Social Media Strategy: Tools for Professionals and Organizations
Publication Year: 2018
“Finally, a social media text that combines liberal arts and social science intellectualism with practical, real-world tips for success in this crucial aspect of professional communications. Its value goes beyond the classroom – everything in the book will resonate with and be useful to PR pros already engaged in social media management.” –Ray Begovich, Franklin College Social Media Strategy: Tools for Professionals and Organizations shows professionals and organizations how to use social media more effectively and strategically. With a focus on what makes social media unique among communication platforms, this book offers practical guidance on creating, implementing, and evaluating social media strategies and tactics. Social media is constantly evolving, so the book focuses on enduring strategic principles and uses case studies and exercises throughout to ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: UNDERSTANDING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
- Chapter 1: Who Needs a Social Media Strategy?
- Chapter 2: What Is a Social Media Strategy?
- Chapter 3: What Are the Benefits of a Social Media Strategy?
- Chapter 4: The Social Media Cosmos
- Chapter 5: Understanding the Competitive Environment
- Chapter 6: Coordinates
- Chapter 7: Channels
- Chapter 8: Content
- Chapter 9: Connections
- Chapter 10: Corrections
- Chapter 11: Syncing the Strategy Dots and Crafting Action Plans
- Chapter 12: Developing the Assessment Protocol
- Chapter 13: Measuring Social Media Effectiveness
- Chapter 14: Crafting the Social Media Assessment Report
Part IV: CONCLUSION
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List of Tables and Figures[Page xv]Tables
- Table 2.1 Examples of Social Media Tactical Issues 24
- Table 3.1 Tease and Seize Content Strategy 31
- Table 4.1 ML+- Platform Thinking 38
- Table 4.2 Social Media Platform Dynamics 41
- Table 5.1 What Types of Facts Should You Seek? 51
- Table 5.2 Judging the Credibility and Utility of Your Facts 53
- Table 5.3 Anchor-Based SWOT 57
- Table 6.1 Brainstorming Business and Communication Goals 70
- Table 7.1 Investigative Questions for Social Media Platforms 79
- Table 7.2 Primary Functions of Social Media Platforms 80
- Table 7.3 Channel Evaluation Grid 83
- Table 8.1 Content Options: Type and Form 91
- Table 8.2 Examples of Various Types of Content 92
- Table 8.3 Considerations in Selecting Approaches to Deriving Content 96
- Table 9.1 Potential Upsides and Downsides of Basic Networks 117
- Table 9.2 Tendencies of Strong and Weak Connections 119
- Table 10.1 Breaking the Spell of Common Thinking Biases 134
- Table 10.2 A/B Testing Protocol 141
- Table 11.1 “Green Light, Yellow Light, and Red Light” Compatibility Tests (Synergy Grid) 151
- Table 11.2 The Translation Test 154
- Table 12.1 Social Media Assessment Summary 166[Page xvi]
- Table 13.1 Video Engagement Metrics 180
- Table 13.2 Platform-Specific Metrics and Tools 182
- Table 13.3 Social Media Assessment Metric Options 187
- Table 13.4 Influence Analysis Tools 191
- Figure 4.1 Understanding the Social Media Cosmos 36
- Figure 4.2 Generators of Valuable Experiences 44
- Figure 5.1 Validation Options 59
- Figure 8.1 The Continuum of Content Generation 96
- Figure 8.2 Principles of Great Content 99
- Figure 9.1 Examples of Bull’s-Eye Nodes 110
- Figure 9.2 Centralized Network 114
- Figure 9.3 Decentralized Network 115
- Figure 9.4 Distributed Network 115
- Figure 9.5 Connections Matrix 118
- Figure 9.6 Connections Matrix: Potential Benefits 121
- Figure 9.7 Connections Matrix: Potential Costs 122
- Figure 9.8 Connections Matrix: Skills and Commitments Required 127
- Figure 10.1 The Corrections Matrix 137
- Figure 11.1 The Coordinates Test 149
- Figure 11.2 The Synergy Test 150
- Figure 13.1 The Steps of Measuring Social Media Effectiveness 176
- Figure 13.2 Main Categories of Metrics 177
- Figure 15.1 Social Media Aspirational Triangle 210
“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. . . ’”—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
Many of the great pleasures in life are rather simple—reading a good book by the fire, engaging in a scintillating conversation, or eating a sumptuous breakfast. I wrote this book with the first two pleasures in mind, fueled by the last one. I’ve read countless books in my career. The good ones were well written, informative, and prompted me to think about something in a new way. That’s what I’ve attempted to do with this book. But I wanted to do something more. I wanted to prompt engaging conversations. Most conversations are rather utilitarian (e.g., “What would you like to order? How do I get to your house?”). The special ones, though, couple a respectful clash of ideas with a thoughtful flash of insights. Fortunately, I’ve had many of those conversations with my students and colleagues as I wrote this book.
The conversation started with a simple challenge gleaned from one of my favorite tales, Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The idea of “thinking impossible things” (only after breakfast, for me) always intrigued me. This book represents one of those “impossible things.” To be specific, how do you write a book that has enduring value when the subject matter (social media) changes almost daily? Social media platforms, algorithms, and trends can shift with the mere tap of a finger on a distant screen. The reasonable answer to my impossible question might be “You can’t, so just pay [Page xviii]attention to the daily social media blogs and go along for the ride.” But as a college professor committed to providing valuable thinking routines that can last a lifetime, I simply couldn’t accept that answer.
So this book and related website provide an answer to the impossible question. If forced to answer the impossible question in a word, it would be strategy. Why? Good strategic thinking about complex issues will transcend time and social media platforms. There are plenty of social media specialists who are tactically competent—but strategically clueless. Their expertise will endure for a time, but inevitably they will run into challenges for which they are unprepared and ill equipped. And ultimately, they will fail. What they need are tools to think strategically about the ever-shifting social media landscape. That’s what we seek to provide in this book.
That said, you can learn a lot about effective tactics that work today by reading blogs, posts, and articles from successful tacticians. I encourage that, but it is not enough. Why? Too often, these tactical superstars breed an imitation mindset driven by the faulty logic of “It worked for me, so it should work for you.” Maybe. Maybe not. For instance, posts from an entertainment superstar may create buzz but may foster a backlash when used by others. So, yes, read the blogs of tactical superstars—usually they are quite eager to share—but be wary of learning the wrong lessons. I love case studies, for instance, but I prefer to look at them through a strategic lens. Without that lens or framework, people tend to see only tactics to copy not tools to illuminate thinking nor enduring lessons to learn. In fact, in Appendix 3, we provide five case studies filtered through the strategic framework developed in the book. That should make the lessons learned applicable to a wide range of organizations while offering lasting insights about strategic thinking.
Some brief history: I didn’t know it at the time, but this book started when a group of students implored me to start teaching a course on social media. I was intrigued because nobody on the planet was teaching such a course at the time. But I was perplexed about the “impossibility” of creating something that was both timely and timeless. So I decided to seize on the intellectual challenge. After all, grappling with “impossible questions” is fun, stimulating, and illuminating.
But it is even more so when done with valued friends, thoughtful colleagues, and engaged students. I have all of these, in abundance, [Page xix]including Adam Halfman, Danielle Bina, Amy Martin, Elizabeth Hintz, Karli Peterson, Taylor Thomson, Katelyn Staaben, Julie Sadoff, Laleah Fernandez, Ryan Martin, Jena Richter Landers, Ben Kotenberg, Steve Schmitt, and Rachel Veldt. Fittingly, this book could not have been completed without these social and professional relationships. Thank you one and all. And I was privileged to work with the very best copy editor on the planet, Karen Taylor. Even she humbly admits that “it’s too bad there is no American Idol show for copy editors.” I couldn’t agree more. Finally, I want to thank my wife, Laurey, who tirelessly worked on making this book more accessible, readable, and understandable. She has an amazing capacity to bring out the best in dogs, people, and my books. Hugs and kisses—not just the social media kind—to her!
SAGE Publishing gratefully acknowledges the following reviewers for their kind assistance:
- L. Simone Byrd, Alabama State University
- Gregory G. De Blasio, Northern Kentucky University
- Melissa D. Dodd, University of Central Florida
- Pj Forrest, Alcorn State University
- Matthew J. Kushin, Shepherd University
- Patty Lamberti, Loyola University Chicago
- Bill Mills, East Texas Baptist University
- Peggy O’Neill-Jones, Metropolitan State University of Denver
- Brandi Watkins, Virginia Tech
- Scott D. Roberts, The University of the Incarnate Word
Appendix 1: Social Media Platform Fact Sheets[Page 219]
Value Proposition: Everyone you know is using it.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Mark Zuckerberg, 2004
- Historical Milestones:
- Facebook.com was launched by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004
- High school students began using Facebook in September 2005
- Facebook became open for anyone to use in September 2006
- Debut of Facebook “like” button in April 2010
- Facebook had more than one billion active users in October 2012
- Facebook replaced “likes” with various reaction options in February 2016
- Source of Income: Facebook makes about $15 per user through various methods of advertising. The purchase of Facebook credits for use in apps and games also generates income for the company.
- User-Generated Content: Users are able to post a variety of content, including status updates, photos and videos, and life events.[Page 220]
- Benefits for Users: With over 1.55 billion users, Facebook is the largest social network in existence. In some ways, Facebook acts as a “Google” for people you know, making it an integral part of the fabric of the Internet.
