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How to Get More Out of Social Media—Tips from an Expert

If you’re building a social media strategy it can be hard to know where to start—or how to make it pay off in the long run.

In this episode of the Hootsuite podcast, we chat with digital marketing expert Amber Naslund about how to get the most out of your social strategy. Amber is the coauthor of best-selling business book The NOW Revolution, former SVP of marketing for Sysomos and advisor to Fortune 500 companies like AmEx, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods. She now works at Hootsuite as the senior director of industry leadership.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • The trick to getting more from your social investment
  • Social engagements tips for marketers
  • What metrics you should be tracking
  • Cools brands on social that you wouldn’t expect

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of headphones handy, read the transcription of our conversation below.

Q&A with digital marketing expert Amber Naslund

You’re an influencer and you’ve built your brand on social. What advice can you give to someone who is trying to build their brand?

I think having something to say is important, and then finding a platform to say it on. Back in the day I chose blogging, and I like to write so that’s what I did. And I didn’t set out to accumulate followers or an audience, I just really wanted to connect and help people who were dealing with the same kinds of problems that I was.

You need to have a perspective and be willing to get out there to engage with people and have conversations. It’s not so easy to do but it’s the one thing that drives everything else.

So having a clear purpose and message and putting out content that’s in line with that?

Yeah, and finding the problems or questions people have and looking for answers.

Have you found that there are some quick wins on social? Easy things that you can do that give you a good return?

No. And I think that’s the answer everybody hates. When people ask, “Are there quick things you can do to be successful?” And my answer is always, “No, it’s time, consistency, and repetition.” So having a consistent voice, being willing to create content, invest the time and doing it well. Not trying for shortcuts. You know, not trying to make something that goes viral or make something that’s super overly clever.

It really is about time and consistency, because having credibility in a space is a lot more about the long game than the short one.

What you’re saying is, marketers get stuck focusing on quick wins instead of looking at the long game?

Yeah, I think so. And I actually think looking for the quick wins can lead people into frustration because they’re chasing every new tool or platform, or they’re trying to emulate something that worked for somebody else and create an instant success. And there is no such thing.

I mean when I started, really people started noticing what I was doing back in 2004 or 2005, and then when I started to gain a following and an audience online, I’d already been blogging for ten years. So that ‘overnight’ success actually took me a decade.

What is your day to day like on social? How much time do you spend listening, engaging, curating, creating original content, posting original content? Does it fluctuate? Is it different or do you have a bit of a formula?

It’s actually changed quite a bit over the years, and today – I usually spend probably an hour or so in the morning over coffee. I use Flipboard a lot and go through topics that are of interest to me. I use Twitter a lot as a news feed. I have some of my searches set up in Hootsuite to watch for particular topics.

And I spend an hour of the day just kind of consuming that stuff, and then I spend probably another half an hour sharing stuff, both through my own Hootsuite platform. But that’s not a ton of my day.

How much time would you say that you spend throughout the rest of the day engaging on social?

I treat social media kind of the same way I do text messages. They’re always in the background. I usually have a tab open with my Facebook stuff, or I’ve got my Hootsuite columns up and my notifications pinging.

And I’m definitely always keeping half an eye on the engagement side of things because I know from experience that if you just pump a bunch of stuff out there and then don’t ever connect with the people who are communicating with you, you lose a lot of momentum and you lose a lot of relationships that are really valuable.

Do you have a favorite brand on social or was there a campaign that you saw recently that you really loved?

I have a couple, and they’re not the ones you would expect. One of the consumer brands that most people know is Lowe’s. I’m a bit of a home renovation junkie, and Lowe’s does amazing stuff. They’re one of the few brands that can quickly hop on a new tool or platform and do it really well and thoughtfully.

Vine is dead now but Lowe’s used to do this Fix in Six, a six-second video of little home reno projects, and they make it in a minute on Facebook. And they’ve adapted some of that to Snapchat. They’re really clever about using the uniqueness of those platforms to really shine. So I’m always impressed by what they do.

One of my favourite Facebook pages is actually the Police Department in Bangor, Maine. They are hilarious and so human it’s unbelievable. They talk about goofy arrests they had to make or things going on in the town.

They probably have some good stories.

Oh, it’s great, and it’s so small-town feeling. I mean they have an enormous following because people absolutely love what they do. You don’t have to be the traditional consumer brand to make an impact on social like they’re doing. And they picked one platform—Facebook—and focus on doing it really, really well. And it’s awesome.

And there’s a couple of other ones, like Royal Dutch Airlines does some really cool stuff online, and they do a lot of surprise and delight kind stuff with their customers.

Surprise and delight is something that we’ve actually talked about on this show before, but would you mind—just in your own words—going into that a little bit and what some of the advantages of that strategy are?

Yeah, sure. It’s really a very customer-focused idea where you’re paying attention to what your consumers are doing and how they’re either buying your stuff or engaging with your brand, and finding special little moments for people to feel seen and recognized.

So whether it’s thanking them for their business or showing up when they’ve had a bad day with a plate of warm cookies or whatever it is, to make them feel noticed and special. Because a lot of customers can feel like one in a sea of numbers and that they’re treated in volume, not individually.

So it’s taking those moments to find individuals and make them feel valued.

Absolutely. The beauty of doing that stuff through social channels is the audience that comes with it. So if you do something to connect with someone, you’re also benefiting by giving the warm fuzzies to the rest of your audience who is going, “Oh, I just observed something really cool.” And that in turn opens their minds to your company.

If you were given full control of a brand’s social strategy, what’s the first thing that you would do?

Believe it or not, the first thing I do is pare it down. Because I think most people try to do too much, and as a result their efforts are really deluded. I’d also do a solid audit of what’s happening and what we’re focusing on, and where we’re finding a success.

And I tend to pare things down to a few essential elements that we can repeat, do really well all the time, and do at scale. I think a lot of brands want to be everywhere and be everything to everyone, and that’s not a recipe for success on social. So if anything I’m the one who’s going to bring it back a few notches.

I think that’s really good advice, because a big problem for digital marketers is that there are so many new platforms coming out. There are always new tools and tactics, and I think people are getting really overwhelmed with the idea of having to be on all these different channels. And you can’t do them all well.

No question, and there’s already such an enormous amount of content and noise and people vying for attention, that I think the answer is not to be a sledgehammer but to look for the scalpel, where you can get really precise with the audiences you can reach and the kind of content you can do well, and do that. It’s much more effective in the long run.

From what you’ve seen and where things are now, do you have any predictions for social over the next couple of years?

I think artificial intelligence is going to make a massive impact in marketing. It’s already starting with little things, like bots.

It’s such a powerful set of technologies and capabilities, with the data that comes out of that. I think marketers have always struggled to quantify the value of our efforts. How do we know that marketing actually drove that sale or acquired that customer? I think as intelligence, artificial or otherwise, gets even deeper—and the more data we have—the smarter we get about what we can do.

Thank you for coming in and speaking with us. It’s been great.

Listen to the Full Episode