Ep 40: Serious Social – 2021 social success is in the hands of the few

If you want to succeed on social in 2021, then look no further than your social media manager. The voice of your brand. The expert of their craft. They are the key to your success. Join Katy Howell in this episode of Serious Social (the last one of 2020!) to hear how you can get the best out of your team in 2021.


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Full Transcript

Welcome to the Serious Social podcast, created by the straight-talking social media experts at immediate future.

In this episode of serious social immediate future CEO, Katy Howell talks about how the social media manager is your silver bullet to social success and what you need to do to give them the best chance of winning in 2021.

Hi, welcome to Serious Social. Well, as you can see, I’m dressed very Christmassy, which if anybody knows me knows this is really unusual, particularly because I won’t let Christmas out until the week before Christmas, because I want all the excitement in one fell swoop. But this is our last Serious Social of the year, so I thought, rather than talking about predictions, I want to talk about those of you who are looking for a silver bullet to make your social media marketing so much better.

So, look no further, as I’d say, than your social media managers. Nobody ever wants to talk about them. They want to talk about the technology and the fun stuff, but actually, the success of 2021 is very much based around your social media manager, because they are experts who know your audiences, every thought who can recite the formats from every network and they spend their days testing and trailing the new and the bizarre to see if there’s any value for their business or a client.

Social media isn’t a glamorous job though. Sandwich routine, delighting customers and negotiating wider marketing and business decisions. Social media managers are often wearing multiple hats, moving between analytics, creativity, data, reporting, paid media and copywriting. They are masters of predicting the impact of the algo changes or fighting with targeted lists on the clunky paid media backend. They turn their hands to photography, design, scripting, video, learning the legal stuff, fixing the tech and dealing with trolls. Your social success is in the hands of these few. Not the gurus or the growth hackers, but those that live and breathe social for brands that want to truly drive impact. And next year, more than ever, they will be the cornerstone to social media success. They’ll differentiate and bring nuance to your brands. They’ll support your customers, and they’ll drive your sales. These frazzled Tweeting, TikTok’ing individuals will be the people that will raise the bar on the channel that everyone and their dog, possibly a few cats are spending time on this year. I mean, it’s up 41% this year. It is going to continue next year.

To have a chance of being noticed on social over the next 12 months, you’ll need your great social media managers to go from fantastic to bloody awesome. The competition for attention is now fierce. Your social has to step up dramatically and it’s your social media managers that’ll do the job. But this is really not about them. It’s about you. The brands, the bosses, the board of directors, see it’s you that needs to change. To reach your customers on social. You need to up your game. Let me explain. I was inspired to talk about these, by an Insta channel that I love. And I literally look at it every day. It’s called sipping social tea, and it’s a simple set series of quote cards from anonymous submissions by social media managers. Take a peek and it becomes clear that the edicts from around business or Anaheim home make no sense on social, that managers are often directed to do things they know won’t work, or that will damage the brand’s reputation, your social media stars, often harangued and harassed and worried. So, what do we need to do to fix this? We are after all the key to your success.

It’s time for businesses to be educated about social, to know how it works and what it means to accompany. It is after all the closest you can get to your customers without meeting them all individually. Firstly, and I bang on about this all the time, so I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry. You cannot chase vanity metrics such as followers and engagement. Not only is it bad for business. Its soul destroying for your social team. So, stop measuring social by how many fans you have. It’s like measuring business success by how many outlets you have and ignoring whether or not they’re selling anything. Know what is achievable and how best to target your audience to generate the return you want.

It’s also important that you recognise that sometimes your audience posts and watches out of hours. I mean, for instance, in B2B, it’s well known that Sunday afternoons are a great time to reach senior customers. It’s your social folk that are posting or checking scheduling tools, which by the way, regularly fail or misfire in the evenings and weekends. So when you demand a post be sent, while someone is sick, on holiday or on a date night or at a wedding, all of these things have happened, you need to flex and return the favour at another date, create boundaries and get them help. After all, you need your social media folk to be smart and on it, not exhausted. You need to think about them in a different way to other employees maybe, how can you manage their time in a better way to gain the most from their activities? The easiest, and also, the fastest way to learn is to integrate your social. Make it part of your wider marketing efforts, involve it with your web build, your out of home, your brand development, and even with your wider business decisions, if only to inform on direction, don’t let it sit in a silo of one. And engage with it, even if it’s only to peek at it once a week.

There are many benefits beyond you learning more about social and integrating our efforts. It will prevent a stop-start social program, which does nothing to agenda audience trust. It’ll also help you and everyone realise that the reality of social, there are so many buggering myths about social media. For instance, there is no magic forest of UGC – user-generated content. It’s not just littered around the place. There are no unicorns that make something viral. And one kitten on Instagram with three bazillion followers doesn’t mean you are failing at social.

