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9 Ways to Move the Needle with Social Media

By Lisa Rodriguez

I recently conducted six social media audits in six weeks, for a mix of B2B and B2C companies across several industries, viewing 25 profiles across the major social channels. What does a social media audit entail? Everything from making sure profiles are up to date, to evaluating the quality of content and the level of engagement, to ensuring alignment with a company’s messaging and strategy, and then making recommendations for improvement.

While six companies and 25 profiles is not a huge sample size, in the course of this back-to-back work I found nine consistent areas for refinement. Here they are:


Right Size Your Social Footprint

Past thinking was to dip your toes into every pool and meet your customers wherever they might be, but given today’s demands on a social media manager, that strategy is unrealistic. To create quality content for all channels, with the right nuances for each one; to create correctly sized visual assets for each platform, and then also listen and engage with audiences on a regular basis quickly becomes too much unless you have a sizable team. Most of the B2C companies I work with have a social team of one, and for many B2B brands, social is just a fraction of someone’s job.

My current recommendation is to discover which two social channels best support your marketing goals and focus on them. If and when you’re ready to expand, be strategic about it and ensure resources are available for at least six months out.

Getting stretched too thin is not just a small business problem; I’ve seen this at larger companies too. Maybe there's a product launch, and that team wants to create a Twitter account, and they keep it updated for a short while, but without that long-term vision, the account gets abandoned when the team moves on to the next launch. Or, a new geo wants to make a quick impact and establish a new page in their native language, but after a few months the burden of finding ongoing content is just too much and they vacate the effort. Many times, this is all done without the knowledge of the corporate team managing the primary brands. They’re paying attention to 10 channels, and it turns out they have 30, with different versions of logos and or outdated messaging. It's confusing to your audiences and could make a less-than-desirable first impression.

Take stock of your social footprint at regular intervals, and if you find channels that have been abandoned, either close the accounts or rebrand them, to let customers and prospects know that you made a choice to hold on to your username but engage elsewhere. A profile update could read, "Hey, we're taking a break, so come find us over on this other channel. We'd love to talk with you there." That lets visitors know you have them in mind.


Look Before You Launch

The corollary to that is to evaluate carefully before you launch on a new platform. Executives tend to get shiny object syndrome when it comes to new social channels and ask their social media managers to create an account, and quickly. TikTok is the latest of these, and when I’m peppered with questions about it, I first ask, is your primary buying audience on this channel? TikTok’s audience is 16-24 year olds. If that’s not your audience, that’s not your channel.

I once had a client who sold mostly to the accounting and finance industries but when the CEO saw how addicted his 14-year old daughter was to Snapchat, he really pushed for his company to jump on it. I worked with the marketing manager to thoughtfully step back and try to connect the dots about who the audience was and where they were spending their time on social media. When it’s not a fit, there’s often some education that needs to happen, often all the way up to the C-suite.

So yes, when creative TikToks get shared on Twitter and Facebook, and even make the nightly news, corporate eyes start dancing. But it takes a serious time commitment to make a splash on any channel, so make sure resources are dedicated for at least six months, and then evaluate the impact against marketing goals.


Stop Abusing Instagram     

Most brands I audited were on Instagram, and what I saw just hurt my heart.

Instagram’s roots are in photography — capturing beautiful moments. It's really about eliciting emotion. But so many brands are throwing up infographics and quotes and slick graphics, and it doesn't make you feel anything. For example, one brand was having a conference and they were posting a series of graphics, “Five days to go," "Two days to go." Done well, that could generate excitement, but all they had in the graphic was words, in the form of their company name, conference name, and the dates and times. One company had a 10-line quote for 4th of July.

Give me a real photo. Capture my attention. Take me somewhere. If you're in biotech, you want your audience invested in your research to cure that disease. If you sell blenders, you want them to taste that smoothie.

If you want to do the conference countdown, why not source the keynote speakers to make short videos where they deliver a brief message? For Independence Day, why not post a beautiful picture of the flag flying over headquarters, and then put that quote in the post copy?

It reminds me of what I saw happen in the early days of social media. Whatever people were doing marketing-wise in email or print or paid ads, they would just dump it onto social. But the formats are truly different. Whatever ad you make for TV is not the same video that's going to work on social. You want to create content specifically for the channel. What brands are doing is creating a graphic for LinkedIn or Twitter post, and then just reposting on Instagram because they feel like they need to be there.

Don’t. Just don’t. OK, rant over.


Leverage Twitter’s Profile Features

Twitter is my go-to-platform for discovering the up-to-the-minute pulse of our ever-changing world. It is still the only platform where anyone can follow and engage with anyone without an invitation.

