We had a company reach out to our social media agency last year that had been a successful online retailer in a niche industry for more than two decades. Sadly, their online sales had been experiencing a significant decline the most recent two years. The contributing factors are always the same regardless of the company or industry – increased cost of goods sold, increased operational costs, increased competition in their industry, and most notably, increased online ad spend without developing anything that resembles a social media strategy. This company was somewhat of a pioneer in their industry, but they had failed to develop the internal content marketing and social media knowledge necessary to remain atop their industry. Unfortunately, some new entrants into their market had a stronger handle on brand storytelling and clearly had the wherewithal to profile the right consumer audiences on social media. While this company had declining revenue, their competitors were reaping the rewards of social media reach, social media engagement, social shares, and the resulting social sales.
We spoke to the ownership of this company along with its primary marketing staff. After asking a few standard exploratory questions to obtain a general understanding of their company history and their 30K+ SKUs, it didn’t take long for them to become fully-transparent about the reality of their financial situation. In a nutshell, if their revenue slide didn’t turn around into a steep revenue climb in the next three to six months, they would be forced to close their doors after 23 years in this business. Could a social media strategy save this company? Of course, it could. In the next three to six months? It’s possible, but realisitcally, it may not be enough time to make the significant revenue difference this company was needing at such a late stage. If only they had reached out a year earlier. We would have felt much more confident with having the right amount of time to set things up the right way. Any social media strategy worth its weight in gold requires time to plan and execute. Let me explain.
A Social Media Strategy Requires Exploratory Time/
We’ve all heard the phrase, “if you build it, THEY will come,” inspired by the film, “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner. In the movie, there was that mysterious voice compelling Kevin Costner’s character to build a baseball field in the middle of his financially struggling corn field. Whether pure stupidity or just blind faith, this character builds a baseball field resulting in a happy, rewarding ending. This is the prime example of something that only happens in the movies. Far too many companies start business social media without a strategy, cross their fingers, and just hope their consumers will just magically find them. Sorry, but if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone be killing it on social?
However, if you build a credible social media strategy, the probability of ATTRACTING YOUR MARKET increases dramatically. The company I wrote about in the beginning hadn’t considered that a legitimate social media strategy would require exploratory time to fully-understand this brand’s ideal positioning within its competitive landscape. How will its business story and brand personality be developed for a social audience and differentiate it from its industry leaders? What will be our core strategy for reaching its various consumer groups, especially those that may have been overlooked and/or neglected? How will we steal back market share? Answers to these questions and many more will need to be discovered before our first piece of content is imagined, produced and our first strategic social media post is sent out.
We highly recommend that every company finally ready to commit true resources toward social media should plan on first having a social media audit performed. Without a clear understanding of relevant consumer trends and insights combined with a competitive brand analysis, a company is literally building social streams in the middle of a corn field simply because a voice compelled you to do so. Your brand wouldn’t be the first or last one to start social blindly, but why wouldn’t you want to have a strategic roadmap for something as important and as expensive as implementing a social media strategy can become.
A Social Media Strategy Calls for Content Planning/
We’ve all heard the adage, “you get what you pay for.” The more experience you have with life and business in general, the more influence this adage has on our personal and professional decisions. This adage holds true in many situations whether it be the purchase of quality equipment over less expensive options, paying the higher cost for experienced employees, or investing in higher quality brand storytelling. A content marketing strategy that arises from an agency brand exploration period will require ample time to develop the right content ideas and plan for the production and post-production of this content. Companies routinely underestimate the lead-time needed to properly plan for brand stories, especially video stories.
DOCU-STYLE CONTENT PLANNING
In many ways, our agency adage is more, “you get what you PLAN for.” Anything worth doing is worth taking the time to plan it right. For example, let’s say an exploratory period results in producing what we like to call, “docu-style content,” short for documentary style. The type of content that falls into this style of content could include product/service testimonials, consumer user-experience videos, instructional videos, behind-the-scenes of a brand, etc. In essence, docu-style content is using real people sharing real stories and moments in their actual daily environments to help shape the story of a brand in an authentic way, regardless if the direction of their brand personality is hip & edgy or dramatically aspirational.
