Each month, my team schedules dozens of conference calls with organizations of all sizes in a myriad of industries seeking consultation about our various social media management services . It always surprises these organizations when I tell them from the onset of our conversations that our social media agency turns away far more prospects than we take on as clients, including the occasional Fortune 500 company. Why do so many companies not make ImagiBrand’s client list?
While our criteria for qualifying clients is somewhat complex, the determining factor usually depends on our assessment of whether or not a prospect respects the expense of developing and executing a social content strategy. It usually is that simple. Even in this present day where every brand must have a story for online audiences, I’m continually amazed with how so few organizations understand the importance of a creative content strategy from which fans, followers and customers can continually identify with, and ultimately, fall in love with enough to feel compelled to share their content on a regular basis. Unfortunately, most brands are still in the dark ages concerning themselves with vanity metrics such as Likes and Followers which are rendered useless without an established online community built the right way with the right targeted consumers by means of content which speaks to them directly.
Therefore, when a client prospect approaches us to help them with their social presence, I always start by first obtaining a gauge of their understanding and respect for social content. If I start to sniff a sense of brand arrogance and denial about their need for creating content outside of what they already have produced for other mediums, I thank them for their time and let them know that we’re probably not the right agency for their brand. Most organizations are eliminated from our consideration solely due to their lack of respect for content customized for a social audience. In our opinion, when brands disrespect social content, they’re essentially disrespecting their audience.
While we’ve all come a long, long way with content marketing for social. Some have progressed further than others in recent years. For those that have already mastered the art of growing and selling a brand on social, the rest of this blog will seem like common-sense. As it should. Content marketing for social is certainly not rocket science. There are many organizations that are filled with some of the brightest engineers, administrators and marketers. With that being said, they’re great at what they do, but basic creative storytelling and social media for business is not always their forte, or worse, not even a priority for them.
Let’s get back to basics. Content Strategy 101. Today’s lesson, “Understanding how NOT to disrespect your audience.”
People Aren’t Checking Their Social Streams to be Sold Something
Think back to why you as an individual started your personal social media accounts. The motivations will differ greatly depending on whether you’re a Baby Boomer or a member of the X, Y or Z Generation. Regardless of your generation, did you sign up to Facebook because you desired a daily dose of advertisements from brands? Hopefully not. If you answered yes, then please start a group and recruit all the like-minded individuals you can – I have countless brand advertisements you’re all sure to enjoy!
If you’re a normal person, then you probably could do without promoted posts cluttering your social streams. I personally use social to keep tabs on the activities of my family and friends. Being a brand marketer, I welcome promoted posts from brands that are doing something edgy or different than their competition when it comes to their social content. I’m probably the exception due to my occupation, but like most, it’s easy to appreciate when a brand respects my intelligence through their content strategy – teach me something new, help me see the world through a different lens, provide me an escape from the daily grind by sharing with me a well-produced music montage or short film, introduce me to something I might find worthy of sharing with my family or friends. It’s completely okay if the content is ultimately a brand promotion. All I ask is that you respect my precious time on social. I want to be courted for a while before being asked to buy something from a brand. Making a purchase, especially from a brand new to me, is quite the commitment. It’s a sign of respect to that brand that I respect what it has to offer enough to give it my hard-earned dollars. I wouldn’t do that for a brand that doesn’t appear to respect me.
I could go on forever with this analogy, but the message is simple. Analyze your brand’s social posts for the last month. If you’re being objective, are you truly respecting your audience? Are you witnessing value or just blatant sales pitches? If you were checking your Twitter stream and fell upon any of your brand’s tweets, would you favorite or retweet any of them if you didn’t have a vested interest in the company?
