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3 factors brands should consider when creating their social media strategy

As the growing number of social media platforms dilute customer attention, we look at how eCommerce brands can leverage their channels to engage consumers throughout the buying journey.
Words by Emily Wallis - Paid Advertising Specialist
0 minute read

Who remembers Vine? It’s hard to forget some of the viral six-second clips that were born as a result of the platform, with even some of the most popular ones still being referenced today (can we get a ‘what are thooooose’?)

It only launched back in 2013 and just three years later it shut down due to increased competition from the likes of Instagram and Snapchat with their introduction of short video content. Not to mention their failure to support content creators.

But look how much the social landscape has evolved since then. And whilst it feels like we’ve almost gone full-circle with the rise of TikTok’s focus back on short form video - it’s evident that things have developed pretty drastically.

So the landscape is clearly shifting, which means eCommerce brands must evolve. So, here's our Paid Advertising Specialist and TikTok fanatic Emily Wallis' take on how brands should be pivoting, the pitfalls to avoid and her predictions on the evolution of social channels.

1. Be prepared to adapt your strategy to a changing landscape

It’s no secret that the social media platforms are constantly changing and adapting - the introduction of new innovation, updated algorithms (thanks Instagram) and viral trends are enough to keep even the most savvy digital marketers on the back foot.

In the UK alone there are 57.6 million active social media users. And whilst that growth is starting to slow in comparison to the 7 million user leap between 2016 and 2017, we’re still expecting to see social media user penetration to reach over 92% by 2025 in the UK alone.

Source: eMarketer

And whilst Facebook still currently holds the vast majority of social media users, it saw its first ever decline in users in January of this year. Whilst a drop of 1 million in daily users may only seem like a splash in the pond for Facebook’s user base of 2 billion, it could be a sign of things to come.

What we are seeing is Facebook becoming an increasingly saturated advertising platform, and unfortunately for brands, that means rocketing costs year on year. That’s not without push back, with Facebook and Instagram expected to see a $3 billion drop in ad revenue in Q1 of 2022 alone.

In comparison, new entrants to the market such as TikTok are seeing CPMs of just an eighth of those on Facebook and Instagram. This means it is a prime opportunity for brands to jump on these opportunities before the costs inevitably increase as popularity soars.

But given the trend for a content-led economy, it’s no surprise to us that the likes of Facebook are predicted to see a continued decline of over 4% across the next few years. Now faced with the challenge of finding innovative ways to engage their audience, are Facebook Reels really enough to compete with disruptor TikTok? Only time will tell.

Well, one thing we know for sure is that TikTok isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it was the most-downloaded app in 2021, and with eight new users every second, it’s only set to solidify itself as a core player in the social media landscape. Tipped to have the largest growth and overtake both Twitter and Snapchat, TikTok is set to become the third most popular platform by 2023 (sitting just behind Meta's Facebook and Instagram).

2. You don't need to be on EVERY platform

It can be pretty overwhelming when the likes of Instagram switch up their algorithm, let alone when a completely new social channel, such as TikTok, launches. And with consumers visiting an average of 7.5 social channels a month, manning all these platforms is time consuming. So, choosing the right channels is essential to avoid a brand spreading itself too thin.

But what are the benefits of looking at multiple channels?

  • Building consistent branding to broaden your social community
  • Different platforms suit different brand goals
  • Offering greater reach by capturing different audiences - social media ads are the fourth most popular channel for brand discovery at 27.6%
  • Grabbing the attention of consumers at different parts of the customer journey

Source: Hootsuite

Sounds pretty good. But brands should only be visible on as many platforms as they can do right. They need to look internally and see what their capacity is to manage these platforms, but most importantly there needs to be brand consistency. 

There’s no point joining every platform and posting the exact same content across all of them, because what works for Pinterest won’t work for TikTok. It’s about going back to those brand goals and tying in which platforms will help you reach them (more on this later). 

It may sound pretty obvious but you’d be surprised at the number of brands who fall down here. Starting up can be a timely process as brands need to test and optimise different content to see what hits the mark with that channel’s audience. Without this, it’s unlikely that you’ll get any real traction or get your desired results.

For starters, brands need to know how to best connect with their audience on each platform. And that means curating content and messaging according to customer intent. This is due to the benefit that multiple channels provide, i.e. different users and audiences! So it’s vital that brands understand customer motives across each channel so they create content and creatives look native on the platform but, more importantly, speak to consumer intentions.

Customer intentions by social media channel.

Sources: Statista, Search Engine Journal, Twitter, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Influencer Marketing Hub

Okay, so who can we learn from?

Premium fashion designer and Reload client Olivia Rubin has built an amazing organic presence on Instagram and has a whole community invested in her clothing. But, with the surge of TikTok the brand realised this isn't a sustainable model and to grow they need to add breadth to their channel mix. 

How have they adapted? The brand has started creating regular content on TikTok organically by jumping on popular trends etc. What’s clear to us is that TikTok is causing a cultural shift meaning brands, such as Olivia Rubin, need to be investing their time here.

Source: Olivia Rubin

Another area for consideration is how Paid Social and Paid Search can be a strategic lever for organic channels by balancing awareness with conversion - something Olivia Rubin has capitalised on to compliment their organic presence and boost their reach.