A brand that focuses its social media strategy on producing docu-style content is L’Oréal USA. They have several video story themes running concurrently but here is an example from their docu-style video series, The Founders. This video features the story of Wende Zomnir, the founder of Urban Decay, who was inspired to create this brand to empower self-expression.
Although requiring less planning time than scripted brand content, it could require a few months to line up the right participant stories and coordinate the shoot around any number of moving parts from varied participant schedules to needing to shoot content with participants and locations stretching across multiple cities, states or countries. Sometimes docu-style content can be planned and coordinated quickly, sometimes it requires more time to line up. It always depends on company dynamics, logistics, and a little serendipity.
SCRIPTED CONTENT PLANNING
As eluded to earlier, scripted brand content will always require as much lead-time as possible. When it comes to producing scripted content as part of a brand’s social media strategy, it’s not about producing a single narrative commercial. Many brands, large and small, will enter social media with this mentality. They soon figure out that they invested a high percentage of their marketing budget on producing this one commercial. It might be an incredible piece of content for the brand. It might be gold for them promoting this commercial on their social streams for a month. However, there is this real thing called “ad fatigue. “ A single piece of promoted content might experience a surge initially in social media engagement, social shares, and social conversion, but eventually these results will inevitably decline over time. A company may spend serious coin on producing this one commercial for that initial month. What about the remaining 11 months of the year on social media?
A company jumping into business social media needs to understand that brand storytelling on social media is a continuous process or fresh, original content. It doesn’t work the same way as producing a 30-sec spot to air continuously on the TV set. Social media is a tool. It’s a relationship conduit between your brand and its consumers. Social media content will help keep your brand top-of-mind with your consumers if they feel respected by your efforts, not the traditional banging them over the head with an obvious commercial advertisement.
Here at ImagiBrand, we produce our own scripted content to help educate companies about what we do in a more entertaining, satirical fashion. Here is one these satires used to highlight the ignorance of some brands which neglect their brand story on social media.
In order to produce enough scripted content to fill your social streams throughout the year, it might require an agency to be six months to a year ahead to develop, plan, and execute scripted content. Why does scripted content require so much lead-time? For starters, let’s say a brand wants to release a monthly satirical brand video. The process of developing the concepts, followed by the scripted and editing process for these projects to be ready for camera takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Scripted content requires casting actors, securing all the scripted locations, and finding all the wardrobe, props, and set decoration necessary to sell the concept of these stories.
A Social Media Strategy Needs Community-Building Time/
When companies approach our social media agency at the eleventh hour, we absolutely must manage their expectations for immediate results. Yes, you could throw serious social ad dollars towards broad consumer groups, but without established social media credibility that’s been built over time, converting enough consumers to make a difference will come at a significant cost. The caveat in conducting blitz social campaigns is the fleeting nature of a company’s brand awareness.
A more credible social media strategy would be to build up a brand’s social media community by establishing consumer trust and credibility over a period of years, sharing with consumers content which respects their intelligence, and provides value in the form of education and entertainment. A brand story should never be an event. Branding is not a campaign. A brand story should be a continuous relationship that exists with your customers, whether they be business prospects or end-users of a product or service. In other words, we strongly believe in the saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
The benefit of building your social media community the right way over time is that your brand will have that foundational support of brand advocates and evangelists. They are so vital in launching a successful culture of the continuous sharing of your brand’s content by tagging their relevant family, friends and coworkers whom they feel would be interested. This is when a brand feels the true magic of social media. The key is producing authentic business storytelling. However, a brand cannot expect to have a supportive social media community with first having a social media strategy.
Your Brand Have Time to Execute a Social Media Strategy?/
Hopefully your company has not waited until it reaches desperate times before reaching out to have social media save the company. A sustainable social media strategy needs enough time to investigate past efforts, research the competitive landscape, and explore the possibilities moving forward for the brand on social. Quality social media branding using video and other creative means requires having enough time to develop the content with the right messaging as well as the right amount of time to produce these brand stories for your social channels. Lastly, authentic fans and followers never develop overnight. Social media communities developed over time become revenue-generating communities. If you build it right, THEY will come.
We have a full collection of customizable social media solutions for established mid-market organizations and emerging brands wanting social streams full of rich media that enhances brand reputations and yields business results.
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