Everything was just fine in the marketing department until company ownership became aware that the daily posts on their social media pages were receiving close to zero visibility. The company president was right to question whether or not those tasked to manage social media for the company had the right experience or knowledge. If they did have the experience, why were posts continually going out, but as far as anyone could tell, the posts were absent of any likes, comments or shares. Furthermore, how does the company show more than 30K Facebook fans but there existed no evidence of any fans engaging with their daily posts? Nothing seems to add up when it comes to the brand’s supposed social media presence. Is the company wasting time and resources on something that they could stop today? If they did, in fact, stop posting to social media, would a single person out there even care let alone notice? Has the company finally reached its breaking point with their lack of a social media presence and are now ready to hand everything over to a social media agency?
A company’s social media presence appearing more like a deserted ghost town has become a hot topic in conference rooms across the country. Where’s the social proof of consumer love for brands on their social streams? Let’s take a look at some of the key issues brands should address in their own internal audit of their social media presence and overall social media strategy.
A Quiet Social Media Presence Shows a Lack of Internal Business Social Knowledge/
Having received my own MBA in the last decade, I can attest that the topic of social media was barely mentioned. Most MBA programs cover advertising, market research, retail marketing, branding, customer relationship management, global marketing and strategic brand management. Each of those marketing topics are vastly important and directly involve social media marketing, but specifically HOW to strategically develop a social media strategy and build a company’s social media presence was not taught. Understandably, the marketing professors I was exposed to had very little to no direct social media marketing experience. It’s not easy to teach something you know nothing about. Therefore, how does the next generation of business leaders being pumped out of MBA programs across the country ever advocate for or build the right internal team to effectively manage their social media business pages with the companies’ daily brand messaging, visual branding and brand reputation with consumers and B2B partners?
Does your company CMO know what real results from social media look like? Many company CMOs respectively built their expertise and knowledge from the pre-social media era. They are marketing experts at most everything BUT social media. Here is the crux of the issue when it comes to many of these CMOs tasked with building an in-house social team. The talent pool out there is not very deep for experienced social media marketers that truly understand brand storytelling, content creation for social media and growing an authentic social media community for brands. Additionally, unless the CMO understand enough about how to be successful on social media, they will not be able to ask the right probing questions to determine a candidate’s true knowledge and credibility when it comes to spending real money marketing on social.
Building a Social Media Presence Requires Content Created for Social Audiences/
Business social media pages make no sense unless the company is committed to producing content specifically for its social media audience. Simply being an established brand doesn’t result in having a strong and positive social media presence. This is usually one of the greatest pain points facing internal social media teams. Companies that don’t arm those in charge of social media management with fresh content for social are setting their brand and their team up for eventually social media failure. If no budget is provided for social content, a company’s social media presence will rely on posting the following on a daily basis:
Marketing collateral produced to support product sales
The inherent danger in posting traditional marketing collateral is that it may or may not resonate on social media. Social media is a conversation. It’s a place where people go to learn something new. It’s the place where people make discoveries. It’s NOT the place where people want to see something that screams “promotional brochure” or infomercial.
Curated content produced by other companies
Many companies rely on the content created by other sources to fill their social streams. One day it’s posting a Mashable article that is at most industry relevant. The next day it’s sharing a funny YouTube video that is at most aligned with the positive and happy essence of the brand. The social media team might be satisfying some type of weekly social posting criteria, but rarely do curated posts have anything directly to do with the brand they’re tasked with managing. Most importantly, curating content from another content does very little for your brand. It’s really only helping the brand that created the content by the social share your brand has provided.
Amateurish video content or photography produced by a smartphone
Content produced on a smartphone is usually acceptable for small businesses that are local in nature, but not for brands seeking to engage a national or global audience. While smartphones have made great strides in their camera capabilities in the last few years, the social media business issue lies in the operator of the camera. Does the person shooting the photo or video have a strong enough story sense or professional eye for properly representing the product or brand through this content? On occasion, a well-executed live stream using Facebook Live can be effective. Unfortunately, many attempts by brands on Facebook Live show a lack of planning and execution. There is nothing worse than watching a display of uncomfortable awkwardness by the hosts.
In our opinion, unless a brand is ready and willing to invest in content specifically for building and maintaining their social media presence, they might be better served to not be on social at all. The public-facing nature of social media makes your brand more vulnerable to critics and social media trolls when the social streams provide all evidence of brand complacency they need as fuel. Furthermore, why would any company not want their brand seen in the best light possible?
