Active International recently moderated a panel discussion on social media strategies, opportunities, and best practices, with a focus on Facebook and Twitter. On the panel were clients Anna Bittner of HSAD (LG) and Teresa Randall of Pinnacle, creative agency representative Brian Howlet of Agency 59, and social media expert Ben Dumas of Involved Media. The panel was moderated by Joanne Crump, VP Media Services Director for Active International. The event was part of Active’s Media 360 Education series: 90 minute breakfast seminars to share insights, demystify today’s burning media topics, and deliver actionable ideas to our partners.
This article summarizes highlights of the event to aid marketers and agencies in their social media endeavors. We welcome your commentary or follow up questions in the comments below.
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As marketers we all know that social media is constantly expanding and brands need to have a social presence. With 63% of Canadians utilizing a social network as of last year’s global web index survey , Canada has the highest penetration of social media in the world.
Further research has shown that Canadians who have a social media account tend to visit a network on average once per week. On Twitter, users visit five times per week, whereas Facebook users visit nine times per week. It is clear that marketers today need to take this into consideration, which explains the trend of increased spend on social.
- When does it make sense to include social as part of the marketing mix?
“As a social media marketer will say - at all times,” says Anna Bittner of LG. “Canadians visit social networks all the time, and they follow their favourite brands. Leveraging this is very important – it will help you reach your audience.”
“It can really be integrated into any plan,” notes Ben Dumas of Involved Media. “Whether you’re trying to drive video views, increase reach, or increase engagement, you will find a social media platform that can help meet that objective.”
“For us, this is where our consumer is,” adds Teresa Randall of Pinnacle (Duncan Hines). “They are looking for baking ideas and inspiration, and are sharing tips with friends, so it makes sense for us to be online and in social media. Social is a very cost efficient media when compared to other types, and it allows limited marketing dollars to go further.”
“I think the question is when is it NOT part of the plan,” says Brian Howlett of Agency 59. “However, some of our clients embrace it and it’s their primary objective and channel, while other clients have different objectives. Some brands don’t yet lend themselves to that deep connection on social.”
- What percentage of your marketing would you spend on Social Media vs. Traditional Media?
“In terms of Online spend, about half of the media budget is spent on social – all on Facebook, not on Twitter,” states Randall.
“LG is very similar; about half of the digital budget is spent on social media, equally leveraged against the most active platforms,” adds Bittner.
- How should Social Media be evaluated? What is the best KPI to track for Facebook and Twitter?
“It really ties back to the objective you’re working with, as there’s no one KPI that’s applicable to all clients,” Dumas notes. “If you’re looking for awareness, you may be looking for impressions and unique reach. If you want to drive video views, you’re going to look at completion rate and the number of views you’re driving. For an engagement strategy, we look at actions on a post, and if you’re trying to drive traffic, you’re looking at clicks and how cheaply you can get that traffic to your site.”
Randall agrees, “We do a lot of emphasis on our new product launches, which are based on reach. But there will be other times where we are looking for engagement to improve relationships with consumers.”
Bittner also adds, “Consumer behavior on social media changes from year to year. People often will not hit “like” these days – they will simply view it – so likes are not always an adequate reflection of campaign performance. You need to always be actively monitoring it.”
“From a creative standpoint, you want your customer to feel good about what the message was,” Howlett notes. “A share is great. Regardless of whether something has 10 likes or 10,000, what’s important for engagement is how deep that sharing or connection goes.”
- What is the value of a like? Are “likes” still relevant?
“I feel that likes are still relevant, though they are less relevant than they were a few years ago, when brands were just trying to build a fan base and that was about it,” Dumas explains. “Facebook has decreased the organic reach you get on your page, so each piece of content you put out reaches fewer people organically. In that sense, the value of that audience has decreased. There is still huge value in having a core fan base, just in different ways. You can target your fans and build lookalike audiences around them, so it’s still an effective channel.”
“It’s still an easy metric for a client to walk down the hall to tell their boss about,” Howlett adds. “We always ask, ‘What are those fans there for – are they there for a coupon or offer, or are they really falling in love with your product and story? Are they going to become long term brand ambassadors?’ It’s still a good number as opposed to a TV buy where you are looking at impressions.”
