Alright maybe not social distancing in the current sense, but you can’t beat a topical headline to grab attention. Hello.
Today, I’m referring to distancing in another social sense. The one we all know, love and worship (somewhat unlike the latter) - social media.
You know what, I take that back before I get in trouble. Both measures of social distancing technically stand true.
A few years ago, I worked in-house for a Head of Digital who insisted the brand’s Performance Marketing and Social Media teams desk in separate rooms. Reason being, he didn’t want the teams communicating on a work level unless absolutely necessary, so he put four walls between them. A bit extreme? Just a tad. He was an intense man. But the reasons behind his socialdistancing measures I respect to this day. Here’s why.
Social-led brand communications is designed to be exactly what the name implies – social. Whether posting organically or boosting with spend.
Performance marketing is designed to also do what it says on the tin - perform. Usually by means of sales, leads or traffic. Whether that paid activity be SEM, native, or most relevantly, social performance marketing.
Straightforward enough, ain’t it? I will politely concur on your behalf. Then why are we seeing so many brands blur the lines of two very different social strategies and damaging their brand identity as a result?
Think about the brands you follow on social media. Whether they’re old-school brands, or the self-built brand of an influencer. Why do you follow them? Because they create content that brings some sort of value to your day. Your daily dose of entertainment, news, education, inspiration or brands that do random cool sh*t because that’s the kind of stuff you enjoy watching to unwind, feet kicked up on the couch.
Now imagine that favourite brand who added a little bit of enrichment to your day, did a 360 on their social conversation. Their usual uplifting posts and stories now predominantly promote their products, shamelessly pushing you to buy - ‘get started’, ‘try it for free’, ‘buy now’, ‘visit the link below’... you get the gist. How long would it take for your perception of the brand or influencer to change? How long before you get tired of their persistent product plugs and unfollow?
There is a reason you followed that brand on social media in the first place, and it wasn’t for their products to clog up your news feed. You know where to find them, you’ve been on their website. In fact, as a follower you most likely already have some of these products.
You see enough of their remarketing ads chase you around the internet daily, now it’s doubled. Overkill.
In summary, when a brand stops talking to you and starts talking at you, a lot. That’s when you mute the conversation as a customer, or fan.
It goes without saying there can be temptations to muddle the waters between social and performance strategies. Shiny new product assets have landed in, internal pressures to drive sales, feeling the necessity to fill content gaps, or more commonly, it’s halfway through the year and the well-intended start-of-year social strategy and objectives have fallen by the wayside, forgotten about. And decking out your social content calendar with products and ready-to-go images is easy, absolutely. But seldomly smart.
Not only will blurring the lines between social communications and sales have a negative effect on your brand’s internal social KPIs (we could write a blog on the effects of this alone, I shan’t divulge too much into it), but the less measurable, and arguably the most important aspects of your business can also be damaged – your brand identity. How your customers’ perceive you. Your brand image, your values and your voice.
In an attempt to keep this short and sweet like a good social post, although evidently I’ve already failed on that front, don’t stop talking to your customers in a social, authentic way on the channels they spend time most.
Sure, there might be temptations to push products at the 10k social following you’ve built off the back of a great campaign. But remember why they followed you in the first place. They want to see more of this good content in their news feed, they don’t want to be redirected to your website. They know where to find it.
Sure, maybe you’re 5% off your customer growth target towards the end of the year and have a healthy nest of social budget left – then invest this in your social performance marketing, don’t product-pollute your page.
Sure, you might find yourself short on resources and think a month’s worth of product-pushing to your followers is better than a blank social calendar. It really isn’t.
Don’t blur the lines between two intentionally distinct strategies. Keep your social strategy exactly what it’s intended to be. Social. There are many effective digital channels to drive sales; prioritise talking to your customers on the channels built for conversation. Now I’m not saying build a brick wall between your social and performance marketing teams, could be a bit much. It goes without saying that social and social performance strategies need to be aligned in the sense of complimenting and nodding to each other across channels.
So nod, don’t embrace. In any aspect of this social distancing talk.
Wrapping up rather metaphorically - starting out and building a strong brand on social media is a lot like trying to make friends in a new city – win them over with your personality.
At the end of the day, which new acquaintance would you invite over for a drink to get to know more? The guy with the great stories, or that guy that doesn’t shut up about their watch collection.
By Social & Digital Brand Leader, Nicola Hanlon