On October 26, 2016, we hosted our final Hootsuite Social Breakfast of the year in the heart of London, England. Once more, we invited social media leaders, influencers, marketers, and practitioners to the Ham Yard Hotel near Piccadilly Circus to network and share their knowledge of what’s new and exciting in the world of social media.
Guests were welcomed by our host Susan Perry, Hootsuite’s director of global marketing. Perry introduced the theme of taking customer engagement to a new level, and then invited speakers and a panel of experts to share their thoughts on how to engage creatively with audiences using social media.
In today’s social-first world it’s essential for brands to use social media to create meaningful moments and build trust with their audience at every touchpoint. The panel of digital experts said that can be achieved with employee advocacy, content sharing, and social customer service.
The power of employee advocacy
The first of the morning’s speakers, Christina Hammond-Aziz, head of digital at the Food Standards Agency, spoke about the transformation of social media use in the civil service. How she saw a relatively small government agency as a massive opportunity to use employee advocacy on social media to connect with more people.
What could your organization do if you unlocked the power of your people? Employees help amplify your brand message in ways that weren’t previously possible.
By empowering employees to share a company message on social, a ‘faceless’ organization might suddenly have 1,100 people promoting the brand to their own networks.
Armed with guidelines on how to behave online, those people become trusted faces of the company and sources of information.
“Trust is the most important and most powerful word in advocacy,” Hammond-Aziz explained. “Brands are made of people. Employees are the most trusted people in your organization and people or friends will always be more trusted than brands.”
Using content to connect with customers
So you’ve grown your audience with employee advocacy—now how do you keep those people interested? And how do you turn them into customers?
The second speaker, Beth Carroll, head of social at Seven, talked about her agency’s unique method of ‘story mapping’ when creating content for their clients’ audiences.
Knowing who the audience is, where they access content, and what they actually care about is essential to engagement. If you know your audience, you essentially know where to find them, how to reach them, and what to talk about with them, making your content seem so much more personal.
“So, how do you create content at the speed of culture?” Carroll asked. “Create content that people care about.”
When you consider that people in the U.K. spend an average of 50 minutes a day on their smartphone whilst watching television, if one of your clients is the BBC, knowing that kind of information represents a huge opportunity.
You can use social to engage with them on subjects they are already interested in, and encourage them to watch something they hadn’t previously considered. Think about the action you want your audience to take, create content they care about that also encourages them to take action or move further along their customer journey.
Taking customer engagement to a new level
Our panel of experts—from BBC Worldwide, Expedia, LinkedIn, and Virgin—agreed: social media engagement drives online strategy.
Putting content out there just for the sake of content isn’t enough anymore. It has be clever. It has to be creative. And your audience has to care about it.
For all four of the global brands represented, local teams creating content for their unique audiences is an absolute must. But it doesn’t end there. It’s about being relevant and engaging with that audience both before and after your content is published, having personal conversations to support that effort.
It’s not just about reach either. Jason Miller, global content and social media marketing at LinkedIn explained: “It’s important to focus less on the numbers. It’s more about being relevant. Measure who is engaging with what content”.
“God knows we don’t need more content,” Miller continued, “We need more relevant content.”
Social is about conversation, the panel explained. If this is done well, it will create advocates for your brand.
Matt Guenigault, lead community manager at BBC Worldwide explained: “Social is a conversation. It requires a commitment to that conversation in order to be truly effective. Stick around and engage. Social media is more than constant self-marketing.”
And he’s right, we all hear stories of exceptional social customer service. On Twitter, for example, smart brands listen for mentions of their company or products and jump in whenever appropriate—to help someone out, resolve a complaint, or acknowledge a compliment.
These are all opportunities for brands to engage with customers.