How to fix your failing social media strategy
Brands are wasting their effort getting fans to like them on social media. There are far more effective ways to create sales and meet business objectives.
Higher levels of likeability on social media do not lead to higher levels of purchase consideration.
That is the finding of new research by Twitter and digital agency Isobar, and it is just one indication that marketers’ priorities could be in the wrong places when it comes to social media strategy. Evidence also shows that marketers should be devoting resources to understanding the demographics of followers, integrating objectives with the rest of the business and using alternative social networks beyond Facebook and Twitter.
Advertising spending on social media grew 73% to £396m in the first half of 2014, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC. It is a growing channel for influencing how a consumer interacts, considers and buys products and services, yet many marketers will be shocked to learn their finely tuned copy and irreverent brand voice have little impact on purchase intent.
Twitter’s study looks at an online panel of 4,511 users who were shown pages of a fictional fashion brand and asked to rate them, in order to explore likelihood to buy and brand perception. Groups were shown variations of those pages to identify the effects of different visual elements, including followers, tone of voice and how many accounts the brand followed. Some changes increase likeability while also decreasing consideration of the brand.
Chase likes or sales, not both
A common failing of social strategies is that brands do not realise they should only be seeking to increase one or the other, says Matthew Taylor, UK research manager at Twitter.
“You are either trying to drive a really strong brand message for long-term relationship building, which is on the likeability side, or on the other side the commercial product performance message of a direct response campaign,” he says.
As a brand follows more accounts, purchase consideration drops. The highest consideration level – 15% – occurs when a brand is following around 1,000 other Twitter users, but above this number it falls, reaching 8% when a brand follows around 12,000 people.
“Social used to be something you did as an add-on. Things have changed massively”
Michelle Stoodley, Benefit
The number of people following a brand has little impact on measures of consumer interest, trust, propensity to buy or propensity to recommend until it reaches high levels – the account set up to represent this in the study had around 600,000 followers. If a brand has very high follower numbers (in the millions) it has a significant impact on how much people trust the brand and whether they would buy a product or service from it, with 30% of people strongly agreeing they would like to buy a product or service from such a brand.
The demographics and confidence levels of a brand’s followers are also indicators of how likely they are to buy. James Caig, head of strategy at Isobar, says: “Not all likes and followers are born equal. Knowing more about why someone has followed you will become critical in helping a brand generate value from that follow or like.”
The age group most likely to score social media content highly on the consideration scale is 25-34 year-olds, while the study shows that older people are more likely to score any piece of stimulus higher on the likeability scale compared to the consideration scale. This may be driven by the differences in people’s confidence in using the internet across the age groups (see chart above).
The data shows that older people are more likely to score themselves closer to the novice end of internet confidence. Those who are most comfortable with the internet are most likely to trust, recommend, be interested in or be willing to buy a product or service. Twitter’s report concludes that the more confident the consumer, the more likely they are to have a commercial mindset.
This will also affect brands looking at social commerce tools, such as trials for Facebook’s ‘buy now’ button and Twitter’s ‘shop now’ option. Likewise, Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel on Google-owned YouTube will soon feature an option to buy the products featured in the celebrity chef’s ‘how to’ posts.
Lisa Tookey, commercial director at Jamie Oliver (see viewpoint below), says: “For us the exciting thing is how you push people from social media to content and then on to purchase. It’s making sure we are in right at the beginning of what will be the future of how people consume content and shop for food.”
Twitter’s advice to brands is to ensure an understanding of the comfort levels of the audience. The study shows that when it comes to less experienced users, brands should not overestimate ‘like’ metrics. For younger audiences, brands should not be afraid to close the deal, as this group is far more comfortable with the idea of entering into a transactional relationship.
Understanding the fundamentals behind fans, likes, followers and subscribers is still only part of utilising social media. Integration of social into business objectives is an issue as social media’s growth as a channel for communication and consumption means it is dangerous to make it a siloed part of any organisation.
Yet only 10% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) believe that social is well integrated with their broader strategy, according to research by OgilvyOne, which explores whether social programmes undertake the fundamental customer engagement activities that drive sales, loyalty and advocacy. The study reveals that CMOs realise social is not delivering because it is badly integrated, not measured for performance and not strategic in its planning.
Jo Coombs, managing director at OgilvyOne, says: “CMOs have often not planned social as part of their broader business strategy and have delegated it to a fairly junior role in marketing. Unsurprisingly this has led to a focus on getting cheap reach rather than meaningful engagement with customers.”
The study analysed 27 companies and used a scoring system to create a database of 4,087 answers, categorised by journey stage, channel used and company. At any stage of the customer journey a score of 100% would indicate that the basics of a category-appropriate social programme are in place.
Benefit and Instagram
To amplify the launch of its Christmas gift sets, cosmetics company Benefit is using Instagram’s native advertising format to create an ‘interactive festive village’ for consumers. It claims to be the first beauty brand to use such content on Instagram.
The activity, which launched at the end of October and is refreshed every week, will feature digital versions of its gift set tins, the contents of which will be tagged. Consumers can click on individual products to go to profiles for each item.
Michelle Stoodley, social media manager at Benefit Cosmetics UK & Ireland, says: “We have not done anything too wild on Instagram; we have been building up our community and laying the groundwork so wanted to do something different for Christmas.”
Instagram is an integral channel for Benefit due to its visual nature, and the brand aims to find new and innovative ways to interact with its fan base on the platform. Fans will also be able to contribute to the accounts by uploading their own images and tagging the products to create the interactive part of the advertising.