- Largest User Demographics: 45–54+, retirees, women
- Analytics: Facebook provides a full range of “Insights” (the analytics suite) that cover ads and promotions, page likes, reach, page views, actions on page, posts, events, videos, people, and messages. Each of those categories, when selected, also offers options for further refining and filtering the information presented.
- Further Reading:
- Carlson, N. “At Last: The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded.” Business Insider, March 5, 2010. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-facebook-was-founded-2010-3/we-can-talk-about-that-after-i-get-all-the-basic-functionality-up-tomorrow-night-1.
- Bloomberg News. “Inside Facebook’s Plan to Boost Ad Revenue by Turning Users Into Buyers.” Advertising Age, July 13, 2016. http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-turn-users-into-buyers/304474/.
- Zephoria. “The Top 20 Valuable Facebook.” Zephoria Digital Marketing, updated monthly. https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/.
- Stinson, L. “Facebook Reactions, the Totally Redesigned Like Button, Is Here.” Wired, February 24, 2016. https://www.wired.com/2016/02/facebook-reactions-totally-redesigned-like-button/.
- Kirkpatrick, D. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that Is Connecting the World. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.
Value Proposition: Participate in the global conversation in real time.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, 2006
- Historical Milestones:
- First sketch of Twitter completed in March 2006
- First tweet sent March 21, 2006
- Hashtag debuted in August 2007
- Promoted tweets, promoted trends, and promoted accounts launched in 2010
- Twitter launched Vine in January 2013
- Twitter announced IPO filing in September 2013
- Source of Income: Advertising on the site accounts for 85 percent of Twitter’s revenue. Advertising is offered in three ways: promoting a tweet, promoting a trend, or promoting an account.
- Data licensing is Twitter’s second highest source of revenue. Twitter refers to its public data as the “fire hose” and sells about 500 million tweets a day.
- User-Generated Content: Users are able to post text, photos, videos, and live streams.
- Benefits for Users: Over 316 million people are able to interact with friends, family, celebrities, politicians, and peers across the globe in real time. Global trending topics spark conversation, slacktivism (i.e., actions requiring little time or involvement that are performed via the Internet in support of causes), and often outrage among individuals, groups, and organizations.
- Largest User Demographics: under 50, college educated, non-white
- Analytics: Twitter has an analytics site that any user or organization can access. Tweet success is measured in impressions, or the number of unique viewers who were exposed to your tweet. Engagement, link clicks, retweets, likes, and replies can all be measured in detail.
- Further Reading:
- Monica, P. R. “Twitter May Be the next MySpace.” CNN Money, March 27, 2014. http://buzz.money.cnn.com/2014/03/27/twitter-stock-down/.[Page 222]
- Duggan, M., and A. Smith. Social Media Update 2013. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, January 2014. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-Media-Update.aspx.
- Gadkari, P. “How Does Twitter Make Money?” BBC News, November 7, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-24397472.
Value Proposition: Follow your friends’ lives through photography.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, 2010
- Historical Milestones:
- Instagram, originally released exclusively for the iPhone, was launched by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010
- Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012
- Video capabilities were added to Instagram in June 2013
- Source of Income: Currently, Instagram does not make money. It is supported through Facebook’s revenue. In April 2014, Zuckerberg stated that “monetization isn’t our near-term priority.”1
- User-Generated Content: Users can post photos and videos using a variety of filters and editing options.
- Benefits for Users: 300 million people are able to follow visually the lives of their friends, family members, and celebrities.
- Largest User Demographics: 18–29, women, minorities
- Analytics: None provided by platform.
- Further Reading:
- Luckerson, V. “A Year Later, Instagram Hasn’t Made a Dime. Was it Worth $1 Billion?” Time, April 9, 2013. http://business.time.com/2013/04/09/a-year-later-instagram-hasnt-made-a-dime-was-it-worth-1-billion/.[Page 223]
- Rusli, E. M. “Instagram Pictures Itself Making Money.” The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2013. https://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324577304579059230069305894.
- Borow, J. “How Facebook Is Already Profiting From Instagram.” AdvertisingAge, August 8, 2013. http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/facebook-profiting-instagram/243515/.
- Griswold, A. “Here’s the Problem With That $35 Billion Instagram Valuation.” Slate, December 19, 2014. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/12/19/instagram_valuation_citigroup_says_facebook_s_photo_app_is_worth_35_billion.html.
- Harbour, S. Instagram: How a Photo-Sharing App Achieved a $1 Billion Facebook Buyout in 18 Months. N.p.: Hyperink Inc., 2012.
- Wong, J. I. “Instagram Likes and Comments are Plummeting.” Quartz, June 15, 2016. https://qz.com/707819/instagram-likes-and-comments-are-plummeting/.
Value Proposition: Plan for the future by collecting ideas.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra, 2009
- Historical Milestones:
- Pinterest was launched by Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra in March 2010
- Pinterest acquired the recipe aggregator Punchfork in January 2013
- Pinterest acquired the custom keyboard company Flesky in June 2016[Page 224]
- Source of Income: Pinterest currently offers promoted pins that allow businesses to pay to have certain pins show up on a potential buyer’s main page. The company is researching additional features that allow businesses to analyze who sees and repins their pins.
- User-Generated Content: Though users do have the ability to upload their own content, most of the content created by users are boards. Boards are aggregations of pins posted by other users, usually organized around a central theme: e.g., wedding ideas, home renovation, and outfits for summer.
- Benefits for Users: Over 100 million people, mostly women, can bring ideas from across the Internet to one, completely customizable place. These collections of ideas may help others to utilize small spaces, plan a baby shower, or create the best handmade decorations. Often, the information about where to purchase the products needed for the projects are attached to each pin, making shopping by idea board effortless.
- Largest User Demographics: women under 50
- Analytics: One simple click from the Pinterest homepage takes you to analytics.pinterest.com, where a full array of analytics shows you data about your Pinterest profile and about the audience your pins reach.
- Further Reading:
- DeAmicis, C. “Why Pinterest Makes No Money but Is Now Worth $3.8 Billion.” Pando, October 23, 2013 https://pando.com/2013/10/23/why-pinterest-makes-no-money-but-its-now-worth-3-8-billion/.
- Goodwin, D. “You Now Have 3 New Ways to Target Pinterest Users.” SEJ: Search Engine Journal, June 16, 2016. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/pinterest-ad-targeting-options/166167/
- Cooper, K. How to Build a Huge Following on Pinterest. N.p.: Hyperink Inc., 2016.
Value Proposition: Maintain professional brands and networks.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Jean-Luc Vaillant, 2002
- Historical Milestones:
- LinkedIn was founded by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, and Jean-Luc Vaillant in Hoffman’s living room in 2002; the site launched on May 5, 2003
- LinkedIn opened its first office overseas, making the company global, in 2008
- LinkedIn went public in 2011 and purchased SlideShare in 2012
- LinkedIn reached 300 million members in April 2014
- Perkins v. LinkedIn was filed in 2015; this class-action lawsuit held the site accountable for sending millions of unsolicited emails to potential site users
- Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for over $26 billion in 2016
- Source of Income: In 2014 LinkedIn had revenue of $568 million: 61 percent from talent solutions ($345 million), 20 percent from premium subscriptions ($114 million), and 19 percent from marketing initiatives ($109 million).
- User-Generated Content: Users of the site create a profile that serves as a digital résumé. Projects, awards, certifications, publications, skills, and endorsements can all be posted on this profile.
- Benefits for Users: LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social network. Over 300 million users can connect with leaders in their industry, receive recommendations and endorsements, be scouted by major organizations, and search and apply for jobs.
- Largest User Demographics: college graduates, high-income households
- Analytics: Each LinkedIn business page has an analytics section, which details post reach and engagement for that page. Follower demographics and trends are also available, in addition to information about competitors.[Page 226]
- Further Reading:
- Pepitone, J. “LinkedIn Stock More Than Doubles in IPO.” CNN Money, May 19, 2011. http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/19/technology/linkedin_IPO/.
- “Perkins v. LinkedIn.” Gilardi & Co. website ©2017. Available from Gilardi & Co., P.O. Box 808012, Petaluma, CA. http://www.addconnectionssettlement.com/.
Value Proposition: Increase your search engine rankings.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Google (especially Vic Gundotra), 2011
- Historical Milestones:
- Started by Google in June 2011
- Google+ pages launched for organizations to join Google+ in November 2011
- Google+ Photos and Hangouts were launched in May 2013
- Source of Income: Google has invested over $500 million in Google+.
- User-Generated Content: Google+ allows users to create a profile, add information, photos, video, and post links and updates. Circles allow users to add friends to groups, and Hangouts allow for instant messaging, videoconferencing, and the sharing of files and photos. Much of the Google+ user base consists of YouTube users because YouTube made them create a Google+ account to sign in to YouTube. This network is also useful for nonprofit organizations, as it offers an inexpensive means of doing some of the tasks of member and client relations management.
- Benefits for Users: For a business owner, using Google+ may improve search engine rankings. As Google is the most widely used search engine, it makes sense to create and publish content to Google+. Over 90 million users, mostly young men and IT Engineers, have accounts on the site.[Page 227]
- Largest User Demographics: young men 25–34
- Analytics: Google has always had analytics capabilities, with Google Analytics serving webmasters for years. Google+ has a simplified version of this software that produces easy-to-understand results for the average user. Metrics such as total +1s, likes, shares, comments, and engagement are available from this view.
- Further Reading:
- Bullas, J. “22 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2014.” Blog from jeffbullas.com, April 10, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know-in-2014/.
