As brands continue to find frustration on social, is the medium really worth its weight? Filtered Media recently attended one of SMK’s Social Media Strategy Masterclasses in Sydney. Here’s what we learned about social media storytelling…
It may surprise you to learn that the average Australian is among the most digitally sophisticated humans in the world. With a mobile market that is nearing saturation and increasing levels of Internet consumption, social media accessibility has never been greater.
But as panic runs rampant around the rapid decrease of organic reach across platforms, spurred on courtesy of Instagram’s recent deviation to curated content feeds and the continually shifting Facebook algorithms, there’s little wonder brands are feeling frustrated when it comes to social.
Once able to reach vast audiences at the click of a button, many brands are now asking themselves, ‘If our reach is plummeting and we’re getting drowned out by the crowd, then why should I bother investing in social media storytelling at all?’
The answer is surprisingly simple: It’s all in the buzz.
The game is still the same
Gone is the era of social media as a means of uninterrupted community building. Brands today find themselves thrust into a new generation of social – one that is based around paying directly into the platform’s pocket.
What this means is that the end goals of social media may have shifted slightly, but the game remains largely unchanged.
The ultimate objective for brands on social has always revolved around connecting with a user, and cultivating a relationship that you can then nurture, encourage and contribute to. This hasn’t changed.
But here’s what has. Nowadays the end goal is no longer to get 2 million followers, but rather to get your traffic from social media to an owned platform. Here, brands can own their relationships with the community, rather than have the terms dictated to them by paid social platforms.
The ‘Who’ is the ‘You’
The idea of redirecting your audience is all well and good, but nothing meaningful can become of your relationship with the end user until you understand who you are actually talking to.
In the context of today’s social media, it’s all about the ‘you’ – not the ‘we’, not the ‘us’ and certainly not the ‘I’. Although simple in theory, this is where the majority of brands fall down. In trying to focus too much of their energy on what they think their audience will engage with, brands fundamentally fail to realise who their audience is.
Understanding individuals’ interests, values, beliefs, and how they like to express their singularity, is core to the success of any social media channel. Just as in life, if you want to cultivate a healthy relationship with your end user you need to know who they are, how they think and what they like.
The wasps and the bees
Creating value for your audience begins with generating buzz – a term used often in the industry but not necessarily fully understood. According to SMK’s program director, James Fitzgerald, if you think about buzz in terms of bees versus wasps, there’s a distinct difference in the impact created.
Bees are happy insects, they are attracted to pollen, need sunlight and produce honey, thus adding value. Wasps, on the other hand, simply annoy people and tend to get in the way. It’s probably not hard to see that you want your content to fall in the former category, says Fitzgerald.
To achieve this positive buzz, you should consider the outcome you want to achieve through social media and use it as a driving force in strategy and content creation. Ask yourself: Are we after brand awareness, sales, improved search engine performance, data capture, improved sentiment, or something else?
Likewise, determine your KPIs early on and consider your social platform when doing so. For instance: What does brand awareness look like on Twitter? How many likes is a good number? Is the number of views the only way to evaluate online video content?
Finally, connect social media to some sort of trackable data. Consider how you can connect social media to a tangible outcome like sales or data capture, and whether you’ve got the systems in place to capture the desired outcomes and KPIs.
How to succeed: The case of the Sunshine Coast Daily
Brands that are hitting the nail on the head when it comes to social media storytelling are reaping the rewards not only in terms of outcomes and the bottom line, but also in improved user experience and strengthened customer relationships. The Sunshine Coast Daily is the perfect example of this success.
As the only daily newspaper serving Queensland’s Sunshine Coast region, the Sunshine Coast Daily has the fastest growing readership of any print newspaper in Australia. Support across social platforms and a unique, multi-platform approach to content has allowed the paper to grow its print circulation.
“Multi-platform newspaper content is allowing more readers to access quality journalism when, where and how they want,” Neil Monaghan, chief executive of APN Australian Regional Media, told the Daily.
In 2014, the paper recorded record growth rates of 25% over a six-month period, coupled with a surge in online audience, which increased by 78%. Despite a national downturn in print readership numbers, the Sunshine Coast Daily continues to grow thanks to an extensive network of highly engaged social media users.
Social media users can engage with the brand by posting images and content to social channels, which are then featured across the Daily’s several platforms, including its print publication.
This model is effectively an adaptation of the user-generated content model, applied across print, social and digital media, to give the audience a sense of voice and purpose.
Tangible success is measured in terms of overall readership growth rates across the print and digital publications, as well as meaningful interactions on the Sunshine Coast Daily’s social platforms.
The state of social media storytelling
Knowing which platform(s) to choose is half the battle when it comes to social media success. Too often brands jump the gun, choosing a social channel that is not right for their target audience, or attempting to cover more channels than they can handle instead of focussing in on the best option. Remember, the audience chooses the channel, not the other way around, said Fitzgerald.
According to data presented at SMK’s Social Media Strategy Masterclass, Facebook and Youtube, the two largest social media engines, will hit almost every member of society through their mass-market network.
Instagram on the other hand, with its network reach of five million Australians, continues to be dominated by millennial urbanites. Unsurprisingly, the brands with similar identities and core values as these urbanites are those who are thriving on use of this social channel.
For all its success in countries like Britain and the US, Twitter has been slow to take off in Australia – arguably the result of failed brand building efforts on the platform’s behalf. With three million Aussie users, tweeters are characterised largely as early adopters, techies and media, making Twitter the ideal platform for outreach on social and political issues.
Despite growth in reach, average time on site for LinkedIn users remains low. The average LinkedIn audience member, a high earning, white-collar worker, spends around 30 minutes per month on site. This is in stark contrast to the average Facebook user who spends 7-10 hours on site in any given month.
Finally there’s Snapchat, the social media site predicted to take on Facebook… and triumph. In Australia, however, Snapchat remains relatively small, with a user base of just under two million. Perhaps this will grow over the coming 12 months as the platform continues to expand into the domain of branded content and user-generated videos through its mobile app.
It’s in the numbers: The social toolbox
Social media storytelling is no longer based on hunch; it’s a data-driven approach. You may think you know your customer but until you’ve got tangible evidence to back up your claims, you can never be certain.
The best way to make yourself into a socially savvy marketer is to arm yourself with as many tools as necessary to measure, synthesise and evaluate the impact of social media platforms on your brand. Here are just a few of the tools you should consider:
This is a real-time social media search and analysis tool, allowing you to see what people are saying about any given topic, at any given time – perfect for evaluating brand and product sentiment, and trending topics.
A valuable tool you should always refer to, Google News describes its service as: “Comprehensive, up-to-date news coverage, aggregated from sources all over the world”. With so much information available at the click of a button, Google News is, arguably, one of the most under-used and underrated content marketing tools available at the moment.
See what’s trending at any given time across the entire web with Google Trends. Allowing you to search by country, this tool allows you to get a real time snapshot into what’s most popular, represented in the form of data and visuals.
Prepare for the golden age of social media storytelling
Although social media is no longer as hyped up as it once was, today’s social channels have been distilled to four key components, which should form the focus of all branded activity:
1. Content marketing: If you can’t track followers, you can’t keep them.
2. Highly targeted, contextualised advertising: Consider the profile of the person you’re targeting, whether they know your brand or not and how you want to interact with them.
3. Customer relationship management: How will you manage the meaningful user relationships you cultivate?
4. Insights and research: Can you measure the outcomes and KPIs against tangible data?
If you can address these points first, and always keep them front of mind, you’ll already be ten steps ahead of the pack.
What’s your preferred social media platform and how do you generate buzz on social media?
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