Episode 34: Serious Social – Battle of the Brands

Episode 34: Serious Social – Battle of the Brands


Ep 34: Serious Social – Battle of the Brands

Over 200 brands shared their insights with us… join Belle Lawrence and Katy Howell in this episode of Serious Social, where they’ll be sharing results from our very own benchmark tool, breaking down the comparisons and helping marketers prepare for 2021.

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Full Transcript

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


BL – Hello and welcome along to this very special two for one “Serious Social” live this morning. I’m really excited to be able to release some incredibly insightful data today about what is going on in the heads of social and digital marketers. So, make yourselves comfortable, grab a cuppa, and don’t forget you can ask any questions, thoughts, challenges, anything that you’ve got into the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them throughout or at the end.

So, people are flocking to social media like never before this year, but are brands really getting the value they need from it? We created a tool to look at this and considering that most of the major platforms are over a decade old, it should be a case that this is a well-oiled machine, right? Well, our report benchmarks performance, and we asked the marketers who completed it to identify the challenges that they’re finding in delivering social that really makes an impact to the business. The report was completed by over 240 brands. So, today we’re going to take a look at where the companies are really winning the battle to prove a return on their social. And joining me is our CEO, Katy Howell, an all-around super woman who led the charge in ensuring that this report had really robust insights. So we can all plan for 2021. Hi, Katie.

KH – Hi. And thanks, Belle, yup, this report is really dear to my heart. 16 years of social media marketing. And I want to see if brands are able to clearly see business value from their efforts. We’re looking beyond the obvious ROI question to digging into paid media, resourcing and content to get granular with where we are and what the challenges are likely to be in the year ahead. Oh, and you’ll be able to download the report today. I’ll pop the link in comments. It’s worth a look to compare your own performance, but it’s also a way to consider your planning for next year. It will certainly help you define some of your KPIs that you should be aiming for. You can’t quite prove value otherwise, can you?

BL – No, exactly, because I think if we start with the biggest of the KPIs, which is ROI, the report has found that 88% of brands are unable to demonstrate ROI from their social media. Oof, but while that makes a great headline, I’m not sure it’s as negative as it first appears, because we know not all campaigns are going to be about driving direct revenue, and ROI can be quite a binary metric. So, many campaigns are going to be more interested in building trust or gaining brand awareness, perhaps even launching new products and services. And all of those are also key propositions to business. It’s not all about ROI, but the ROI does raise a question, raises some planning challenges for people, I think, because if we dig deeper into the data that we found, only just over a third of brands are linking their social goals to those of the business. And really, we should be considering that value led goals should be included in part of the planning from the outset. That will make it so much easier to prove the outcomes. And if you’re not doing that as a marketer, as we’ve seen in the report, it’s much harder to be confident in achieving objectives. And you might be surprised, or you might not be surprised to hear that one in three marketers actually cite a lack of confidence in achieving their objectives, which is awful. No one wants to feel like that. So, one opportunity maybe for 2021 is to set some more rigour around the goals, established core performance metrics, give more certainty to the outcome so that they will benefit the business. So, if marketers are not feeling too confident, maybe there’s some other more positive news that you’ve got in the report for us, Katy?

KH – Yes, there is. The good news is 69% of marketers said that social media was important and integrated into the wider marketing mix and planning. Hallelujah, a positive step from previous years, where most brands considered social to be this afterthought, somewhere to put their TV advertising. One in five still only consider social after a marketing campaign is in place, but the numbers are down and there is a greater received wisdom that integrated planning is better at delivering success. And from my perspective, that is certainly true because social is the oil in the engine, it kind of leaks into all the other channels in the marketing mix. The more integrated it is, the better it performs. Whilst tying goals to business outcomes is a stretch, when setting objectives, it’s clear marketeers are also understanding the channels better. Over 50% say their leading objective is brand awareness, with 20%, mostly in B2B, leading with an objective of lead generation. Social is a terrific vehicle for reach, sure you can target the very niche, but the real smarts come in reaching wide audiences with content that resonates and is relevant.

BL – Absolutely, and on that note, I think it seems from the report that there’s better understanding of how to be relevant, knowing our customer’s passions and interests and pain points, because it was brilliant to see over 90% of brands are using social to connect to their audience in that way. That’s great, but being aware of what’s relevant is one thing, but creating content is probably the other thing. So, we asked marketers what their biggest contact challenge is. And over a third said that it was creating engaging content, and over a quarter said that creating enough quality content was a problem. And I think you’ll agree, this makes sense to us. We’ve seen this before, because marketing is craft. Social media is super noisy, so maybe it’s worth reminding ourselves and everyone out there that it’s not just about quantity. It’s about quality, taking time to create content that’s really engaging, that’s interesting, and crafting the copy alongside it, that will really have an impact. One of the things I think we saw, it’s interesting that B2B marketers seem to be the most challenged when it comes to creating quality content. Maybe that sector has got so used to sort of the speed of publishing on social, and maybe the pressure of being reactive to news and trends that they feel obliged to produce masses of masses of creative. And instead, should be may be slowing it down a bit, investing more time. So, that could be a key thing for the remaining weeks of this year is to plan in that extra time, and perhaps look at building a brand wheel, look at your message hierarchy and what your content tells is going to be for next year, and having then a greater focus on entertaining, fun, insightful content that drives an action. But that all takes a lot of investment, doesn’t it?

