Going back to the craft to make the magic happen in social

We’ve been honing the craft of marketing for over 100 years. Yet with the arrival of social, it seems much of what we learnt has been thrown out in favour of shiny new toys. We crave likes and engagement and followers like never before, whilst ignoring the need for the basics such as audience insight, messaging architecture, and value-based measurement.

The lack of rigour is made worse by the fact that so much of social media advice is codswallop, flimflam and snake oil that obfuscates the truth. The truth that old-fashioned marketing is still at the core of social. It is the fundamentals that you need if you want to deliver value. So, here are some tips from our latest Serious Social Live:

1. When setting out your strategy don’t start with a channel first approach. It is audiences that are your first step; then channel, then content and messaging. Sounds obvious doesn’t it but take B2B for example. The go-to channel is always LinkedIn. But that doesn’t mean your audience isn’t elsewhere. Our Tech buyers research for example shows that whilst senior customers are on LinkedIn they only visit once every couple of months. They are most active across YouTube and Facebook the rest of the time. In fact, we’ve proven that it’s these channels that can deliver outstanding performance

If you don’t start with your audience, you won’t uncover where you can really reach them. Don’t begin your whole social programme with one hand tied behind your back – it is painful to course correct later.

2. Whilst vanity metrics are useful content success indicators, the reality is that if you want a decent social budget or more resource, then you’ll need to start measuring the metrics that matter to your business. CJ calls them “sanity measures”. He is right, we should set goals and targets around messaging, reach, multichannel attribution, etc – all centred around the commercial goals for your business.

More importantly, you need to set out these KPIs at the beginning of the programme. Because you’ll need to measure more than social. You’ll need to look at cross channel uplift and digital indicators such as site visits, dwell time, bounce rates, basket size, and so on. You cannot do that if you are not measuring from the outset.

3. Before digital, planning was always a two-stream affair. Long term branding with short term activation and a drive for results. Of course, back then, CMOs stayed in a role for more than a couple of years and built their profile in Campaign and Marketing Week on the back of their programmes. But just because digital can bend, flex and turn on a pin, doesn’t mean it should. Without branding, we are not building trust or widening our reach. These are long-term activities that need time to grow and develop. You cannot build a brand in a quarter – it takes years.

The good news of course is that the long-term thinking will make your shorter campaigns perform so much better. And over time the results speak for themselves. Take a look at this fantastic talk by Mark Ritson on “Bothism” where he examples and justifies this approach. It is a great session.

4. Marketing is a craft. And in the noisy world of social media, we need to be reminded that it is about quality, not quantity. Taking time to create content, crafting copy that will have a greater impact. You cannot plan to send out a firehose of content and see what sticks. This is not marketing. It is just a waste of money.

The thing is, that back in the day we learnt these skills at work. How to write a headline for a front-page newspaper, how to craft a brand in three words for a poster, how to spark emotion with an image. From Ogilvy to Bernbach we were taught how to master our craft.

It’s frustrating then, when social gets boiled down into hacks and mistruths such as the best time to post or producing thousands of pieces of content a day. Sheesh! It is frustrating. Not just because it devalues what social can do, but because it doesn’t make a difference.

Look under the new shiny social stuff and the reality is that old-fashioned marketing is what most brands need. Strong strategy, thoughtful tactics and a focus on quality over quantity. Let’s be masters of the social craft and make that magic happen on our feeds.

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