Recently I have spent some times working on Ferring’s social media presence with the incredible team led by Bhavin Vaid at the Headquarter in St-Prex. I also spent my entire vacations getting lost into Tiktok… That was not as smart as I felt older instantly.
But remember: the new format of communications is set by these platforms… Who would have guessed stories would be so popular 10 years ago…
Scaling the footprint of a company goes of course by sharing best practices but knowing what to avoid is better.
Here is an extract of these discussions with some of my folks along the year leading the path on how, as a team, we could manage social media better for our audiences.
1. Not having a social media strategy or plan
Social media is used by billions of people so it gives a huge opportunity to reach and engage your audiences. Yet, we still see irregular updates to social media pages, low customer service and poor quality of content all around. Knowing why we want to share and what should be the value-added of these presences for a company is critical. Let’s dive-in a second.
Why is this still the case?
There are many potential reasons, but one is that there are too many opportunities. There are so many platforms and ways to interact (that evolve rapidly), that it can be completely overwhelming. It’s so easy to get started with social media, that it may seem that devising a social media strategy without a template to follow is not necessary or too daunting.
It can be much more tempting to ‘just get it out there’ without thinking. By doing that though, you have no way of knowing if the content is relevant and engaging, or if it’s done the job you intended it to.
So where to start?
Social networks should be part of an integrated multichannel brand strategy.
First: Create a social media marketing plan
You should start by creating a list of tasks that follows a structure you could replicate, scale and sustain. Here I am not recommending any methodologies or tool as you could just take a piece of paper and get started with it but if you ask me, we are using Trello at the moment.
Using this as an approach, your planning document should include:
An assessment of the current situation (both internally e.g. team capacity to manage SM channels, and externally such as competition, target audience etc.). I truly recommend having done a social media listening before as it does help get a helicopter view.
: A list of SMART objectives to be achieved. Ask yourself what do you need to achieve and how running this initiative will solve your company group objectives or your brand must-win-battles.
A plan of how to get there based on insights about the audiences you are targeting and the content formats and types to engage your audience and hit your targets. Drafting a strategy means you can see the outcomes and slice the steps to go there safely. Yes, risks are there so you need to mitigate them at this level. Don’t forget the boundaries of the web are languages and not countries. Keep that in mind when the strategy would be localised.
: Which networks to use, how often to share content, who will be responsible, what content to share etc… For some, this is the fun part but this is also where you have to prepare the field for scalability. Going from 1K to 1M users in a community would use different tactics and resources. Are you keeping this internally or externally?
: Deliverables (what’s in and out of scope). At that stage, you need to be clear on what is asked to be done by your resources. This could be job descriptions, project scope of work for agencies …
: A set of benchmarks and KPIs to help analyse results, as well as a means of reporting against these. Don’t forget the governance of the activity as the fast pace of running social media would means you need to keep a short sight on what’s going on.
By formulating a thorough plan that works for your business, you can ensure that social media does not sit in isolation, is sustainable, and plays an important part in your customer experience
2. Limited understanding of the audience
Without an understanding of what the preferred social media use looks like for your target audience, you can’t possibly begin to reach and engage with them effectively.
You may have a firm grasp of who your customer is and how they behave offline, but do you know how they interact on social media? And remember, whether you are involved with them or not, your customers will already be talking about your brand or product.
Which brands do they follow? How do they interact with content? Which types of content elicit an action? Which social networks do they use most? When are they online? What are they talking about and sharing?
These are just a few questions brands should really know before you can hope for significant engagement. Without any knowledge of this, you may not even be concentrating on the right social network that your customer is using!
: Conduct audience research and social media listening
Use the social media monitoring tools to understand the type of conversation, the environments, the tone of brand mentions, powerful influencers, and allow you to proactively lead and direct dialogue. Without a consistent method of listening, your brand could miss out on potential opportunities that your competitors spot.
What should you do?
Use third-party tools to monitor how your audience really uses social media, the types of conversations they are having about your brand and topics of interest, where they are having them, and what you can learn from your competitors.
- Where most engagement comes from e.g. which platform
- Brand mentions (including product names) to see what people are saying about you
- Campaign or related hashtags
- Sentiment – are you being mentioned positively or negatively?
- Alerts or news of relevance – engage with it to show authority on an issue
- Your advocates and possible influencers
- What your competitors are sharing and how engaging it is
3. No content strategy or schedule
Social media is an activity that can be started from day 1 without any kind of planning, and really, anything can be shared out to an audience. What usually happens with this approach though is that the substance of what is being shared becomes weak, or important events are overlooked.
Why would someone continue to follow your brand when you are not giving them a reason to?
To see real success from your social media efforts, I advise that you build a sufficiently detailed content calendar explaining the type of content that your brand wants to share, whether it needs to be created or already exists, dates to be planned/avoided, and how, where and when it’ll be distributed. The idea is that whatever you share builds awareness, familiarity, action intent as part of customer lifecycle marketing strategy.
Create a document to help you to plan great content for your social media audience including content creation, curation, and an editorial calendar.
Your content marketing plan should answer the following questions:
- What types of content do you intend to post/promote on social media?
- How often you will post updates?
- What is the target audience for each type of content?
- Does the content already exist?
- Who will create the content if it is new?
- How will you promote it?
Once you have answered the questions above, your editorial calendar should include dates and times you intend to publish Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts and blogs that you plan to use during your social media campaigns.
By the way, if you want to download an example of a great calendar, just check this starter pack from Linkedin.
4. Insufficient dedicated resources
In-keeping with the last point, whilst forming your content plan, deciding who will be responsible for the channel is a key piece of the puzzle.
Without a dedicated person (or team if you are lucky), social media can bump down the list of priorities over time meaning that updates can become infrequent or non-existent. We have seen this mistake many times and are sure you have too.
If resources are limited you may also find these problems:
- Keeping each social presence up to date with content relevant to its audience can become impossible so content is shared with a broad-brush approach
- Social profiles go days, weeks, months and even years without an engaging update (that your competitors may be taking advantage of)
- Profiles lose the tone of voice and consistency
- Updates lack purpose
- Whether you’ve decided to really go for it, use it as a customer service channel, or just want to take social media more seriously, plan appropriate resource for it.
While there are options to put in place when you don’t have enough dedicated resource, such as bots, they aren’t sure-fire ways of delivering your social media strategy or maintaining brand reputation.
So what do you need to do?
Allocate a person(s) to take responsibility for planning and managing your social media strategy – if you don’t have the in-house expertise, look to outsource
- Give them clear priorities
- Give them time to do it (on top of their existing workloads)
- Give them the tools to save time e.g. Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts, IFTTT recipes to trigger actions based on events, Google Analytics dashboards etc.
- Agree on processes for planning, approval and publishing
How to find and create social media graphics
Great visuals are essential on social media, but they don’t take as much resource as you may think. Here I recommend Canva, Easil, PlaceIt, Lumen and Icons8 to find great starter pack. If you are adventurous, you can also go on Envato and Upwork to get some freelancers and paid resources.
5. No business reporting metrics
Without the correct KPIs and reporting metrics in place, there is no way of really understanding if you are concentrating your efforts in the right places. You won’t be able to say what, when or why a piece of content encouraged more engagement than another, and you probably won’t be able to compare it to past or future activity. Worst of all, you won’t know the commercial impact of your social media activity – how does social media impact leads or sales?
Yes even in healthcare you could connect your marketing channels to really understand the behaviour change of your prescribers towards a brand. It is up to you to map out the funnel.
So in short, you’ll have absolutely no idea how well your social media activities are working.
You may also be focusing on the wrong metrics such as pursuing ‘likes’ or ‘follower’ numbers, rather than engagement. Growing your numbers can be tempting, but if they are the wrong people for your target audience (through poor targeting), or being ignored once they are there (seeing no posts from you), there is little point.
Time is precious for everyone though, and piling through endless reports or data, won’t be effective.
: Devise an effective social media dashboard
Create a quick to complete and easy-to-use dashboard report that captures and reports the impact of your social media marketing campaigns. Focus on less, more insightful metrics than trying to monitor too much.
So what should you do?
