I work from home part of the week. As a part-time office jockey, when I do turn up I'm relegated to any open desk/couch space I can find, preferably as far away from the conference table as possible to avoid getting swept away into a planned or impromptu meeting (a congenital fear of mine). This arrangement usually finds me and my trusty laptop settling into a ratty old nook near the kitchen. I try to use this location to my advantage, sniping pointed questions at members of the team as they pass me by on their way to grab a cup of coffee or a ham sandwich. I've recently gotten in the habit of throwing out prospective blog titles as would-be questions, such as, "WTF is Content, Anyway?" These thoughtful inquiries are met with varying levels of acknowledgement, ranging from distracted grunts and eye rolls (veteran staff) to polite but curt answers (interns).
Yesterday, though, I got lucky. I threw out the question, "Isn't it high time brands stop focusing on Facebook and Twitter and start marketing on Pinterest and Instagram (stay tuned for this gem in coming days)?" The idea was partially inspired by a newly published report from Forrester which outlines the relative ineffectiveness of Facebook and Twitter as social engagement tools for brands.
My query found purchase with none other than Sean Royer, our CEO, who quickly pointed out why my seemingly simple question required a much more complex answer. Hearing what he had to say, it didn't take me long to realize that Sean's input offered valuable real-world insight into the kinds of things digital marketers actually wrestle with when trying to put together social campaigns for clients.
Here are some of the high points of our conversation:
My initial question: Isn't it high time brands stop focusing on Facebook and Twitter and start marketing on Pinterest and Instagram?
Sean's response: "I would say the question itself is half right or half wrong, depending on how you look at it."
"I think you're starting in the wrong place with a focus on particular social channels. When thinking about social media marketing for our clients, I always start with values and goals. In a big picture sense, what are they trying to accomplish as a business? How can we most effectively communicate this throughout their (the client's) entire social media presence? Brand integrity is a fundamental but largely overlooked aspect of social media marketing."
"Once we have that squared away, we can move on to broader strategic questions - the Who, What, Why and How. Who is our client's intended audience? What value does our client bring to them? Why are they providing this value? Finally, how are they doing it now, and how can we help them do it better?"
"We then shift our focus to the marketplace. In what space is our client operating? Are they B2B or B2C? What's their specific industry segment (i.e. auto, retail, etc)? What do their existing marketing channels look like (online and offline)."
"Once we have this general information down, we can start digging into campaign objectives and KPIs (key performance indicators). Has our client set measureable campaign goals? You need these to establish KPIs. If so, how can we leverage specific social channels (i.e. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to achieve these goals? What metrics can we use to measure actual campaign performance against pre-defined KPIs? We also want to take into account the SEO benefits of the various social platforms. All social media sites provide some degree of SEO benefit, but you have to know how to use them to maximize this."
"Moving from strategy to tactics, we then begin to take a more granular focus on our client's target audience(s). To aid this, we'll put together detailed buyer personas. One of our main goals is to gain a better understanding of the entire customer lifecycle of each segment of our audience as it relates to campaign objectives. At this stage it helps to map out likely customer decision journeys, continually refining the picture as we gather more concrete data."
"Once we do all of this, we're usually able to paint a fairly accurate picture of which social platforms and social initiatives will best complement specific campaign objectives and also enhance the customer experience at whichever stage of the customer lifecycle we are focusing on (i.e. attracting and engaging new prospects, providing real-time customer service to existing consumers, building long-term loyalty, etc.)."
"In general, you have approach social media marketing and social engagement holistically, always looking at things through the lens of your target audience at every relevant stage of the customer lifecycle. Admittedly, it can get pretty complicated."
Sounds like it.
"On a final note, I think the most important thing to remember is that your social media strategy is only one piece of your overall marketing strategy. All too often, I see companies segment their social media away from the rest of their marketing initiatives, viewing social as its own siloed marketing channel. Instead, your social media marketing efforts should work in tandem with the rest of your marketing initiatives: content, email marketing, SEO, paid advertising, customer service, etc. to create seamless, omnichannel customer experiences. We would call this "integrated digital marketing."
Sean ended with this friendly admonition: As with any of these studies, you have to take them with a grain of salt. They often provide a snapshot only; they rarely provide the whole picture. It would be almost impossible for one study to do so.
Amen, brother Sean, amen.