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I apologize for not sharing more useful advice sooner. The last few months have been full of incredible change and reflection, which is making the second half of 2016 much more interesting. In the few moments of down time, I wanted to share a little bit of knowledge.

I read blog posts and listen YouTube for over an hour each day. One common trait is the theory without an example. We learned this when we wanted to write killer essays for the SAT, GRE, and GMAT. We forgot when around the time we started receiving our second salary (Job #2).

Here are 4 ways to improve your video and photo content on social media:

  1. Organize your YouTube content using playlists

Imagine discovering an incredible clothing store and finding out all the clothing is in an unsorted pile. You would probably walk out nearly as quickly as you arrived, and never recommend it to friend. You would, however, have a good happy hour story.

Every time you upload videos to your YouTube channel, you do this to your audience. YouTube Playlist Example - Tonight Show.png

2. Humanize your voice

Sylvia Matthews Burwell heads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard and Oxford, worked at McKinsey and is a Rhodes scholar. Secretary Burwell uses emoji.

More: Humanizing your voice

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3. Captions 

You may have to load a script but captions can elevate (and translate) your content. Make sure this addition does not compromise the overall quality (example below).

Bonus: Here is YouTube’s simplified video on adding captions.

 

James Corden Titus Burgess and John Stamos YouTube.png

4. Put a photo on it

Tweets with media (photos or Gifs) have higher engagement rates. Use pithy messaging, find a complementary photo, and mention the source.

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I always appreciate hearing from ParkerMather visitors. You can find me on Twitter at @bellsworld.

 

Twitter statistics, ParkerMather

Every day Twitter users send over 500 million tweets in over 35 languages. That is quite a bit of noise in which to become the signal. As you will see, from movie studios to brands are competing like mad for a mindshare (link) to eventually make you an advocate, customer, or both.

Why do brands adopt a human voice on social media? A well-placed response will resonate with your audience and have a reach that more is more

Also, Americans love to buy goods but seldom want to feel like a company is peddling said wares. It seems creepy and sends market share running for the hills in most verticals.

Here are two examples of brands hitting the right tone in their attempts to communicate with people communicate.

  1. Fox Home Entertainment and #WednesdayWisdom

The 20th Century Fox subsidiary monitored Twitter for recurring conversations and saw #WednesdayWisdom emerge as a newer hashtag to the washed up #MondayMotivation.

Next, they quoted a Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) from the cult film Fight Club. Drenched in nostalgia, sex appeal and anti-capitalist philosophy, this one is a keeper.

Fox Home Entertainment, Twitter, Fight Club, Brad Pitt, ParkerMather

Further reading: Fox’s Weak Home Video Sales Depress Revenues In December Quarter

2. Coca Cola and Spotify

Today, a clever ad from the storied American soda company with this smart advertising. Remember, last year, Coke’s Share  a Coke campaign won hearts and sparked conversation about more than their appearance in Mad Men’s final episode.

This is smart because Coke launched a Twitter handle around music. Think about the massive quantities American dole out out on food, sports, and music each year.

The ad also provides value as it offers music in exchange for attention. The brand is taking (by interrupting you) and giving (by giving Spotify listeners music).

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When you click the Spotify link, here is what you get:

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Notice the Coca-Cola plug (again) in the bottom left even though it is a Spotify page.

Remember brands don’t always want your money. Sometimes they want your attention. If you have a positive association with a brand, you are more likely to recommend it two others, use it yourself, and pay attention they next time you “see” them.

Pascal's Wager, ParkerMather, Mikhail Bell,

What Is Pascal’s Wager?

“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensees (1660)

Philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote Pascal’s wager in 1660. The wager, appearing in his book Pensees (Thoughts), explains why belief in God’s existence makes sense.

If God exists, then following his recommended way of living results in a happy eternity known as heaven. If God exists, one tends to treat others with dignity instead of spite, kindness instead of greed, and extends love instead of distance.

If God does not exist, Pascal argues, it still makes more sense to live as though he does because living in this more compassionate manner is still better than the alternative.

How Does Pascal’s Wager Apply to Social Media?

Pascal’s wager underscores importance of belief. Like the wager posits, it makes sense to assume using social media will benefit your business.

With monthly active users of 1.35 billion on Facebook, 300 million on Twitter, over 400 million on Instagram, and an effective monopoly on LinkedIn, the data supports this position.

However you are probably wondering about applications for your brand. It two buckets: investment and optimization.

Invest in Social Media

Imagine running with holes in the soles. This is what it feels like to have insufficient resources to implement your social media strategy. That is why it is important to allocate funding, staff and time to support social media goals.

Optimizing

Strategies require iteration. After you determine your deliverables and approach to the problem, continue honing, or “optimizing,“ implementation.

Checking Belief in Social

Verification reinforces even the strongest reflection of faith. Here are two questions to ask about social media performance.

Is it delivering value in the way we expected? Follower growth, increased mentions, and sales can inform this analysis as data points.

How can ROI improve? Continue to iterate on approaches until you find the right fit. Spend $100 to test engagement on your ad and scale if it shows encouraging results. Also, look at your Google Analytics dashboard’s Behavior Flow to see where visitors are losing interest.

There is often shame associated with not executing a social media campaign perfectly. However learning happens through change. Even the best social media campaigns require some iteration.

How Do I Lead Social Media Change in My Organization?

Simply put organizations should believe in the effectiveness of social media. There are now innumerable case studies from across industries, using one or multiple platforms.

Yet social media marketers, managers, and directors constantly face this challenge. Here are a few tips for guiding change:

Find champions. These are decision makers who will advocate your proposal.

Share examples. Look within your industry for case studies to capture success.

Connect with supporters. As J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler says, “Surround yourself with people that get it.” Connect with industry friends and co-workers who understand your goal.