- Sauer, J. “Google Plus Analytics: Measuring Activity within Google Plus.” Jeffalytics, n.d. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://www.jeffalytics.com/google-plus-analytics/measuring-activity-within-google-plus/.
- Jostes, L. “How to Discover Analytics with the Google Dashboard.” Social Media Examiner, March 11, 2015. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/analytics-with-google-dashboard/.
Value Proposition: Share memories with minimal commitment.
Founder(s) and Start Date: Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, 2011
- Historical Milestones:
- Snapchat (originally called Picaboo) was launched in July 2011; its name was changed to Snapchat in the fall of 2011.
- Total users hit 100,000 in April 2012.[Page 228]
- Snapchat was launched on Android and released video chat in 2012.
- Snapchat launched Snapchat stories in October 2013.
- Snapchat added timestamps, filters, temperature and speed overlays, and the ability to replay snaps in December 2013.
- Snapchat added text conversations, Snapcash, and video in 2014.
- Source of Income: Snapchat currently makes no money. It survives on funding from outside investors.
- User-Generated Content: Snapchat allows users to take photos and videos, add filters (including location-specific filters), effects (face swapping, for example), write messages, add stickers, and draw on these photos and videos. The user can then send that photo or video to friends whom they select, or they can create a story (which is visible to all friends for 24 hours). Users also have the option to create a photo or video and then send it to a public story, which is available for anyone in the area to see.
- Benefits for Users: Over 150 million people use Snapchat to connect with friends and family, send embarrassing photos, document vacations, parties, concerts, and other events. The app is valuable because 1) photos and videos do not have to be downloaded or saved to be sent to family and friends, which saves space on mobile devices, and 2) the photos and videos disappear within 10 seconds of their having been viewed.
- Largest User Demographics: young men and women under 24
- Analytics: No formal analytics are provided by this platform. You can, however, see how many times a story has been viewed, who has viewed your story, whether or not the story has been replayed, and whether or not any screenshots have been taken.
- Further Reading:
- Crook, J., and A. Escher. “A Brief History of Snapchat.” Tech Crunch, October 15, 2015. https://techcrunch.com/gallery/a-brief-history-of-snapchat/.
- Ballve, M. “Snapchat’s Explosive Growth among Teens and Millennials Means It’s Emerging as a Powerful Brand Platform.” Business Insider, August 15, 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/a-primer-on-snapchat-and-its-demographics-2014-7.[Page 229]
- Delaney, J. “How Does Snapchat Make Money?” Money Morning, January 19, 2017. https://moneymorning.com/2017/01/19/how-does-snapchat-make-money-3/.
- MacMillan, D., and E. M. Rusli. “Snapchat Fetches $10 Billion Valuation.” The Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2014. https://www.wsj.com/articles/snapchat-fetches-10-billion-valuation-1409088794.
1. V. Goel, “Facebook Profit Tripled in First Quarter,” New York Times, April 23, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/technology/facebook-profit-tripled-in-first-quarter.html.[Page 230]
Appendix 2: Dealing With Anger Online: Strategies for Social Media Managers[Page 231]
Anger is the most commonly expressed emotion online,1 and social media managers routinely find themselves dealing with various forms of online hostility from angry customers. In this chapter, I will discuss the origins of online anger, some relevant research, and some general strategies for how social media managers can handle online anger when it is directed at them or their organization.What Is Online Anger?
Anger is an emotional state associated with being insulted, having one’s goals blocked, or being otherwise provoked.2 It is different from aggression, a behavior that has the intent to harm someone or something.3 This is an important distinction as aggression is often misunderstood as being just the outward, harmful expression of anger when in reality there are lots of ways to express anger (e.g., crying, politely asserting oneself). This distinction gets a little confusing in an online environment, [Page 232]however, where we are dealing only with outward behaviors. In other words, anger (the emotion), is likely behind a hostile tweet or Facebook post (the behavior), but anger also might be behind a politely assertive tweet or Facebook post. If we think of online anger more broadly than just the aggressive or cruel behaviors often associated with it, we recognize that anger is expressed in a multitude of ways on the social web.Important Research on Online Anger
There are four main findings regarding online anger. First, it’s very common. Recent data suggest that nearly half of Twitter users say they tweet “often” as a way of dealing with anger.4 Second, anger spreads faster online than any other emotion. Fan and colleagues categorized millions of “tweets” on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site in China, and found that, although happy tweets were shared by those in close relationships, angry tweets were shared by people in both close and distant relationships. Researchers described anger as the most “viral” online emotion.5 Third, online anger has some fairly severe consequences. In one recent study, those who vented online were angrier than the general population, were more likely than the general population to express that anger in maladaptive ways, and frequently experienced negative consequences for their anger.6 That same study, though, also shed some light on why people are so likely to rant online. Specifically, participants in the study reported that, after they had expressed their anger via some sort of online rant, they felt calm, relieved, and relaxed. Thus, because their anger dissipates for the short term, people often feel rewarded for their online anger expressions, despite the long-term consequences.Why We Get Mad
To really understand how to respond to someone’s online anger, you need to understand why people get mad at all, whether online or offline. The types of situations in which people most often get angry were outlined by Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher in a 1996 article on anger. In it, he described three overlapping factors that lead to anger: (1) a stimulus, (2) the person’s appraisal of the stimulus, and (3) the person’s pre-anger [Page 233]psychobiological state. The stimulus is the event that people often point to as the cause (e.g., a decision made by a service provider, politician, or other public figure). These stimuli do not cause the anger directly, though. What matters as much as the stimulus itself is how the person appraises or interprets that stimulus. Imagine, for example, that your favorite sports team decides to raise ticket prices. That event alone, which is the stimulus, does not cause the anger directly. First, you need to appraise that event as being negative, unfair, unacceptable, or something that will be difficult for you to handle. If your interpretation of the raised ticket prices was, “I wish the games were cheaper, but I understand why they are raising the prices,” you’ll have a very different emotional response (e.g., disappointment) than if you interpret the raised ticket prices with this attitude: “That’s completely unfair. I’ve been a loyal customer for a long time. They can’t do this to me.”
The types of appraisals that are most likely to lead to anger are those in which people feel they were treated poorly (e.g., poor customer service) or in which their goals have been blocked (e.g., they were unable to obtain a product they want or attend an event they want to attend). Further, people tend to get angry when they feel the stimulus is so negative that they can’t cope with it. For instance, a flight being canceled will likely always be frustrating, but if the travelers’ interpretation is that they will now miss an important part of their trip and, consequently, “everything is ruined,” they will likely become even angrier.
Deffenbacher’s third factor, the pre-anger state, refers to our psychobiological state right before the stimulus. If people are already fatigued, tense, sleepy, hungry, or in some other negative state when provoked, they are more likely to become angry. For instance, customers who have waited all night for a product, and are therefore tired, are much more likely to become angry when they fail to obtain the product than another customer who is not fatigued.Tips on Dealing With Online Anger for Social Media Managers
Finally, here are some practical tips for social media managers who find themselves dealing with angry customers via the social web.
- Understand what is driving the anger. When confronted with customer anger, social media managers need to consider where the anger is coming from. Using the model described above, ask yourself how the customer is feeling and thinking. Are they angry because their goals were blocked? If so, perhaps you can help them meet their goals somehow. Are they angry because they feel they were treated unfairly? In that case, perhaps you can help them feel better about their interactions by better explaining a policy that has upset them. Or, if they were genuinely wronged in an interaction, you can take steps to right that wrong.[Page 234]
- Understand your goals too. Much of what social media managers should do depends on what their own goals are in responding. If your goal, for example, is to minimize the visibility of a customer who is making a scene, you likely want to try and get the angry customer offline into a private conversation. If your goal, though, is to demonstrate to others how willing you are to listen and be responsive to customers, you likely want to keep that conversation online where others can witness it.
- Model kindness in your interactions. One of the best things social media managers can do is model kindness in their interactions with customers. By being polite, kind, and courteous, even when customers are rude, you demonstrate to all who are following along what kind of customer service experience they can have with you. Also, by taking the high road, you send an important message about how to behave online.
- Don’t reward incivility. As noted in the Fan and colleagues study, anger online is rewarded with retweets, likes, shares, and replies. Those responses serve as positive reinforcement to the perpetrators of online anger, so an important thing we can do is to avoid rewarding such incivility ourselves.
- Promote positivity. In contrast, we can promote positivity by making a point of retweeting, sharing, liking, and replying to positive tweets and posts. Obviously, you only want to do this when it is consistent with the image of your organization that you are promoting via social media, but by promoting positivity, you send an important message to your customers and others about how you want people to communicate online.
1. R. Fan, J. Zhao, Y. Chen, and K. Xu, “Anger Is More Influential Than Joy: Sentiment Correlation in Weibo,” PLoS One 9, no. 10, 2014. Reprint submitted to Elsevier, September 10, 2013, http://arxiv.org/abs/1309.2402.
2. C. D. Spielberger, State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory–Revised (Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc., 1999).
3. J. L. Deffenbacher, “Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches to Anger Reduction,” in Advances in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, edited by K. S. Dobson and K. D. Craig, 31–62 (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996).