At IF we only do social. Nothing else. So we really get that collaboration is key. We link arms with other agencies and across multiple clients, stakeholders, we work on integrated planning, so that comms and the MarTech stack line up, we join minds and calculators to lay out the metrics, the attribution, and understand how we, how best we can trigger the response we want.

Integration also allows the leadership team to ask the tough questions too, not just around results, but to discover audience behaviours. What customer motivations have changed, where there might be opportunities in the market, your social media manager often spots these trends long before they make them into industry reports or the financial place.

Oh, that last point brings me neatly onto data. Every minute, 2.5 million snaps are created. 1.3 million people log on Facebook and almost 200,000 are tweeting and 700,000 scrolling Insta, in a minute! No-one in their right mines could manage all those data points. You need a tool, preferably one with a little AI support on analysis too.

So according to the latest Brandwatch study, almost 60% of marketers didn’t have access to the right data. And around a third said they lack the right technology. Most wanted, about 80%, wanted social data analysis tools that unstructured data needs to be housed properly. And the insights are glorious. Whether it’s understanding that the motivation to buy insurance right now includes more clarity on policy terms or the ‘me gifts’ play a big part this Christmas. The nuggets that allow you to be relevant are only found when you have access to these tools. And frankly, most social media managers operate with one arm tied behind their back, whether they’re B2B or consumer. So invest in tools because your social media manager can fly when they’re able to personalise when they can create multiple segments. And when they can jump on a moment or trend. And when they do they’ll optimise your performance.

Of course, personalisation and an understanding of behaviours not only helps you with targeting but with your content, businesses need to think much more seriously about content next year. Social first is our mantra, but what does that mean?

It means designing your copy and visuals for social at the outset. Don’t bring your TV ad, photoshoot, or website video to your social team and tell them to put it on social. Now, bring social early into the creation so that things like video can be engineered to work landscape or vertical or square, so that storyboarding accounts for the three-second hook, which you need desperate in social, and then various edits to play out on different social networks. Again, integration matters, but so too is bringing social further up the creative chain.

Your social expert is also, you see, your brand guardian. They make sure your social sings in harmony, they’ll build messaging frameworks to keep your voice on track. They will police poor quality visuals, or they should do, that won’t resonate in social and they’ll insist content is tailored for each social media channel use. Really, posting the same stuff everywhere, it doesn’t work. And it makes you look crass.

So far, I’ve talked about the easy stuff. Integration, social-first, we all know this. We’ve been banging on about it for ages and lining up everything so you can create better social. The more challenging thing about social is that things can go wrong. Even when things are right, they go wrong.

So let’s take the vitriol that Sainsbury’s received on social for their Christmas campaigns. The social team out did themselves, stood on their company values, trumpeted their position, and frankly, made us all laugh in the process. But that social team were also the poor folk staring at all that ugliness, day in day out, you can see the spite trolling and filth spewed at brands. The social media team have to watch it and they have to actively deal with those posts. Businesses need, not just a crisis power plan, they need a plan for dealing with all that negativity. They need a way to protect the mental wellbeing of staff and to share responsibility across a wider set of shoulders when things get dark. Fatigue and anxiety will lose you those social smarts, so dial down on screen time for them and ensure separation between work and home life.

There’s a reason though, why I called this live ‘social success in the hands of the few’, is because next year, if you don’t have a social team, you need to get one. Social cannot be managed successfully by one person. Not if you want results. There are two reasons. One is that it allows responsibility to be shared and that in turn allows your team to stay up to date with the latest algo changes, formats, trends, new thinking, etc. The second is that, that with the best will in the world, you cannot be good at everything. As I said earlier, you need to be creative, write outstanding copy, create amazing visuals, use analytics for data and for reporting, set up and optimize performance on paid, respond to comments with a brand voice, create plans, have content schedules and do the strategy and deal with those horrible scheduling tools. No one single brain can do all that and still fight it out.

Social is a team effort. So yes, your success in social is in the hands of the few and you need to understand them, value them and support them, integrate them into wider decisions. Give them the tools they need to do the job, care for their wellbeing and share workloads and build a team of experts in each field in social. Invest, and in return, social will deliver for your business.

So, thank you for listening. In fact, thank you for being with us since lockdown one. This is the last of our Serious Socials. And I know that somebody asked if I can share some tools, I will I’ll pop them in comments afterwards. But we decided to end our Serious Social’s early because frankly, after this year, I’m knackered and I’m looking forward to not having to slap on makeup and dye my grey hair so I can look half-decent, I can hang out in my PJ’s, but of course, we will bounce back in 2021, rested and annoyingly full of beans. So, in the meantime, have a fabulous Christmas everyone and a cracking new year.

See you in 2021.

If you’re after more know-how to break the social boring, subscribe now and check out the show notes for links to our website and social profiles.

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