Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
You may want your video to go viral, but, sadly, it probably isn’t relevant to your product to include cats or kids doing cute and silly things. But there are other ways to make your content shareable, although it is tricky to strike a balance on social channels between maintaining integrity and offering entertainment. Below, social media experts offer top tips for creating content that resonates with audiences whilst thrilling brand owners
Top tips for balancing creativity with business goals on social media
1. Be interesting!
Being boring will get you nowhere says Rebecca Wagstaffe, business development director at communications agency 3 Monkeys Zeno: "The way we approach social content is about aligning commercial goals directly with the principles of integrity, shareability, influence, helpfulness and entertainment, rather than it being one versus the other. A brand that simply pushes out pure product and functional messages via any channel is likely to fail. The audience will be bored rigid, for starters, if they’re not being told anything new or interesting. The world certainly does not need more content; but our view is that great content has a value that can impact directly on commercial success. To deliver this, we’ve developed a ‘recipe’ for social content that underpins both the IQ and the EQ of brand and its product portfolio. This recipe drives awareness, consideration and advocacy – all key in moving from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel."
2. Question. Interrogate. Refine
Danny Whatmough, head of social, EMEA at PR firm Weber Shandwick says it is not good enough to settle with the first idea you think of: “In my experience, when it works best, it comes down to a simple (if difficult to execute) rule: the rigour of the process. Challenging and stress-testing a content idea is critical. Don’t settle for the first thing that comes to mind. Question. Interrogate. Refine. To do this well, you need different opinions and angles. You need strategists and analysts as much as you need creatives. You need industry and category experts and people who know the business inside out (and those that come at it fresh). You need to not settle for ‘ok’ but struggle on until you have something that ticks both boxes and finds that perfect intersection. There’s a reason this challenge is age-old and why marketing remains an art as well as a science.
3. Know your audience and be honest
Honesty is always the best policy says Michael White, account director at PR firm Lansons: “Social networks are not just communication channels; they are cities, in the case of Facebook a user base the size of an entire country. Each has their own culture, companies who do well online recognise this and adapt. Here are my three tips for companies: first, be socially aware of how interactions across different social networks differ. Second, adapt your messaging and tone of voice to suit. Third, be honest and transparent.
“On Facebook hitting a commercial goal, such as sales, may involve a step-by-step approach. First, introduce fans to the brand by highlighting its values, and then introduce a product or service by showing how it benefits a prospective customer, then it’s time for a direct sale.
“Each social network has their merits, broadly: Facebook for sales, Twitter invites engagement and awareness, LinkedIn for brand culture and recruitment – the list goes on. There will be different expectations of how content should be presented and what a company should provide, which is why there is a blurred line between social media management and customer services.
“For regulated industries, where disclaimers can dampen sharing, approach content like a newspaper. Visit internal teams in a company, find the stories behind products and services, promote these values through creativity implementations”.
Darika Ahrens, digital strategist at agency MHP Communications, says it is important to have one clear goal: “Brands often overload their social channels and content goals with incompatible metrics. For example, brand awareness lends itself more to entertainment content. Whilst sales content, and channels, tend to be product and feature focused.
“Learn from marketers like Noah Kagan, the former marketing manager at Mint.com. At Mint he focused only on how to reach 100K users in six months. At publishing platform Medium, its ‘only metric that matters’ is Total Time Reading. So, both companies measure social and content success completely differently.
“Focusing on one goal will be easier to achieve, and easier for all to agree when you're succeeding online.”
5. Forget about commercial needs
Ahrens says that the audience must always come first: “Forget about the commercial objectives. Work out how you are best placed to meet your audience’s needs. It doesn't always have to be about utility and being practical in solving problems. Brands like Coca-Cola and John Lewis have been entertaining audiences for years online. Luxury brands make their fans feels special by providing exclusive access to content and fashion shows - at the same time as the fashion elite.
“Work out what audience needs you are uniquely placed to meet. Then measure it by the most important metric to your business. Rinse and repeat. “
6. Above all, be social!
Jo Hudson, planning director at marketing agency PrettyGreen, says you must talk the right language: “My view is that the clue is in the name… social channels are where people interact socially, where they connect to share feelings, opinions and ideas. Brands all too often don’t conform to the social nature of this channel, which is why so many posts feel weird. As soon as the conversation becomes too transactional or commercial it doesn’t fit in the environment anymore. I have two tips for connecting on social channels:
“First be insight driven in a product context; the best branded content taps into some sort of insight- whether that’s cultural, audience-led or competitive. Second, make it contextual; understand when and where your audience are consuming your social content and what role your content can play in that space.”
Just as it is for communications on other channels ,with social media, to quote the commuincations guru Marshall McLuhan “The medium is the message”.
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.