More than half the world’s population (58.4%) uses social media. And, on any given day, people spend an average of two hours and 27 minutes on the platforms, according to research by Global WebIndex referenced by Smart Insights.
Given all those people and all that time, there’s no chance brands would ignore social media. And the experts presenting at Content Marketing World 2022 (mostly) agree they shouldn’t.
But, while the experts give a resounding yes to participating in social media, their explanations of how best to use these platforms speak volumes.
Explore these reasoned and nuanced approaches to social media to reinforce (or justify altering) your social media strategies.
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Build your brand
It’s important to recognize social media as the brand-building tool it is rather than regard it solely as a revenue-generating channel.
It can be both, but not recognizing the relationship-building power leads many companies to understaff and underinvest in it. That leads to tepid results, which leads to less investment, and so on. Setting KPIs appropriately and using the networks properly can help. – Jacqueline Baxter, senior digital strategist, DX, Sitecore
Social media is just a communication channel. There are no obligatory channels for any form of marketing (including content marketing). There are just channels better or worse suited to support your communication strategy. It all depends on your strategy. (Check out Apple’s social profiles!)
In content marketing, owned media are better-suited channels over social media or “rented land” because they allow for direct relationships with the audience, first-party data, and control over the communication. But still, social media – depending on the strategy – might be useful.
Strategy absence often induces the need to be everywhere to calm the fear of missing out: “I am not sure about strategy; therefore, I am not able to defend the decision of not using the channel.” If you cannot clearly answer why your brand should or should not be on a given social media, that’s most likely a strategy formulation problem. – Igor Bielobadek, digital marketing senior manager, Deloitte
If you can’t clearly answer why your brand should or should not be on a given #SocialMedia channel, that’s most likely a strategy formulation problem, says @igorbielo via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Yes, to social media for brands as long as they have the mindset of being in the market of making evangelists, not sales. But most (brands) can’t get out of their own way enough to achieve that.” – Kate Bradley Chernis, co-founder and CEO, Lately
Invest with care for B2B and B2C
Social media has much less influence on the buying decisions in B2B than people realize. It probably also has much more influence on buying decisions in consumer categories than people realize. – Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group
Join the conversations
Should brands still be involved in the daily conversation around popular culture? Ten thousand “heck yesses” and “hell yeahs,” please.
I used the term “newsjacking” in 2012 and wrote a book about it, so this topic is close to my heart. It’s important for brands to first know what’s going on. Then, they must engage with their fans in a natural way on the most appropriate channels.
I want to engage with certain brands and not others, so I get that cultural relevance’ is mission-critical. But every brand should at least have one channel where they engage in a public dialog with fans. Do it and do it well. Find out what’s working and do more of that. – Jon Burkhart, founder, TBC Global Limited
Prep a strategy and crisis plan
Brands need to have a solid social media strategy and crisis communication plan. Not all brands need to be on social media, and brands don’t need to post or comment on everything.
I see a lot of “national day” posts from brands trying to shoehorn into a trending hashtag. On International Women’s Day 2022, two women created a bot that replied to brands’ #InternationalWomensDay posts with publicly available gender pay disparity details. Many brands scrambled to react to the bot, causing more damage.
Posts need to align with the brand, not with what’s trending. – Penny Gralewski, senior director, product and portfolio marketing, DataRobot
Choose the right ones
It’s essential to partner with the right social media networks for the right reasons to reach the right audiences. – Michael Bordieri, senior content solutions consultant, LinkedIn
Create brand connections
Individuals regularly change companies (as they change jobs), which impacts the content they create and post. When the audience is connected to the brand, they are more likely to stay connected when the person behind the keyboard changes. – Ruth Carter, evil genius, Geek Law Firm
Make it personal
The people behind the brand should undoubtedly be on social media. Social media is about building a personal relationship with the people you follow (and those who follow you). It’s almost impossible to build a relationship with a brand.