4. Martin [Online anger consequences]. Unpublished raw data, 2016.
5. R. Fan et al., “Anger Is More Influential.”
6. R. C. Martin, K. Coyier, L. M. Van Sistine, and K. L. Schroeder, “Anger on the Internet: The Perceived Value of Rant-Sites,” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 16 (2013): 119–122.[Page 236]
Appendix 3: Case Studies: Using Social Media to Recruit New Employees[Page 237]
“No one wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I want to work for a packaging company!’”—Rick Fantini
Established in Menasha, Wisconsin, in 1849, Menasha Corporation is one of the oldest family-owned manufacturing companies in the United States. Menasha has a long history as a market leader in the packaging industry; it is also known for innovation in its field, social responsibility, and its people-first culture. The engaged leadership team fosters an atmosphere in which every employee can make an impact and contribute to this midsized company’s success. And employees have opportunities to grow, develop, and move into roles of increasing responsibility across this growing organization. This long list of positive attributes sounds like a recruiting manager’s dream, right?
As Menasha’s senior human resources representative, however, I can tell you a different story. The reality is that the very nature of our business—the manufacture of packaging, transport materials, and in-store product displays—presents a challenge to our recruiters despite these compelling factors. As a member of our leadership team often bemoans, [Page 238]“No one wakes up in the morning saying, ‘I want to work for a packaging company!’” The fact is that packaging is not exactly a sexy industry in a high-tech world. Further, Menasha Corporation is a business-to-business organization with little name recognition outside of our field. Although we provide materials and services that are essential to protecting, transporting, and promoting products manufactured by some of the world’s largest companies, few people know who we are or what we do. The need to overcome these recruiting challenges by sourcing, screening, and hiring many talented employees in a short time frame became critical in 2013 when the company suddenly experienced unprecedented growth after landing major contracts with several key customers. Following a comprehensive review of our recruiting practices, the Menasha Talent Acquisition Team initiated a six-step integrated recruitment process (see Figure A3.1) that has allowed us to refine continuously how we bring our open positions to market, react more quickly and effectively to changes in technology, and ultimately increase our visibility in the market. Social media plays a significant role in each of the six steps. In the following case study, I will discuss how our social media strategy has been successfully integrated into each step of the process, ultimately increasing our ability to bring top talent into our organization in a quick and cost-effective manner.Step 1: Job Posted in Menasha Corporation Applicant Tracking System
The first issue our human resources team tackled in 2013 was to assess the system we were using to post our open positions. The research was telling us that 34 percent of candidates between the ages of 18–29 were using a smartphone to apply for jobs1 and that was a key demographic that we knew we were going to need to attract to address on our recruiting needs. After an in-depth analysis, the team decided that the applicant system we had in place did not provide a strong user experience for online applicants, particularly those on a mobile device. The application form was long, the text boxes were small, and, most important, the system was not at all optimized for mobile devices. These realizations persuaded us to discontinue our contract with our current system provider and begin working with a younger company that had an applicant tracking system (ATS) [Page 239]that met many of these needs. After a short implementation cycle, we found ourselves with a system that allowed candidates to view and complete applications on mobile devices and even log in and import their profiles from LinkedIn and other social networks to allow for easy access. We also spent time increasing our knowledge about search engine optimization (SEO) keywords and how to improve our job postings so that they were easier to read and would grab the candidate’s attention more effectively. Our new system allowed us to customize the look and feel of our job postings, which in turn increased our candidate pools.Figure A3.1 Menasha Corporation’s Recruitment Process
Source: Copyright © CanStock Photo/mybaitshop.Step 2: Job Posted on Social Media and Job Posting Sites
As we went through the implementation of our new ATS, the human resources team also started learning more about the world of social [Page 240]media. “Be where the candidates are, each and every day”: this was the advice we received, and it became a key component of our new system. Our team realized that we were missing some key opportunities to advertise our open positions. And these resources were free, as well. Previously, open positions were posted only on Monster and CareerBuilder. These sites were considered the key job posting boards available, but each posting had to be entered manually and came with a heavy price tag for each month that the job was posted. With the implementation of our new ATS, we began to explore other channels where we could post our positions. And with this exploration came some key questions we began to explore. If Facebook was where everyone lived, why not be on Facebook? And what about Twitter? And what other sites are out there that we’re not considering? And do we just post jobs or do we try to engage candidates with our content? Oh, and how do those darn hashtags work, and what can they do for us?
We began experimenting by posting our open jobs on a variety of social media channels, and this process of trying new sites and venues to reach our candidates continues today. We created careers pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, and the functionality of our new system enabled our jobs to feed to these free social media resources automatically. We worked hard to build a following on these pages, encouraging our own employees to connect with us on those pages. We also implemented “career alert” functionalities; these enable us to segment lists of job seekers by employee function and location and to send any potential candidates email or text alerts whenever a new job is posted in our system. Our recruiting team also did some experimenting with one of our key channels, Twitter. By incorporating hashtags into our postings on Twitter (e.g., #JoinMenasha, #hiring, #TweetMyJobs) and investing a small amount of money to target our campaign further, we found that we significantly enhanced our candidate reach.
And finally, we began experimenting with where we were posting our jobs. We discovered that CareerBuilder and Monster, formerly the giants in the job posting world, were less applicable to us and that we had better returns on job aggregators such as LinkedIn and Indeed, where you could move your jobs in and out of slots, sponsor key positions, and use a pay per click model. These changes not only increased our visibility but helped us to manage our costs more effectively.
[Page 241]Our recruiting team has also partnered closely with the marketing and communications functions in our organization to ensure that the branding we portray on our job postings and social pages are consistent with the image the organization is working to portray. These strong partnerships are key to our success and allow us to leverage the knowledge and expertise of others in our organization.Step 3: Search for Passive Candidates
Sourcing for passive candidates has also been a key dimension of our recruiting strategy. At any given time, only approximately 10 percent of the potential job pool is actively looking for a job, leaving 15 percent as tiptoers (people exploring potential job options but not actively searching) and 75 percent as passive job seekers.2 Technically, a passive job seeker is someone who is currently employed but is open to learning about new career opportunities. To augment our recruiting efforts beyond the candidates who apply to our jobs via our posting efforts, the recruiting team began leveraging social media tools to source passive candidates. Because so many professionals put their job information, educational background, and skills out on LinkedIn, sourcing for candidates using this tool has become another key aspect of our recruiting strategy. By leveraging functionality in LinkedIn, our team can send messages directly to qualified candidates who may not currently be looking for new positions and encourage them to apply to our open position. This strategy has been very successful for our team, and a large percentage of our recent hires have come from the passive candidate searches conducted by our recruiting team. We are also able to collect information about candidates who have previously applied to positions in our company, and we find this particularly valuable when we have candidates who were very strong but ultimately were not offered the job for which they applied. By leveraging this information in our system, we can reconnect with these runner-up candidates at a later date when we have another position open that matches their qualifications. We are currently working to enhance our abilities to mine these data in our system even further, as they are a key source for enhancing our candidate pool.[Page 242]Step 4. Candidates Screened and Interviewed, and Offers Extended
As our economy has continued to grow and unemployment has decreased, competition for top talent has become much tighter. The Menasha recruiting team put a great deal of effort into facilitating the speed with which we can screen, select, and make offers to candidates, including streamlining our interview processes, encouraging our hiring managers to make swift decisions, and putting together market-competitive offers. Developing a video interviewing tool, along with making other small changes, increased our speed and ability to be quick and agile when we find a strong candidate, and we continue to explore other ways to enhance our processes and educate our hiring managers.Step 5: Recruiting Metrics Analyzed and Adjustments Made
With the implementation of our new applicant tracking system, we found ourselves equipped with a robust set of metrics, which allows us to track the hits, views, and applicants to a position. By enhancing our understanding of how and where we are reaching our candidates, we have been more effective at refining and understanding where to spend our advertising dollars. For example, when sourcing for an operations director in the Toronto, Canada, region, we could identify that our top three sources for applicants were LinkedIn, direct views to our careers site (menasha.com/careers), and sponsored postings on Indeed.
These data have given us the information to make educated choices as to where to post our positions and how to minimize our cost per hire. We are also able to look in real time at a job that has a low applicant flow and make decisions as to whether it would benefit from additional postings.
The metrics that we obtain from our system also provide us with some other critical information. According to a 2014 talent acquisition survey, 60 percent of job seekers feel that job applications are challenging to fill out, rating the application process more difficult than filling out [Page 243]mortgage applications, college applications, and loan applications.3 We can see from these metrics that, although we have large numbers of applicants completing our applications (e.g., 73 percent of those who find us through LinkedIn and 67 percent of those who find us on Jobillico), we are losing a large segment of applicants during the process. This understanding has encouraged us to continue to refine our application process to increase its usability and minimize our drop-off rates.
Some of the additional functionality of our ATS allows us to dig further into our job postings to get a better understanding of the timing of views. Gaining a better understanding of when our posts are being viewed allows us to target the timing of our posts and tweets more effectively so as to even further optimize our reach.Step 6: Stay Engaged With Candidates
Ensuring a positive candidate experience for anyone who engages with our postings of open positions is critical to the success of our recruiting function. Thirty-three percent of candidates who have a negative experience when applying to a company will share their experience with friends; 12 percent will share this information on social media.4 Our team has made it a top priority to ensure that we provide the most positive candidate experience possible. Through functionality in our ATS, we can easily send messages to candidates when they first apply, throughout the application process, and when they receive their final disposition. Staying in close contact with our candidates has become a critical component of our recruiting strategy. Our careers page also has an easy way for candidates to submit support requests. These requests for assistance go directly to a member of our staff who reaches out within hours to candidates to assist them with their questions. Just as shoppers review products on Amazon, candidates share information about their job search experience on sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn. Members of our recruitment team are engaged in reviewing these pages and have protocols in place about how to respond to unfavorable reviews. They also work to correct issues that appear to be occurring frequently.
