Why the 'friend' no longer justifies the means: reassessing your social media strategy

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Social media has never stayed in one place for long, and today’s online world is vastly different from the one so many of us excitedly sailed through in the early 2000s.

Gone are the days of vanity metrics – those stats like follower count, likes, page views and click-through rates that once dominated marketing reports. In the current world of social media these data points are easily measured and largely impressionistic, lacking any real insight into the relationship between customer and brand.

So, in today’s increasingly diffuse media environment, how do we tell if social media efforts are actually ‘making the boat go faster’?

Get above it

To put the ‘go faster’ question in perspective, it’s important for New Zealand companies to keep a bird’s eye view of where social channels sit in our media landscape. Clearly audiences are moving away from traditional media, but the pace at which it is happening is more audacious than we once thought.

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  • In 2020 digital media audiences outgrew traditional audiences (linear TV, radio, print) for the first time
  • In 2021 82% of New Zealanders had an active social media account
  • 2022’s Where are the Youth Audiences? report showed that 89% of the 15 - 24 year old demographic uses social media daily.
  • Social media has three times more reach than radio or TV for this age group
  • Facebook and Instagram continue to dominate social media usage for 16 - 64 years
  • Online video has a considerable reach for 40 - 59 year olds (58%) and for 60+ (26%)

While the 15 - 24 demographic represents a small proportion of most brand audiences, they are quickly ageing into higher value purchases and have an increasing amount of sway over decisions at work. This generation, and their sharp sidestep toward digital, global content, will have an impact on how New Zealand brands tell their stories. At the same time though, the 40+ age group still holds the bulk of the nation’s purchasing power and other media formats still have significant reach into this group: linear television, radio, SVOD (subscription video on demand) and online video. This is why knowing exactly where your audience is located is so important.

Locate your audience. Then, listen.

Without knowing where your audiences are (and what they care about) it’s tough to engage them in your brand narrative. Therefore any good social media strategy should have goals around finding key audiences – wherever they’re at.

Millennials and Gen Z are departing Facebook in droves, with most of their social media time now spent on Instagram, Snapchat and Tiktok. It’s worth noting that user behaviour on these platforms is largely passive now – access is increasingly for entertainment rather than active connection with real-life friends and family.

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This is one reason why impression stats like views, clicks and likes no longer give us useful information about customer engagement. Instead, look at shares, tags, mentions and comments – this is where insight can be gained. Find out what your audience is discovering in-app (searches within social media apps now outnumber Google searches for certain demographics) and who they’re following. Where are the cultural moments occurring? What’s gaining traction? Use that information to feed into a strong social media strategy.

Build trust

Trust continues to be the connective tissue between a brand and its customer experience. A presence on social media is an excellent way to signal trust. It allows a brand to stay visible, while providing opportunities to show a less polished, more authentic self.

Consider how you could make the most of this channel. Could you let customers in behind the scenes somehow? Perhaps let them see how much effort goes into delivering the product. Authenticity builds trust – highly polished and ultra-shiny capital-M ‘messaging’ does not. Lean into the realness and figure out how to tell a genuine story about your brand.

Calculate true engagement

If your social strategy aims to generate conversions – whether it be moving potential customers through to a website or online store; encouraging sign ups to a newsletter or collecting other information – then focus on those metrics. Map the journey leading up to the desired point. Here, A/B testing results, visualisations of user behaviour and survey responses are going to give you what you need.

However, brand awareness is an equally worthy goal to pursue with a social media strategy. But this is where measurement becomes trickier.

While there are a number of social listening tools available now, they tend to be limited in scope or very expensive. So with limited quantitative data available to judge the mood around your brand, it comes down to good ol’ human power. Keep eyes and ears out for brand mentions – for you and your competitors. Search regularly for mentions of your product category, sector or the names of people associated with your brand. Listening on social media is a great way to find your audiences, understand them, and engage.

But, really, when it comes to telling your story the same rules still generally apply. A consistent and cohesive brand narrative must exist across all channels of media.

Remember how powerful a single-minded and simple narrative can be. Everything starts with an idea. So be sure to work with someone who has good ones.

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