By Heather Hook | @HeatherLHook
We couldn’t imagine living without social media because it has become an essential tool for connecting and communicating, but how many of us are using the right platforms wrong reasons? JoziStyle’s roving reporter Heather Hook interviewed Frankie Brooks from communication agency Roots SA about the five Ws (who, what, when, where & why) of social media for people and businesses.
Heather Hook: What are your top 3 social media channels? There are so many options out there, what do you recommend as necessary for anyone to get started with social media promotion?
Frankie Brooks: This is a question I could quite easily spend an entire day talking about due to the sheer meatiness of the topic. There isn’t really a top three for me because it is important to understand that every brand/product/need is often unique and until you’ve looked at that, you cannot just simply say here is a formula that will work in any social media sphere. That’s a whole other analysis though on what you have and what you want to achieve. Some brands, believe it or not, have no business being on social media.
So instead I’d like to hand pick the three platforms that offer different things for me when marketing socially to consumers. They are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you were expecting to hear, Flickr, Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or any other of the bazillion platforms that may be your favourites, the reality is that with the choices we have, we have to follow what is best individually for individual cases. As a side note, some of the ones I’ve just mentioned I don’t believe are good for marketing at all. All three of my chosen platforms have very specific perks in my eyes.
Facebook has the reach, tools and analytical data that no other platform does which enables marketers to be incredibly targeted in their approach and see at the drop of a hat what works and what doesn’t. Yes, it has drawbacks too in that they change their algorithms more often than we anticipate load shedding in the near future but we work with it, happily, because it’s still the most cost effective way to reach people.
Twitter is a platform that I often find myself defending because it’s a slow grower and until recently you were not able to do paid promotions. For the record, Twitter folk will hate on you if you start promoting in their feed so best to keep a lid on it till it becomes more acceptable, if that ever happens. It’s a newsy, hard hitting, real-time platform. Don’t release old news on it and whatever you do, don’t direct them to your latest Facebook post. This is where you’ll reach many people you won’t find on Facebook. It’s an entirely unique audience. Twitter is the Cape Town of social media and is ignored by brands/companies at their peril, in my opinion.
Pinterest is another amazing platform but it is most certainly not for everybody. Its insatiable appetite for driving traffic to websites is its super power from a marketing perspective for me. With the companies where I use both Facebook and Pinterest, Pinterest will outpace Facebook for driving web traffic almost 3-1 with only a tenth of the follower’s vs fans. It’s incredible when used correctly with the correct content.
Why do you think social media is becoming the huge deal it is? Are we developing in to a Technological Generation (even if we are in our 30’s and 40’s?)
This is an incredibly subjective question, one which could be tackled from any number of angles but if we’re sticking to marketing, then it’s because we have more control over what we see, how we see it and when we see it than ever before.
There is also a huge amount of instant gratification online. Where you’d previously have to sign up for a course and attend classes to learn how to crochet a blanket or mix your favourite cocktails, you can now open up YouTube and learn in the comfort of your home, at whatever hour suits you. If you’re a hard core news follower you need only get in on the action on Twitter and be the first to hear every breaking story around the world. If your family is scattered across the country or even globe, as mine is, you don’t have to wait for family holidays or spend a fortune on phone calls anymore to keep up to date with what they are doing, you can simply log into Facebook and there they are.
Control and convenience are key and online has that in bucket loads. There are even wonderful apps like Readability which strips websites of all the rubbish like unnecessary advertising or hard to read fonts so you can only see the actual content you’re after. People are conveniently in control. This is what makes them so irate when YouTube forces them to watch an ad in the beginning of videos or Facebook changes how their newsfeed works, because they didn’t choose it.
We are a Technological Generation, not as much as our children will be, but we’re also an Information Generation. The amount of information we have access to today is astounding. To think that recently Britannica decided to stop printing their encyclopaedias when my school projects were all done almost exclusively from those colossal doorstops!
At the end of it all, I believe people like to be connected. Personally through Facebook and more impersonally through Twitter, just as an example.
How often should you post? When is enough, and what is too much?
This is a great question because there really is no right or wrong number and your product, platform and fan/follower base will direct you. When we start a new account we normally trial a month or two to see what works.
As a general rule you can be sure that you’d be safe to post a lot more on Twitter than Facebook. Twitter is about quantity in the feed to be seen but that being said don’t abuse it and post every half hour. It also depends on how good your content is. If you’re putting out rubbish just to be seen you won’t attract the followers. Remember that Twitter is a ‘choose who you follow and what you see’ platform unlike Facebook that bombards you with what your friends like. It may be about quantity but it still needs to be quality quantity.
