How to find your brand's role on social #SettUpForSocial
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
When it comes to how you use social media in your business, are you answering the only question that really matters? Probably not. This piece covers perceptions of social media in business which, in my experience, remains one of the biggest obstacles to realising its true potential.
One of the best things about social media is the constant evolution of features and capabilities being developed and released. If you look at what you can do today on any major platform compared with five years ago, the shift is notable.
But that's also a huge problem. Just ask any social media manager!
When it comes to managing a company's social media activity, you have the thankless task of trying to stay on top of the latest and greatest features. You're constantly having to determine what works and why, often without having the time to get to the bottom of either.
Throw away comments from leadership teams like, "My daughter says we should be using Instagram Stories", or "I was on our Facebook page last night and we aren't answering questions quickly enough", are rarely followed by an offer of more resource or budget to resolve either point. They become another problem to fix on a growing list.
10+ years in and social media marketing is still too little understood in many businesses.
I'm not talking about the intricacies of how Facebook adverts or Twitter polls works - the mechanisms and features - but what it takes to get it working in an effective and sustainable way for a business.
In my experience, the biggest barrier that needs to be overcome here is in getting stakeholders to understand what is different about social media compared with other channels and communications platforms. And that's because it actually requires us to challenge the way we think and embrace a different mindset.
Of course, there's nothing simple about this process. It takes time and a concerted effort from across the business to bring about the kind of change in attitudes and patience can often be in short supply.
But there is a very simple starting point for the journey that anyone holding the keys to a company's social media accounts would do well to refer to time and time again. It's a very short mantra of sorts.
Just ask why
You have to establish why you are using social media before you can make any meaningful decisions about how. And to do that effectively the you have to put the needs and interests of your target audience at the heart of everything you do. If you are not focusing your efforts on addressing these, you will not succeed.
You need to understand what you can do to support the needs and interests of your audience and develop a social media purpose to bring it to life.
If you already have a clear brand purpose, you need to adapt it to meet the unique opportunities social media brings. If you don't have a brand purpose, you need to ensure that you incorporate the qualities that successful brands on social know so well. They are:
Know your audience. Work out where they are on social. Understand what they need. Your content, support and engagement plans need to deliver against those requirements.
If you claim something, live and breath it in your approach to social. People will quickly call you out for failing to live up to your own promise, or where you come up short compared to your competition.
There will inevitably be peaks in investment and activity throughout the year. However, you have to resist the urge to focus everything on the big hero moment.
You need to develop an 'always on' narrative that can help you to engage with your audiences on a daily basis, not just when you want to tell them about your new product.
In addition to the qualities I've highlighted above, there are several key practices that underpin successful social businesses.
Test and learn
Understand what metrics mean the most to you and your business objectives.
Hint: It's not engagement, 'likes' or reach in isolation, so stop chasing them! It's going to be a combination of hard and soft metrics that will likely evolve over time.
Set out your strategy with KPIs at the centre to get all stakeholders on the same page. Build your plan of action and run at it for a set time to understand your base-level of performance.
Measure and analyse the results, learn and adapt tactics as you go. Don't continue to do something because you always have done if you know it's not working. Use the data to guide your decisions, not gut feel. It will make future budget asks much easier to compile.
You need the right content on the right channels, reaching the right people and providing the best customer experience possible. That means the you need to budget for content production, paid media promotion/targeting, help and support capabilities and tools to track and measure activity consistently.
Doing any one of these without the others will likely cause you problems down the line.
Ring-fence that investment for social. Distinguish it from broader digital, marketing of comms spend, lest it should be swallowed up at a later day to support other aspects of the digital plan.
Agility, from the outside in
Set your team up so you can understand what is happening in the outside world (i.e. outside of your broadcast activity and brand) to adapt your campaign and day to day activity accordingly.
Maybe you'll get an early heads up of an imminent crisis. You might find out that your pricing is better than the competition. Or you might even snare customers from them if you intervene in a timely fashion.
But there's a big piece around cultural moments too. I mentioned earlier that relevance is a key quality for successful social activity. Part of that can be planned around calendar events but there's merit in reacting quickly to spontaneous occurrences too.
Getting yourself in a position to actually achieve this takes time, investment and a lot of foresight, so make sure you consider which approaches best serve your strategic requirements before you leap in.