Twitter has two features, "Moments" and "Lists," that few brands are taking advantage of. Moments is a way to aggregate a collection of tweets from one particular event and store them in your profile. So, if you had a conference or product launch, and there were tweets worth capturing to revisit, you could collect all of those in one moment. You could do the same thing for a dedicated hashtag around a campaign, including user-generated content you may want to refer back to. It's a way to highlight some of your top moments to prospects who are exploring your profile.

Lists offer an organized option to bucket audiences and listen in. In B2B that might be top industry analysts, associations trade shows, top customers, and company executives. It takes a little upfront work to create them, but then they become these valuable conversation streams that are really easy for others in your marketing and sales departments to tap into.


Listen for the Gold

Marketers crave brand affinity, but few are willing to do the engagement to earn it. They're still treating social as a one-to-many push medium.

That’s a missed opportunity because social media lets you engage one on one. If people are mentioning your brand, using your hashtags, tagging you in their posts, take the time to give them a like or a shout out or a mention back. Go through your notifications and find posts to like and share to build loyalty over the long haul. Even negative comments can be turned to your advantage, if you give a thoughtful response. Remember that most people won’t even waste time giving you bad feedback; they’ll just walk away. For those who take the time, you've got to take that to heart and try to do something with it.


Use Automation Wisely

A lot of people are just automating all their posts and never going into the platforms. The algorithm within each social channel punishes you for that. If you publish a YouTube video to Facebook through Hootsuite, you're going to get less of an initial boost than if you posted it directly in Facebook itself, and even less than if you had uploaded the video file directly on Facebook. All the channels want native video. They don’t want to be sending traffic to YouTube.

There’s a balance to be found between scheduling posts through a third-party platform and natively posting to each individual channel. And you need to regularly go into the platform and engage with people and not just push stuff at them.


Video, Video, Video

You’re probably sick of hearing it, but I must chime in: use more video. Every channel’s algorithm gives video an additional initial boost. That’s because people love it. But, it’s still a stumbling block for a lot of brands, who they feel like they need a huge production when you can get decent quality with a smartphone and a tripod. And it does not have to be a person on camera. It could be a product walk through, a behind-the-scenes tour of your factory to show COVID safety, or quick how-to videos answering FAQs. Look for those nuggets of opportunities to create video content and start testing it out.


Diminish the Delta

Several brands I audited had 20,000+ followers and yet were averaging 25-50 likes per post. That’s a very low engagement rate, which tells me there's a gap in the value they’re providing. Either they have the audience they want but the content is not resonating, or in an effort to brag about audience size, the profile grew too quickly and they have the wrong audience for the content they’re creating.

A common mistake I see is brands talk about themselves too much, rather than sharing what the audience wants to hear. Another mistake: framing the post with the who (usually a name we don’t recognize) or the what (the call to action) when they should be leading with the why. Why does this matter to the audience? Why should they care? A common example is publishing a post that begins “register for our webinar next Tuesday at 9 a.m.” before the reader ever knows what the webinar is about and why it matters to them. We live in an attention economy, and most readers will read 8-10 words before deciding to scroll past. Don’t waste the opportunity to reach a prospect on social because you buried the lead.


Sell Social’s Value Internally

Most business leaders now realize that they should have a social presence, but there are many who think it's still cat videos and what I ate for lunch. They don't understand the value it brings, which is why it’s so under-resourced. I loved this recent article about how being a social media manager is much harder than it sounds. I want to stand on a mountaintop and sing its praises. Give it a read and share with others in your company.

Data speaks to the C-suite so leverage analytics to offer qualitative proof that you’re moving the needle on driving traffic to your website, registering prospects for your webinars and converting trial signups. That being said, qualitative documentation is important too. I share screengrabs when an employee gets mentioned for great customer service, or if there’s product feedback, I share it with the product team. If fans are really loving a video, I show the graphs that highlight the spike in traffic with the team who made it so they know it's being appreciated. Anything that gets wild engagement, share internally. And show growth over time. Visit growth and engagement figures quarterly, if not monthly, and show percentage gains. Social does move the needle when you do it right.

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About Lisa Rodriguez

The early version of Lisa Rodriguez would be described by her mother as a “Nosy Nelly”, but that insatiable curiosity has never waned despite its many manifestations, as a journalist, a public relations practitioner, and a social media marketer. Lisa has shared the ‘why’ for many brands, including PayPal, Brocade, Citrix, BayWa r.e. and Intuit. She has an MBA from Santa Clara University and a Journalism degree from Arizona State. She and her husband are raising two boys in Boise, Idaho. Please connect with her on LinkedIn.

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