Where’s the Content Creation Talent to Help My Brand Build Its Social Media Presence?/
It’s nearly impossible for a company to tell its business story without a staff that has the talent and right sensibilities for creating strategic video and photo content that is relevant for building a social media presence. Whether your company is using social to extend its brand reach, grow revenue streams or simply maintain a consistent brand message, professionally created content is so very, very important. In an ideal world, your social team is as equally talented with social strategy, managing social tools and written communications for public consumption as they are with creating relevant and compelling content for social. Sometimes finding multi-talented people to perform all these varied of tasks is unrealistic. Just as challenging as it might be to find a company tax accountant that is equally skilled and talented at building your company website, is finding a team of social media strategists that know their way around a professional video camera, lighting equipment and the variety of digital tools used to produce a variety of brand-worthy content.
Any credible social media marketing strategy has content creation at its core. The marketing machine of social media simply doesn’t work with being fed with continual videos, photography and graphic work. Therefore, we see several options for brands seeking content creation solutions for their social streams.
Develop an In-House Multimedia Team
Unless your company is a large enterprise, hiring a team of 2-3 creatives to produce daily content for social media is more than likely financially unrealistic and could become a revolving door for your human resources department. A company needs to hire a team that can handle the weekly demands of producing videos, shooting photography and creating graphics for the social media management team to post to the brand’s social pages. There also needs to be a strong manager to provide the team with continual brand direction and time management. The content this team produces must represent the brand not only by its quality but by its visual and spoken messaging. This SHOULD be the benchmark for all brands on social media. However, finding a reliable and talented visual team is not an easy task, even for the skilled producer who knows how to screen creative talent and level of commitment. A sizable portion of the video and photography talent out there likes their creative freedom. Working for a single company, especially a large corporation, is not the most desirable of career trajectories for your average creative, especially if they’re already successful and experienced freelancers. If you have the time and patience to wait for the right in-house team to get formed, adapt to the expectations of your company and brand, the inherent benefits of keeping everything within the walls of your organization may outweigh the mentioned challenges.
Hire a Team of Freelance Creatives
Far less expensive than developing an in-house multimedia team, is to work with freelance creatives on a project by project basis. Yes, you are still faced with the same challenge of having to reach out on job sites, conduct numerous interviews and peruse portfolios for a relevant experience with branded content. One of the benefits of working with creative freelancers is the ability for your company to test several videographers, photographers and graphic designers by assigning each of them projects to see if and what they ultimately deliver. Those creatives that meet your deadline with a series of videos, photos or graphic work that is aligned with your brand personality, tone and messaging can be provided with more consistent freelance work from your company.
There are some caveats to working with the freelance world. First is the lack of consistency in their availability to your company. A freelancer might be available for one project but has other commitments when you need that person for subsequent projects. Having to juggle different creative freelancers can lead to inconsistent branding, tone and messaging on your social streams. Second, many creatives are horrible at crafting marketing videos. For instance, just because a videographer has the talent to produce a highly engaging dramatic short film doesn’t mean they have the marketing sensibilities for what would be appropriate or successful on social media. Coming from experience, creative freelancers need a lot of direction. If you can’t speak their technical language and manage your expectations for them, you might be wasting your time and theirs. This is not to say that your company couldn’t be extremely happy with the talent you uncover. Your company might find a true diamond in the rough through assigning project-based work. Better yet, it’s quite possible to convert some of your best freelancers into your own in-house multimedia team.
Partner with a Brand Storytelling Social Media Agency
This leads us to the agency world. Should your company reach out to a social media agency? If you’re a member of company leadership, it never hurts to conduct an exploratory phone call with the marketing director of the agency. If any marketing company is able to provide you an agency quote, without at the very least an hour on the phone with your company, that’s a tell-tell sign that this agency is not an authentic marketing company or brand storytelling social media agency. They are more than likely trying to sell you cookie-cutter, non-business result social with pricing based on posting an “X-number” of posts per week using your brand’s existing assets (if enough exists) or posts simply curated from other publishers. If your company is just trying to satisfy some status quo for posting consistency, then one of these agencies might be sufficient. However, don’t expect any actual results from this level of social. It does nothing for your social media presence or bottom line. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same is true about your social posts.
Hopefully, your company expects more from social. A credible social media agency must obtain a clear understanding of the story behind your company, brand, and marketing objectives for its line of products. This can only come as a result of an exploratory phone call that reveals answers to some real business questions to assess the true fit between what your company is seeking and what the agency provides. If the social media agency does not contain a capability to produce professional brand videos and brand photography as a part of their core services, your company should question the type of social they are selling. Social media is primarily a tool for visual communications. Without strategic video and photography being created on behalf of the brand, company leadership has to question whether the brand is being adequately represented in the most public of forums.
Although much cheaper than building an in-house team, you get what you pay for when partnering with a brand storytelling social media agency. If you’re an emerging brand needing awareness and education, an established mid-market company looking to take their brand to that next level, or a large enterprise company seeking reputation management on social, an exploratory phone call with ImagiBrand would be a great place to start.
