Social media can be a tricky place to navigate. And knowing when to stick with your organic strategy versus choosing to put money behind your posts can be even more challenging.
Elizabeth Camp, social media manager at the Walker Art Center, gave us some tips on tackling the world of social media and knowing how to approach a brand’s social media presence. She talks about determining your brand’s audience, knowing when to invest in paid social posts and how organic and paid social media complement each other.
Elizabeth owned her own agency prior to working for the Walker, so she offers valuable insights on both sides of the business and understands approaching social media from various brand perspectives. Her responses show her wealth of knowledge when it comes to social media.
I’ve heard from a lot of different social media strategists that Facebook/Meta is on the decline, but you’re planning on talking about utilizing Facebook Business Manager during your SMSS session. Can you speak to the value of Facebook from a social media marketing standpoint and how brands can still optimize the platform?
Yes, I don’t think Facebook is going anywhere. It’s been around for so long and everything is connected to it. For example, when I was using Zoom to record my talk, I had the option to sign in to Zoom with my email, or I could sign in with my Facebook. You can sign into everything using Facebook — Netflix, or anything you can think of. They never ask you to sign in to a random thing by using your TikTok — it just doesn’t happen. So from a monetary standpoint, at least Facebook will remain just so people can login to their accounts. I also think they are on the brink of a huge shift forward and we don’t even know what’s coming. Good things come out of struggle. But at least for now, it works to sell the things I am selling. I do think it’s important to be poised and ready to use new platforms and evolve as needed, but for right now it is still a workhorse.
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How did the challenges of social media differ while running your own agency vs. working for the Walker Art Center?
In the scope of just a few years, I went from convincing clients that, yes indeed, they needed social media marketing, to the Walker, which values and strategically utilizes social media marketing. So just a few years ago people still didn’t understand the value of social. In the grand scope of things, social media marketing is still pretty new. The other main thing was that when I had my own agency I was working with a lot of small business owners and startups and the budgets were smaller.
What is a campaign that you are incredibly proud of that you feel like others could learn from?
I am incredibly proud of the response the Walker Art Center had after George Floyd’s murder. I worked very closely with executive leadership to ensure the success of our messaging. We did a succession of three organic posts.
- The first post on May 29, 2020 recognized the incredible tragedy, we called it a murder (a year before the verdict) and we said “We stand with our community in demanding justice.”
- The second post was for “Blackout Tuesday.” I pleaded with our executive director for us not to do it. I knew it wouldn’t be well received. It wasn’t. (This ended up garnering me recognition for my instincts, expertise and understanding of our audiences.)
- The third and final post announced that the Walker Art Center would no longer contract the services of the Minneapolis Police Department and we actually said “Black Lives Matter” for the very first time. (Which I fought for.) Not only was it the most successful (most engaged and farthest reaching) post in the history of the Walker’s social media, but the post itself received international recognition and was published in articles including: ArtNews, ArtNet, the Art Newspaper and art publications around the world.
- I’m proud of this because I work for an institution that demands social justice, and takes action towards it, and the campaign itself received international acclaim and our audiences valued it.
When working with a brand, how do you determine their audience, the type of content that group wants to see, and what platforms to reach them on?
To determine their audience, I research their products and make connections to audiences that I will be able to identify within the ads platform I am using. To understand the platform I want to use, I look at what they are trying to sell and go where their audiences are. For the content, I think a mixture of both paid and organic content is crucial. I think audiences need nurturing with entertaining, inspirational or educational content, just because, and then every once and a while the brand can ask them for a call to action.
How often do you use paid social in your strategy? How do you decide which posts or content types to put money behind?
It would be great if it could be 80-20, with 80% being organic and 20% having a CTA, but in reality it’s the other way around. Some content is just too pure to have money attached to it.
A lot of it is instinctual and also just knowing from my years of experience. Afterwards I can look at the data and prove it, but there are some things that I just know by looking at. Social media is funny though and it can surprise you. I won a trip to Costa Rica from Fabletics with a photograph of me in a handstand on a cold, cloudy beach and I didn’t even like the picture.
Organic social is arguably still a great way to get leads in the sales funnel, but paid is obviously something that you’re experienced with. How would you say the two go hand in hand in customer acquisition and brand awareness?
Oh, they have to! Without nurturing and building your audiences organically, how do you expect to communicate with them? By yelling at them? No. You have to have great content that engages and gets people interested. When you are trying to sell something, then you can put some money behind it. But you can’t always be trying to sell something. Good social media management is about building community, nurturing relationships and listening. For brands, I don’t think it’s smart to have paid without a good organic strategy.
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What advice would you give to a brand that hasn’t really found their place on social media and doesn’t know where to start or what channels to utilize?
Be your brand. When you post something that’s truly authentic to your brand, people will follow you but others will unfollow — it course corrects. The unfollowers are people you don’t want to carry anyways because they aren’t in alignment with your brand. Most brands (and people) are afraid of truly being themselves. But you can’t talk to everyone. Not everyone is going to like your product or agree with you. People will, however, respect and become loyal to brands that have heart.
Sometimes social media can feel too forced or scripted. Do you have any thoughts on the line between promoting your brand or products while staying authentic and engaging?
Oh man, sometimes you just know. I just posted the cutest Reel of my twins dressed as superheroes (go watch it) along with the cheesiest superhero quote. Even though that quote felt a little schmaltzy, I knew that the combination of caption and video would be a hit. It worked because I knew my audience would like it, they would find value in it. It isn’t necessarily what I thought was cool, but what I knew would delight my audience. It’s about delighting your audience or offering them something they can enjoy.
[Read More: Humanizing Your Brand on Social Media]
What is your favorite social media platform to use? Why?
It depends. Instagram is my fav but I have a deep respect for Facebook. It does so much! It is so powerful and has been around for so long. Everything links back to it and it is connected to everything. Instagram is fun to use. I liked Clubhouse for a minute. TikTok is fun but I don’t love love it yet. I’m TikTok resistant but the walls are crumbling for me because I like that the platform utilizes the whole screen.
Recently the conversation has circulated around social media’s unpredictability, but is there anything you think we can continue to rely on when it comes to social media? And are there any trends you foresee popping up this year?
Trust your instincts but the landscape is always changing. You’re not in control of the platforms. They dictate what you can do and you have to just take a breath, learn and evolve and move along with the changes.
There are so many moving pieces and external variables to factor in when putting together a social media strategy. For more on paid social and utilizing Facebook Business Manager in your social plans, catch Elizabeth Camp during her session at Social Media Strategies Summit taking place February 23-24.