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How to make your social media marketing better

Social media has long since become an inescapable aspect of everyone’s day to day. In the PR world it has quickly become one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal - so much so that there’s an overwhelming amount of ideas for new campaigns, strategies and viral moments, all sold as the golden ticket to success. But it can be a double-edged sword, with a fine line between making or breaking a campaign.

So, how do you cut through all this noise and really stand out from the crowd without losing your audience along the way? Rather than searching for viral ideas which are out of date by the time they’re written down, we’ve asked nine PR professionals for advice on how they’re holistically approaching social strategy in 2024, to help you build your own social blueprint.

Keep it platform focused

Rhea Freeman, PR adviser, social media and brand expert at agency Rhea Freeman PR: “When it comes to social media marketing, it’s important to understand your target audience and focus on creating content that appeals to them. We’re sometimes wooed by trends that have the potential to make our content go viral - but if its vitality means it gets shown to people who couldn’t be further from our target audience, is it worth it?

“That said, it is important to experiment and test all the time to see what is hitting the right note. This could be trying new styles of content, looking at the latest developments in app and trying this out (we often find that a new functionality gets greater exposure).

“Don't forget to treat each platform as its own entity - content specific to a platform rather than one cross-posted is much more likely to succeed and stand out for all the right reasons.”

Know your audience…

Jennie Cox, social media director at PR agency Splendid Communications: Trust your gut. Brands can become ‘very good’ at social with strategy and planning but still spend hours (even days) considering how a reactive or topical piece of content fits within the resulting framework.

“The best teams in the space are instinctive; they know their brand and audience inside out and as such become consciously competent and equally confident in what they want to talk about and how they can credibly contribute to the conversation.

“Reacting early can transform brands’ cultural relevance and help them become synonymous with trends, ultimately feeling fresh from an audience and industry perspective.”

… and stay authentic to them

Shauna Madden, social and paid media director at PR agency ilk Agency: "There are two things that brands need to champion: audience and authenticity.

"Good social media always starts with an audience-first approach. With algorithms more advanced than ever, audiences are now so used to getting content tailor-made for them and their needs that they won’t respond to generic marketing any more.

“Using a mix of audience insight, social listening and account data - as well as utilising paid channels for their targeting options - brands should be working to segment their activity, and trying to consistently reach the right people with the right message.

"Once you’ve got audiences nailed, the next key part is to develop your brand’s authentic voice - whether that’s owning a space in reactive content, replying to queries or complaints in your identifiable tone, or simply creating content that highlights expertise. Operating authentically in this way will give your brand a humanistic quality which audiences are more likely to engage with."

Let loose on TikTok

Valeria Carrillo, account executive at PR agency UPRAISE: “Brands should let loose on TikTok. I think there’s a certain aesthetic and set of rules on Instagram and Facebook that brands don’t want to deviate from. However, since most users on TikTok are younger, they appreciate humour and brands breaking the fourth wall.

“Brands should look to engage with comedic influencers to drive engagement. As a recent example, Warby Parker collaborated with Eric Sedeno for a Twilight-inspired TikTok advertisement, syncing with the total solar eclipse. It encompasses a fresh social media marketing approach that many brands haven’t leaned into.”

Keep the story first long-term

Anita Wong, head of PR at PR agency Indigo Pearl: “Put the story first rather than the product - and do it for the long run. Most of us are familiar with the concept of telling stories instead of just selling products, but how do you keep it going long-term?

“Content series are the best way to engage your audience consistently over a long measure of time. Take advantage of TikTok's playlists or Instagram highlights and create a running series about content that performs well with your audience - whether that's a home renovation across a whole house, or international breakfast recipes taking you (metaphorically) across the world.

“Try to avoid purely promotional content, and instead create a narrative that allows your audiences to imagine themselves on your journey - so they can keep coming back for more.”

Video is in, images are out

Tom Stone, co-founder of PR agency re:act: “In 2024, video reigns supreme. Staying ahead means mastering the art of visual storytelling, embracing the TikTok effect and make video your go-to tool for engaging your audience.

“Transform your longer content into bite-sized, attention-grabbing snippets that fit seamlessly into various platforms. Whether it's Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight, or YouTube Shorts, adapt your content to the platform's unique audience expectations.

“Stay agile and responsive, ready to tweak your strategy on the fly to capture fleeting attention spans. Blend creativity with data-driven insights to ensure your videos not only stand out but resonate deeply with your audience. By being smart about your video usage, you'll cut through the noise and leave a lasting impression.”

Build a community and uphold your brand’s values

Elle Bracher, account director at PR agency Kindred: “Don't forget the human element. Community engagement, not just management, is a vital part of any successful strategy. Find a way to bring your tone of voice alive through engagement with your audience or customers by responding to and nurturing conversation.

“Build a community and create mechanisms to engage with different portions of them by using platform features to your advantage. The brands that are nailing it respond to comments with jokes or custom content, use engagement stickers on stories to define their content strategy on the fly, share insider info or exclusive content through broadcast channels and, most importantly, live and breathe their brand values at all times.

“Having a position is equally as important as having a personality, and too many brands shy away from standing by their values when things get controversial - a surefire way to lose your audience.”

Catch trends before they blow up…

Steve Parker, managing director of social at PR agency Stripe: “To keep things fresh in social, I stay curious and try to fish in different ponds. My advice is to pay less attention to trends reports, the big media outlets, channels and influencers and hunt down the leftfield and niche communities on the outer regions of the web. So, think Reddit, Substack newsletters and Letterboxd for film inspiration over Instagram.

“Firstly, because it’s more interesting and secondly because trends often originate in sub-cultures driven by passionate creators before they cross over to the mainstream, so it helps to keep you ahead of the game. Balance this with the urge to over-subscribe. You only have so much time and headspace, so be ruthless and cull things you aren’t reading and just start again.”

… But remember it’s about more than just the trends

Khairat Shaaban, social media and marketing consultant at agency Babel PR:

“Anyone can run a social media account, right? A bit of regular posting and a few funny reels. The truth is that social media is no longer an afterthought but an integral cog in your marketing machine that needs meticulous, professional management and planning.”

“Following the latest social trends is a bit of a cop-out. It might increase engagement slightly but it's more about clocking the trends that suit your brand and resonate with your audience than following in the influencer’s footsteps. The reality isyou need to find a social manager who ‘gets it’; someone with a keen understanding of human behaviour, your audience, and a higher-than-average EQ score to help establish your brand amongst the noise.

“A thorough triage of your social profile, followed by an action plan with committed investment and a team, can be the difference between blasting content into the ether or meaningful lead generation.”

Whether you’re creating a long-term social media strategyor developing one-off viral ideas, the PR pros clearly say that authenticity is the key in 2024.

Seeing eye to eye with your audience, building a community and truly engaging with both real values and real humour is now far more important than old-fashioned trend chasing. Of course, trends aren’t wholly dead, but in a world full of constant social media campaigns, think about how they relate to your brand, audience, and values, before losing consumer faith with an out of tune viral bid.

Article written by Alex Beach, acting features editor at PRmoment.

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