“I love the share – it means people don’t just like it, they want to tell others about it. From a marketing perspective, that’s free advertising – word of mouth is the most valuable endorsement you can have for your product,” Randall describes. “The comments are equally as insightful because you can find out if you’re doing things that people like or dislike.”
“A share or a comment represents a very loyal customer who actually goes in and reads your content ,” Bittner agrees. “You’re getting the value of that one share, along with the added potential of 300 friends who are seeing that share.”
- People seem to "like" and "share" pages and posts without really absorbing or understanding the content these days. Is it true genuine engagement? Should you and do you “throw out” a percent of measured stats when you’re analyzing the results?
“Amongst our followers, I don’t see people liking for the sake of liking,” Randall starts. “Our messaging is simple – here’s a recipe, here’s a new product – and you don’t have to like our content to enter our promotions. I don’t discount any likes we get.”
“There is no one media that is going to be so perfect that every penny you spend will come back to your KPIs or to a sale,” says Howlett. For example, if you buy TV, you’re going to get huge impression levels, but they aren’t all going to be the right impressions.”
“Many of LG Canada’s customers who are Facebook fans or Twitter followers are there to find out if there is a new product or potential discount through a retailer,” Bittner adds. “Yes, there’s a possibility of having fans who are fishing for a deal, but I view every like as a potential loyal customer and brand ambassador.”
“There’s always going to be some natural drop off in your fan base, and you should monitor that,” Dumas advises. “We encourage brands to focus on a retention strategy versus solely buying likes. Put out good content and demonstrate the value of being a fan – give fans a reason not to leave the page.”
- How do you integrate Twitter into a CPA based plan?
“It comes down to the ad types, targeting, and tracking that you’re doing,” Dumas explains. “There’s a product called the Twitter Website Card that focuses on driving traffic to your website. If your goal is to take an action offsite, there are pixels you implement so you can track and optimize offsite conversions and credit them back to Twitter. In terms of targeting, you can go beyond typical keyword and topic targeting and upload first party data and email lists to enable you to target your customer segments on Twitter.”
- Can you provide an example of how your Facebook/Twitter campaigns translated into tangible financial results?
“Rather than ROI, I prefer to talk about return on engagement,” Bittner begins. “For example, prior to launching the LG G4 mobile phone, LG Canada recently ran a test campaign, ‘Try LG G4.’ 50 lucky customers across Canada received the device and had the chance to test it while carrying out weekly challenges that they shared on Facebook and Twitter. The campaign drove a lot of traffic to the landing page, which let customers learn more about the product and where they could purchase it when it was released to the public.”
“Two years ago we launched a new frosting line, and the social aspect was layered on top of other media,” Randall explains. “Social takes it to another level where consumers are able to interact not only with the brand, but also with each other. When we have a new product and consumers are trying to find it, they will respond to each other and help each other. They help sell our products without us doing anything.”
“To build on that, Duncan Hines is in a very special place in terms of social – bakers love to talk about recipes and baking,” Howlett adds. “It isn’t just a functional question of KPI and metrics; it’s also very much an emotional element. It’s the most intimate channel.”
- What are some of the most effective strategies companies are using on Facebook and Twitter to drive consumer engagement and brand advocacy?
“You have to respect the consumer – like with any media. Understand the channel, and understand why people are there,” Howlett advises. “Engaging with pictures and video, not just text, is a best practice. And be sure to keep content fresh.”
“I love the immediacy of social media,” Randall adds. “We focus on holidays and try to inspire people. For example, if it’s National Brownie Day, we don’t tell people to go buy our brownie mix. Instead, we say, ‘Hey, it’s National Brownie Day – let’s celebrate,’ and hopefully this inspires bakers.”
“There is also the customer service side of social, and making sure that you’re monitoring your page. Respond not just to positive feedback, but to negative feedback as well to build better brand advocates,” Dumas suggests.
- How can you encourage strong, genuine engagement without contests and giveaways?
“We try to talk about movies and other things that evoke emotion and encourage our audience to express themselves,” Bittner states. “At LG, our audience enjoys talking about what they like.”
