Your social strategy may have suited the brand for years.
Or you may not have a discrete strategy, having seen your social presence grow organically, adding platforms and content strands to meet the perceived needs of your audiences at any given point in time. And to the workload of your comms teams!
But there are a multitude of potential warning signs that a strategy that’s worked for years is past its best before date, and is in need of a refresh –to meet the needs of your audiences, to cope with changes the networks have made, and to align with the reality of the resources you have available.
In many ways, a social strategy refresh is a vital piece of strategic review, given the connection your audiences have with the brand via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the rest, as well as the time you invest in content, channel & community management and analytics.
So let’s go: here are some of the symptoms that you might have lost your way with your social media. These are the common things we’ve noticed when auditing clients as part of the process of a strategic review. We’d be interested to read if you’ve experienced any more.
- Competitive challenges – share of voice, engagement levels, and sentiment levels vs the competition can all provide indicators of whether you’re performing as you should expect in your market on social.
- Same company, different voice – particularly for global businesses, but also in a shared community management function in a single market, you can find a disparate range of voices present from the corporate social handles at different times of day. This can be… discombobulating.
- Channel proliferation – every new channel needs real, active engagement. Does every subsidiary have a set of channels? Have you done the global roll up on your Facebook market pages? Have you managed the transition for acquired companies on LinkedIn? Did you plan your migration when you retired old/unwanted handles?
- Different channels, same content – people expect different content on different channels. If you have a Youtube-six minute feature running on Insta, you’ll lose people. If you’ve got a square-aspect video from Insta running on Youtube, people will be confused. If you’ve got a Tweet length update on LinkedIn, you may be wasting an opportunity for engagement. If you aren’t using the right aspect ratio or size of image, you might lose out on engagement too.
- Paid – given the increasingly terrible reach of organic content across most platforms (less so LinkedIn), paid amplification is critical to just reach your already engaged audience, much moreso new ones. But poorly targeted paid is a waste of money. Indeed, any paid campaign can lead to an influx of fake followers, and as such paid campaigns need live monitoring and optimisation. Is there evidence of a strategy behind your paid spend? Have you reviewed your audience targeting in partnership with the business insights or sales team?
- Employee advocacy strategy missing? – employees are one of your most vital tools in amplifying your social stories to key audiences. They often have the right network and the right voice to share your content. But we have heard of people who “don’t want to damage their online brand” by sharing corporate content, who lack confidence in what or how to share corporate content, or who simply don’t see it or think to do it. These are natural concerns– but an organisational strategy, complete with employee advocacy platform, can help you harness the best willing evangelists that you do have.
- No exec comms presence –We’ve taken plenty of CEOs from social cynics to social champions. Whilst not every executive can or should be a social advocate, in many cases a select few absolutely should, in line with a broader employee social advocacy strategy.
- Fractured content strategy – your content strategy needs to align with your broader brand narrative and be consistent with the audiences you have available to you via your social networks. There’s probably limited value in promoting content that addresses a policy audience on Facebook, but there might well be on Twitter or LinkedIn. There’s limited value in talking about 900 topics once each, instead of reinforcing three core topics repeatedly with repeat-sharing and adaptation of evergreen content.
- Inappropriate posting cadence – 10 untargeted posts a day on LinkedIn is generally too many. One post a day on Twitter might be too few. It’s surprising how often consideration isn’t given to how the algorithms that display organic content to your followers work rely on cadence (and targeting, to a degree, on LinkedIn) in improving engagement.
- Multilingual posts on a channel – whilst, perhaps surprisingly, more than half the planet is bilingual, the second languages don’t overlap consistently. Spanish speakers don’t always speak English as a second language. French speakers don’t always speak German. It’s simply not possible, in most situations, to expect your followers to cope with different languages on one feed, unless you live in a truly bilingual nation, where code switching or even changing dialects or languages might be more acceptable.
- Confusion between efficiency of reach and effectiveness of reach – Something we commonly see with campaigns that haven’t been structured properly is confusion between absolute reach and actual campaign effectiveness. For example, a Facebook campaign might deliver a lot of views for a brand for not a lot of spend. However, for a particular audience, with a given piece of content, it will quickly became clear – on deeper interrogation – that even with Facebook’s remarkable targeting it might not provide value – not if we’re engaging the right people at the wrong time, or the wrong people full stop. A low cost per view isn’t necessarily better than no cost/ no view at all.
- Limited community management – many channels are still broadcast for brands. Their news outlet onto the world. Learning how to shift the dynamic from monologue to dialogue isn’t just a technical shift in how we communicate, it’s a cultural one in the way the organisation is set up. In particular, if responses are made, there can be…
- Huge inconsistency in reply times – these could be due to unclear connections between community management and customer support and corporate affairs; another symptom that a brand hasn’t fully developed its social offering. In many cases, training customer support agents and activating a separate CS handle (particularly on Twitter) can be a key tactic for managing the flow of @ requests, queries and complaints. In addition, an internal response matrix for common issues can be mega-helpful in supporting teams in dealing with ‘standard’ questions, comments or complaints from the audience.
- Poor coordination of social channels between HR, comms, marketing/brand – Frequently social channel ownership is ‘shared’ across teams with different objectives, audiences, motivations and content. But to the world at large, you’re one brand – orchestrating the different streams of activity is vital.
- Social – is it additional or substitutional to the comms mix? Of course its additional, but the myth of the demise of earned media has some organisations believing that you can swap out some of the earned-media workload for social workload. Of course a) the demise of earned media has been greatly exaggerated thus far; the industry is facing headwinds but PR people have no more time than they did and b) PR people need training to support social comms; whilst the principles of good communications remain the same, the tactics and practices are very different and need to be learned.
- No feedback loop – when you review your social analytics month on month, is it an exercise in self-congratulatory vanity metrics (follower/reach growth alone), or are you abstracting learnings and insights from what’s worked and what hasn’t? A surprising number of organisations are trapped in the former. There needs to be a constructive feedback loop, from data to content to community and back again.
This list isn’t exhaustive. It doesn’t touch on influencer strategy in any substantive way (you need to read these two blogs for that), but may provide a helpful prompt when discussing the need for proper investment and review in your corporate social strategy – ideally at a global level.
Ultimately, whilst many people follow brands, brands are not their friends. An effort needs to be made to constantly engage their audiences and respond on the occasions they reciprocate. With a plethora of choice, the unfollow button is always just a click away, and teams concerned about the effectiveness of their spend should not be satisfied with growing follower numbers alone.
“Tactics without strategy is the fastest way to defeat,” said Sun Tzu. As in war, so too in marketing and social media.