Social Media Lessons From Traditional Media

3rd Aug, 2010

In some quarters there’s a failure to understand what social media is ‘about’ and how it can be utilised for brands. Here’s some practical information about how social media for brands doesn’t differ all that much from more ‘traditional’ media such as print or television.

1. Locate your audience.

Online – Facebook might be the most obvious social network to be on because of its size and profile. But is it the most effective? How can you be sure that your customers, or potential customers are using it?

Offline – In the real world all marketing is targeted at an audience and the same is true in social media. A barber in Sligo isn’t going to advertise in the Kilkenny People and an advert for a Metallica gig is unlikely to appear during Coronation Street – wrong audiences, or certainly that spend could achieve more elsewhere. This applies to social media as well, just who are your audience and where do they go when online? One simple way would be to ask through an existing communications channel, such as an external newsletter. Once channels have been identified research just how much activity is taking place and where your brand can fit.

2. Know what your going to say

Online – What are the goals and objectives of the social media strategy, build awareness around a product, reduce costs, drive sales or use it as a customer service channel? These should be clearly defined from the beginning with monitoring and measurement tools built in.

Offline – All marketing has a defined purpose. It is highly unlikely you will ever see or hear an advert saying ‘everyone else is taking out ads so we thought we would too’. The same applies to social media, doing it just because everyone else is – is literally pointless.

3. Know how your going to say it

The first two examples used comparisons with advertising. In a social media world it’s better to think of a brands presence more like that of a magazine, and its fans as readers. Magazines build readers through content that is centred around a topic or subject area (but not strictly limited to it). For example Empire isn’t just about new films, but old films, dvd’s, games, home entertainment technology and its content divided up into reviews, news, interviews, industry articles, readers input and more. That’s a wide subject area to create content from, and different formats the content can be communicated through.

For brands the subject area of interest to its readers isn’t the brand itself, but its the uses and experiences readers have with the brand. Take for example a hotel, you have to ask why do people use the hotel? Maybe its got a great golf course (sport), or excellent leisure facilities (health and fitness), or restaurant (food) or accommodation (local tourism). There’s four rich areas of content that would be of relevance and interest to readers. In social media the delivery of the content can take a variety of formats text, audio, video, games and apps. Think back to how Empire delivers its content as reviews, interviews, articles etc. Imagine if Empire was just text from the top of the first page to the end of the last, how fast would readers desert it? The same with social media, deliver the content in as many different formats as possible to keep up interest.

4. Know how to measure its success

Just as all marketing investment and spend should be justified, the same is true of social media. How is offline advertising measured? Can these measurements be transferred to the social media channels? Links that connect the social channels to measurement tools should be identified and established. Maybe directing Facebook users to a custom landing page via a custom Facebook tab, or establishing an online store linked to your brands social media channels, or a discount coupon distributed through social media might be some ways of tracking the success of your social media marketing.

As outlined here the general process by which social media is used by brands isn’t all that different from how traditional media is used. The biggest change is in the content and delivery of the communications. However, with a little thought and imagination content can be identified and created that is relevant and interesting to your readers.