Ep 43: Serious Social – How to excel in Social Media this year and bring audiences into the heart of your brand

As brands and marketers flood to social media, we’re seeing too many common mistakes being made. In this week’s Serious Social, CJ is going back to basics and addressing these avoidable mistakes face on. As well as revealing the tangible pathway to success and how to excel in social this year, whilst bringing audiences into the heart of your brand.


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Full Transcript

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

On this week’s podcast, we look at how to deliver excellence in social media marketing, and specifically how to bring audiences to the centre of your brand. This podcast was recorded live on Facebook on Friday the 22nd of January.

Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Welcome back to serious social live. It’s actually my first one of the new year. Where are we at? We’re at the end of week three. In January. So, for anyone that’s been doing dry January, you were about a week away from giving yourself a huge pass on the back for enduring the toughest of January’s. And for anyone else who like myself, just thought this year’s January meant just grab a bigger class and keep going, well done you, there is no judgment. Keep doing whatever’s getting you through these tough times.

And no judgment is really, the merit of this live today. It’s no surprise that over the last year, many, many brands and agencies alike have piled into social media. We’ve seen the data, in fact, on the series social lives, which we have now been doing since late February, March last year, I think. You’ll see weekly broadcast talking about the data, the big shift that happened, the numbers are astonishing. Well done to anyone that pivoted and figured out some way from moving from one vertical to another.

Let’s look through the lens of excellence though, because there are some common floors occurring, which to be fair, lots of people don’t know about because they’re not immersed with algorithms and they don’t work in social, in the manner that sort of, perhaps we do day in, day out. And I want to look at some of those common errors today to help you all understand what you need to be doing this year to truly excel in social media., A critical and largely under misunderstood, or even not known challenge with social lives around the algorithms. And this isn’t just an opportunity for me to geek out for a few moments. To thrive in social, you have to truly live and breathe social media. And I don’t mean that from a user perspective, we all post on Facebook. We all post on Instagram. Okay. Some people may have left Facebook, but you get the point. But there’s a big difference between user behaviour and understanding how the channels are constructed and what they want to achieve. And there is a big difference in understanding how the algorithms work. We’ve spent the better part of 13 years, working to cultivate best in class relationships with all of the social media channels. And in the case of Facebook, we’re one of their few marketing partners.

Why is that information important for you all to understand? Well, the algorithms, how the content works, the purpose of the content that all changes daily. And in fact, there have been times over the years where ad performance has literally zeroed overnight and it’s been because of a big Facebook algorithm change, something that wasn’t communicated to the public for many, many weeks later. In fact, we were the agency that took the news to the likes of BBC to help them. The key point, to excel in social you have to come to an understanding of how the algorithms work and I don’t for one minute expect you all to be the geeks that perhaps we are IF, we’re a little bit weird in a positive way. And we like understanding and exploring the data. But if you’re not that way inclined, you need to have access to insights and you need to understand how they work. And before I bamboozle you all too much with science, the reason that knowledge is important is, without it, you can’t come to an understanding of the content you need to create. And if you don’t understand the content needed for a channel. You then can’t begin to ideate around what your stories and journeys should be from your brand. Too many companies arrive at these conclusions from a brand out perspective, you’ve been told we need to push this message or this vertical, or we’ve got this big moment in the calendar where we need to make up a revenue shortfall. And you construct your communications from that starting block, which everyone does, right. Again, no judgment. But too few people are bringing in an understanding of how the channels work. And what’s needed and there are some common, common mistakes happening.

Now I’m going to reel off a list of some of the areas. Now this isn’t me saying, Oh, you’ve been a naughty boy or girl if you’re doing this and stop it. Frankly, if I listed all the errors I made in industry over the… Katy Howell keeps telling people decades I worked in industry now, you could release a best-selling book on all the cockups I’ve made. We’ve all learned from our mistakes don’t we, or we make better learnings from our mistakes. Success is a pretty crap tutor as the England rugby coach famously said last year. And I wholly agree with that. So, if you’re making any of these mistakes, I’m not judging you, I just want to highlight them. And then we’re going to go back through and talk about how we can navigate them.

So, are you perhaps using the same visual and post copy on every social media channel and worse still are you posting that same vision and post that the exact same time, on the exact same day across all of your social?

Are you perhaps using a single creative asset to deliver a hero campaign for the brand with more than 99% of your budget just being placed behind on media? Perhaps you have on organic, only social strategy. And if you’re doing that at the moment, you should really pay attention to a couple of minutes time when we start talking about some of the data, because there’s more you must be doing. Perhaps your posts, aren’t being written for engagement you’re broadcasting ad headlines, or PR headlines. That is not a slight on the ad industry or the PR industry. I have worked in both. I’ve got favourable colleagues and as an inter-agency environment. We work with both ad agencies and PR agencies, and we couldn’t do the whole marketing mix without their involvement but taking an ad headline into social. There are so many reasons why you couldn’t and shouldn’t do that from the algorithm. I will come onto it. And the same for a PR headline. You need to engage audiences with the visual and the copy, and I’ll come back to why that’s a key point.