[Page 244]Our recruitment process has continued to change and evolve over the past several years as we have learned more, incorporated new tools and techniques, and striven to stay ahead of the ever-changing world of social media and candidate preferences. Our days-to-fill average is currently hovering around 54 days, which is lower than the industry average, and at approximately $3,400, our cost per hire is far lower than it has ever been.
Although we continue to experiment with different messaging and formats to convey our brand externally, we are finding that taking a “culture-forward” approach is key. We work to ensure that all of our external job postings, websites, and social media posts lead with information about our culture and feature engaging images of employees from across the organization. We try to minimize our text and have as much white space as possible on our websites and social pages to present a clean, modern image. We also find that focusing our text and images around items that showcase how our employees are making a difference in the environment, in their communities, and in the workplace makes the largest impact on our audience, as it gets to the heart of our company’s culture and values.[Page 245]Social Media Marketing for Small and Midsize Businesses
- “I need a website, but do I have to update it all of the time?”
- “My Facebook page doesn’t have enough likes—what should I do?”
- “Do you think I need a Twitter account? What about Snapchat?”
As a marketing and communications consultant, these are the most common questions I get from small and midsize businesses. Twenty years ago, clients wanted fancy PowerPoint presentations with lots of effects flying in and out, and cool brochures that would stand out from the crowd. Today, they expect the same thing from social media.
I often explain to my clients that social media has its place in the marketing mix but cannot be relied upon to do everything. I also emphasize the need for a social media marketing strategy and plan to be developed before a business goes online. Furthermore, as newer technology replaces older technology, businesses need to get back to fundamental marketing and communications principles to reach their audiences effectively, rather than just relying on the cool new tech trend.The Marketing Mix
Social media marketing, like all marketing, is used to persuade your target audience to take action—buy your product, use your service, or [Page 246]support your cause, for example. It is one of the tools in your marketing mix and must support your business goals, not the other way around. In other words, marketing shouldn’t be driven by the technological tools that are available but instead by what you want your business to achieve.
Before integrating social media marketing into your mix, you need to decide what your goals are and how social media can help you reach them. Common goals include
- Increasing sales or market share
- Building brand awareness
- Redefining or repositioning your company or product in the marketplace
- Launching a new product or service
Once your business defines its goals and gets buy-in from all the key influencers, the correct marketing tools can be chosen and placed into a strategic plan.Social Media versus Traditional Tools
Social media differs from traditional marketing tools, such as print and broadcasting tools, because of its capability to build a two-way relationship with your audience. Just as they do on the telephone or in face-to-face meetings, companies can connect with customers and other target audiences online, in real time. In this way, both a business and its customers help craft the company’s messages, and people can feel that they have a stake in the business.
According to James Runkle, principal and owner of Drummond St. Strategy, “It’s important to understand that marketers are no longer solely in control of the message. It’s not easy for some people to relinquish control, but social media marketers have to be quick, adaptive, and able to change things daily, or even hourly, depending on the conversation.”5
Companies can also learn why their loyal customers like them, use their products or services, and, on the flip side, what people don’t like about [Page 247]them. This is a key reason that there needs to be a person or people dedicated to online vehicles before a business launches them to the public. So choosing the correct professional to run your social media is critical.
Take JetBlue for example. This company set itself apart from other airlines because its employees prioritize their customers’ experience and deal with any online comments or complaints in a timely and patient manner. In one case, a JetBlue customer tweeted that it was his first text at 34,000 feet in the air, and it took only six minutes for an employee to respond and tell him to have a great flight. JetBlue also has three separate departments working on customer service, including the marketing team, the communications team, and the customer commitment team. With these three departments aligning themselves to serve customers, JetBlue has broken the mold on customer service, and it has earned the airline over 2 million loyal online followers.6
On the other hand, American Airlines has not quite figured out how to respond to customers online. In one case, when a customer tweeted that American Airlines was the largest and worst airline in the world, the company responded with an automatic reply—“Thank you for your support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican.” Though everyone wants to see an uplifting and positive message, that message doesn’t mean a lot when it has nothing to do with the comment or complaint to which it is responding.7
As marketing professionals develop their plans, they need to consider these seven things:
- What social media vehicles make sense for the business (channels)?
- What information will the business post (content)?
- How often will the company post on social media (content)?
- How will the various communication channels work together (connections)?
- What infrastructure needs to be put in place to take care of the company’s online needs (connections)?
- How long will the company take to respond to customer comments and questions (corrections)?[Page 248]
- How will the business react to posts or take care of negative publicity (corrections)?
Recently, a restaurant owner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, responded to a negative review of his establishment on yelp.com, an online application that consumers use to find and review local businesses. The reviewer stated that he had been to the restaurant several times and found the drinks overpriced, the service hit or miss, and the menu very basic. Instead of letting this review go unanswered, the owner went on to yelp.com and Facebook and gave a 1,300-word rebuttal describing his establishment. He also asked that customers speak to staff directly instead of going online with their complaints. Afterward, the restaurant owner received nationwide media coverage because of his reaction, which went viral and actually helped put his business on the map.
Although this direct and somewhat confrontational approach may not be the best way to handle every issue, it does highlight the need for a company’s social media managers to be aware of all the things that are said and done online as they relate to that company. Because consumers have a lot more power online, businesses must be savvy enough to manage their brand online, as well.Effective Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing employs the same fundamentals as traditional marketing—know your audience, deliver a compelling message that ensures action, create a loyal audience, and use that audience to influence other people positively, so they also become lifelong customers. Social media often trumps traditional options because of its ability to
[Page 249]Global Interest
- Reach a global audience
- Generate user input
- Connect target audiences with like-minded people
- Track and analyze audience interest and action
Never before were businesses able to reach as many people as now with such little cost. There are literally no borders that can’t be crossed because social media as a mechanism has almost infinite possibilities. Whereas, before, marketers were concerned with buying media in several outlets or sending mailers out to millions of customers to reach a mass audience, now, social media allows a company and its customers to share publicity information with everyone at one time.
One concern, however, is controlling the message and how it gets communicated across all technology. As many of us have seen, it isn’t always easy to control what people say about a business. Many companies go on the defensive because their message has been misconstrued or taken out of context. A key way to avoid this problem is by understanding your target audiences and always being true to your brand. You must also examine your marketing content to make sure it communicates what you want to all audiences around the world. Nuances can get lost in translation, but messages should transcend physical borders.
A good example of a social media campaign gone wrong is Starbucks #RaceTogether promotion. In March 2015, Starbucks wanted to enter the conversation about race relations after several black men were killed by white police officers. Starbucks President Howard Schulz thought that employees and customers could hash out their differences at Starbucks and make progress on this issue. Unfortunately, the entire well-intentioned initiative backfired. Within 48 hours, the company had received 2.5 billion tweets, most of them negative. For example, customers wondered whether a barista was the best person to deal with the complexity of race relations and how the company was training its employees to deal with all of the issues that surround this divisive topic. Starbucks eventually pulled the campaign, but Schulz still stands by his decision to enter the national forum on race and admits that, although the campaign didn’t go the company’s way, it did create a national conversation on the topic.8User-Generated Content
Marketing is no longer based solely on what a company says about itself, its product, or service. People can now research products and services at the click of a button, compare companies with each other, and check out endless competitors in most industries. So how can businesses define [Page 250]themselves in this type of climate? The answer is, “With the help of customers.” They can give feedback, like or dislike something, and, perhaps most important, find other people with similar interests. Companies can augment this organic process by launching campaigns that promote people’s interactions with their brands. For example, Chobani, a Greek yogurt company that was founded in 2005, decided to use its customer base to improve its image and boost sales. The company asked customers to submit videos and images praising its yogurt and then shared the content on the company website, billboards, and other social media outlets. These videos were then shared with users, and the company increased its revenue by 225 percent while the campaign was running, attributing most of its success to the promotion.9
Another brand, Lululemon, the athletic apparel retailer, launched an online lifestyle campaign to engage customers called #thesweatlife. The company used Twitter and other social media outlets to ask customers to send in pictures of themselves working out or doing something active and include the hashtag #thesweatlife. They then put these images on their website, allowing potential customers to review the photos and decide if they would like to purchase Lululemon products online. In this way, the company rewarded current customers by showcasing them on their website and rewarded new customers by giving them more information with which to make purchasing decisions.Building Connections
It used to be that people met other like-minded people through clubs or organizations. Now, all they need to do is go online to find others like them with which to share their stories, opinions, concerns, and recommendations.
Businesses can leverage this social media peer-to-peer network because people are more likely to listen to and trust someone whom they feel is like them, as opposed to trusting a self-promoting company. Just look at the proliferation of websites such as TripAdvisor, which is a search engine that finds travel information from all over the Internet and conglomerates it so it can be accessed from one website. Users can rate hotels, excursions, and destinations and share that information, and much more, with everyone who visits the site. The consumers are in control, not the companies, and customers are relying on others in the online community to help them in their decision making.
[Page 251]Another way people build connections to businesses is through the value-added services that companies can create on social media. These services can be resources for information, continuously engaging their target audiences with new solutions, products, and updates that keep the company relevant and on top of customers’ minds. For example, starting in 2015, Domino’s Pizza let customers request delivery of their favorite pizza by tweeting a pizza emoji to the @Dominos Twitter account or by using the hashtag #EasyOrder. This new way of reaching customers earned the company national media coverage as well as increased market share. Domino’s estimates that half of its orders now come from digital media, and the company is constantly adapting to new methods of doing business to stay ahead in the ultra-competitive fast-food market.10Analysis and Tracking
Of all the marketing tools available, social media gives us the best tracking and analysis tools. Even the most basic websites can provide information about who visits, precisely when they visit, and what they look at and search for. Utilizing this valuable information helps you determine, down to the time and day of the week or month, when you will best reach your audience most effectively.
These statistics are wonderful to know, but it is more important to find out how social media marketing translates into action. As social media strategist Marnie Lawler explains, “For me, it doesn’t matter how many ‘likes’ a brand accrues if the dialogue and interaction happening isn’t meaningful. I use the quality of the interaction taking place—who is saying what, tagging what, mentioning the products, posting pictures, etc.—to measure the overall impressions of the brand.”11
A great example of a brand departing from its traditional ways to earn increased brand recognition is seen in the #BallotBriefcase Journey campaign of auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The company, which has been managing ballots for the Academy Awards for 82 years, wanted to highlight this role and increase public recognition. So for the 2016 ceremony, the firm decided to direct a marketing campaign at the millennial generation by using Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram—all social media applications that allow companies to track their mentions and views. In the first two weeks of the campaign, PwC’s Snap Story on Snapchat received over 700 views, and within three weeks, the campaign received 1,062 related tweets on Twitter and 406 Instagram [Page 252]mentions. From these data, the company knew that it had broken through the clutter to claim a place at the Oscars and had gained recognition among an important segment of consumers.12
As part of your strategic marketing plan, it is important to list guidelines to measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign or tool. For example, a client of mine, Freedom Physical Therapy, has an active online blog that contains several articles on different issues that clients face while offering therapy advice and guidance. At the end of each entry is contact information for the therapist who authored the article and a menu of services offered at the clinic. The company is also able to track the views for each article to see which ones are most popular and gain feedback from viewers so its therapists and employees can start a dialogue. Because these articles are so specific, Freedom Physical Therapy can find out what patients are looking for and work to fill those needs. It also uses Instagram ads that pop up on a person’s screen if that individual is searching a topic that relates to physical therapy.The Future of Marketing
Marketing will never disappear, but new technologies, cultural trends, and consumer tastes will change over time. What marketers need to remember is that they must rely on their brand’s essence—what an organization stands for and its relationships with customers. Companies will always need to adapt to new ways of doing business, but if they have a strong relationship with their target audiences and a solid brand foundation from which to communicate, they will be better equipped to handle the future.
No matter what technological trends enter the marketplace, human nature remains the same. As James Runkle puts it, “One thing marketers can count on—for better or for worse—is that people will always want to feel connected to a brand, will always want to feel that they have exclusive information about a brand, and will always want a brand to make them feel special.”13
Flexibility and adaptability should be a company’s watchwords in the social media age, but this doesn’t mean jumping on the bandwagon of the latest buzz. What it does mean, though, is that social media managers should be aware of what is available in the marketplace and utilize what works for their companies and their customers.[Page 253]Building Brand Awareness
Today, public relations professionals have an array of options to disseminate their messages. Social media has grown to become one of the primary methods by which people receive their news, and it is a crucial part of any communications strategy. But still, social media is often an afterthought. It is viewed as a tactic, instead of as part of the larger strategy. If social media is incorporated earlier in the process, organizations can benefit by reaching a large audience in an interactive and personal manner.
As a social media specialist at an advertising agency, my job involves writing marketing or public relations messages so that our audiences will identify with them. To create captivating advertising, you need to find more personal ways of communicating. Online audiences have grown to mistrust corporate advertising; therefore, using other methods, such as personal testimonials and brand advocates, can be very powerful ways to get your message across.The Situation
Our client, a producer of home gardening products, had several goals: 1) increase knowledge of its products throughout the industry, 2) drive traffic to its website so users could learn more about the products, and 3) increase sales.
The company was new to social media and wanted to increase awareness of its products throughout the space. We wanted to get the products into the hands of as many gardeners as possible.
[Page 254]This market was already saturated with competition. Gardeners don’t want to risk using a product that could harm their plants, so they often stick with what they know works well. We needed to provide our audiences with examples from people they trusted to encourage them to try something new on their plants.
So we established relationships with a network of bloggers. We provided some bloggers with the product, asked them to write several posts, and that was it. We paid other bloggers for their work, as well as giving them product. Some agreed to create videos or to broadcast live about the product on Facebook. With one blogger, we participated in a Twitter chat. Each relationship was different, but the result was that we were provided many opportunities to showcase the product to different audiences.
In addition to creating relationships with bloggers, we established connections to community gardens in our target markets. We partnered with local hardware stores to provide free bags of the product to community gardeners and encouraged them to share on their social platforms the results of using this product. We posted their photos with the client’s products on the client’s Facebook page.Our Approach
Each blogger used a different method to share information about our client’s brand and products. The following is a brief look at how content was shared across various social channels.
We shared blog posts on the brand’s Facebook page as the bloggers posted them. This gave the bloggers a boost in views to their sites and more eyes on the content we wanted a large audience to see. We also posted photos from community garden events to which our client donated product and shared updates about the growth of these gardens. One of our bloggers also used Facebook’s live streaming capabilities to show how she used the product when planting a container garden. In the video, she planted several herbs and vegetables in containers and spoke about how the product helped in that process.[Page 255]
We participated in a Twitter chat with one of our bloggers. The brand did not have a Twitter account, so we relied on our blogger to represent us in the chat. We drafted ten questions, and throughout a one-hour period, the blogger posed the questions to her audience. The gardeners responded to our questions with advice, helpful tips, and questions of their own. Our blogger managed the conversation and added comments about what our client’s product could do to help resolve these common garden problems. At the end of the chat, we gave away two bags of the product to several participants and encouraged those in the chat to visit the client’s website. Approximately 35 users participated in the chat, and 11 people visited the website from the link provided in the chat.YouTube
One blogger created several short how-to videos that showcased our client’s product. The videos were not directly focused on the product but instead solved problems that gardeners often had or showed them how to plant their crops in new or interesting ways. In the videos showing the blogger using the product, she briefly discussed why she liked using it. She also uploaded the videos to her other social platforms and used them in her blog posts.
Several of the affiliated community gardens used Instagram to share quick looks at the growth of their crops. They also shared on Instagram photos of the gifts our client made to them. In addition, several of our bloggers used Instagram to help promote their new blog posts.
The cornerstone of this campaign involved connecting the brand to bloggers in the industry and their audiences. Much of the conversation and information that was being produced about our client’s brand was not being posted on our client’s own social channels. The connection that tied these channels and voices together was our client’s website. Each blog post sent readers back to our client’s website for more information. The posts often contained links that directed fans to the website. One of our goals was to increase website traffic, so we wanted to provide plenty of opportunities for that to happen.
[Page 256]This approach helped us to increase the conversation about the products online, generate more engagement on the company’s Facebook page, and promote the work of the affiliated bloggers across social platforms.Challenges
When you work on a project that involves many different people with varying interests, there are always adjustments to be made. We had a blogger misspell our company’s name in a post. One blogger wrote about our client’s product and later in the blog also promoted a competitor’s product. Situations like these were expected and sometimes required conversations with bloggers to go over what our expectations were.
We also had to find new ways to make the posts interesting to our fans. Often, more “corporate” or “marketing” style posts don’t do as well on social media compared to more conversational or tip-based content. Our fans wanted to know that they were benefiting from following the page, not just because they knew what was going on with the company but also because they were receiving helpful information. There were only so many times that we could share photos of community gardens receiving a check and free product before the posts became tiresome and ineffective. To combat this, we shared the content in different ways. Sometimes we shared the post directly from the community garden and added a line of text to it. Other times we created a short video, slideshow, or photo album. By posting the information in a variety of ways and across multiple channels, we reached different audiences and kept similar posts interesting for our fans.
By analyzing our success after each set of posts, we could see which blogs were giving us the best return on investment and what types of content were helping us to achieve our goals. This program is constantly changing; either we add new bloggers or change the types of content we, or our bloggers, are posting.Successes and Lessons Learned
After each of the bloggers posted once to their sites, we analyzed the success of the initial phase of the campaign. One of our main goals was [Page 257]to send readers of the blogs to the company website to learn more information and to find out where they could purchase the product near them. The six blog posts drove 182 visitors to the website, 133 of which were first-time visitors. The average visitor spent two minutes twenty-nine seconds on the site, one minute fifty-six seconds longer than typical site visitors. The visitors that came from blogs viewed more pages on the site than typical viewers, as well.
This relationship continues to be a win-win for both parties. It achieves our client’s goals and allows us to reach a greater social audience than we could by simply using our own or the company’s channels. In return, the bloggers receive free products to use in their garden and help in promoting their own sites.
This client was one of my first major ones in my position at this advertising agency. I was the first social media specialist to post on the client’s Facebook page, and I was involved in the creation of the social strategy and social voice. During that process, and this social blogger campaign, I discovered three takeaways for new strategists:
- Social media should be thoroughly integrated in your public relations strategy.
Oftentimes, a public relations strategy is created and a social media plan is added in as an afterthought. Social media is bigger than that. There are endless possibilities that can be achieved with social media, so throwing it in at the end of the process doesn’t allow you to take full advantage of everything you could accomplish.
- Don’t be afraid to try something different or new.