On a daily basis, check the in-built insights reports for each platform – monitor daily fluctuations to be able to spot a change quickly and react e.g. a sudden spike in brand mentions or engagement on a particular post
On a weekly basis, as well as keeping an eye on your follower numbers, look at what is happening as a result e.g. referrals from social to your website, time on page/visit depth, sales, goal conversion etc.
On a monthly basis, compare performance month on month, compare periods to the prior year, look at KPIs affecting acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention.
Using this insight will allow you to plan content that encourages further engagement.
We use PowerBI but you could also use Google Data Studio. Better adopt something simple first and then scale the complexity with the value brought by the insights.
6. No customer service
All too often, brands have great planned content with a dedicated resource, but forget that the key to engagement is a conversation – even brands you’d just assume had it down.
Answering and responding to comments is a massive part of the job. This is where you can actually interact on a 1-2-1 level with a customer, whether it’s helping with a pre-sales query, troubleshooting with a product question, responding to a complaint, or helping with an after-sales query. This highlights the need for dedicated resource even more.
Social media as an extension of your customer service and as mentioned earlier in this guide can touch every aspect of the customer lifecycle marketing strategy.
: Give something back
Answer each and every comment, message or brand mention that is received, and offer something over and above a standard ‘auto-response’.
So what should I do?
Always questions or queries – even if negative
Don’t EVER ignore a negative comment!
Monitor brand and hashtag mentions (and misspells) regularly -most people get the handles wrong and you may never know about a mention
Reshare, retweet, repin or repost content if mentions are positive e.g. blog reviews
Providing useful content to help your followers based on FAQs
Where relevant share other people’s content (particularly from influencers)
Offer help in conversations where they can lend a hand
Recommended resource: build a response grid with an escalation process. You could use one of my favourite tool which is a risk matrix:
Connect it to your KPIs dashboard, tag the messages in various colours and weight them according to the following criterion:
Now, no more excuses: you can track worldwide all languages and make sure your tool is configured to bring templated answers, approved by your various stakeholders.
7. Badly managed PR disasters
Whether you like it or not, once a piece of content, offers or news story is in the wider environment, people will take to social media to talk about it. Unfortunately, even if it’s a good piece of news, it won’t always be fed back on positively. Jumping on angry bandwagons is also something that society seems to fuel periodically.
Social media is another communication method that can be used by brands to help with situations e.g. to offer information or to allay fears around an issue. However, it can also be the cause of PR disasters, such as sharing a post that features an incorrect image or reinforces negative stereotypes.
: Include social media guidelines
Ensure your social media strategy includes a policy of how to prevent but also mitigate PR mistakes if any harmful messages are broadcasted.
So what should you do?
Tackle problems head-on – never ignore comments, always answer them with a polite response, and do it as quickly as you can
NEVER argue – use social media to suppress anger and diffuse situations; offer a response but also direct communication offline e.g. to an email address, private messaging platform or call centre
Don’t delete posts – you can ‘hide’ them if they are offensive, but never remove comments
Plan for escalation – in the event of a more major disaster, have an agreed route to escalate it to inform social media managers of the right people to reach out to for advice
Assign responsibility – prevent mistakes by assigning one person to post updates, and employ an approval process to check the content plan
Offer guidelines – recommended content and provide content where possible to control what it sent out
Monitor brand reputation – check that your customers are not discussing your brand without directly mentioning you;
Recommended resource: external agencies and consultants to help you draft these materials. We use also InTeach and Cornerstone to distribute the materials.
8. No advertising strategy for a sponsored activity
Not all brands feel the need to use social media advertising, and for smaller businesses perhaps budgets will stretch to sponsored posts. If there is money in the pot though, like any form of advertising however, the investment can lead to greater growth of brand awareness (if done properly). IT IS NOT CHEAP though. I can’t stress that enough. The myth of having a calendar of cats going around the web for free is a unicorn.
Social media advertising offers great targeting and profiling opportunities for brands to really reach a very specific audience including remarketing and ‘look-a-like’ segments. Commonly though, brands set up advertising and let it run without tweaking and optimising creative.
It’s important to remember therefore that sponsored activity does not replace the effort you need to put into the management of your social media profiles, and that poorly managed advertising strategy will also not contribute as efficiently.
