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August 11, 2017

Has your brand missed the boat on social media?

Emma Baumhofer - Digital Manager

The question of whether or not social media is here to stay is long gone. Social media is a crucial part of most business’ strategies by now and is constantly leveraged in new and creative ways to reach customers, interact with audiences, share content, and generate leads. But the keyword in that last sentence is most. For those companies that are just now looking to dip their toes into the social pool or who are looking to refresh a stagnant social strategy that is now years out of date, it can seem like an impossible game of catch up.

Remember the days of setting up a company Facebook page, maybe throwing in a little Twitter for good measure, and calling it a day? Ah, simpler times. These days we are inundated with new social media platforms and also must keep up with the new features on long standing platforms, and the way users’ relationships with these platforms evolve. Audiences expect more interactivity and more media, from photo sharing to video, to disappearing stories, to live streams, to bots, to augmented reality.

So how are companies supposed to launch a digital strategy on platforms that are now so overly saturated? And if they manage that, how are they supposed to keep up? Keep reading. I’m going to answer some common questions I hear again and again from companies who are new to or scaling their social strategies and give some tips on how to stay ahead.

 

Common social media questions from brands

 

Does my company really need to be on social media? I don’t think my customers are there.

Despite the prevalence of social, I still find companies questioning if it is really the right tool for them. Of all the billions of people on social media every day, it just happens that their customers are the ones that aren’t. Your customers might not be on Snapchat or Periscope, but they are somewhere. It’s your job to identify the platforms where they like to hang out and communicate to them there. If you’re still feeling stumped, consider widening the pool of your target audience. Don’t forget about other relevant stakeholders for your product or service: caretakers, friends, assistants, colleagues, relevant professionals, or family members – which platforms are they on?

Instagram has zoomed past 7 million users and FB now has over 2 billion monthly active users, not to mention the sizeable communities on Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, etc…. If you don’t have customers on those platforms, it’s time to go after them! Those millions of users are just waiting to be converted into viable leads. The party is on social, and you need to be at the party

 

I can’t keep up with all these platforms, do I need a presence on all of them? If a new platform comes out, do I just keep taking more on? Do I abandon some of the platforms I’m already established on?

Doing a couple things well is always better than doing many things poorly. Instead of stretching your company resources too thin and showing poor results on several platforms, focus on the ones that are most important to your community. The key is knowing your audience and identifying the platforms where they spend the most time. That being said, to prevent your social strategy from getting stale, it’s always a good idea to dabble with new platforms that seem like they will be a good fit for your audience. In social media, the early adopter gets the audience.

 

Our intern set up a social media strategy for us 5 years ago… we’re good, right?

Social media should be an integral part of your company’s communications strategy and customer experience, treat it as such. Social strategies require constant refreshing or they quickly become irrelevant. Creating content can and should be a group effort, but make sure there is at least one experienced in-house staffer steering the ship – this is the front lines of your brand communications! Your company needs a dedicated person to keep all of your content efforts optimised and on target, and your digital strategy whipped into shape. If your intern is kicking ass at social, maybe it’s time to actually hire them to take on the role full-time!

 

Do you have to be an early adopter to build a massive audience on social? Does the fact that I’m starting now mean that I’m too late?

It’s true that if you take a closer look at a lot of the brands and influencers with the biggest followings they often have one thing in common, that they became active on their respective platforms early on.

The benefit of waiting a bit on a new platform is letting others break it in for you – you can learn from their successes and failures. That said, you’re also giving them a head start on building an audience, and waiting until later means you’ll be faced with a lot more competition. Early adopters always have an advantage. In fact, don’t even bother comparing your new brand page today to a competitor who got started 5-6 years ago. FB, for example, is a completely different animal now, and you’re dealing with a whole new set of rules and expectations. Don’t be discouraged, just because that brand has a million followers, doesn’t mean those million followers are engaged.

 

Can I still reach my audience on an established platform like Facebook?