3. Having a large following doesn't always equal success

So, having more followers on Instagram etc. obviously means higher organic reach. Similarly, from a paid perspective, having more interactions on social (i.e. Meta) equates to stronger first party audience data to target through a brand’s Facebook/Instagram campaigns. And this is useful in the wake of the iOS14 update (find out more in our insights article 'How the Apple iOS 14 update impacts eCommerce advertisers and what you can do to prepare').

But, what we’re seeing, and what’s been proven by TikTok is that you don't have to have a massive following for a video to go viral. In fact, accounts with a following of under 15,000 actually have a higher engagement.

A user sees content based on their own individual algorithm meaning there is a data-driven approach to success. Many brands who have recently joined the app push out paid ads without a large organic following just to be a part of it. In 2021 approximately 10% of D2C brands were on the platform and this is only expected to rise!

So let’s break this down. Too many brands get tied up in their vanity metrics, and it is pretty easy to see why - after all, these are the ones consumers are going to see. But success isn’t just down to your number of followers. Here are a couple of areas where brands fall short.

An absence of brand goals

You can only really measure your brand’s success if you’ve set some clear goals. How are you going to gauge your success when you don’t know what to benchmark against? Now these will vary depending upon both the platform and also the type of activity, whether it be brand awareness, performance driven ads or organic content.

If a brand’s aim was focused at the top of the funnel, such as increasing awareness, there are several metrics which could be considered:

  • Post impressions amongst your existing followers
  • Post reach and the number of new accounts reached
  • Follower growth rate over a set time period - this is a good indicator of how well the content is identifying with a target consumer
  • Metrics beyond social media - such as increased website traffic or branded search terms

Innocent using Instagram to organically build their brand awareness.

Take Innocent for example, they’re a force to be reckoned with in the social media landscape through their witty content. The brand uses their social media channels to get their voice out there by adding humour to popular culture - whether that be their Twitter commentary of Bake Off or ‘poorly designed’ Instagram creatives.

Despite their off the cuff ‘buy our smoothie’ comments, the focus is on brand awareness and being memorable to consumers through conversation sparking content, rather than driving traffic directly to their website (that'll come later). 

But say you were wanting to increase your return on actual spend (ROAS), these same metrics aren’t going to cut it. Instead attention would need to be shifted to the number of conversions you achieved from your investment and whether that falls within your bracket.

A focus on quantity rather than quality to build trust

The last thing brands should do is throw mud at a wall and hope that it sticks. When did that ever work? We can tell you now that when it comes to social media, it won’t.

Whilst getting lots of posts out the door may get your brand higher exposure, the chances of keeping that number of people engaged in the long-term is pretty low. Instead, there should be a focus on the quality of the content as it is more likely to build trust amongst your audience. Not only that, but building a strong organic strategy of quality content is a great way to test what content lands well with your audience, acting as an indicator of where to focus your paid campaigns and budget.

So, what does this look like in practice? Carefully curating content that encourages interaction from your audience, such as posing questions in posts, setting up polls or utilising user generated content (UGC). Following the success of TikTok we’re seeing a shift towards more brands harnessing UGC as the digital marketing world adopts ‘non-perfect’ video to appear more relatable and inclusive.

But does that mean brands should avoid trends? Whilst it is wise to jump on organic trends through paid activity, it only works if you can turn these around quickly and they resonate with your audience. There's no use jumping on a trend months down the line when it may no longer be relevant, or referencing something that your consumer isn’t exposed to.

Social media is an opportunity to nurture consumer relationships through two-way conversations - ultimately informing what they want to see from you and providing them with a voice.

Source: Party Pieces

Home accessories client Party Pieces identified that the Queen’s Jubilee was going to be a big trend for the spring. To capitalise on this we began "priming" audiences from as early as the start of April and monitored search demand weekly. This began to increase in May as the event drew closer, at which point we upped our budget to reach a wider audience.

These findings also helped to inform the brand’s wider marketing strategy. How? We created separate campaigns across Performance Max Shopping which allowed us to control budgets and appear for relevant terms as much as possible. 

Off the back of this we've been placing these users into their own email segment so we can encourage them to become repeat purchasers for other parties and occasions and gain additional value from the investment in customer acquisition.

So, what's the verdict?

Whilst this is the current lay of the land, we can only expect the social media landscape to continue to change as channels trail new functions to remain relevant. 

But brands need to remember that social media won’t succeed when used in silo. It’s just one component of a far wider channel mix that, when effectively integrated, can act as a lever to propel other channels and create a seamless customer experience.

So, what are the three key things we believe brands should focus on to win at social media?

  • Be present across multiple social media platforms to have a wider reach and capture the attention of a vast audience, but only select the channels that are most relevant to the target consumer and that you have the resources to maintain. It’s all about meeting them where they’re at to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and capture their voice.
  • Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This will ultimately be influenced by the strengths of each channel and its audience, meaning it will align with certain goals better than others.
  • There’s no denying that the landscape is going to evolve, which means brands need to have an agile social media strategy that can adapt to new innovations, popular trends and changing consumer behaviour to remain relevant. 

Want to know more about how you can get the most out of your social media? Get in touch with a member of the Reload team to chat about how you can level up your strategy!

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