Social Shares Show Love, Likes Just Show the Post was Seen
Facebook has transformed most of us into Like-obsessed creatures, doing whatever it takes to hoard as many Likes for each and every social post we make. We pretend “Likes” don’t matter. Heck, only the pathetic keep checking in on their social posts to see if their Like count is steadily growing, right? As if Likes somehow validate one’s acceptance in this world…that’s okay, we’re all guilty of being this pathetic. At the same time we developed this obsession to receive Likes, we also became trigger-happy with pressing that Like button in a very non-discriminating fashion. Show us a picture of a cute cat in our social streams – Like! Show us a cute baby in our streams – Like! Show us people having a good time – Like! Show us a picture of food on a plate – Like! Show us a picture of a random leaf on the ground – Like! Show us ANYTHING – Like! Basically, we as a collective Like-happy culture have rendered the Like nearly meaningless. Then why are we still chasing Likes?
The simple Like doesn’t mean much more than an acknowledgement that a post was seen. What about a post made by a brand page? Do tons of Likes on a post made by a brand mean that this brand has an established following and are well-loved in their respective market? It certainly can, but in more cases than not, the Likes literally mean nothing. Case in point. We’ve noticed a somewhat concerning trend when it comes to online audience’s willingness to Like a brand’s post without even taking the time to investigate what the post was actually about. A post will receive a hundred Likes with not one of these “Likers” visiting the informational page mentioned in the post or watching the video being promoted. Why in the world would someone blindly Like a post promoted by a brand they’ve never heard of or will ever take the time to understand what the brand is selling? The answer is simple. We’ve been training ourselves for years to just Like ANYTHING in front of us. In my opinion, we should all be more discriminating to what we are casually endorsing by our Like button. The simple truth is just that the social Like has basically become our lazy way of acknowledging to the ambiguous internet gods that a post was seen.
If not Likes, what should brands be chasing? Social shares. They show true endorsement of a brand. Unless you’re a serial social sharer, when was the last time you shared a brand’s Facebook post onto your personal timeline? Probably not that often. Sharing is much more personal. You are either sharing the brand’s post with your friends and family out of genuine love for the brand or the content of the brand’s post must have been compelling enough or interesting enough to warrant a social share. Any brand can promote a post on Facebook and receive a ton of Likes. Receiving social shares is a completely different story. When a brand’s posts are consistently receiving social shares, it is evidence that they’ve successfully developed a true online community which supports what the brand represents, what the brand is actually promoting and want to participate in spreading the word about the brand’s greatness!
Every brand needs to ask themselves some basic questions before proceeding to reach out to a social media agency for help or before developing an in-house social team: What is your brand’s true motivation for investing in social media? Is it simply PR and creating the perception of being just as popular and successful as others in your competitive landscape? Or is your brand motivated to develop a lead-generating community inspired by strategic social media branding , respect for customized branded content and the resulting social shares. If your brand’s motivations are the former, you’re not ready to develop a social media community. There are ample “social media companies,” “social media gurus,” or “social media mavens” out there that will be more than happy to sell you their services. Please don’t contact us. You will be added to the long list of brands we are forced to turn down. If your brand’s motivation are the latter, welcome to the real world of social media marketing.
Is your brand receiving true love? Maybe it’s time for your brand to work on its business story as part of their social content strategy.
Never Assume that People Understand Your Product or Service
Some products are naturally easier to understand than others. For the typical fashion brand, a consumer is able to discern style and utility from a simple photo. On the other hand, the average financial services brand will need much more than a photo of a well-dressed financial consultant to communicate the breadth and value of their products and services.
Case in point. The IT industry, especially the thousands of new tech startups that pop up each and every year, face the greatest educational challenge trying to market something that might seem like common sense to the engineers developing the products, but confusing to the end consumers whom may or may not buy the products (depending if they actually understand how they would use or even why they need the products). Interestingly, this industry which needs strategic brand storytelling the most, probably is the last to take the necessary strides to develop the right creative content which explains the complexity of their products in a way that’s easy for the general public to digest. Whether we’re talking about website copy, blogs or explainer videos and tutorials, the IT industry is guilty of producing some of the worst content marketing over the years. Maybe the marketers for these companies are former engineers who don’t necessarily have that talent for brand storytelling. Maybe a good majority of IT companies don’t philosophically believe in “fluffy” creative marketing enough to invest the resources in a content strategy, and instead, live and die by Kevin Costner’s mantra in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” A slight revision to that mantra might be more accurate for this industry – “If you build it, they will come, given that they understand what the heck your product has to offer them.”
Have you been assuming that your market understands your product as well as you and your company? Never assume anything. It’s not about a lack of intelligence out there. There are simply far too many brands and products selling something to every available eyeball and open ear every minute of every day throughout every channel on social media. It’s literally product chaos out there which ultimately leads to product confusion and then consumer apathy to discern the differences.
The key to overcome this educational dilemma lies in having a content marketing strategy that is dedicated to the creation of a continuous stream of product education. When I say continuous, I literally mean continuous. An effective content strategy for social is not about designing a single infographic, produce a single comprehensive product video or execute a single product photo shoot and suddenly your brand has enough to take on a year of social media engagement. Far from it. Each of your products need to develop enough ideas to execute a dozen or more product videos for each product, dozens of customized graphics which highlight various aspects of each product and/or increase engagement with your target audience and the production of hundreds of unique photos showing literal product use and those which stretch consumer imagination about each product. No one said executing a content strategy for social was going to be inexpensive. It’s an investment every brand needs to make in order to survive, especially in these saturated product markets.
How Lazy is your Content Marketing?
At one point in time, your marketing department was hopping with energy and excitement. Ambition and ideas were always circulating throughout your marketing team, much of which trickled down to the rest of your organization. The marketing team was the heartbeat of the organization. Over a period of time, this once vibrant department became a bunch of lazy data crunchers that seemingly lack imagination and creative vision. This is probably not any one person’s fault. Sometimes it’s just the unfortunate result of marketing management and employee churn. More times than not it’s just the result of a marketing team that is and has been performing the same song and dance about the organization day-in, day-out, creating the same old marketing materials for the same products and attending the same old industry events and exhibitions.
Complacency eventually creeps into every marketing department. Sometimes it can be difficult to remain passionate about recycling last year’s brochures and newsletters, promoting the same old promotional videos and using the same taglines and call-to-actions. Routine is always the killer to creativity. Your top marketers transform themselves into cubicle potatoes, disappearing from relevance within the organization, not striving for more than the status quo. If this sounds like your marketing team, I’d put money down that your social media streams reflect much of the same lack of enthusiasm. It’s easy to spot these half-hearted social posters. Weeks will go by without a single Tweet or Facebook post, and then suddenly a flurry of posts on the same day, returning back to an absence on social for weeks, sometimes even months. There’s obviously no content strategy. There’s just clear signs of social media apathy. Unfortunately for these organizations, they don’t realize how this lack of activity reflects poorly on their brand. If they are this lazy about their content marketing on social, why should they expect their target consumers to put in any effort to investigate more about their brand. If they don’t care, why should anyone else?
Wouldn’t you rather have your consumer prospects glean from social a brand personality that’s exciting, tough, sincere, sophisticated, and at the very least, competent? If you’re exhibiting a seemingly lazy content strategy, you’ll become branded as a lazy company. I don’t know too many people that seek out lazy brands to follow, let alone share with those closest to them.
Content Marketing is NOT a “One and Done” Campaign
Content marketing for social is a mindset not easily adopted by organizations used to throwing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars at a single campaign. Back when I was working in the Hollywood movie industry, there was a well-known director of brand commercials our studio was courting to direct one of our feature-length films. It was an uphill battle that we ultimately didn’t win since this director was used to being paid $1 million dollars per 30-second commercial. Yes, that’s correct. He made $1 million dollars for literally 3 weeks of work. I would certainly not recommend hiring this particular director to helm the 20 to 30 videos you’ll need for a year on social. This is an extreme example for the sake of illustrating the mindset many brands still have when it comes to creating content. For many large brands, it’s all about that one big production that not only requires huge budgets to develop and execute, but millions more to get ears and eyeballs on what is produced. It’s a culture of literally putting all your eggs in a single basket.
