Social media marketing is changing and so should our approach to community management and production. We need to make fewer pieces of higher quality content which millions see, rather than encouraging a community manager to push out hourly updates for a handful of fans. This puts pressure on such roles and brings us full circle to looking at more traditional agencies for their storytelling abilities, but before we throw the baby out with the bathwater here are seven key considerations:
1 Less really is more
Most brands produce more content than they need, stretching their resources, and would be better off making and widely promoting one or two fantastic pieces a month. How much you need should ultimately come down to how much you can afford to spend on promotion and the desired media frequency you need to drive business objectives. Realistically on a platform such as Facebook, you’ll want to reach consumers once or at most twice a week, meaning an absolute maximum of eight posts a month. However, don’t be afraid to show the same creative at least twice (which halves the amount of content you need) or just to make one or two posts a month and really drive up their reach. Now if tens of millions of people are going to see each piece then you’ll want to invest time and money in making each truly memorable. The main reason for producing any more, or at least slightly tweaking these executions, is if you want to cleverly target consumers with more personally relevant messages.
2 Think broadly about video
Video has always been a powerful medium, but as its social consumption has skyrocketed, and the pressure to churn out daily updates has decreased, it’s really coming into its own for marketers. Consider that in newsfeed-based systems (notably Facebook and Twitter) video will autoplay silently – it’s therefore much easier to get people to watch some of a video then to really hook them in . Consider using video formats to simply animate imagery and grab attention, or if you do want to tell a longer story, load your brand upfront and grab attention early (as you would on YouTube).
3 Rethink where content comes from
I’ve seen community managers create some really fantastic content over the years and if given the right time and space, they still can, though it is a different set of skills. With huge potential scale it is now justifiable to invest more in production, or to brief it as a key requirement alongside a TV shoot. While traditional agencies have struggled with digital, they will hopefully rise to the social video challenge. It is, however, worth considering social specialists, partnering with influencers, building it into media owner partnerships or even professional crowdsourcing platforms.
4 Remain open to consumers
I’m sorry social media revolutionaries, but consumers don’t want conversations with their laundry powder, chocolate bars or their next car. Putting less focus on the niche engagement that social can generate is a wise move, but don’t completely ignore it. While hopefully no longer your core objective, listening to comments can help shape strategies and responding to specific questions avoids building a negative brand perception. There are still genius moments of community management where responding quickly and funnily in line with your brand can create a wider, positive social moment for you – be wary of outsourcing moderation to the point that your brand personality gets lost.
5 Stay true to your brand
It’s crucially important that social content stays true to a brand’s identity and communicates the key messages as any channel would. Don’t be afraid to actually feature the product too, or at the very least distinctive brand identifiers, because marketing only works when consumers can easily attribute it back to something memorable. It might not be right to do a blunt product demonstration, but there’s no need to be ashamed either. Definitely don’t hide behind cheap tricks such as puppy photos or popular memes, which drive throwaway engagement but communicate nothing about the brand.
6 Data informs, but you decide
One of the dangers of social marketing is the overwhelming amount of immediate data on consumer engagement/reactions and our tendency to blindly chase it. Although understanding consumer interests and responsiveness is a useful input, slavishly following that can lead you far away from communicating anything useful about your brand. Similarly, looking at searches and views around your brand can help inform a content strategy, but if responding to those questions won’t help you tell your story don’t feel you have to. This sort of big data can help identify broad target audiences for specific pieces of content, helping drive personal connections at scale.
7 Ditch all that reporting
Vast effort goes into producing monthly or even weekly reports, but much of that is wasted. Certainly there are lots of data points out there, but research shows surprisingly little correlation between digital engagement and ultimate sales or brand impact. Optimising to engagement data is misleading and moves us away from true objectives . As in traditional media, we need to get used to running mid- or post-campaign surveys to establish the true impact, or even pursue ways of showing direct sales impacts. This might sound like a step backwards but that’s the reality, although unlike in traditional media you no longer have to wait weeks or months for your post-campaign analysis. A week after launching a YouTube video you can have a clear view of how it is communicating your brand from online surveys and adapt the content or media spend accordingly. On a weekly basis the main thing worth checking is how many people you’re reaching and how often, assuming your content is communicating what it needs to.