With Facebook if you’re posting less than twice a week and you’re not promoting those posts to at least appear in your fan feeds, you’re probably wasting your time. You’ll only need to look at how dire your reach is on the bottom of your posts to see that you may as well pack up shop. On the flip side of the pendulum, there are some pages that can get away with posting multiple times a day because their fans love them, their content is relevant and they have a dedicated team managing their page. I strive with most of my pages to post once a day at a maximum and twice a week at a minimum, again taking individual cases into account.
What should you be posting – what kind of content do you recommend for personal and business?
Ahhhhh content. This is what people get paid the big bucks for. If I had a penny for every time I read “Content is King” I’d be retired on a sunny beach by now. If companies dedicated more budget to creating quality content, they’d spend a tenth of what they currently do on SEO for something that creates lasting, organic results.
It’s really difficult for me to tell you or any other brand/company what content to post because of the uniqueness of our own fan bases, our products and our goals but people are looking at your posts to be entertained or to be educated, so your content should do both of those, albeit in separate posts.
Overly promotional posts will see less coverage in Facebook newsfeeds from this January according to the new algorithm, so it would be a waste of time. Don’t increase your fan base by running a “Like our page to enter” competition. All those fans are pretty dead to you after that. This means you’ll be spending more money to reach more fans which may or may not be interested in hearing what you have to say. It’s honestly not about how many fans you have but what your interaction with those fans is all about. Give them something worth sharing (in-between your educational posts about how the new ingredient in your bug spray stops cockroaches moving past the 8cm mark), even if it’s not about your products because it’s engaging, entertaining, inspiring and keeps your page in their newsfeed.
Twitter is simple in, as I said previously, don’t release old news on it and whatever you do, don’t direct them to your latest Facebook post. If you cannot say what you want to say in 140 characters, you’re on the wrong platform. It’s a wittier platform than the rest so try be funny, even if you’re an upmarket brand, a good SM writer should be able to squeeze out a classy tweet or ten.
Pinterest has to be eye catching. A dull picture never got a re-pin I’m afraid. If you don’t have a good photographer or designer, best you invest in one for this platform. The copy to go with it is all but surplus. It’s the eye candy.
On a personal note far be it for me to say what you should or should not post. I’ve always believed social media to be your space and you should be and do whatever you like there. Having said that, remember two things, two very important things:
> You can absolutely be fired and/or prosecuted for things you say on your personal Facebook profile so don't think it is a little bubble of personal protection. > @shanselman’s Rule #0 of the Internet: Nothing you put online, even for a second, can ever be taken down. Drink that in and know it.
How do you get more interaction on your page – likes, shares etc?
If your content is good and you are not getting interaction it is because you are not being seen, that’s why promoted posts are required. If you spend just a small amount, I normally go with around R50, on promoting all your posts, and your interaction does not steadily increase then it is your content that needs to be checked.
Facebook newsfeed is a very competitive space and unless you spend a little you won’t get anything out. Once you’ve promoted posts over a certain period, depending on the frequency of your posts, you can analyse which posts do well, which don’t and adjust your strategy accordingly.
How can PR help businesses grow, especially in these tough economic times? People tend to not want to spend on things like marketing and PR – but they should be, right?
It is an age old tradition of companies to cut back first on marketing efforts when times are tough and marketing companies have always spent an enormous amount of energy trying to explain why it’s the wrong thing to do but in reality, marketing is really expensive, hence being the first thing to go. Marketing needs to become a necessity in every business which is affordable and with the onset of online marketing that really can be realised. Let your customers come to you by making yourself available and searchable. Your customers not being able to find you should be your biggest problem moving forward. If companies can set up a presence that can be scaled to suit the economic times, they’ll never need to cut out marketing, only adjust slightly during difficult times and open the floodgates again when things settle down.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you’re not out there, promoting yourself, your business will not grow. So cutting out marketing in tough times is naturally a bad idea. The issue is that the person responsible for coming in under budget is usually not that concerned with the long term effects. Planning for economic struggle is not top of mind for most marketing departments either but it is not far-fetched at all to have an elastic band marketing plan that can weather all kinds of economic storms with the public being none the wiser.
Frankie Brooks will be joining us in the JoziStyle studios at Radio Today Johannesburg on Saturday, 31 January 2014 between 12-1PM to share her insights about how social media is moving forward in Jozi. Tune in to 1485am or DStv Audio 869.