The social media world is constantly changing. Don’t wait to see how everyone else is using new technologies; instead, be at the front of the pack and let others learn from you! When a new social media tool comes out, don’t be afraid to try it. The social algorithm often favors these new releases and will show your content to a wider audience. Users may have grown accustomed to seeing a text post or a photo, but when a new feature such as live video comes onto their timeline, it will grab their attention. We told one of our bloggers about Facebook Live soon after it was released, and she decided to try it with one of our client’s products. She did a live stream as she planted several new container gardens and held the product up to the camera, talking about why she liked using this product on her plants. The video was viewed by almost 200 people, and it required very little effort to create.[Page 258]
- Be willing to give up control.
Social media is about creating a conversation, and sometimes that conversation can turn sour. When we were dealing with the bloggers, we didn’t know what they were going to say about the product. We can tell them about all of the product’s benefits, but we have no control over their opinions on the product. These bloggers have very large, trusting audiences. One negative impression of the product can be shared with a large group of potential consumers very quickly. When a third party is creating content about your product, you should accept that you do not have control over what is being posted—and you should have a plan in place to deal with criticism if it comes up.
I am a new social media strategist, so this campaign has opened my eyes to the opportunities that are available when you coordinate your public relations and social media strategy. So rather than just tweeting a link to your newest press release, think about how you could use social media earlier in the process. Can you create a social graphic that tells your audience about your news in a visual way? Can you use social media to connect with journalists, or bloggers, and share news about your organization? The possibilities are endless; you just need to look for them.[Page 259]Starting Up a Student Organization
Karli J. Peterson and Taylor (Thomson) Schroeder
In January 2014, The University of Wisconsin–Green Bay (UWGB) officially established a chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). This organization is dedicated to students who want to pursue a career in public relations and communications. Its goals are to enhance students’ education, broaden their networks, and help them launch their careers.
We had six founding members when we started the chapter. We knew that it had the potential to grow very quickly because of the number of students majoring in public relations. We created an executive board, publicized the chapter in every communication course, and spread the word about PRSSA every chance we could. Not only did we want UWGB’s attention, we were seeking PRSSA’s national attention. We soon determined that social media was going to be a key factor in growing our membership and establishing a national reputation.
We used the social media 5 Cs (i.e., coordinates, content, connections, channels, corrections) that we learned in our “Social Media Strategy” class to craft the PRSSA’s social media strategy.Coordinates: Our Goals
We started by determining the goals we had for our student chapter of PRSSA and used those to craft our communication goals:
• Highlight benefits of PRSSA membership to students
• Publicize opportunities for students to get involved in activities
• Focus our communication efforts on students studying communication, marketing, and general business
Gain national attention
• Send representatives of our chapter to national events
• Participate in and advocate for national PR initiatives
• Publicize our chapter’s dedication to community involvement
Cultivate a professional network for our members
• Reach out to local PR professionals and inform them about our chapter
• Foster and maintain a relationship with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) sponsor chapterChannels: Our Social Media Platforms
Our first step was to create a social media committee tasked with managing and maintaining our social media presence. Based on our research we selected Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a WordPress blog as the most appropriate platforms for achieving our goals because these are most likely to be accessed by our target audiences. After selecting our platforms, we determined how much time we would dedicate to each specific platform. We focused our attention on Twitter (60 percent) and Instagram (20 percent) because these two platforms encouraged time-sensitive interaction with PRSSA members and allowed us to share the “success stories” of our members.
[Page 261]Once we had chosen the platforms, we circled back to our goals and crafted more platform-specific objectives such as those below:
Social Media Goals
Highlight benefits of becoming a PRSSA member
Focus on gaining the membership of students studying communications, marketing, and general business
Participate in and advocate for national PR initiatives
Create a Twitter campaign that posts five times per week about the benefits of membership (example: #PRogressions)
Invite at least 20 students from specific majors within the first two weeks of the semester to like our organization’s Facebook page
Have five members participate in the monthly national Twitter discussions
We turned to Hootsuite to manage and update different platforms. But we soon discovered that you can’t just set it up once and let it run. Someone must be responsible for tweaking content before it’s automatically posted! A great social media strategy requires regular monitoring, evaluating, and fine-tuning because of ever-changing world events along with a rapidly changing social media landscape.Content: What We Shared
Our social media team focused on creating and curating content that gave us the “biggest bang for the buck.” We thought about the “BBFB” issue with the aid of the common journalistic questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions forced us to be audience focused and to look at our content from several different perspectives.
We concluded that “why” and “how” issues needed to be addressed first to achieve our membership goal, so we focused on answering these questions: “Why should I join?” (e.g., What’s in it for me? What are the personal and professional benefits I’ll derive from joining PRSSA?), and “How do I become a member?” Because our chapter had yearly fees, it was especially important for us to prove that members would get a [Page 262]return on their investment and that there were solid reasons for getting involved. The answer to another question was important to our existing members, especially to those who were nearing graduation: “How can I apply this to my life and college career?” Discussing issues such as internships, networking, and résumés became a focal point of our messaging when we addressed this “how” question.
After answering the “Biggest Bang for the Buck” question, we turned to the issue of which platform was best for different types of content. We came up with the following:
• Include photos in most of the posts
• Feature members’ successes
• Share meeting time and location updates
• Highlight information from meetings
• Provide event updates
• Participate in national chats and conferences
• Link to other PRSSA chapters
• Share articles with professional success tips
• Provide action photos of student presentations, working groups, activities, conferences, and events
• Post images with creative #hashtags to encourage member participationConnections: How We Linked Our Networks
We are trained in our coursework to think strategically; this means that we needed to think as much about what we chose NOT to post as we did about what we chose TO post. This approach, in turn, suggested various questions:
- Should our PRSSA chapter be present on “all” social media?
- Should our PRSSA chapter be present only on the same platforms as competitors?
- Should our PRSSA chapter have a traditional, paper-style newsletter?[Page 263]
- How does our PRSSA chapter’s website link up with the national PRSSA’s website and social media presence?
- Should we contact professors and ask them to announce events?
- Should we write announcements about PRSSA events on classroom whiteboards?
As noted previously, we used a limited number of social media communication platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), but we always linked back to some of the more traditional communication channels. For example, we wrote announcements on the classroom whiteboards while highlighting our social media sites. Then, we asked our professors to direct students’ attention to the whiteboards at the beginning of class. In some cases, we coupled this with a personal “elevator pitch” to the class.Corrections: What Did We Learn?
Our main problem area was a lack of consistency, which stemmed from student officer turnover and academic breaks. More specifically, we found that, during times of transition between officers and during semester breaks, these things were difficult:
- Finding a consistent way to transfer the login and password information, especially if there was no training or overlapping time from one officer to the next
- Being consistent with posting frequency
- Having a consistent message style and organization (as an example, some officers used the “I” pronoun while others spoke in the “we” voice)
These everyday challenges, coupled with the feedback from our posts, helped us formulate a list of “lessons learned” to pass on to the new social media managers:
- The student organization profile is NOT your personal profile. The organization’s social media presence may reflect your voice or writing style but not your content.[Page 264]
- Consistency is vital
- Use a similar voice on each platform, regardless of who actually crafts the post
- Maintain a consistent messaging theme throughout all posts
- Avoid lulls in posting or activity
- Don’t ignore your key platforms; adhere to your strategic plan for the percentage of time spent on different platforms
- Don’t let the lulls in the academic year influence the frequency of your posts
- Feature members and encourage them to share PRSSA posts with their non-PRSSA friends
- Proofread social media posts to ensure solid info and proper grammar
- Be aware of local, regional, and global surroundings when posting so as not to offend, post out of context, or accidently come off as unaware of other events
Our year-to-year plan was a partial success. The glitches that beset our best-laid plans were semester breaks, constantly changing schedules, and new members who wanted to get involved. So we switched to a semester-to-semester social media plan. This decision fostered better posts, greater personnel stability, and more member engagement. On a practical level, it helped with handing off passwords and sharing lessons learned during key transition points. We relied on Google Drive and a generic Gmail account to pass information from member to member directly. This decision kept our chapter’s information in one location, even during times of turnover.[Page 265]Results
Did our strategy work? Yes! The UWGB PRSSA chapter grew from the initial group of 6 in 2014 to 14 in 2015 to nearly 30 in 2016. In the 2015–16 academic year, our chapter placed a bid to host a regional PRSSA conference at UW-Green Bay. We were in competition with many other regional schools applying for the conference. We won the opportunity and held the conference in April 2016. The event had over 70 attendees, supportive faculty, and local speakers who presented on the theme: “PRactice: A Community ApPRoach to PR.” We used live-tweeting and posted photos on the conference-specific Facebook page and website for members who were unable to attend. One highlight was a keynote address from Green Bay Packers’ Director of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey.
The UW-Green Bay PRSSA chapter also won the Star Chapter Award for the 2014–15 academic year. This award is based on criteria such as ethics, high school outreach initiatives, membership drives, and national representation. The PRSSA also received the recognition of “Student Organization of the Year” for the 2015–16 academic year at UWGB. In short, we are thrilled with the outcome of our strategy. We not only met our initial goals but exceeded them. Much of that success was due to our social media strategy guided by our classroom experience and our advisor, Danielle Bina.[Page 266]Managing an Algorithm-Induced Social Media Crisis
Social media marketing is the backbone of businesses, ranging from multibillion-dollar corporations like Target and Walmart to small town, family-owned shops. Though a website should be neat and orderly, social media allows an organization to have personality, to have conversations with customers in real time.
