Figuring out where your brand fits in the world of social media presents a challenge for many businesses. Some fail to understand the value of investing in social; others just don’t know how to use it or where to start.
We asked Brittany Fero, Principal of PB&, a few pressing questions on how to better utilize social media. She gave us some great insights on finding your brand’s audience on social media, coming up with creative ways to reach that audience and optimizing your messaging. She discusses everything from brands that are rocking social media campaigns to tips on how to convince stakeholders to invest in your brand’s social campaigns to how small teams can implement great social media strategies.
Brittany’s smart responses and clever examples are a joy to read — she truly knows her stuff.
What are your top techniques for getting brands to stand out from the noise on social media?
Look for ways to add value to your audience.
- Are they looking for shortcuts in life because they are time-starved? Offer them #hacks relevant/adjacent to your offering.
- Are they entertainment junkies? Can you tell your story/stories in ways that truly entertain them?
It all starts with understanding who you’re trying to stand out/engage with. Know what they’re interested in and what they’re looking for, not just in relation to your product/service, but in life — and from each platform (they each have a unique ‘need state’). Think about ways that your brand could fuel those things. Importantly, this doesn’t mean ‘post celebrity gossip because they’re into that.’ You need to add value in relevant and meaningful ways.
- What are they looking for?
- How could we help them?
- How do we do that in a way that’s unique to us?
At the end of the day, we’re all a little bit selfish. So make it about ‘me.’ People stop scrolling when they see something that they need or want.
Oh, and use video. Video works.
How can you implement a great social media strategy when your team is small?
FOCUS. Don’t try and do it all. You don’t have to be on every platform to be successful. You just have to be in the places that matter to the people who matter to you.
So first, ask yourself what you’re hoping to accomplish in social and what the goal ultimately is. Keep yourself focused on that. Strategy is a verb. It should set a course for action. If you have a clear focus on how social can help you accomplish your goals, then the tactics become much simpler.
Keep focused on which platform(s) will best help you accomplish your goal, how your audience uses that platform, and how you can feed that. You don’t have to post “lots of content” — you need to create content that will matter in a cadence that makes sense (that can be as little as 3x/week in some cases). Continuity is more important than volume. And developing relationships with creators can also help you stretch further, faster.
Practically, have an ‘editorial meeting’ once a week for an hour. Discuss the week and the month ahead. Agree on themes and post ideas. You can get a lot done in that one discussion. Then be nimble. In social, small is actually an advantage! The best social ideas are executed quickly and on-trend. Have a constant line of communication between that small team and be at the ready. You’ll show how small can be mighty.
Brands with a very specific audience might have a tough time reaching them through social media. What are some tips you have for targeting your audience, getting your messaging right, and finding content that resonates with your audience?
There is so much that can be done through targeting on social today, but how you target may look different by platform. For Twitter, maybe you’re uploading lists to create a look-a-like or developing an audience based on people who follow influencers in your category. For LinkedIn, that same target may be found by job title/industry. It’s okay if your audience is small — if it’s right. Quality > Quantity.
When it comes to content — listen. Pay attention to what your audience talks about. What are they passionate about (i.e., which topics are being talked about a lot)? What do they engage with? Then build on that. Don’t rehash it but develop content that taps into those subjects with your own point of view.
The more time you personally spend listening and engaging with relevant conversations surrounding your brand and industry, the more inspiration you’ll have for relevant content.
What do you recommend people working on less interesting brands do to stay creative and continue coming up with ways to engage their audience?
Stop thinking your brand is less interesting.
To your audience, your brand is as interesting as the Taco Bell late-night menu to a 21-year-old at 2 a.m. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be in business.
Think about it as a person (we’re all social beings, so a lot of the same principles apply to social media). You go to a party. If you assume you’re not interesting, you won’t be. Rather, you meet someone — you ask questions like “Where are you from,” “Do you have kids,” etc. — looking for that point of connection. When you find one, you build on it — offering something that advances the conversation and so forth.
Now — how to constantly fuel that conversation in new ways?
Think like a network, not an advertiser.
It’s not about what you want to tell them, it’s about the stories they would be interested in.
If you were programming content for a network designed for your audience, what shows would you create? It comes down to understanding who YOU are, who THEY are and where you intersect. Find topics they care about or need help with, then allow yourself to have some fun with it (again, people who take themselves super seriously aren’t that much fun to hang out with all the time).
This way of thinking can open up creative ways for sharing information and deepening your connection with them (which means their interest in you grows!).
What is one of the most challenging brands you’ve worked on when it comes to entering the social media realm and creating engaging content, and how did you manage to break through on social?
Supra Systems. They make the blue lockbox that real estate agents use to access a property that’s for sale. Seems boring, right? But here’s the thing — real estate agents LOVE Supra, even though they didn’t realize it at face value. As part of the brand strategy work, we talked with some agents. What started as a conversation rooted in the practicalities of the product quickly turned to what life would be like without them. That was an emotional territory. They started to talk about how that box (the brand) actually fuels them in many ways. It led us to an idea about Supra Powers. We’re now putting agents front and center in social — allowing them to share their Supra Powers and engaging our audience to share more about what they’re able to do. It’s added humanity, warmth and depth to a brand that was very functional.
Are there any social media channels that tend to be better for engagement than others?
First, every audience is different. So understanding who you’re trying to engage is vital to answering that question. Second, what kind of content are you trying to get them to engage with? With answers to both of those in mind, here’s how you might start to think about the various platforms. Each fuel a different need state and understanding that helps increase engagement.
- Facebook: My world online. This is the de facto platform. Largest base. Most diverse use cases. Most connections. Are you looking for ‘mass visibility’? Customer recommendations? This might be the place for you.
- Instagram: The moments I care about. Can you tap into a passion? Are you a visually-driven brand? You might bet on this one.
- Twitter: My news source. People spend an average of 4 min per session. This is all about ‘being in the know.’ Are you delivering a point of view? New report findings? Can you tap into cultural happenings? Then this might be the place for you.
- LinkedIn: It’s my professional ‘network.’ I’m looking for thought leadership, interesting points of view about my industry or career, and for people to know. Can you help people be better in their professional roles?
- TikTok: Entertainment meets Teaching. This is a little bit YouTube meets Instagram. It’s not all ‘young kids’ either. But you do have to be willing to be real. Like really real. And human.
- Pinterest: My inspiration & aspiration zone. Can you help me plan or imagine an event, room or ideal version of my life?
- YouTube: My favorite search engine — whether I’m looking for entertainment or how to do something. Can you help me find what I’m looking for? Think in terms of the questions/topics I might type in.
Sorry, there’s no silver bullet.
Which social media channels would you recommend as a starting place, and how do you determine which channels make the most sense for a brand?
Honestly, it depends on the brand, the audience, and what you’re hoping to achieve.
Let me use an example.
You’re a plumber. Plumbing decisions are made in a moment of ‘need.’ You call the first person you can think of or you ‘phone a friend.’ So, when it comes to activating social media, you want to be in a place with a high reach amongst ‘homeowners’ (big and broad), where referrals/reviews may also happen. I’d focus on Facebook.
If you’re a B2B brand that is focused on driving visibility or traffic/demand — focus on LinkedIn.
I’d be happy to spend 15 minutes with anyone reading this and chat about what platform might work best given their goals and audience.
Are there any brands you would point to as doing well in their field and finding creative ways to reach their audience on social media?
There are lots that do well, but here are a few I find interesting.
- IBM. They use Instagram to celebrate the company’s heritage of innovation in ways that are COMPLETELY designed for their audience. (I don’t understand a lot of it, but I know their audience does.) Plus this notoriously ‘serious business’ brand allows themselves to have a little fun along the way. The engagement proves out.
- Warby Parker has been interesting to watch over time. From responding to customer questions with short personal videos to having fun with lifestyle content (that’s still front and center with their glasses), the brand constantly feels fresh.
- Wendy’s or Moon Pie on Twitter if you just want to laugh. Brilliant examples of understanding the platform and what people want from it (short and sweet. Oh, and sass helps).
- Shopify. They embrace all sides of their entrepreneur audience — from ‘how to’ content (and doubling down on YouTube with that) to recognizing the stress and mental health effects some may be feeling and offering support and resources to help. They do a great job of recognizing the ‘whole person’ not just the product user.
How can you convince brand stakeholders that investing in social media will bring ROI to the business when it’s not something they’ve put any money or time into in the past?
Oh, if only I had the magic answer to this one. A lot of this comes with understanding what you want to achieve and really understanding where/how social fits into that. But in a general sense, social isn’t always about “return on investment” — it’s more about a return on relationship.
Is it worth it for a salesperson to network? They might not get an immediate new business lead. But over time, that relationship builds and their influence spreads. In the end, it’s ‘worth it.’
This is the new world of networking. It’s a space where you can ‘personally’ reach the right people with the right content in a way that’s much more scalable and shareable. Give people something really useful and your efforts spread.
Plus, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take (sorry, I’m a sports nerd).
What changes/trends do you see coming to social media over the next year?
Beyond things like data privacy practices evolving and people becoming more discerning about where they spend their time, I think we’ll just see trends that have been happening intensify.
The pervasiveness of video is only going to grow. And a brand’s comfort level with not having ‘perfect’ videos is going to have to grow alongside it. Being able to adjust to produce lots of video for not a ton of money (but yes, still some money), and do it quickly and consistently will challenge organizations big and small.
The need to develop uniquely different types of content for each platform will become even more important. There’s a greater fragmentation not just of platforms and communities, but also ways to engage in platform. The ‘feed’ is becoming less relevant. Instagram is split between Stories, Reels; Twitter engagement also happens in Spaces. That fragmentation could become chaotic for a brand, but it also could be powerful. Brands will have to creatively think about how to adapt to the fragmentation in meaningful ways. It won’t just be about ‘being in social’ but rather how you’re there and why.
The biggest shift to start thinking about is how the metaverse starts to reshape our ‘social’ interactions. It will create a greater need for brands to truly interact, not just ‘post.’ It could take the notion of community to another level. But at the same time, the rise of discord communities starts to suggest we also want privacy. It will be interesting to see how people balance their time spent in public communities and private communities in the coming years.
It’s exciting (and a little mind-blowing) to start to think about how all of that shifts what social media is a few years from now.