Lack Of A Plan Shows That Businesses Struggle With Social Media Marketing

Written by J-P De Clerck, who is an experienced content, conversion and social media consultant. Like Mindjumpers, he is associated with Social Marketing Forum. You can connect with him on Twitter @Conversionation

A survey by US-based Digital Brand Expressions shows that a lot of companies integrate social media into their strategy unprepared and without a clear plan.

This is not the first time that a lack of goals, planning, cross-divisional cooperation, and even strategy regarding social media marketing shows up in a survey. However, there is no reason to exclude social media marketing from a broader framework, and to approach it as an ‘island’ stripped of any form of strategy.

The fact that it does happen so often can be destructive for the company’s actions and reputation and it gives social media marketing in general a bad image as well. Even more important: it often doesn’t provide any value whatsoever for the people using social media (and therefore, neither for the company).

Digital Brand Expression found that 78% of all participating companies practice social media marketing. Yet a mere 41% of those actually have a strategic plan for their use of social media, in which is put down just what the goals are, which division is doing what, how the company involves its employers, etc. Still, 88% of the companies without a social media plan finds it important to actually have one.

The conclusion is simple: a lot of companies aren’t ready for social media marketing because they don’t succeed in developing a coherent strategy as well as a clear plan that goes beyond the borders between different departments. This silo-way of thinking, the walls between the various company divisions, a lack of coordination, and a bad insight into the possibilities of social media undoubtedly play a role in this. Recent studies that fruitlessly debated on just who within the company is responsible for social media (PR, marketing, etc…) pointed this out already.

Several key players are left out of the social media plan and strategy

The survey also looked at who is responsible for creating, carrying out, and maintaining a strategic social media communications plan (so not the actions themselves, but the plan) in the everyday working environment.

The marketing divisions take the lead in this with 71%. The ‘corporate communications’ scored 29%, while sales and IT are both good for 10%. The management team only scored 16%, which is a shame, since drawing a social media marketing strategic plan demands the executive team’s cooperation, in the very least.

At the companies that do have a social media marketing plan, it turns out that quite a lot of divisions are barely included, if at all. With an impressive 94%, marketing is almost always involved. Public relations follows with 71%, while sales ended third with 55%. Yet customer service is only included in 26% of all cases, and HR only in 16%. Management is barely included at all.

The fact that customer service is included so little, means that many companies don’t yet realize that the role of customer service is getting more and more important in these times in which customer satisfaction is so crucial. The overwhelming presence of marketing and PR shows that a lot of companies overlook a large part of the essence of social media marketing. And the fact that HR (and therefore also the company’s employees) is included so sporadically, emphasizes this conclusion even more.

 

Clickbait: Information overload! How can brands cut-through all the noise?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.11.34You won’t believe the hidden message in this blog post! Or rather – there isn’t one, I just wanted you to click through and read this. But bear with me – I’m about to suggest something incredibly controversial – a never-heard-before admission by a social agency!*

As much as clickbait is the emotional catnip of our online experience and can drive consistent traffic for publishers like The Daily Mail and Huff Post who churn out multiple stories each day, it’s still hugely annoying to discover you’ve been duped by an over-excited headline promising to give you all the feels. For brands, adopting the same practice can negatively affect perception and ultimately – sales. So how can brands cut through all the sensational copy and deliver successful results without falling prey to creating clickbait themselves? How do they beat them rather than join them?

 

Platform crackdown

In the early days of social, Facebook optimised content based on engagement, meaning that if users clicked on a piece of content, it received a higher ranking in newsfeeds. In 2014 Facebook took steps to try and crack down on those gaming this ranking using clickbait, and in February this year it introduced an update based not just on what users engaged with in their feed, but what they wanted to see. Facebook’s advice is that Pages should avoid encouraging people to take action (such as encouraging lots of clicks), because this will likely only cause temporary spikes in metrics that might then be rebalanced by feed’s ranking over time – meaning the latest ranking favours content that users naturally engage with rather than content that users click on through coercion.

 

Last month Instagram followed suit and announced it would alter user’s feeds to optimise the content users “care about the most”, and Twitter has also adopted a similar change (although users can opt-out and revert back to the chronological feed). The changes will hopefully make it harder for clickbaiters to game feeds with meaningless content, but the real aim for the platforms hosting is to surface more engaging content more frequently so users return often and stay longer.

 

The same goes for brands on social. If the content they produce is consistently engaging, then users will interact more frequently, leading others to discover it through preferred ranking. Ultimately, these new newsfeed algorithms exist to generate more meaningful engagement, driving not just clicks, but conversations via comments, and shares.

 

Learn and adapt

Meaningful engagement begins with relevant content that creates value for the user and the brand. While an insight-driven content strategy is key to delivering this, brands should also adapt stories and messages based on the emotional needs and behavior of their audience. This is more than just a case of ‘test and learn’ or refining what has already been done. Brands must also evolve their approach in line with new behaviors, platforms, competitors and rankings or risk being left behind by those who do.

 

A good example of a brand that does this well is Buzzfeed, who’s CEO recently shared their new strategic thinking, revealing how their objective has changed from getting users to click through to their main site to view stories, to allowing content to be consumed directly on other platforms. The new direction was prompted by analysing which content generated clicks and discovering that users prefer to consume some types of content within the platform they are already on. The company also found a discernable difference between user interactions with the same content on different platforms, demonstrating how content demand and consumption vary across sites. What spreads like wildfire on Facebook might fail miserably elsewhere.

 

Relevance is key

For brands looking to use social content to drive click-through to their site, it’s important to balance the goal of the company (clicks to eyeballs, or conversions to sales, for example) with the desire and behavior of users on different sites, and monitor response over time. Relevance is key to interaction, and brands that think like publishers will know that relevance is an ever-changing chameleon. While users are bombarded with meaningless clickbait, there is ample opportunity for brands to channel the social zeitgeist by delivering valuable content that meets audience needs in the format, time and platform that suits them. If they get this right, they won’t need clickbait.

 

At Mindjumpers we help companies and brands to think as publishers and provide end-to-end social media management across multiple markets, encompassing full social strategy, planned and reactive content creation, analysis and reporting.

 

If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

 

*Don’t be naughty and scroll to the last paragraph – I’ve hidden the controversial part somewhere to optimize your dwell time in finding it!