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The Ever-Changing Landscape of Social Media (IABC Summit Breakout Session Recap)

Social media used to be about grabbing your space on a platform, posting content and maintaining your presence on the platform. Some of you might be reading this and thinking “use to be?” I hate to break it to you, but the days of creating an account for your business and not thinking much about it are gone. If you are going to take the time to create a social media account and dedicate even the smallest amount of time, money and resources to it, you have to have a plan. And that plan needs to adapt as the social media landscape changes.

I recently attended the KC IABC Business Communicators Summit and one of the breakout sessions focused on the ever-changing landscape of social media. Angela Crawford (communications consultant, Lockton Benefit Group) and Matt Staub (owner, Proxima LLC) discussed the ways social media is changing and how brands who want to succeed on these platforms need to change with it.

Crawford started by outlining the three categories brands tend to fall into on social media:

  • Brands that inform (news, TV channels)
  • Brands that entertain (national brands that have a distinct voice like Wendy’s, or even a local police department)
  • Brands that provide customer service (airlines, brick and mortar businesses)

The category usually determines the type of content you share, but not always. You might not think a police department would be a source of entertainment on social media, but clearly police car karaoke has changed that way of thinking.

Both Crawford and Staub warned that companies shouldn’t try to be something on social media that they are not. National brands like Wendy’s have developed their brand voice over many years. That voice extends to social media and isn’t solely used on social media as an act or a way to “go viral.” Most internet users, especially those who are Millennials and Generation Z, are savvy when it comes to brand voices and can tell when something is coming off as inauthentic.

Speaking of authenticity, Crawford brought up another way businesses can put a human face to their marketing: associates. Empowering your associates to tell your story is an effective strategy. Focus on personalities versus the brand itself. Give your employees the power and even the content to share your company’s social media posts. You need to trust them and they need to feel empowered to share company info and even have sample posts if they are nervous to craft their own. You can even use specific tools to help you facilitate this employee advocacy, like Bambu and LinkedIn Elevate.

Crawford also recommends getting the C-suite of your company on social media. But again, she warns that if they are going to be on social, they need to BE on social. Don’t just have the marketing team ghost-write their tweets because that’s just another version of a brand voice versus a personality.

While Crawford focused on authenticity, Staub discussed the importance of not chasing every social trend. You don’t have to be on every platform and you certainly don’t have to follow every content trend or “challenge” that comes along.

Staub also recommended using social media ads with more precision and in more specific ways. Notice I didn’t say he recommended simply using them. You no longer have an option not to if you want to succeed on social. If you aren’t using social media ads or at least boosted Facebook posts, you aren’t using social media to the full potential. The Facebook algorithm is suppressing brand content more and more, so it’s important to invest in Facebook advertising for important content that you want to ensure is seen by as much of your audience as possible.

Another tool Staub recommends is Facebook website pixels. They will help you build audiences for social media and you can even target people who have visited your websites or certain areas of your website. Stores offering online shopping, I’m looking at you!

Staub also advised using UTM codes on your website when you want to track a specific campaign or service. If you add a UTM code to the end of a URL, it will associate that traffic to the campaign as a part of for your website analytics. You can see which areas are driving traffic – not just social channels but even down to which account.

As social media continues to change, it’s important to remember the main takeaways from this presentation:

  • Choose the right platform for your business and don’t try to be right for the platform.
  • Commit to focusing on a social media strategy that requires your investment of time and some of your budget.
  • Be real and empower your associates to be the real face and voice of your company when it’s appropriate.
  • Use social media to share the content you’ve been working hard on to tell your story.

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie