Driving Engagement in Challenging Categories: Insights from Britt Fero

In the world of social media, where attention is a scarce resource, driving engagement can be a daunting task, especially for brands operating in less-than-engaging categories.

However, there are experts who have cracked the code and found ways to captivate audiences even in these challenging spaces. One such expert is Britt Fero, Principal of PB&, a renowned agency specializing in social media marketing. With her extensive experience and innovative approach, Britt has become a leading voice in the industry.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with her for an insightful interview ahead of her appearance at the Social Media Strategies Summit (SMSS), where she will be part of a panel discussing “Driving Engagement in Less-Than-Engaging Categories.”

Our conversation shed light on the keys to break through social to build engaging experiences, the role of authenticity and adaptability, and how brands can leverage social media analytics to optimize their strategies. Join me as we delve into the world of social media engagement with Britt Fero.

Can you share your three keys to breaking through social to build engaging experiences? How do they tie into creating engaging experiences for consumers?

There are myriad tactical and technical things you can do to build engaging experiences. But to me, success in social and creating engaging experiences overall is rooted in basic human behavior.

We’re sociable creatures. Being successful in social means being sociable. So my keys to success are also likely keys to being a great dinner party guest.

  • Read the room. Know who you’re with and why they’re there.
  • Be interested. Then Be Interesting. Get to know people. Understand what they are into (both related and unrelated to your brand/industry). Uncover opportunities for connection. If you’re interested in them and what they are into, it allows you to offer exchanges that are interesting to them.
  • Bring a gift. Great party guests often bring a gift. It’s to say ‘thanks for having me.’ A brand’s gift to their social crowds: add value to their experience. Might be a laugh, a positive sentiment, a tip, something to share. This is where creativity can play.

What advice would you give to brands that are hesitant to embrace social media due to being in a low-interest category?

Love yourself. You’re a successful company – that means there’s a need for you and a group of people who find you valuable. Focus on how you could meaningfully input into a conversation with those people. Social is about being social. Brands who avoid the space are missing out on getting to know your audience, building a community of like minded people and ENGAGING. Social is a (very key) way to build your customer relationships. And relationships are critical in business.

When evaluating social media platforms, what factors should brands consider in order to determine the role each platform should play in their overall marketing strategy?

First, this isn’t a simple question to answer. But I’ll try to keep it brief.

Start by spending time understanding where your audience spends time, how they use social and where and how you could fit into that. Do you have a lot of ‘newsworthy’ content? If so, you might consider Twitter. Are you a B2B focused brand or focussed on professionals of some kind? If so, LinkedIn might be your strongest path.

Then align your objectives with those behaviors. Understand your objectives, are you trying to reach new people? Build favorability? Drive sales? If your audience is using a platform for entertainment and you’re trying to drive immediate sales, maybe that’s not the best fit. Each of those objectives starts to play into where you might find success based on how your audience uses those channels.

On the organic side, understand your resources. Social isn’t free. And it takes time and energy. If you can only do one channel well, start there. Don’t spread yourself so thin that you’re not making an impact anywhere. And don’t just copy/paste. The platforms aren’t the same. They each host a very different kind of party.

How can brands ensure authenticity and transparency in their social media interactions to foster genuine engagement and build trust with their audience?

Know thyself. Think about IRL social interactions. You know when you’re engaging with someone’s true self, yeah? Don’t stretch outside of who you are. Think of every social platform as a party of sorts. Each is a different atmosphere and presents different opportunities for brands. And each brings different expectations from the other people in the room. Twitter users want brief, they want news or to be amused. Highly shareable. High water cooler value. Instagram users want to be visually inspired. Facebook may be a little more of the “scroll to see what’s up with my world.” Make sure you’re at the right party to begin with, then be yourself.

In an ever-evolving social media landscape, how can brands stay ahead of the curve and adapt their strategies to remain relevant and engaging?

Be a student of the space. First, be on social. You’d be surprised by the number of clients I’ve had say, “well, I don’t use that, so I wouldn’t know.” Use it. Try it. Understand how every platform works at a basic level.

Now build your village. (I’m a mom and I’m a firm believer that parenting takes a village because you also won’t ever know everything about that either.) You need to rely on a village of others who can help – offering insight, advice, ideas. Hire young social media managers who have grown up in the space. THEY are the experts. Leverage media or agency partners. Meet people who work at each platform or follow them on social. Read the news. Follow brands who have been recognized for being strong in social and keep tabs on what they are doing.

Are there any specific social media platforms that you believe are particularly effective for engaging consumers, regardless of the brand category?

Technically creative thinking can make any platform useful/effective for any brand. Charmin made Twitter relevant for them. But making a platform really work for you requires insight and understanding.

It’s more about how you use the platform to meet your audience’s (and your own) needs. I will say that Facebook remains the ‘mass’ player. And YouTube is increasingly powerful – coming close to surpassing Google as the largest search engine, not just social platform. I think more brands need to recognize that potential.

With that in mind, I do believe video (especially short form video) as a tactic/content form is increasingly effective across any and all social platforms. So if you’re going to focus on social, I would encourage you to ensure you have thought through how to leverage video as part of that. It drives so much of our lives today.

How can brands encourage meaningful and authentic interactions with their social media followers, beyond likes and comments?

Your brand needs a voice. Social is a community and you’re a part of that. You need to speak up, have a point of view and ASK QUESTIONS. Ask your community for their participation. Again, social is about being social. Your brand’s personality and voice need to come through. People need to feel a connection, understand you better, and want to engage with you.

You can’t just hope for engagement – actually engage people. That starts with having a voice. But also pay attention to what people are doing and reacting to. Comment back. But if you’re going to do this – make sure your brand has a human vibe. You’re having a conversation, so channel that tone. If your community feels seen and heard, your engagement will soar.

How can brands leverage social media analytics and insights to gain a better understanding of their audience’s preferences, behaviors, and engagement patterns, and use that knowledge to optimize their engagement strategies?

Stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish. Identify what core KPIs map to your objective before you start, not after you act. If you’re looking to introduce your brand to new people then focus on the metrics that demonstrate that: reach, views, impressions. If you’re looking to drive leads: focus on clicks and conversions. There’s a lot of data you can pull out of social which is fantastic – but if you don’t know why you’re looking at it or how it connects to what you’re trying to achieve you can’t make the most of it.

Then dig in. What content helped drive the most success? Why might that be? Is there a trend?

Do you see different trends by age? Gender? Keep the ‘what’ (metrics) simple, then dig into the why.

Can you share some of the key strategies or approaches that PB& employs to drive engagement for their clients’ brands on social media platforms?

We start with understanding people – not just broadly, but our clients’ people/audience. Who are they, what makes them tick, why do they consume a certain product/service. Then we can map HOW people use different platforms to WHY a brand can be relevant there. And we let our creative juices run free.

Could you provide an example of a client project where PB& successfully increased brand engagement through their social media strategies, and what were the key factors that contributed to that success?

Our work with Windermere has been an interesting case study in how we continue to evolve our social strategies. One of our core tasks with them has been to help introduce the brand to more people and build favorability across all the markets they serve.

#MoreThanAHome was an Instagram driven initiative cultivated during Covid. As people spent more time in their homes, their appreciation of and connection to their homes grew as well. Windermere had always been a brand that was about human connection, so we took the opportunity to celebrate that by sharing UGC moments of how people were using their homes differently, celebrating uniquely in that environment or finding new connection to their space. It was a visually driven and inspirational idea, so we chose to keep it focused on that platform to start. As people shared that content, we saw engagement grow. But to continue that trend, we stretched ourselves to think about how we could better use this program to ‘harvest new audiences’ without paid dollars. Rather than focusing on ‘feed posts’ or Stories that are largely served to existing followers, we pivoted to Reels. We saw tremendous traction. We’ve built on that learning and now expanded to other platforms optimized for discovery (YT Shorts, FB Reels, TikTok). What started as a program built to deepen people’s connection with Windermere, has now become the social program that opens a brand introduction in a very human way. That shift has resulted in 2x the organic impressions in half the time period.

The realm of social media is constantly evolving, presenting both challenges and opportunities for brands to engage with their audience effectively. From breaking through social barriers to cultivating authenticity and staying ahead of the curve, Britt emphasized the importance of understanding the unique dynamics of each social media platform and leveraging analytics to optimize engagement strategies. By embracing these principles, brands can create meaningful and authentic interactions with their audience, foster trust, and ultimately drive business growth.

Don’t miss the opportunity to catch Britt Fero in action as she takes the stage for her highly anticipated panel discussion at the Social Media Strategies Summit taking place June 14.

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