Real Talk About Social Media
The following is from a talk that I gave at the BC Liquor Conference – an annual gathering of store/pub/hotel owners who come together to learn about their industry and to get ideas. This year they asked me to come speak about social media, and I accepted when they told me that I could talk about pretty much anything that I wanted. I had been looking forward to an opportunity like this – one to dig into the things that work, and to call out a lot of the misguided or misinformed practices that turn both brands and their followers off of social media in general.
I’ve repurposed and published the outline here for you because I believe that it’s useful far beyond the room of 100 or so people who were in attendance that morning:
REAL TALK ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
What Is Social?
I started out the session out by setting some context that content that can be shared to spark a two, three, or more-way conversation. The intention here is to shift the thinking away from social vs traditional and towards everything working together. It’s important to me that we are all on the same page out of the gates – that social media is seen not as a fundamentally different thing than what great businesses have been doing for 100 years, but as an opportunity to elevate the best stuff and make it more meaningful.
We dive straight into a series of tactics that are currently working in the real world, showing how brands are able to achieve one thing at a time, including:
- Community – Meaning literally taking the community that already exists offline and extending that online, focusing only on the 50-100 people who matter most (example = JuiceTruck)
- Evangelism – Giving the most vocal people in the community something to talk about and a reason to share, potentially growing that into an influencer strategy (example = Everything Wine’s recent re-launch)
- Brand Building – This is where most people spend most of their time & effort. Building a brand to get out to the public has value but it takes a lot of work, a great story and persistence. It’s also just one of many opportunities available (example = The Donnelly Pubs’ new Instagram strategy)
- Sales – The opportunity to get products, launches announcements and similar in front of people in a way that people will actually care about (example = Postmark Brewing)
- So What? – This is where I tie social media into traditional marketing theory and show that it’s not hard to get people from unaware to aware, or from aware to interested, but we’ve being trying to use social media to convert people from “I’ve never heard of you” to “take all of my money” and that’s why so many of us are frustrated.
- What to do – I tie all of those things together by giving a simple checklist that involves setting a specific objective, investing in great content, executing consistently and measuring real data.
The underlying theme here is that no one is able to achieve all of these things at the same time, or even in the same period. When we try to achieve one thing, we can. When we try to do everything, we end up blaming the tools.
This is the fun part – it’s where I get to call out the things that annoy us all and that most of us have been guilty of at one point or another – I make a point not to call out anyone in particular, but it’s amazing to see the number of nods and nudges in the room as I bring up each of the points:
- Social, for social’s sake – Posting pretty pictures, quotes, memes or other internet-friendly things without any connection to the business or the brand
- Copy & paste content – Handing over a Dropbox folder filled with photos shot for the website, and expecting that to turn into an Instagram strategy
- All tactics, no heart – Executing everything according to “best practices”, but giving no real reason for people to follow along, or care about what the brand is up to
At this point, pretty much everyone is on board and ready to start taking a look at their own social, so I leave them with a distilled three-step process to re-evaluate what they’re up to on social:
- Start with your story
This is far from revolutionary, but it’s essential – it should come before channel selection, but typically gets jammed into whatever social channel the brand feels like it “needs” to be on.
- Why will anyone care?
I take them through this thought exercise: Your best customer is out for drinks with someone whose never heard on you. Your customer turns to her friend and says: “You have to check out this company on social media because ______ “. I call out that if they can’t answer that question, then their customer definitely can’t. It’s also an opportunity to call out that the best social media growth doesn’t happen from sneaky tactics, but from real word of mouth.
- Elevate the message
Real results require real budgets, so advertise, invest in influencers, and build organic reach through offline activations or other legitimately interesting things to talk about.
Turning strategy into reality:
- Focus on 1-2 channels
It takes a significant amount of time, effort, creativity, and money to build up 1 significant social media channel. Once it has gained a certain amount of notoriety, then those efforts can spill into the other channels, but it’s a common theme that I’ve seen over the years: Invest diluted effort into a channel, get diluted results.
- Plan 4+ weeks out
Having and using a content calendar is a game changer. There’s lots of great software out there, and there’s also good old fashioned spreadsheets. Whatever works for you, the objective is to get from “we should really post today” to “how can we make next week’s post even better?”
- Batch content creation (especially photos)
With that content calendar in hand, setting aside time to create great content is the easiest way to dramatically step up content quality. Whether that means giving a staff member a half-day to plan, style, and photograph, or bringing in a professional to shoot, you get economies of scale by organizing and shooting dozens of pieces at a time.
I really do believe that every brand in that room could benefit from breaking down what they’re up to, investing in better content, and buying ads against it, so I hope that the message sunk in, and I hope that it’s been useful to you that I chose to share it here.
If you have different ways of getting the message across, I’d love to hear it. Hit reply, or hit me up on Twitter: @Conner_G