At Meltwater we often discuss how important it is to embrace social media as a PR tool and as a way to engage our audiences. However, many brands are hesitant to utilise it due to the lack of control. In this blog, Adam Gray discusses this problem and how to overcome it.

How social media marketing can…and can’t work for your business

We are very fortunate to work with some great clients…large and small. We work across all sectors and with all departments. Ironically, one of the most difficult departments to get to embrace social is the marketing department!

It seems strange that marketing teams should be fundamentally averse to “going for it” with social media. The reasons make sense if you think about it. Social media is the greatest “connector” of people in humankind’s history. However, marketing departments are (historically) all about control. 

Marketers help to create the brand vision and then create the on-brand communications. Marketing teams are “the messaging police” of a brand. They create key messaging, approve and decline presentations and control what is communicated to the general public and the press.  

Social media is unpoliceable for all intents and purposes. It is an environment where control of what’s said about a brand is vested to the audience, rather than in-house. This goes against everything that marketing departments have done since the beginning of time. And it can be tricky to give up control! 

So how can marketing manage this inevitable transition from centrally controlled marketing function to distributed network? Here are some things that need to be considered to make the journey easier.

In order to see ROI, we have to fully embrace social media.

Plan – Identify what you hoping to achieve on social and what are you going to do to achieve it? This is going to be a trial and error process. If you’ve not done much of this before, you will struggle to know what resonates with your audience. Simply pushing your products or latest news isn’t going to cut it. The barometer for success is not “how good is my campaign?’ but “how much did my campaign spread?”. 

Top tip to help you fully embrace social media: Look at the social media profiles of your competitors and industry as a whole for some ideas of where to start with what to post. 

Listen – the difference between social media and other channels, is that you can genuinely have a conversation with people. If you are ‘listening’ and someone says something on a social channel, you can join in the conversation. A couple of years ago a friend of mine tweeted “I love my new BMW” with a photo of him driving with the roof down. BMW tweeted back saying “great…we’re glad you love it…send some more photos”…he has subsequently bought a better BMW and his wife has bought one too. They will be customers for life! This goes to show that even a small interaction can have an impact on your customers.

Guidelines – Your fellow employees are likely to talk about the brand on social channels…so explain in plain language what is expected and what is unacceptable. This is not about control, this is about gently pointing individuals in the right direction. If I say something to my friends, family and network about a product or brand, it is much more powerful in my own words than a heavily engineered messaging. However, to avoid a brand crisis, ensure staff are clear on what they can and cannot say. Social media guidelines should be empowering rather than restricting. Changing this mind set is key to help you fully emrace social media.

embrace social media

Measurement – The one job that the marketing department, that will always be necessary is measurement. Find out what is being said about your brand and how far the conversation is spreading. Then use this to inform centralised marketing strategies and campaigns. What should work and what DOES work can often be very different. 

Agile – You must be able to change something if it isn’t working. A spray and pray approach doesn’t cut the mustard. The silicon valley mantra “fail fast” is especially relevant in the social media space. Measure all your marketing efforts and then scrap or improve the less well-performing content. 

Not you – Your audience is not you…so they will not necessarily interpret things the way that you do.  Additionally, they don’t have the same frame of reference that you do. Don’t assume your audience has the same level of knowledge. It’s, therefore, best to avoid jargon and explain even the most basic concepts. Never post anything that might be offensive. Diversity, race, religion, politics…are all topics that are best avoided because people feel strongly about these things and they can spark debate. As a white, middle-aged, middle-class man, I cannot possibly begin to understand the challenges people who are not like me and I shouldn’t pretend that I can.

Explorers -Despite the fact that social media has been around for almost 2 decades, many of us are treading in unfamiliar territory. New platforms and new features are cropping up all the time. In some cases, you may be stepping into a world where nobody in your industry has been. If that’s the case you need to be brave, robust and prepared to fall over a few times before you get it right. Like Columbus (or Lief Erikson or whoever actually did) discovering America was a great prize…and discovering your audiences on social is also a great prize and worth risking everything for!

About the author:
Adam Gray Co-Founder – Digital Leadership 

Adam has spent all of his life working in marketing, most of it digital marketing. 10 years ago he moved exclusively into social media.

He has subsequently written the first internationally published book on social media for business Brilliant Social Media pub Pearson, and spent three years as Head of Client Social Media EMEA for Oracle, working with Oracle’s biggest clients to help them understand how they could deploy social media within their businesses and working with them to create implementation strategies.

Further resources to help you fully embrace social media:
The Definitive Social Listening Guide 
On-demand webinar: Using Social Media as a PR Tool 
On-Demand Webinar: 10 Keys to Finding, Growing and Nurturing your Social Community