche and have them do a post for your brand. The ROI will be much better, and you can build loyal fans for your brand.

Foley is a Florida-based entrepreneur and social media influencer focused primarily on Instagram (which is the second-most popular app for marketing professionals). He is responsible for founding @positivity and @societyfeelings (which have a total of 9m+ followers), and is the founder and CEO of social media marketing consultancy Wulf Marketing.

2. SEO-Style Machine-Learning Algorithms

Google has become famous for their use of machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to help rank content on their search engine as well as on YouTube, based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative factors.

These systems are essential to almost any data-driven platform, including social media, and are colloquially referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) methods. Things to avoid when using SEO include spelling mistakes, plagiarism, a lack of links to external sites, broken links, and high user bounce rate.

3. Organic Quality and Shareability

When creating content, it is important to satisfy the requirements of automated systems, as well as those of the human reader. The self-learning machine protocols are usually based on these standards.

Content is king, and in addition to courting high-profile influencers, Foley advises entrepreneurs to “create engaging content that will get your followers to share with friends. It is also huge to reply to comments when you can and engage in the comment section… 1,000 loyal fans who love your brand is better than 10,000 followers off some random page you bought online.”

You should also ensure preplanning and publication are synchronized across all media platforms. Many websites, including the popular HootSuite, make it possible to schedule content.

The Greatest Lesson You Can Learn (aka TL;DR)

You must ensure that your marketing and business strategies consider not only the short term but also the long term.

Jonathan Foley’s vision for the future of social marketing suggests that within the next three to five years, platforms will be able to filter out issues such as spam that allow certain entities to get a competitive advantage. This means that, more than ever, it is important to start posting quality content and be engaged with your audience.

Despite having made his name on Instagram, Foley advises marketing decision-makers to build a following on many different platforms, because “it is important to be spread out in case anything happens with a specific platform.”Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

David is a professionally accredited leadership and marketing coach who works with young founders and early stage teams to help them navigate through emerging marketing opportunities with a current focus on artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Using the identification of new technological innovations that give way to different paths that can effectively reach customers, David is able to make marketing departments more effective, adaptable, and progressive.