Stoodley says: “We aimed to use the native functionality a bit differently and that is where the idea came from to create product catalogues and set up profiles for each tin to give them their own personality and get the community involved.”
The brand is also running a competition to win the gift sets by asking fans to upload and tag a ‘selfie’ on Instagram that is inspired by their favourite Benefit make-up products. The brand ‘re-grams’ the best images and picks a winner.
On average, companies score only 31% across the full customer journey. Social is used most actively in the early stages of customer journeys: during the raising awareness stage it achieves a benchmark of 51%. The average benchmark score of 21% at the point of purchase indicates that companies are not trying to sell in social or to create bonds immediately post-purchase.
One of beauty brand Benefit’s objectives for 2014 was to change the approach to social and digital and how it engages the audience. Benefit recently launched a native advertising campaign on Instagram as part of this push.
Michelle Stoodley, social media manager at Benefit Cosmetics UK & Ireland, says: “Social used to be sidelined a lot, and almost quite separate and something you did as an add-on. Things have changed massively in the past year. That is something that Benefit has really tried to change, our digital team is fully integrated in the wider marketing team.”
A similar approach is taken by Direct Line, as the brand believes it is important to not put social media in one part of the organisation. The aim is to support marketing, communications and customer service by developing the brand’s social communities. It has a content creation and curation team as well as a customer care team.
Frances Browning, head of UK and international media relations at Direct Line, says: “It’s such a visible channel so it needs to echo what you are trying to do in broader business objectives or you will quickly lose the consumer trust you are trying to build.”
Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Marketers still appear largely unaware of many social tactics and channels despite their value, achieving a benchmark score of just 31% in OgilvyOne’s study for use of URL shorteners, for example. These can provide a simple and effective method of measuring social media performance by analysing which links get clicked on.
The top three social media sites used are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But the need for marketers to expand their scope beyond these is highlighted by further data that shows how different social channels contribute to the path to purchase.
YouTube is the strongest of the social networks at introducing new products and driving conversions, according to research by AoL and attribution company Convertro, which analysed 500 million clicks, 15 million conversions and three billion impressions in the first quarter of 2014. The analysis shows that Google+ is third most effective, after Facebook but ahead of Twitter and Instagram.
Topman recently launched activity on Google+ via a ‘shoppable hangout’, where consumers can buy products from the brand’s autumn/winter range while the content is played on the channel. That social content is then spread across Google’s display network so it goes beyond one user’s content stream. The idea behind Google’s ‘Plus Posts’ comes from the fact that 45% of YouTube’s inbound traffic derives from users sharing content.
Mark Howe, managing director of agency sales, north and central Europe at Google, says: “The increase in availability and demand by advertisers to use social and video is already there.”
The shareability of content is becoming increasingly important to providing value both to consumers and to brands producing that social content. Yahoo recently announced a content marketing solution that brings together its social blogging site Tumblr and its dedicated content division YahooStudio. The aim is to create ‘social earned’, where any content that a user re-blogs adds to the brand’s reach across the social site, as well as Yahoo spreading that Tumblr content across its network.
Patrick Albano, EMEA head of solutions at Yahoo, says: “Tumblr is a lively global community and many of its users are millennials who are highly engaged and receptive to brand content. More than a third of re-blogs happen over 30 days after the initial post.”
There is no one strategy that can be applied to all brands in social media, but as this data shows, there are areas where marketers should be devoting more attention. And if all of your efforts are going into ensuring that every tweet, post and picture is getting fans to like you, you could be wasting your time.
Content to commerce is the new buzz phrase, but who does it well? I have come from a fashion background where trying to drive people from content to consideration to purchase is hard because they are quite big-ticket items.
For Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube [a ‘how to’ YouTube channel where the chef creates dishes for subscribers], we use our big social media audience. Social is a great tool for us to visually give a taste of what to expect either on our website or on Food Tube. We want to make sure the people who are subscribed are alerted that there is something new, and for others it is about discovering that content.
For us, the exciting thing is how you push people from social media to that content and then on to purchase. It’s how you complete the cycle, which we do through an ‘add to basket’ function built into the website, and this will soon be coming to the Food Tube channel to enable buying from the video.
We want to offer a full service to consumers, wherever they are looking at our content. It’s about how you do that through each of the touchpoints; whether that is Food Tube, the website, the app, a digital edition of the magazine or social media. It’s about making the consumer journey really easy and joined up.
I agree with James Caig, head of strategy at Isobar, when he says: “Not all likes and followers are born equal. Knowing more about why someone has followed you will become critical in helping a brand generate value from that follow or like.”
I also think that the lack of alignment with the business objectives and integration of social media content with the rest of the full marketing mix are the two main problems.
This is a great post especially in light of the fact that so many companies both online and offline do not realize the value that great content can have on the persona of their business or organisation. Well written professional content can make the difference between gaining an order or loosing an order and it is those savvy businesses that appreciate this are the ones which will succeed. GoPromotional
Some interesting points raised and I completely agree that all messages to potential (and existing) customers need to be consistent across all mediums – including social media, which means good planning. But, that said there needs to be that element of reaction to posts, tweets etc to keep followers engaged and believing that their interaction is important to the company – similar to Benefits re-gram competition. Some of the best responses I have had on Twitter have been when reacting to somebody else’s Tweet.