KH – It does, and that was the next set of questions we asked brands. If content is a challenge, then the first port of call is who do you have on your team to help? Disappointing, 45% of brands say they only have one person or little specialism across their social media resource. The broad range of skill sets are missing from the resource. Based on that response, it’s not a surprise that there is a bit more of a challenge because you need a raft of expertise, from marketing strategy and brand nous, to pay performance talent, and analytical smarts, through to creativity that taps into the zeitgeist. I can tell you, it’s hard to find all that in one person. I’ll be really honest with you. It’s like a unicorn to find someone who can do all of those things. Doers are not strategists and number crunchers are not creative. So, doers are not strategists, number crunchers are not creative. What we do find is there is still about just under 50% of us who are specialising within departments and across agencies, creating hybrid teams could operate as experts. More importantly, social media is not a homogenous channel to market. Facebook is not like Insta, and Insta is not like Twitter. Behaviours, demographics, psychographics, and geographies vary widely across the platforms. It takes more effort and resource to tailor content for each network. Around 70% of brands tailor some or all of their content. And around 30% need to make it a priority next year, if they want impact. Social is always evolving and changing. If it isn’t an algorithm update or a new format, then it’s a whole new channel surging into dominance. Very few had heard of Tik Tok until the pandemic. You need a team of specialists if you want to reach your customers. And that should be firmly on your agenda for 2021 planning.

BL – Absolutely, so we definitely need specialists, but along with specialists, I think I’d say that paid social should also be a big feature for next year. So, given that 54.5% of marketers on our report say that their leading objective is brand awareness. It is a shocker that so few are investing budget in paid. 43% of brands spend under 10% of their marketing budget on paid, which seems kind of crazy to me, and B2B marketers spend the least, which is kind of surprising given the opportunity they have to target precisely and be specific with their content and drive lead generation. I must say, we have seen this anecdotally as well. So, the thing is half the population are on social. And I wonder if some of our viewers would agree with this, that perhaps there are also some other forms of media, which are currently and may continue in the future, they’re challenged now to actually reach consumers. And paid is more than just an opportunity to target. We know it’s an opportunity to give you great reach, and reach to the audience you want, that you’re looking for, not just the audience that you have. So, a recommendation for 2021 plans is that there’s certainly investments that need to be made if business value is going to be delivered. But Katy, I’m pretty sure that you’d say it’s not just about crunching the numbers, splashing the cash and hiring extra head count.

KH – No, there’s a really significant part to this that we didn’t go into too much detail on the benchmark report, but without a doubt, it’s about being brave. With so much happening on social, you need to consider how to grab attention. One way is to innovate. One in five brands plan to live stream. No surprise, as video and live streaming are rocking when it comes to content. 16% believe there’s a benefit to AR, augmented reality. I absolutely love this, I always talk about this, sorry.

BL – It’s true.

KH – Next year it will grow and grow because I just love the idea that in this world, where we’re kind of stuck on screens, that we can take our screens outside and bring reality into with a little bit more digital, I feel like that has so much potential. Anyway, I won’t rant on about it. Just over 15% plan to use a Facebook shop or a shoppable ad. That’s really interesting, so there’s a commercial bent. And I think the platforms are desperately trying to push this. And yesterday, court three results were kind of intimated from Facebook, showing quite a significant jump in revenues, which I think is coming from these pushed commerce. But I’ll look at the data today. Maybe share that in a couple of weeks.

BL – Brilliant

KH – It seems for some, yeah, it is, it seems for some, pushing the boundaries of social is a key part of gaining attention and being memorable.

BL – Memorable, that is such a big thing to remember, get the quote there. Well, that was a lot to take in. I’m going to pop the link up to the report now, just for everyone to have a look at at the end of this session, but we’ll also put it in the comments in the notes. And if you didn’t grab this URL, then just get in contact. There’s definitely a lot to take in, but it seems to me that while there’s loads to do, I think that means that there’s also a lot that can be done in the coming weeks to prepare for 2021. And for the viewers listening, I’d say have confidence, work on all your incremental improvements and you’ll always find a way to stand out and discover more about your audience and connect with them on social. It can take loads of time. We know that from experience, but honestly, it will be worth it in the end, and you know where to come if you need extra help, We’re always on hand.

As ever, thank you for tuning in and you can DM us if you want any more advice on social, you want to get hold of us on pretty much any social media platform, and you can check out all of our previous “Serious Social” videos as on YouTube, I think, Facebook or as a podcast. And I think that’s it for today. Anything to add, Katy?

KH – No, but if you do look at Tik Tok to find us, we are there, we’re there, except I think I’m in a T-Rex outfit.

BL – That’s right.

KH – So, if you fancy seeing me in a T-Rex outfit, I’m there.

BL- A bit of fun for Friday. Okay, well, we will sign off. Thank you so much for joining us and see you next time.


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.