So, should brands be on social media? Only if you treat the brand’s social channel like a receptionist that points you to the right people behind the brand.” – Andrew Davis, author and keynote speaker, Monumental Shift
Be seen (strategically)
An absence on social media is noticeably suspicious. Brands should be strategic about where and how they engage. Social media is still a top channel to build and strengthen a community. – Jacquie Chakirelis, chief digital strategy officer, Quest Digital/ Great Lakes Publishing
Brands should absolutely be on social media from a listing standpoint. If someone is searching for your brand on social media, you want to appear legitimate by having your business data up to date. – Jane Marie Barnes, account manager, GPO
Do it for search
While I’m no social media pro, I view social media as important for two reasons: Google and links. From an organic search perspective, a brand’s social media posts still show up in traditional search results. Google crawls those sites like it does any other. Link to your blog and other on-site content from your social media accounts to increase the number of backlinks (one of Google’s many ranking factors). – Haley Collins, director of operations and content, GPO
Consider the platform
You can’t lump all the platforms together and call it social media. Each platform has its own intricacies, algorithm, and audience. Look at what you’re trying to achieve, where the audience you want hangs out, and then reach them in a way they want to be reached. A Twitter ad on TikTok ain’t gonna work at all. – Meg Coffey, managing director, Coffey & Tea
Tailor to the channel
Social media is important as long as the posts align with the purpose, voice, and audience of the individual channels. Too often, brands post the same content on LinkedIn as they do on Instagram. And the formal, business-like text appropriate for the former has all the appeal of someone’s parent descending the stairs to the basement rec room to join in the fun on the latter. – Diane di Costanzo, chief content officer, Foundry 360, Dotdash Meredith
Create separate strategies
Focus on the platforms where your audience is – it’s not about being everywhere. Create content that respects each platform individually. There is no such thing as a catch-all social media strategy anymore. You need a TikTok strategy, a Twitter strategy, a Facebook strategy, and so on. – Amy Woods, founder and CEO, Content 10x
Be where your buyers are
Your social media strategy should follow your buyer. For B2B technical companies, research shows YouTube, LinkedIn, and GitHub are go-to sources for information on technology trends, how-to information, and networking. At the same time, few engineers and technical buyers look to Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit for information.
As social channels continue to morph, marketers should stay on top of buyer behavior and constantly evaluate performance. – Wendy Covey, CEO and co-founder, TREW Marketing
Appreciate this caveat
Nearly all brands should be on social media, but only if they can effectively maintain their presence at a level that’s agreed on throughout the organization. For some, it’s a placeholder; for others, it is a constant aggressive campaign and community management vehicle. Starting the latter but not maintaining it is the main thing to avoid. – Jeff Coyle, co-founder, CSO, MarketMuse
Brands must be authentic, human, emotional, and even vulnerable. Social media is a great way to humanize your brand and engage in a two-way dialogue that builds trust and relationships.
Social media is also an essential communication channel for brands championing the social issues they care about, contributing to a dialog that improves their communities. – Mark Emond, president, Demand Spring
Brands should still be on social media, but people don’t connect with brands. They connect with stories and with people. The brand must tell stories that resonate, not just focus on their products. – Tim Schmoyer, founder/CEO, Video Creators
Be picky and think PR, too
Brands should absolutely be present and active on social media. The mistake is trying to be active on every social media platform. That can be overwhelming and unnecessary. Where is your audience spending time? Answer that question first, then make every effort to be active there. And by “active,” I don’t mean simply posting. Engage with your followers. Answer questions. Participate in discussions.
Also, if a brand wants to do a PR push, I always suggest making sure their social media presence is up to date. Reporters check that out when considering a company to include in a piece. If they find you haven’t posted or engaged in six months (or longer), that’s a signal there may not be much happening with your brand.
Also, for media relations purposes, brands should be active on Twitter. They can follow journalists and media outlets they’re interested in – and if those media outlets cover them, they can share the coverage and tag the publication and the journalist. – Michelle Garrett, consultant, Garrett Public Relations
Quality social media posts can breed loyalty and trust within your customer base. Plus, as a franchise brand, it gives local franchise owners the opportunity to localize the message for their audience. – Brittany Graff, senior director of marketing, Painting with a Twist
Publish on one, listen to all
Social media channels are still critical for a range of content marketing needs, including content distribution, community engagement, and competitive insights. However, not every brand has the resources or need to invest in every social media channel.
Focus on posting on one or two primary channels for your audience and conduct social listening across all channels to capture insights your customers share. A social media audit is a smart way to learn how you perform on any specific channel and set a strategy to achieve your goals. – Erika Heald, founder, lead consultant, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting
Do it better
I’d love to see more brands own conversations that matter, not mired in metrics of product nonsense. If you’re a company that knows people are nervous about the recession and change, talk about uncertainty and what that means. Talk about it openly, honestly, with humor.” – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human
Make it drive time
Promote your content on social media and drive viewers to the published content on your site. Also, engage directly with their consumers on social media, monitoring its channels and reacting to user questions and concerns. – Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester
Connect with customers
Having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can provide better customer service and can create a community for the audience. – Katie Tweedy, associate director of content marketing and SEO, Collective Measures
Proceed deliberately and evaluate regularly
We’ll leave this discussion with this concluding thought shared by Nancy Harhut, CCO, HBT Marketing: “If a brand once enjoyed success on social but now finds that their constituents have moved on, it may be time for the brand to do so, too.”
The takeaway from all this great advice is simple: Stay on social media if your audience falls into the 58% of the world’s population who are there.
But being there is not enough. Your brand better have a strategy that considers all the roles social media plays in your organization.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute