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Missing the Point


Even though social media has been used by brands for several years now, many of them are still getting it wrong or ignoring it completely, writes Andrew Murray.

Many brands and agencies, including some big names, still think that social is “just a bit of Facebook, Twitter and some Instagram” and that it’s something that they can worry about after they have the TV commercial, Out of Home, and even the press and radio nailed.

Sometimes, for various reasons, a client just wants a TVC and for everything to hinge on and fall from this. It doesn’t matter that their core target market is 18 – 24 year olds and that they don’t watch terrestrial TV and TVCs. In some cases the client just wants to be able to point to the TV when their ad comes on – and say – “I did that”.  But if they want real effectiveness, this has to change.

If brands are serious about social, they need to think about the audience they are connecting with, and just how powerful social is in influencing and driving genuine engagement and in turn – consideration. Our ambition is to ensure that brands ‘get’ the new and wider opportunity that the social/content space can offer. It’s about doing the right thing for brands and most importantly for their business.

When it comes to everyday social content, there remains a large number of brands and agencies still just throwing a finger into the air, posting something witty or entertaining that tenuously links back to the brand. They then stick those fingers into their ears, close their eyes and hope for a few auld Likes, Favourites, ReTweets and Shares.

I see this approach every single day for brands at home and abroad and it’s not right. And more importantly, it’s devaluing social and the impact that good social/content can have for a brand.

If you’re a brand receiving, (or if you’re an agency sending across) a thrown together excel “content calendar” with a couple of mainly competition posts, no recommended paid spend for Facebook, no sight of how the proposed content ties in with your designated content themes that have been outlined in your full social/content strategy, plus a whole host of other important inclusions – you need to start questioning things. And if the only engagement your social channels receive is via competitions, then begin to question things even more.

Social can reach a brand’s core target audience and get the brand message (content) in front of this audience multiple times per week. If your core audience is broad – you can hit 100,000s most days with minimal spend.

Think about the money it costs to make and air a TVC. It may run for 8/10 weeks of the year – hitting a decent number of eyeballs in your target group… if they are watching that particular programme. You may also get the odd pre-roll view on YouTube or other sites (FACT – nobody wants to watch an ad on YouTube or Joe.ie or The Journal unless it’s utterly brilliant… and 95% just aren’t).  Now think about how much it would cost for a brand to be ‘always-on’ with highly targeted content that resonates with their key target group 52 weeks of the year on social. For a medium to large sized brand – a spend on content ideation, community management, content creation plus more, is significantly lower than the cost of a TVC.

This is content that will drive engagement, drive consideration, bring potential customers along the customer purchase funnel, push the CSR message, drive direct sales, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I love good TVCs, OOH, press and they can all have large-scale impact – and working hand in hand with social media will enhance both channels. It’s just a question of doing the right thing for your audience with the right channels.  It’s not a case of ditching TV for social, it’s about assessing what’s the correct thing to do to meet your business objectives.

Social that’s done well and ‘always-on’ can bring consumers along that purchase funnel almost every single day. That’s the difference. If a brand can afford to go on TV – that’s great. If not, don’t throw a token percentage at social as you must invest at a decent level or you may as well flush your cash down the loo.

You might say that the social cost suggested above does not include the paid support that’s now required for Facebook (plus Twitter). And you’d be correct. Facebook is still the go-to social network for the vast majority of brands. It has to be. 63% of the country is on Facebook and 70% of these people access the network daily. You almost have to be there. You just have to accept that Facebook is now a paid channel – just like TV, radio, press and others.

This should not scare brands. Small spends of €20 or €30 most days can be enough to distribute and target ‘good’ content (I need another article to explain what I mean by ‘good’ content) that will generate brand cut-through and have an impact.

Now let’s do a quick rewind. Before you even begin to think about content, and the types you need to excel in the social space, a brand must have a robust social/content strategy in place. This should fit seamlessly with the brand’s business objectives and overall marketing communications.

This overall social/content strategy should determine the role of social and include: a social strategy, a platform strategy, a content strategy and how this content will be distributed plus a measurement and evaluation section. If this is not in place, you again need to start asking why.

Social is still very new and it’s constantly evolving, and I’m not laying a blanket of blame over agencies, brands or marketers. The real issue is the lack of industry understanding and value put on social, its power and its potential. This is what needs to change.

Andrew Murray, Head of Social and Brand Content at McCannBlue 

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