“We find that brands that are putting out content that is ‘behind the scenes’ or ‘special access’ tend to drive more engagement,” says Dumas.
“If you have a community manager, you might want to reach out to people offline too; not everything needs to be public,” Howlett advises. “Send a private message and just say thanks – that’s intimacy.”
- What are best practices for executing a social media campaign, including creative tips and guidelines?
“You don’t want to over-post – the particular frequency depends on your brand and what you’re trying to achieve,” Howlett suggests. “Social is also very much in the moment. If there is an event taking place in the world that directly relates to your product or service, you have permission to be all over it in that moment.”
Ben Dumas (Involved Media)
“From a paid campaign standpoint, the more ads that run simultaneously the better, because it allows you to optimize to the top performers,” describes Dumas. “We recommend at least 2-3 posts per week. If there are year long campaigns, refresh creative every 4 weeks at minimum – you don’t want stale creative going for months and months.”
“We keep copy short, no longer than a sentence, and we post new content every day, so that it is fresh and audiences have a reason to come back,” Bittner explains.
- Should creative run across all screens and should the strategy or execution differ for Desktop vs. Mobile?
“We don’t customize it to that level. We keep it short and sweet across all platforms,” Randall says.
“We advise one set of specs that runs across all platforms: Highest resolution images and the shortest copy so that the full copy shows up on all devices,” Dumas explains. “We are always optimizing campaigns based on devices, and while we may have separate strategies for different platforms, we still try to have something that works across all devices.”
- What creative units seem to be most effective and for which objectives – brand awareness vs. engagement vs. conversations etc.?
“For engagement, we advise using photos and videos,” Dumas states. “For driving traffic, utilize Link Ads to take people off site. Carousel Ads are newer, and we are seeing engagement twice as high as on single photos.”
“The beauty of social is that it’s constantly evolving,” Randall explains. “If I’m going to start a campaign 6 months from now, there will likely be a new creative unit that I will need to evaluate.”
- With ever limited budgets, is it best to allocate funds to paid social media vs. developing and pushing more page content/posts organically?
“Both,” Dumas starts. “A good media strategy falls apart without good creative, so if you’re not investing in good content, paid ads aren’t going to do well. Generally what does well organically will do well paid. It’s about balancing the limited budget you have against both paid and organic content, and being selective with your targets. Focus on a few core things and amplify things that are doing well organically.
“And with paid social, the creative has to work even harder, because you’re interrupting someone’s feed versus someone voluntarily visiting your page,” Howlett adds.
“We get a lot of bang for our buck when we use video, and it gets fantastic reach,” Bittner says.
“I’d add that if you have great paid content and succeed in getting someone to go to your page, there has to be good content on the page too,” Randall explains.
- How can clients integrate 1st and 3rd party data to make their campaigns more effective and reduce waste?
“Both Facebook and Twitter have a product that allows you to upload your email lists, customer data, and other 1st party data through email or phone, and match it to their social profile. That’s been very powerful, especially for clients looking to drive sales and conversions,” Dumas explains. “Additionally, you can place pixels on your website and build out a segment of users and retarget them when they are on Facebook. You can also build lookalike audiences on Facebook and Twitter – it might be a smaller reach of people, but it’s about finding people who are similar in their behaviours to target.”
- What is the difference, if any, between what you are getting when you buy Facebook through FBX versus an approved API?
“An approved API is essentially just a partner of Facebook selling their advertising and using their interface so they have access to Facebook’s real-time data and insights. FBX was initially for finding audiences outside of Facebook based on their online behaviours, and retargeting them on Facebook. That used to be the only way you could do retargeting through Facebook using a DSP. FBX allows you to get more granular, but it is limited to desktop,” Dumas explains. “Over the years, Facebook has evolved their normal ad product to accommodate retargeting as well through pixels and website visitors. Using their standard ad product through an API or direct, you can now retarget across devices. We have shifted almost entirely towards not using FBX as you have access to more ad types, greater targeting options, and you get mobile. And mobile is so big it’s hard to justify a tactic to be used only through desktop.”