On social media, a brand story can never be a “one and done” campaign. If you approach your content strategy for social in that fashion, you’ll be finished before you ever begin. Each and every week must be approached as fresh campaign to tell the next chapter of a brand’s story. Every brand has a story with endless layers that should be revealed one layer at a time. The same amount of creative energy that goes into the million dollar campaign must go into your weekly social posts. Social marketing takes agility, continual collaboration and idea generation. Social media content must be developed and executed like that independent film that overcomes their lack of budget with an abundance of passion, quick wit and an open mind. Crusty, old-school marketers struggle with this concept. They’ve become accustomed to coming up with that single campaign for the year, that one gimmick that will possibly produce another one of those worthless accolades on their awards shelf. For social media, we need that marketer to come up with that one gem of an idea 50 times a year. There are not a lot of marketers that have the educational background or experience to execute at the level necessary to be a successful content marketer for social. I’m not suggesting that every marketing department needs this all-star marketer in order to reap the rewards of marketing a brand on social. In fact, this person doesn’t actually exist. This person is SEVERAL people working together to execute a brand’s social media plan.
In an ideal world, your marketing team needs the following experts in order to optimize your content marketing on social:
- A true business social media marketing strategist for ALL social channels (should have an MBA or graduate-level marketing degree). Must be up-to-date with all features, rules and algorithm changes to all social channels.
- Strong and witty copywriters that can write daily creative captions, CTAs and be engaging brand representatives, providing smart customer service at all times on all channels. Must be technically inclined to be comfortable using all the technology tools for all social channels.
- Depending on the size, scope and reach of the brand, several marketers with this specific skillset might be necessary.
- A creative storyteller that can script, shoot and edit professional brand videos. Visual effects capabilities are essential.
- A graphic designer that is quick and agile in their production process.
- A photographer that can professionally shoot/retouch both company event photos as well as traditional staged product shots and more imaginative aspirational product shots.
As you can see, social media for business is and can never be a one-person operation. Many ignorant brands somehow think social media marketing is a low-level, entry-level responsibility. They carelessly assign their social media to an assistant fresh out of college with no marketing experience, or even worse, an intern. Yikes!! If you’re one of these brands, please just continue squandering your social media opportunity, damaging your brand reputation and please don’t waste our time by reaching out to us. On the other hand, if you are intrigued by the potential of social for your organization utilizing the marketing intelligence and creative storytelling talent at ImagiBrand, we encourage you to look into our various social media services. We look forward to learning more about your company and how we can help transform your presence on social media by crafting the right content strategy.
Social is Not a Recycling Dump for Traditional Marketing Materials
Failing to understand and create content specifically for social will result in a brand struggling on social, and most likely failing in the end. A common social media faux pas is the recycling of traditional promotional content on social. For example, a company creates some graphics for their website, so they recycle that content on Twitter. They create some literature for their industry trade shows, so they post it to Facebook. They produce some videos for their website and some really expensive commercials for broadcast television, so they incorrectly assume what’s good enough for broadcast has to be more than good enough to satisfy their less-discerning social audience. BIG MISTAKE and completely ILLOGICAL. Surprisingly, many marketing departments have not educated themselves on the difference between traditional promotional content and customized social content. Unfortunately, there are more technical and creative differences than I have the time to write about here. The differences range from specific rules about the amount of text you can place on promoted content to technical and storytelling tricks to optimize likes and shares of branded videos, photos and graphics for each channel.
People on social have a very important voice that can either kill a brand’s reputation, or instead, become an integral part of growing it. It comes down to the entire theme of this blog – Are you respecting your social audience with the content you’re sending down your social streams?
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