For Jonathan Morris, the fruits of social media transcend the computer screen. They actually walk into his place of business.

“To see people who fit the profile start to walk through the door, there’s nothing better than that,” said Morris, whose Fort Worth Barber Shop earns customer loyalty more from digital advertising and customer profiles than from fliers, newspapers and other traditional marketing resources.

Morris and several digital media professionals shared such perspectives at a Dec. 7 breakfast at the Fort Worth Club, where they discussed the medium’s growing importance in building a customer base as traditional advertising becomes overshadowed by social media.

Other panelists at the Business for Breakfast meeting, sponsored by the Fort Worth Business Press, were Lesley Dupre, an account director at the Balcom Agency; Caitlin Moncrief, a Texas Christian University graduate and social marketing resource at iProspect; and Stephanie M. Scott, digital marketing and strategy director at Texas Wesleyan University.

Moderating the panel was Rose Bradshaw, executive vice president of North Texas Community Foundation.

The panelists acknowledged social media’s growing role in cultivating a customer base. They also pointed to the importance of identifying the optimum customer or individual businesses and determining the best way to appeal to those prospects. But without a targeted approach, that road can be challenging.

“If you want to target 32-year-old women living in Rhode Island who voted Democrat and like L.L. Bean, then I can create ads directed toward this person,” said Morris, who creates his own social media campaigns and feels empowered by that control.

His grassroots experience reflects those of many businesses these days, savvy enough to target customers yet often not fulfilling their digital advertising potential.

Moncrief agreed.

“Platforms are really going to depend on your goals driving revenue,” said Moncrief, referring to which platforms to choose.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can be helpful, depending on what the client wants. Gaining exposure to a broader, older audience is more effective with some platforms than others.

“You can do that on Facebook. It’s a sophisticated platform,” said Moncrief, crediting the resource for starting the social media game while acknowledging Snapchat’s Millennial appeal despite what she considers its limitations.

“It’s hard to gauge its value,” said Moncrief, referring to its ability to deliver desired results to the client.

Facebook earns high marks among several panelists, pointing to custom settings as ways to use its ad options to target potential customers.

“Our philosophy is, if you take the time to create awesome content, you might as well invest in Facebook ads,” said Dupre.

“If there is no ad support for your content, followers don’t see it. The beauty of Facebook ads is you can change those [options]. You start out with ads and can optimize them for ones that work the best,” Dupre said.

According to Hootsuite, an online digital media resource, social media advertising budgets have doubled worldwide in the past two years, rising from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016. In the U.S. alone, social media spending is expected to reach $17.3 billion in 2019.

When Texas Wesleyan University casts its social media net, it can target community college students potentially interested in the Fort Worth school’s transfer options.

“If I want to reach out to people attending community colleges with a message about our transfer scholarships, I can reach out to just those people,” said Scott, who prefers Facebook over LinkedIn.

“People don’t spend time on LinkedIn. If you’re on LinkedIn, you probably just check it occasionally. People spend time on Facebook. That’s how you really reach people,” Scott said.

Businesses hoping to attract Millennials, those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, should take a more personal approach, the panelists agreed.

“They want to engage with the brand,” said Morris, who uses social media to keep in regular contact with his customers, a relationship he described as invaluable.

“We are developing a relationship with people on a day-to-day basis. I don’t see that guy [customer] but every few weeks but can remain in contact with him every day [with social media]. It helps build loyalty.”

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