Perhaps you’re doing a demand generation only strategy, aiming to convert people at every post. Hey, I’ve worked for CEOs that are saying, we’ve got to get out there, we’ve got to do these numbers, we’ve got to get these products shifted, all I want to see is that product being pushed. Now that’s a brand problem. That’s not a strategic enablement for social content. And as individuals, we need to stand up for those people above us who perhaps don’t have an understanding of how social should work. You can achieve conversion, but there’s other content you have to put around it. Perhaps your post copy is repetitive. I frequently see a really boring text and then learn more, hear more, or click here, or in the case of virtual events, visit us here. I hate to break the news to you, but nobody’s ever visited having read a post that said, visit us here.

Are you using the same white paper on all your content, giving up the crown jewels behind the gate, and then using the same insights, try and drive a webinar or a roundtable? People have already got the insight. They’re less motivated to come back. Perhaps you’ve created an asset template and are only changing the asset headline on each version and then putting the content in feed. But if you do that and go back and take a look at your feed, looks spammy reasons why you shouldn’t do that.

Last one, perhaps you’ve created a social strategy encompassing a supposed channel and content strategy without using data or insight. If somebody put me under the caution, asked me to create a top-line social strategy for them, and he asked me to tell them how to better improve their social. I could do it without looking at any of the data, but it won’t excel. To truly excel you have to look at data, and that starts with the channels, that starts with our algorithms, it starts with the audience behaviours and then layering in the ambitions and purpose of the brand. And once you’ve blended all of that information, only then can you start to make judgemental decisions on what you should be doing.

So, let’s take a step back. Let’s start with contents that originated from some of those challenges. So most notably repetitive deployment or basic iterative changes. I spoke about algorithms a little bit at the start. This is one of the elements where that knowledge and understanding is key. And I’m going to give you a really simple example, just one example in the hope that you’ll realise you need to have somebody you can either consult with or cultivate contents within the social channels to surface information.

Let’s take a look at search. This is something that’s particularly strong on Instagram and Twitter with their keyword and hashtag search, but particularly weak in Facebook. So, when you’re producing copy in Instagram, and in Twitter, you have to be thinking about how the keywords feature within your copy and the utilisation of hashtags to extend your audience reach. Yes. Before people message me. I do know Facebook got on hashtags. Go and take a look at the few people using them. It’s certainly not an adopted trait. This is Facebook trying to better improve their search. The point being though. when you’re creating content or copy, you need to understand how the channels work. So, the copy you put into Twitter should not be the same copy you put into Facebook because it’s going to be constructed differently. The call to action perhaps needs to differ because of how the algorithms work. And certainly, the visual exploitation that you should be looking at that should differ across all of the channels, because they all have different ad sets and they all have different algorithms to a degree. There’s one overarching points across all social. They want audiences to engage and not be spammed.

Facebook made a big shift a couple of years ago following some criticism that they were enabling brands to disseminate repetitive content from multiple channels. So now there’s an algorithm within Facebook that actually tracks that to make sure that the same visual isn’t just being repeated, isn’t being spammed. Now that doesn’t stop you doing multiple assets. In fact, it further enables it, but you’ve got to think about how that visual story evolves, how the sequential stories having can be evolved and elevated. So, audiences don’t feel like they’re seeing the same story, the same message, the same visual again, and again, we call this nudge nurture. The reason that’s important is people will happily build on a story and get immersed into a story, if they’re being taken on a story journey. If you’re being hit by the same message and the same unstrap line, it can have a detrimental effect. Before Christmas, we had to look at a new mattress. I did a common search and then I received dozens of ads across social as a result. And I’m not critical of that, because it’s exactly what I do, it’s how I make a living, getting people to buy stuff and influence spend. But what really shocked me was how poor, how very poor, many of the adverts were. So, the immersive and the iterative storytelling, you can pull people into a brand story in a brand belief, but you’ve got to give a bit back to them, you’ve got to take them on a journey. And that goes beyond just creating a single asset and changing a bit of copy. You’ve got to think about how the visual can change. So, a bank of assets, a suite of assets, rather than a singular asset.

And before anyone points to the likes of Carlsberg, and their great statement where they can put a single ad out, pump a couple of million in ad spend behind it and get loads of results your kind of missing the points on the 20 years of multichannel brand acquisition work that they’ve done to arrive at that point. A new entry to market absolutely cannot emulate that, you’ve got to do a bit of work. And we’re a bit smarter now on digital channels as the results will be years, we’ve been on them and being served spammy ads, you’ve got to work hard.