Hold onto your vision loosely. By the time your proposal is approved, it may have noticeably changed. Focus on getting wins because they build confidence, your reputation and network of supporters.

Further reading:

Pascal’s Wager

Deloitte Digital’s Digital Maturity Quiz

How Companies Become Digital Leaders

Why Social Media ROI Is Like Playing the Piano

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Zero Mustafa and M. Gustave

This post is a 10,000-foot view of the purpose and process behind a social media strategy. Social media is versatile so its role in the overall business strategy looks different based on one’s industry and company. Ideally, a business will define the social media strategy its strategic plan or digital strategy.

What is a social media strategy?

Opening death letter Ed Norton - The Grand Budapest Hotel copy

Social media strategy is a compass for your communications activities. You may still see social media growth and interaction without a defined strategy. However, the meaning of the growth and interactions will be unclear.

The strategy should be shared with, created with and supported by decision makers in your business as it should complement business goals.

Examples of goals:

  • Serve as a secondary channel to address customer service issues
  • Increase jarware sales
  • Amplify share of voice among local pizza delivery customers

A weak social media strategy explains incongruous goals and what platforms will assist in reach them. It is produced.

A good social media strategy explains your related goals and actions that will help you reach them.

A great social media strategy explains related goals, target audience, related actions (by platform), and required resources.

[Further reading: Why most social media strategies fail (Forbes)]

How to write a social media strategy

Zero Mustafa Agatha and M. Gustave - The Grand Budapest Hotel

An effective social media strategy has four parts: Goals, Audience Analysis, Activities, and Capacity, or GAAC.

Goals (What you want to accomplish)

Identify 2-5 business related goals. For simple goals, think in terms of a 12-month cycle. For multi-stage goals, plan along a 12- to 36- month timeline. Account for implementation challenges and make sure your team can collect information to assess what is working.

Audience Analysis (Who you want to reach)

This is one of the most challenging steps because it requires specificity. Here are characteristics that can help you identify your target audience:

  • Profession: Each year, Americans spend around 2,000 hours at work. That impacts when we wake, sleep and how we spend our income.
  • Income: What you make impacts how you live. Consider how this may impact the way the audience searches for, talks about, and interacts with a product/business.
  • Age: Think about these groups in 10-20 year windows, e.g. 15-25 or 35-55, to find your core audience(s).
  • Location: Is your audience local, spread across a few states or a few countries? This inform how you create content.
  • Gender: Is your audience predominantly male or female? This will affect your tone, colors, fonts, and messaging.

Personas are a helpful way to think about your target audience. Here is a useful HubSpot article to guide this exercise.

[Further reading: Buyer Persona Template (HubSpot)]

Activities (What you are doing)

Describe relevant social media platforms and activities. Be clear about how many times you will create content each week, i.e. 3-5 times on Facebook, or each day, i.e. 2-3 posts on Twitter.

Social media platforms are large enough now that a be-everywhere strategy is not optimal. For example, according to VaynerMedia’s Gary Vaynerchuk, the fastest growing demographic on Instagram is women over 40. If your target audience is in middle or high school, plan to incorporate Yik Yak, Snapchat, or Tumblr.

Finally, set growth goals with soft deadlines and review periods, such as a semi-annual review. You will need to look at your business’s past performance and competitors to determine reliable growth goals.

Capacity (What you need for success)

Small and medium businesses are investing more in social media but are typically understaffed in the area of communication. Explaining what you need to be successful aligns expectations with goals and goals with necessary resources.

Be transparent about the number of weekly hours to implement, budget for advertising, analytics or management tools, training and additional staff support.

If you are requesting financial support to implement the strategy, state this. As Warren Buffett says, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Final Thoughts

Inspector Ed Norton - The Grand Budapest Hotel

Developing and implementing a social media strategy can be a fun or laborious process but involves teamwork. Here are few tips to improve the experience:

  • Celebrate milestones
  • Involve a team of decision makers because they can support the plan
  • Keep management updated about progress
  • Ask for feedback about your strategy from others who have done the same
  • Schedule regular check-ins to discuss updates

Additional Resources

Social Media Usage: 2005-2015 (Pew)

Social Media Campaign Strategy (Hootsuite)

Understanding Social Media Analytics (Deloitte Digital)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. This blog post will also appear on Medium and LinkedIn. Please share your comments wherever this appears. 

Instead of focusing on creating content, start listening to the conversation. Used properly, social media monitoring, or listening, can be a boon for small businesses in particular and communicators in general.

My favorite social media luminary, Gary Vaynerchuk started off on Twitter by listening. He used these obtservations to grow his following through genuine connections with other users. Vaynerchuk now has over 1 million followers and shows no signs of slowing down.

How Do I Monitor Trending Hashtags?

That depends. Social media monitoring should connect with a strategic goal, such as research about millennials on healthcare exchanges or fan reactions to Game 5 of the NLDS.

Here are three tools for social media listening:

  • Twitter Search: This is the most powerful and underused part of Twitter. Search lets you follow hashtags almost instantaneously, identify influencers, and displays popular images associated with the term.

NFL, Twitter, Colts, ParkerMather, social media listening

  • Topsy: Topsy aggregates Twitter mentions, total tweets over 1 hour or 30 days. In addition, users can clearly see which voices are dominating the conversation.

Topsy, NFL, 49ers, ParkerMather, Social Media Monitoring

  • Social Mention: In response to one, Social Mention opens a galaxy of associated search terms from across the Web. This includes related keywords, trending topics, and sources. Tie this information back to Twitter search and add context to the online conversations.

Social Mention, ParkerMather, Twitter

There are a multitude of social media listening tools out there for communicators. Try these three and see what else complements the brand’s goals!

Do not forget to celebrate victory.