On April 21, 2016, Hootsuite brought together digital leaders and practitioners in central London to discuss the social content landscape at the latest Social Media Breakfast, hosted by our chief marketing officer, Penny Wilson. Our panel, Unlocking Business Value: The Future of Social Content, invited five leading digital experts to draw on their experience to analyze social media content and digital transformation in an increasingly fragmented and time-poor digital environment.
Social video has blown up, and continues to do so—Facebook more than doubled its daily video views to 8 billion in 2015 and 1 million minutes of video set to be shared online every second by 2019. The discussion at Social Media Breakfast naturally gravitated toward how brands can successfully leverage video in their content marketing mix. Indeed, you can now manage video content directly from the Hootsuite dashboard so you can put it to work for your business—on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
In front of an over-flowing and digital-savvy audience at The Soho Hotel in London, Social Media Breakfast’s impressive panel line-up included U.K. based customers AllSaints and Majestic Wines, as well as Siemens and experts from Facebook and M&C Saatchi.
A big content marketing challenge for brands on social media right now is how to deliver tangible business value.
The question isn’t about the marriage of content and social media—their power is evident—it’s about how can brands serve an increasingly fragmented, demanding, and time-poor audience in an effective and engaging way.
There were four key takeaways from the morning’s discussions around how brands can unlock business value from social content:
- Digital transformation—consumers are in control and brands are evolving to cater for their needs
- Employee enablement—why business should include their own workforce on social
- Video content is king—how it can be successfully used in your social strategy
- Content sharing—the vital ingredients that get results
The digital transformation
The environment that businesses operate in—and we all live in—is undergoing huge change. It could be argued that there is always one form or another of digital transformation that’s taking place. Whether that’s business processes back in the 1980s, the shift of graphic design from pencil to computer in the 1990s, or the transformation of websites from brochure-ware to an immersive experience full of rich media and applications in the 2000s.
So what’s different now? This era sees the intersection of technology and people. Penny Wilson, CMO at Hootsuite, summarised digital transformation in her welcome speech as “the alignment of business to customers at every touchpoint in their digital journey.”
Social media is acting as a fundamental driver of this decade’s digital transformation. We are in the throes of a hyper-connected, ‘always-on,’ sharing culture that is unquestionably changing the way we all live and the way we all do business.
In particular, the role of content—video content—is key to supporting the customer journey revolution from one of brand awareness, to social selling and customer support. It has made it more personalized and more relevant to the intended audiences and, more importantly, to the individuals within those segments.
The most telling statistic for such mass change is the increased velocity of social communications. It took the telephone 75 years to reach 50 million users, radio 38 years, television 13, LinkedIn 6.5, Twitter four, Facebook three, and Instagram 1.7.
And this leads us to social media in the workplace. Thankfully employers have long since moved beyond merely accepting the use of social media by their employees. They now recognise the power of having a social-savvy and social media enabled workforce. But for this to be fully realised, there needs to be education across all areas of an organisation and the shift must be driven by the senior executives.
Michael Stenberg, the global VP of digital marketing at Siemens, provided fascinating insight into the phenomenon of digital transformation and how his company has successfully empowered its employees to embrace social media as part of their jobs.
He explained: “Social media is consumed everywhere and by everyone; everyone needs access to it, even in the workplace. But accessing it isn’t enough—employees across the entire organisation must be empowered to use it, and this requires education, internal communications, and role models. And this starts right at the top with the CEO and senior executives.”
Siemens established an Employee Enablement social media program that saw all levels of the organisation become fully immersed in social networking and sharing. Senior level endorsement is one thing (an important thing!), but there is no better role model to inspire than the CEO.
For example, Eric Spiegel, CEO Siemens USA, along with other senior executives, has grown his spheres of influence to help amplify Siemens’ strategic topics to such an extent that he now has over a quarter of a million followers on LinkedIn. His content strategy includes a blend of images, opinions, and, naturally, video. This has created a massive yet relevant reach that sparks interactions with key decision makers. Needless to say, this approach by Siemens is paying dividends across their executives with Klout scores between 60 and 80 serving as the barometer for success
Video is king
Hosted by Lindsey McInerney, head of digital transformation at Hootsuite, the expert panel discussed content marketing best practices and challenges, before focusing in on the imperative role of video content for all brands in their external communications strategies.
A key theme that emerged was authenticity. Quite simply, consumers are increasingly adept at ‘tuning out’ corporate messages, explicit sales focused content, and businesses portraying themselves as a faceless brand. The numbers game will not work anymore—broadcasting lots and lots of content now has a negative impact on brands. The mantra should be one of ‘less is more’—quality wins over quantity.
Adam Reader, senior strategist at Lida (M&C Saatchi), summed it up: “It’s not about being always on; it’s about being always good.”
Consumers demand personalisation and interactions on their terms. And with their time becoming increasingly limited, brands face an uphill battle to just get their attention, let alone convert them into customers.
Clearly, times have changed—traditional marketing talks at people, whereas content marketing talks with them. The key to successful social content, therefore, is to ‘humanize’ it. It needs to be made relevant both to customers as individuals and also map to their current location in the customer journey.
Social content began with the written word before images and photos took centre stage. Now? Step forward video. Social video is exploding—there are 1 billion unique monthly YouTube visitors and 6 billion hours of YouTube video viewed every month.
This huge appetite for video is a direct result of the new digital lifestyle. But video content has also undergone its own mini-revolution as a result of this digital transformation. The challenge is making video content ‘sticky.’ How long do you have to capture the attention of an individual that has limited time? This speed-to-engagement is critical—you have only mere seconds to hook a viewer in—so brands need to get their main point across immediately.
Reader explains: “If it takes you longer than 19 seconds to say something in a video, it’s probably not worth saying.”
Although, there is still a place for longer form video, and indeed longer form content. Content should always be created for the intended audience and optimised for the intended network and platform it will be shared through. It is also dependent on the goals of the campaign.
Ruari Cathmoir, social marketing manager for Majestic Wine, explained: “Shorter video content is best if you’re aiming to grab someone’s attention; longer form is better if the aim is to educate.”
Long content can therefore be serialised and shared in a sequential fashion, which is a great way to build long-term brand affinity. Likewise, short content forms should be used to grab attention before introducing longer form content in a targeted fashion. Simply put, someone who’s already bought into a brand is more likely to consume longer content than someone who hasn’t heard of that same brand.
Cass Gowing, social media manager for AllSaints, explained: “It’s not really about long form or short form content. Save the longer content for those already engaged—think about the platform and the audience.”
Quite clearly you will multiply the impact of your video, and increase your reach, by sharing it across the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And you’ll save a lot of time by scheduling and monitoring for comments via one platform.
Another contentious point is how often content should be shared. We know that this is about both balance and volume. This applies to any form of branded content. However, the focus of quality over quantity is not the sole domain of how much content your share across your social networks, nor how many times a brand shares the same piece of content.
This also applies to the amplification and reach of the content – having 5 shares by 5 influencers is far more valuable than 5,000 shares by bots or individuals that have zero intention of making a purchasing decision or even have minimal digital footprints. In other words, the sharing of social content also needs to be aligned against influencer marketing campaigns.
Gowing explained: “It is not about the numbers or volume of shares, but who shares it. Creating organic relationships with brand ambassadors are essential for influencer marketing because authenticity is essential.”
This more strategic thinking also applies to measuring the success of social content. Let’s think about video on Facebook. Brands are slowly moving away from the obsession of vanity metrics. There is much more value in measuring reactions, engagements, feedback, and brand affinity, for example. Or, as Nerissa MacDonald, regional manager EMEA marketing partnerships at Facebook, summed it up:
— Hootsuite UK (@Hootsuite_UK) April 21, 2016
To sum up the discussions around content sharing, McDonald’s perspective is a valuable resource: “The four vital aspects to all successful content sharing: context, form, recency, and frequency.”
What this means for brands
The digital transformation we are going through is a seismic shift. Consumers are in the driver’s seat—they are in control and are leading this change. Businesses are being forced to adapt to consumer trends related to social, real-time expectations, and mobile first.
Video content is proving to be an extremely effective solution to improve the way brands can engage with their customers. There is a huge (and ever-growing) appetite to watch videos online. The demand is there and is being tapped into by businesses across the world. From the perspective of brands, videos are more personable, can be short and to the point, yet also contain key messaging in a way that is easy to consume by the viewer. Managing, responding to, and measuring the impact of video, however, can be challenging, hence our new video integrations with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.