It is a lot harder for brands to reach their audiences on Facebook than it used to be. The FB algorithm is steadily edging out brand content and we can eventually expect it to be non-existent without paying (already less than 7% of your followers will see your non-sponsored posts). Some businesses are moving away from company FB pages and instead focussing their digital efforts on their own blogs and websites, where they can better control their traffic growth through content, SEO, and SEM. Facebook isn’t right for every business, but for some, it’s still a big source of traffic and customer engagement. And new features like Livestream offer a really exciting way to engage with your followers in real time. You need to analyse your product, audience, and goals to decide which platforms are right for you. For news, FB is probably still an important player, whereas, for shopping, Instagram is now the platform of choice.

 

How do you build audiences on already saturated platforms?

On platforms with big, loud user bases, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to make enough sound to stand out from the crowd. But don’t forget, it’s not just about winning a large audience. The primary goal should always be to build an engaged and loyal audience that frequently interacts with your brand. These are the followers who will turn from possible leads to certain leads. A massive following of users who’ve hidden your company’s updates and forgotten about your brand is only a vanity metric.

How to get your brand recognized on social media:
  1. Make fantastic content. I mean really good. Learn to E-D-I-T yourself like crazy and only post the top-notch content that you know will inspire and engage your followers the most.
  2. Engage, engage, engage. The more followers see that you are real people behind all the glossy images and pithy copy they will build a greater trust and connection with your brand and ethos. Respond to comments, address customer feedback, and be an example of the engaging, flexible brands that you yourself like to follow online.
  3. Partner with influencers. This is a great way to get your brand in front of fresh eyeballs and your story told by a trusted, non-sponsored sounding (even if it is) voice. You can try to partner with mega-influencers who have tons of followers, but increasingly brands are also investing in “micro-influencers”, who have smaller but very targeted and relevant followers. They may simply post about your brand, or test out your product, or perhaps you co-host a competition together. There are lots of ways to creatively partner with social media influencers.
  4. Make your brand “instagrammable”. No matter what your product or service is, or which platforms you decide to focus on, your company needs to tell a visual story. Whether you produce all your social content in-house or you carefully curate great content from other creators, think creatively about how to use your social platforms differently than your competitors.

 

Now, some questions for you

 

Who is your audience and where are they?

Apply the same audience analyses and customer profiles utilised by your sales team to your social media output. Know your customers like your best friends. Where do they like to hang out? What do they like to do? What do they want for their birthday? Now go and focus on the platforms where your customers spend time, and give them what they want (i.e. behind the scenes, new releases, Q&As, process, inspo, giveaways, etc).

You probably still will choose to have a presence on multiple social channels but be selective about the ones you really invest in. Perhaps you create a hierarchy with your number one or two social platforms at the top, consuming most of your social efforts, followed by your one to two secondary focus platforms. Maybe you divide your efforts by posting amazing brand stories on Instagram while handling support through Twitter. Or perhaps you use your other platforms to drive traffic to your primary platform, for example by directing FB fans to join you later in the day for your Insta live stream Q&A. It’s up to you!

 

When is the last time you tried something new?

Yes, you need to identify where your audience is and communicate with them there, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be there forever. It also doesn’t mean you can stick your head in the sand and ignore the digital trends. For example, video is here to stay. Even if you think your audience prefers consuming content through static images and words you still need to get out there and push your brand to take part in the current ways of communicating in order to continue appealing to new followers. Finding a unique voice is how you’ll make your brand stand out and you won’t discover that staying the same.

Since social platforms change fast, it’s essential to build adaptability, research, and learning into your strategy. Push yourself and your team to try new technologies and platforms. If you don’t, you’ll probably be able to get away with it for a couple of years, but in the end, you’ll be right back here trying to figure out how to catch up.

 

Feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a mountain?

Welcome to digital, it feels that way for all of us. The digital landscape changes so quickly that you have to embrace the hustle to stay on top. I got my first job in social media in 2010 as the Community Manager, or “House Mom” on Playdom’s hugely popular Sorority Life Facebook game. This was back in the days when farming on Facebook was actually a fad. Remember that? Yeah, let’s all try to forget it. Calling out these things now seems like opening up a time capsule because in digital, 7 years is a lifetime.

Facebook, which started as a social network for college students, now demographically skews much older. Think about how your own sharing patterns have changed over the years. Chances are you share fewer albums on FB in favour of Instagram. You may be shying away from public posting altogether, favouring private chat channels like Messenger or Whatsapp. As behaviour changes, so do the marketing techniques, but one thing’s for sure, it’s all social.

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