So, don’t just create an asset like the bed company that talks to a single USP and just blast it continually. You might stumble on some transactions, but you’re not going to hook people in. The clever assets, and it really sticks in my mind, there’s a brand, a bed brand called Simba, a mattress brand named Simba, I should say, and their USP is pretty similar to everyone else saying minimising bedroll. No surprise. I’m a little bigger than my wife bless her. And we do suffer with the bedroll, a common problem in many households, all over the country. Most mattresses say they don’t have bedroll. Simba found a really quirky way of showing it, there was a, a cup of water and a person jumped on the bed next to it, and a cup of water doesn’t spill. I was really pulled into that message. All the other standard ads with the compression metrics, I switched off. I cannot remember the brands that showed me those kinds of scientific elements. It was too much. The point being, find the reasons to hook people in and take them on a journey and produce creative to it. But it has to be a series of content and you’ve got to nudge, nurture people. I said organic-only was a really bad, really bad play. Less than 1% of your audience will see your organic content on the likes of Facebook right now. So, you’ve got to have tens of thousands of followers if your organic content is going to carry you anywhere. And the harsh reality that in, Katy, Belle and everyone else that’s been pushing out content for IF have been saying this for months, but truthfully, we’ve been saying it for years, social is a pay to play model. You have to invest to get results. You have to invest in that data. Every channel has different algorithms, different behaviours, different interests, different ad sets. Heck if you go and look for measurement, some measure in reach others and impressions, there’s a reason for that. They don’t want you being able to discern which channel is truly best at serving content. They want you to work hard for it.

Let’s just jump forward to some solutions so you’re getting some output of this. Do you truly know who your audience is? Have you looked at the audience on social? Have you looked at the behaviours and interests of those audiences? And have you looked at data showing the topics they engage with outside of your brand, the adjacent topics as we call it. Anyone that’s used Brandwatch, there’s a brilliant feature in it that allows you to look at affinity topics. And if, if that flicks a switch with you and you think I want to hear more about this, do get in contact with us, we’ll set up a call with some of the experts back in the team who can walk you through it. It’s a key piece of information that can really make your life very much easier. Have you considered the series of content needed to first trigger ahead term metaphorically, and then the series of content needed to take your audience on the journey to arrive at a conclusion you wish them to have? And have you identified the difference between the better performing ad sets on Facebook and Instagram? Gifs were really popular on social a year or two ago, the reason for that is they were recognised as video, so the algorithm gave you a bit of a reach kit. So, we had loads of gifs and too many gifs can be a bad thing, too. We’re used to seeing them. So, what’s the content that stands out from the noise? Lots of questions. Very few answers. The point, if you’re not asking all of these questions and arriving at conclusions to all of those answers, you cannot begin to create a social strategy to direct your channel strategy, your content strategy. And only at that point, can you then consider audio audience acquisition, audience retention, and the activities that you’ve got going on.

Social media is the most visible channel right now. How’s it been for quite some time because of what’s going on with COVID that that’s only going to continue through this year. I don’t want to depress anyone with that COVID topic, but it’s a reality. The point being, do pivot budget from PR into social, do pivot budget from other marketing disciplines. If you’re working with an agency, that’s a creative production agency and they’re trying to do stuff in social for you, I applaud all of that. But make sure when you’re looking at the strategy to inform the content production, the copy production and the journey you’re going on, please start with data. Not opinion based on a user, creating a fun TikTok for your friends that might look great, there might be some vanity impact there, but it’s not going to drive the brand needle.

And what we need to be doing is social more than ever right now is grown up media. We call it. Serious Social is why this is titled Serious Social Live. We really believe in this discipline and we really believe it’s transformational for brands. Heck we’re doing it for many brands, I’m sure some of them are watching and we’ll be able to attest to that, but it all starts with the grownup elements of having a grownup strategy built on grown up data, not the biased, either consciously or subconsciously influenced of a social media user. That’s very different. So, I’m hoping that’s inspired a lot of you to all want to go and learn more. And if you, you want to get into strategy or find out more and you want to hear more, drop me a line, I’ll happily share some information. I’m sure Katy watching is already thinking, oh, I’ve got a whole library I can share with you.

The merit, the purpose of this live wasn’t to make you all feel bad about what you were doing is to open your eyes to what you should be doing to better impact your content production this year and your copy production.

If anyone’s struggling and they want some advice, drop me a line. COVID is causing so much pain around the world right now. And believe me, when I say I know that more than ever, I’ve lost relatives to COVID. I’ve got family hospitalised, as I said, and I’ve tragically lost people to suicide, and yet I’m still able to put a smile on my face because I’ve got great people around me. If you’re struggling or having a tough time at the moment and want some help with your social direction, drop me a line. And I will happily, happily, invest in time to help you improve. In return, when you go and smash it and you get all the successes, come and tell me about it, it’s good to spread some positivity around.

Thank you, Alexandra for that, that note, that, that means a lot, but the sharing of impromptu happiness and a point to a note here. I’m sure Lauren’s is watching, on a particularly dark day. Unprompted. I received a note and a bar of chocolate from Laurens. It puts such a smile on my face, so let’s go and spread a load of positivity and a load of help. And that starts with me helping you with your social direction. So do drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.

That’s it. Next week, I think Belle Lawrence will be back doing a Serious Social live. Then in a few weeks’ time, we’ve got some of the other team stepping in to do some of the Serious Social Lives, as well. As you start to see more of the team, which is really exciting means you get to see less of me as well, which is always a good thing!

Any questions? Drop us a line. And what happened to address them for you but do go and look at all the historic lives and podcasts have been out for the last year. There is so much information there and it should, should be a great starting point for anyone wanting to excel this year.

Have fun, take care, see you soon.

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

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