- According to Comscore, 32% of smartphone subscribers use their phone while watching TV. With more people engaging with multiple screens, what is the best way to create synergy between social and offline tactics?
“There’s a huge value with attaching your brand to a specific event, and being able to cater your copy and content to what’s happening in the media at that point in time,” Bittner describes.
“Tone is even more important,” Howlett suggests. “We all remember when Oreo did the ‘lights out’ at the Superbowl, which really started that trend. There are a lot of brands doing it, but also some brands doing it poorly. You might do yourself more damage hijacking an event if the message is too forced.”
“The Oreo story is an interesting one,” Bittner responds. “What appeared to be a dry response in the moment actually was planned strategically months ahead of time. The content needs to be thought through – you do need to have a plan.”
“There are brands that build war rooms now, for events such as the Superbowl,” Howlett adds. “But we need to be careful, especially with live events, as the consumer may be resistant to that. Yes, they are multitasking, but TV is still the primary device. Don’t get in the way of that too much, or consumers will tune you out.”
“When we work with TV clients, we look at targeting mobile devices. It works especially well on Twitter, as they have great TV show targeting,” Dumas describes.
- What was your most successful campaign that included social and why?
“First off, let me provide the caveat that each definition of success is different,” says Dumas. “We worked on a successful campaign for FOX for the Fall tune-in. In terms of scale, it achieved a billion impressions, millions of likes, and tons of engagement.”
“Different campaigns are successful in their own rights,” Randall explains. “We recently did a post with a Duncan Hines chef who has videos of kitchen tips; this one was how to make pie crust out of cake mix. It was such a unique idea, and consumers loved it. It went viral and we had over 7,000 shares. It was easy and unexpected. We have a paid campaign coming up and we will be boosting it.”
- Is social marketing a fad?
“No, it’s not a fad for sure,” Howlett begins. “The channels will change – who knows what will be the next big thing in 2 years. From a storytelling perspective, it’s the golden age, and we have captivated consumers.”
“A fad is something defined by a very short period of time,” Randall adds. “Facebook has proven itself over time, and it has been around much longer. It’s engrained in people’s behaviours. It’s not going anywhere.”
“It’s here to stay. Think about yourself and what you do when you wake up. I check email, The Globe and Mail, Facebook, and Twitter. I receive more news from Facebook than I do with The Globe and Mail alone,” Bittner states.
“Sure, audiences will move and new platforms will pop up, but Facebook had a stat where on August 24th, 2015, one billion people visited in one day. They aren’t going anywhere.” Dumas declares.
- What can we expect from Facebook and Twitter in 2016? What future trends/innovations can be expected?
“It’s hard to say, because they are constantly coming out with new things and keeping us on our toes,” Dumas explains. “The biggest push is with Instagram, which Facebook now owns. It recently opened up its ad products to all advertisers, getting rid of high minimum spends and allowing Facebook targeting on Instagram. We will probably also be seeing more live streaming capabilities and likely incorporating advertising streams into them too.”
“It’s all about 6 second video,” Howlett asserts, “and the video doesn’t need to be top quality, produced in studio.”
“There is a huge shift to video content at LG – our social behavior has shifted from posting 7 static images to 4-5 video posts. If you go to the LG Facebook page you’ll see video shot with our phones and edited in Windows. It is important to have people on your team to shoot and edit video; invest in those skills,” Bittner advises.
- What are your top do’s and don’ts for social?
“Do strategize early on to plan campaigns,” Bittner begins, “but don’t be afraid to switch campaigns or alter goals. Understand what works and doesn’t work and change accordingly. Also, don’t be afraid to adapt to new technology.”
“Do make sure you are identifying your objectives up front,” Dumas suggests. “Do embrace video, embrace new platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, and embrace opportunities, such as advancements in targeting.”
“Do listen to your consumer and give them content that they want. Facebook is very personal, and consumers don’t want to have messages pushed onto them. They want brands to be respectful,” Randall advises. “Don’t be afraid to change your strategy based on what consumers are telling you.”
“Do invest in the emotional piece. Set aside time and space with your agency to craft a story that works to connect with people on an emotional level,” Howlett explains. “Don’t be seduced by all the talk about data and metrics.”