Making Social Media Work For Business.
Last week we spoke with three social media experts about the challenges of working in a corner of the digital world created for interaction between friends and acquaintances but seized upon by commercial organisations. In Part Two of this Creative Recruiters Interview Series we ask about the ‘rules’ for success (and whether any really exist), how to measure that success and whether social media is right for every outfit.
If you haven't read Part 1 you can catch it here...
Social media seems to be a professional discipline that shifts constantly, and that’s only natural given that Facebook (the first of the “big networks” to be created) is only 13 years old, and serious efforts to make it work as a platform for generating customers or commercial engagement are much ‘younger’ still.
Nonetheless, I was still interested to find out whether there were tried and true rules developing. Even in a field known for its moving goalposts, I wanted to know whether our experts think there are guidelines here today that might still be around in 10 or 20 years.
For Frederique Bros nothing is certain, and today’s rulebook almost certainly won’t have any of the same pages as the one social media managers flick through in 2030.
“The digital world moves so quickly,” she says. “Who knows where we will be in 10 or 20 years.”
Paul Rhodes believes there are two main important principles that will stand the test of time. The first is all about language.
“The tone of voice [should] always be reflective of the brand, the personality and values of the brand.
“If a brand is not talking directly about the product offer itself – which is mostly the case, because you can’t bang on about the product in social – then the brand needs to build extrinsic and emotional attributes of the brand through content.”
The other tenet that he thinks companies need to follow now and into the future relates to what he calls a “creating a value exchange with the consumer”, which we covered in last week’s article. It’s a philosophy of giving the person seeing the post, reading the tweet or viewing the image something more than just a throwaway moment.
Samantha Puma agrees and says that good use of social media will always be about quality over quantity.
“Despite this rule of thumb being tested in the last two to three years, due to continual algorithm changes and new social media platforms emerging daily, I think quality content will always win over quantity.
“You see a lot of brands attempting to ‘trick’ an algorithm by posting fluff three or four times a day. But in the long term their results are hollow.”
Puma says that if a campaign or a post is “all for a bunch of likes” it may not be worth it. The better question than “Did my post get likes?” is “Did the post likes lead to a result I was after?”
“You’re always going to do well if you’re constantly asking ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ‘What’s in it for the consumer?’ People can become obsessed with vanity metrics such as shares or likes, but sometimes you’re better off focusing on what happens after the click.”
This brings us to the ways in which companies measure the success of their efforts in the discipline, a process that you might think would be made easier by social media with its likes, favourites, shares and ready accumulation of stats and graphs. But is calculating whether a social media post or campaign has achieved its objective or not really as simple as it might first seem?
“I do wonder about it being easy,” says Rhodes.
“Sure you can look at engagements and sharing levels to get an idea of what content is working. However the ultimate measure of brand communication is measured by message takeout.
"... You have to be really clear about the job you want social media to do..."
“Is 1000 video views in Facebook as effective as a thousand views on a TV screen? Maybe. Possibly not. Social will gain greater traction in a business when it can be compared and benchmarked against other, traditional channels for return on investment.”
Puma says it all comes down to an organisation’s goals.
“You have to be really clear about the job you want social media to do. It can wear lots and lots of different hats. Ideally, you should have one, maybe two objectives and make sure your efforts revolve around those’.
“If your goal is get people through to your website then, really, your focus isn’t directly on what happens within the social media channel – you may be better off focusing on Google Analytics and not quite so much on engagement. However, if your goal is awareness or engagement, metrics within the platform become more important.”
She says there is no such thing as “bad metrics” but that a good social media manager will be able to sort the primary metrics from the secondary or marginally relevant statistics. What those are depends on what you set out to achieve in the first place.
Bros agrees that the role of the strategist is vital in separating the analytical wheat from the chaff.
“This person [your analyst] is obsessed with data and analytics and they can quickly tell you whether something you thought exciting would work, but it hasn’t.”
She believes that testing and experimenting is also important.
“The more you measure, the more you learn about your audience, and the better you communicate with them.”
"... (but) is there ever a time when a brand shouldn’t use social media...?"
Of course, communicating with an audience is the fundamental objective of social media and the ability to communicate with many people at the one time is what makes it so enticing to commercial entities. But is there ever a time when a brand shouldn’t use it? Would our experts ever recommend that an organisation refrain from setting up a social media presence or close an existing platform down?
Paul Rhodes says yes, but only in particular cases.
“I’m thinking of therapeutic goods and medical brands, for example; [using social media] becomes more difficult due to regulatory issues. Many of these brands have ‘adverse event’ reporting, which means consumer conversations must be reported to regulatory authorities within 24 hours,” Rhodes explains.
“Additionally, many of these brands cannot communicate the brand directly to consumers – they are prevented due to the medical code and the like.
“A business needs to weigh up the benefit and then ensure they have the infrastructure to deal with administration and downside risk.”
The problem of resources is one that Puma brings up, as well. There is no point, she says, setting up a social media account – on Facebook for example – if you don’t have the time or the team to dedicate to content, analysis and monitoring.
She says she doesn’t think she’d ever say no to the question of “Should I set up a social media presence for my business”, however some industries need to be better prepared than others. Not everyone wants to say nice things and ask polite questions.
“Unfortunately there are some industries that generate good will without even trying, while others – telcos, for example – can get slammed. If you’re in a high-risk industry and not willing to dedicate adequate expertise to social, it’s your funeral.”
Thanks again to Director of communications agency Channel T, Paul Rhodes; Creator and Owner of popular lifestyle and technology blog, Women Love Tech, Frederique Bros and Social Marketing Lead at Open Universities Australia, Samantha Puma for their time and insights.