: Create a diversified, paid social media plan
Relevant to the most appropriate social networks being used devise a plan to manage goals, segments, creative and spend.
What should you do?
Decide upon the right network to use for sponsored advertising – if budgets are small, try to not spread yourself too thinly
Likewise, be realistic about your budgets – ensure you are getting a good ROI for any spend and then test for at least 3 months before locking your KPIs
Decide what your goals are compared to your funnel – this may also help you to decide upon a network. Are you looking for conversions or awareness? Both?
Don’t forget about ads – don’t let them go out of date e.g. special offers, pricing changes, out of stock products etc. You have to also be mindful of formats especially videos
Report on your creative – use insights to assess if the targeting and creatives are working and direct future ads
Recommended resource: Platforms themselves and media buy agencies. I always used a spreadsheet at the end of the day to map out my funnel in the future but the help of a strong agency would bring accurately estimates
9. Each platform is treated the same
A common mistake a lot of businesses make is in treating each network the same, and assuming that the users also behave similarly.
People usually actively engage with one or two social networks usually multiple times daily and use others less frequently. They pick their ‘favourite’ based on how comfortable they feel within the environment (the user experience), connections they have (friends or contacts), and the purpose for which they are using the network (socially or professionally).
When it comes to how brands use social media however, there tends to be a hierarchy of importance based on size and potential reach – particularly in B2C. Facebook tends to take the lion’s share of interest, which is hardly surprising given that it has 2.27 billion monthly users, but for some, it may not be their best opportunity.
Quite often though, content is planned for Facebook and just ‘shared out’ to the other networks without much consideration of whether it is engaging to those audiences, or if they are even there. The same could be said for B2B messages on LinkedIn that are broadcasted to more consumer-centric networks.
For example, you may have an actively engaged brand page in the UK, but in another country, perhaps Twitter has a better community to interact with. Age is also a factor with which identifying which could be the most effective for your brand.
: Plan social content relevant to the environment
As part of your content schedule and planner, create posts that are specifically relevant to each network depending on the message, purpose and priority.
What should I do?
Never share blindly – craft posts independently so that no characters are lost or links or images displayed incorrectly due to limitations of each network
Identify your communities in their own environments – look at what they are sharing or with whom they are interacting, and tap into that specifically rather than blankly pushing out a message intended for another audience. Remember that this info can be found in the listening part
Pick your social networks of priority according to your data and objectives – don’t just copy what another brand is doing out of fear
10. No integration with other channels
Once upon a time, it took a while for brands to realise where social media should sit as part of the marketing mix. At that point, it sat on the periphery of teams and no one was really sure how and by who it should be handled. These days, social media is more widely recognised to be integral to marketing, customer service and corporate communications.
That said, a lot of brands still fail to integrate social channels with other communications channels, paying little attention to the role it plays in the wider customer lifecycle marketing strategy.
Social media can also play a part in later phases, such as repeat purchase remarketing, community engagement post-sale, gaining feedback, and customer service.
In fact, research has found that consumers believe that social media has increased the accountability of brands by 81%. This has led to almost half (46%) of people using a social media platform to complain to a brand. These complaints offer brands a good opportunity to provide customer service that could influence future purchases, especially as 35% of respondents said they would boycott a brand that ignored their complaint.
However, it is worth noting that 50% of consumers said they would boycott a brand if they received an unhelpful response, showing that the way you engage with people on social media can have a bigger negative effect than ignoring them.
: Consider social as part of the whole journey
Whilst creating your social media strategy think about how your platforms play a part to support other parts of the customer journey.
What should you do?
Ensure social media does not sit in isolation:
Consider the touchpoints that social media has on your customer’s interactive journey (from promotional content, presales questions, to post-sales troubleshooting or advocacy)
Adapt your communications or contact strategy to integrate these into the full range of marketing communications channels to support prospects and customers on this journey
Social media is ever-changing. Be it new platforms like Tiktok, different consumption habits or varied forms of communication, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are always coming up with innovative features or affordances that add different dimensions to the platforms. Stay ahead of the curve by testing yourself as a user and listen to your environment and perhaps you’d be at the forefront of the biggest social media trends in 2020.