Chasing Vanity Metrics, Rather Than Building a Community-Based Social Media Presence/
When did your company start its first social media channel? For companies at least a decade old, it was probably a Facebook page sometime in-between 2010 and 2013. Does your company leadership remember those early days when it was still possible to reach and engage a high percentage of your existing Facebook fans with daily posts? Weren’t those the days – a company could actually share a random photo of a few employees captured in a fun, candid moment that seemed to embody the essence of its company culture, and it would actually receive dozens to hundreds of organic likes, comments, and maybe a share or two. During those early glory days of social media business pages, eliciting and receiving love from your customers, brand partners and advocates was amazingly simple and easy. Back then, it almost didn’t matter if companies were posting low-quality, less strategic or irrelevant content on their pages. No matter what got posted, everyone’s Facebook fans were, for the most part, consistently positive and responsive. In our opinion, these initial years of organic business social media were the impetus for all the misconceptions company leadership still have about social media and its place and hierarchy in the marketing mix. Due to seemingly free organic reach with an online audience, company leadership saw their social media presence as less valuable as other marketing levers for the brand and therefore less deserving of a respectful percentage of the overall annual marketing budget. For many companies, the topic of social media was always the first to get shelved in the conference room – maybe next year we’ll finally address it. Nor were experienced or the right talent assigned to manage their social media presence back then – crazy as it sounds now, but entry-level admins and interns were handed the task of posting to social. Were companies really this reckless with their brand identity and brand reputation?
We all took those early days for granted. In some ways, we were all somewhat suckers that fell for one of the largest bait and switch business strategies of all time. How naïve many of us were in assuming this “free lunch” of social media engagement would last forever. We all should have known better. How could social media companies such as Facebook and every other social media platform slowly turned off the organic faucet and left brands with the embarrassment of not having any daily evidence of consumers that love and support them?
A majority of companies and their marketing departments developed some bad habits during these early years of business social media. Everyone became obsessed with brand page vanity metrics. A company’s number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers was the measure of a brand’s popularity. This led to an obsession over the number of likes and retweets any given social post were to receive as a basis of social media engagement. All of this chasing of the wrong metrics and company insecurities prevented many brands from reaching their true online potential. This is not to say that the engagement metrics on a brand’s posts are not important to assess what type of content is resonating best with specific audiences. However, in the pursuit of appearing like they have a popular brand, some companies rendered their social pages useless as a marketing tool by purchasing fake bot fans and followers. Hopefully, your brand did not make this crucial mistake. In most cases, we recommend starting pages over if your brand made this mistake but now want to chase something real such as an authentic social media community. There is no better public relations and promotional asset for a brand than a community-based social media presence built the right way from the ground up.
The Issue with Companies Using Product Ads to Build Its Social Media Presence/
Social media audiences aren’t stupid. They’ve been exposed to branded content flooding their social streams for years. They understand, and are for the most part, comfortable with brands trying to reach them through social ads. However, there is nothing more annoying then brands pushing their traditional print ads or television commercial ads onto the social streams. Social media is equally a private experience for people as it is a public one. People check-in to their social streams to view content from their friends, family, and colleagues to stay abreast with the life and events of those closest to them. Social media also provides people with the unique opportunity to connect directly with the industry influencers, celebs and high-profile people they admire. This is where far too many brands miss the opportunity to evolve from mere product pushers and promoters to industry thought leaders that impact consumer perceptions, behaviors and our culture.
If a brand is sharing consistent value in the form of thoughtfully created content
that educates, inspires and/or entertains,
consumers will be much more RECEPTIVE, RESPECTFUL, AND RESOLUTE
when it comes time to make a relevant purchase
or offer a recommendation to their personal network.
Whether your brand is a new entrant trying to find its market or a legacy brand seeking to retain its market share and penetrate new markets, marketing through social media requires a commitment to continual brand storytelling and social media branding. It’s finally time to drop the mindset of yearly campaigns to promote a line of products and instead focus on sharing a brand story. A great example of a legacy brand that gets it is Chanel. Their YouTube channel is the epitome of thought leadership. Chanel produces a variety of weekly videos which inspire creative expression, teach new techniques and styles, and invite consumers behind the scenes of the fashion world.
We have entered an exciting time where the lines between Hollywood storytelling and company branding have blurred. The power of the collective voice of consumers has never been so vital to the success or failure of a brand. Having an authentic social media presence is a company asset worth nurturing with your brand story year after year. The only thing sadder than that tree that fell in the forest that no one was around to hear it fall, is that the tree probably never should have fallen in the first place.