The firm I work for in Wisconsin, Laura Mitchell Consulting, provides marketing services for a wide range of organizations. The primary reasons these firms use our social media marketing services are to increase sales and profits; provide quality customer service; and create top-of-mind awareness, establishing the brand in the minds of consumers.Background
Businesses participate in social media to have a voice in the conversations that take place about them online. Many business leaders believe social media marketing is simple and inexpensive. That is a misconception. Digital advertising costs money, and many platforms will not allow unpaid posts to reach large audiences. Companies spend millions of dollars hiring social media managers, crafting marketing strategies, and paying customer service representatives to handle online feedback. But everything marketing departments work so hard to create can come crumbling down when they hear two dreaded words: “algorithm change.”
So, what is an algorithm? Technically, it is a mathematical formula or set of rules used to calculate something of value. In the social media world, an algorithm is a mathematical process of ranking content for [Page 267]distribution, often by predicting its relevance to a specific user. Facebook’s algorithm is very complex, as this blogger explains:
When picking posts for each person who logs on to Facebook, the News Feed algorithm takes into account literally hundreds of variables—and can predict whether a given user will like, click, comment, share, hide, or even mark a post as spam. . . . This prediction is quantified into a single number called a “relevancy score” that’s specific both to you and to that post. Once every post that could potentially show up in your feed has been assigned a relevancy score, Facebook’s sorting algorithm ranks them and puts them in the order they end up appearing in your feed.14
Algorithm changes for social media marketers are like economic recessions. One simple change in a formula could mean uprooting several years’ worth of marketing strategy and content creation.
For instance, at one time, Charlie Hintz, founder of the Facebook page and website Cult of Weird, had a page with over 136,000 organic (unpaid) likes. After Facebook released an algorithm change in 2014, he saw that number plummet in one day. How could this be? Could one algorithm change on Facebook really have drastically reduced the number of people who saw his content from Cult of Weird? Why even change the algorithm at all? According to Nick Mitchell, web developer and digital strategist at Laura Mitchell Consulting,
Facebook tweaks the algorithm every so often to either quash any gaming of the system or to promote a new feature. For example, when Facebook introduced and started heavily promoting native video, they tweaked the algorithm to strongly prefer this video over links to external sites like YouTube. Marketers who noticed that their video posts were reaching more users than other posts responded by promoting a ton of video content to provide awareness for their brands.15
Could Facebook begin to favor paid and self-serving content over grassroots, homegrown content? The answer—in short—is yes. Marketers no longer make the rules; the platforms we use do. Many large corporations make major decisions based on Facebook-generated analytics. Properly understanding the inner workings of the algorithms improves the [Page 268]decision-making process. All posts are not created equal, so understanding the algorithm behind the “likes” metric will increase the probability that your messages will reach your target market.Our Challenge: How Do We Manage Algorithm Changes?
My team and I were faced with this challenge with one of our firm’s clients, a company that provided senior citizens health-care technology products, such as hearings aids and home monitoring systems. During a client campaign, we noticed a sharp decline in our organic reach and engagement. At first, we blamed our content. Maybe we weren’t posting enough, or we weren’t posting during the right times each day; perhaps our post captions weren’t good enough, or our blogs needed to be more exciting. We had never seen such low engagement on posts for this client, so we did some investigating. Sure enough, Facebook had just released another algorithm change that favored paid content.
Many of our clients did not allocate a large budget for paid digital advertising and sponsored content, making it incredibly difficult to reach their target audiences. Unfortunately, paid social media advertising is usually the only way to gain a following. We needed to create a strategy for producing quality content, completely resistant to the ebb and flow of algorithm changes, while still reaching our target markets.Our Response
We needed to rethink the client’s social media strategy by reorienting our client’s coordinates (goals), channels, connections, content, and corrections policy.[Page 269]Coordinates
Because our client was a senior health-care technology provider, we identified the target markets as senior citizens as well as their middle-aged children who are often decision makers for their parents. Therefore, we targeted people aged 35 and older. To best serve our client, we determined that our efforts would focus on the following organizational and communication goals.
• Increase sales, sell products
• Increase booth participation at trade shows
• Create awareness of our products
• Establish the brand as an industry thought leaderChannels
We chose Facebook as our primary channel for social media marketing because seniors represent one of the fastest-growing demographics on the site. Our client also used Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which we used to publish blogs from our WordPress site.Connections
We explored connecting third-party accounts such as WordPress, Instagram, and Twitter to Facebook to see if our organic engagement improved from those automated posts. It didn’t. In addition, third-party scheduling platforms such as Hootsuite, when connected to Facebook, have very little organic post reach. To test this hypothesis, we posted the same content twice, once from Hootsuite and once natively. Native posts go directly to Facebook instead of to a scheduling platform (like Hootsuite) that indirectly posts the material to Facebook. The Hootsuite post reached 6 people, and the native post reached 56. We stopped using Hootsuite to schedule posts shortly thereafter.
Our social media efforts were centered on our blog, which was a WordPress-based site. Each week, a blog was published and then pushed through to all existing social media for our client. This meant boosting the maximum visibility for the post while sending users to the organization’s website.[Page 270]Content
The 4/1/1 rule provided us a good benchmark. This rule suggests that, for every six posts a Facebook page publishes, four of those posts should be educational, lighthearted, funny, or human interest stories, one should be a soft promotion, and one should be a hard promotion. The four weekly “fun” posts attracted people to our page initially and kept them engaged. No one is going to like and follow your page if it consists merely of advertisements. The 4/1/1 rule provides a good mixture of entertaining content while still allowing product and service promotion.
Audiences will not engage with stiff, robotic, and overly promotional social media content. For instance, we were not afraid to share a photo of a hamster in a sweater.16 We also prided ourselves on our agility in curating content. Knowing how to read the analytics properly helped us to identify whether our content was working or not. If we found that some posted content wasn’t doing well, we pivoted to something else.
As each generation becomes increasingly diverse, traditional marketing tactics that rely on demographic data become less and less useful. We learned to transition from marketing to demographics to marketing to values. Specifically, our content was designed to target the interests, attitudes, values, and lifestyles of our target audiences. By targeting the values of your audience, you are approaching them in a way that feels [Page 271]familiar, not foreign. Values transcend arbitrary categories of age, gender, and socioeconomic status.Corrections
As Mitchell puts it, “Constantly evolving and refining your social media strategy is a surefire path to success and will insulate you from future Facebook algorithm changes.”17 Weekly reviews of the Insights feature on Facebook helped us to better understand what engaged our users and what didn’t. Then, based on what we found, we adjusted our strategy. Facebook also provided us with a plethora of tips, informative articles, and step-by-step tutorials that allowed us to work with the site to curate effective, engaging content. Facebook was essentially telling us what we were doing wrong, and all we had to do was listen and read.
We realized that posting too frequently caused reach and engagement numbers to plummet. If we saw that certain types of posts or media were doing more poorly than the average post, we took a closer look and moved in a different direction.Results
We began posting less frequently and saw our organic reach improve dramatically as a result. The algorithm was no longer penalizing our page for posting more than once or twice each day, meaning that more eyes and more potential customers were once again being exposed to our content.
We read many blogs, news releases, and articles from Facebook about the algorithm changes. We soon discovered how they would impact our page and how best to work around them. For instance, we decided to produce our own high-quality videos on-site. Our Insights page told us that video reached and engaged more users than any other type of content, so it made sense to spend time focusing on sharp, clean, quality videos for our client. In addition, we knew that Facebook was debuting a new video feature. All signs pointed to a Facebook initiative that strongly favored video content.
Once our audience started paying attention again, we created a network of blogs and posts focused on our client’s campaign and the upcoming industry trade show that the company was going to attend. We promoted giveaways and other activities through social media, which increased booth attendance and, ultimately, sales. The extra attention garnered by the success of the trade show, in addition to collaborations with other industry insiders through networking events promoted on social media, established our client as an industry thought leader.[Page 273]Lessons Learned
To recap, here are our lessons learned that could help other social media specialists:
- Focus on the quality of your posts, as opposed to the quantity, timing, or specific wording. By creating valuable, original content, instead of clickbait, you will grow an audience of dedicated, engaged viewers.
- Monitor your Insights page on Facebook and remove less engaging content. Why continue a marketing strategy or content style that isn’t working? Decades ago, marketers relied on surveys to determine how effective campaigns were. Today, those analytics are now merely a click away.
- Create content that resonates with your target market, even if that content does not focus on promotion. Human interest stories and seemingly tangential, peripheral pieces can add immense value to a social media profile. If your business is posting “Buy! Buy! Buy!” all day, you may not see satisfactory engagement.
- Follow the 4/1/1 rule, and stop posting excessively. We posted four fun, lighthearted stories, one soft promotion, and one hard promotion each week. This way, we weren’t overloading our followers with information or being flagged as spam by the sorting algorithm.
The sorting algorithm that caused challenges for my consulting firm has not gone away. Even though we got past this hurdle, the algorithm will change again. In fact, Facebook tweaks the algorithm almost daily. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to what is happening on your page and to be agile. Learn to work with platforms such as Facebook to create content that your audience—and Facebook—will love.[Page 274]Notes
1. Indeed, by 2014, 53 percent of those 18–29 reported having used a smartphone in one way or another as part of a job search; see A. Smith and D. Page, Searching for Work in the Digital Era (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, November 2015), 3.
2. L. Adler, Performance-Based Hiring (Irvine, CA: The Adler Group, 2016).
3. Jibe, 2014 Talent Acquisition Survey, September 2014, http://www.jibe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014-Talent-Acquisition-Survey.pdf.
5. Personal communication with J. Runkle, July 12, 2016.
6. B. Kepes, “JetBlue and the Power of Some Simple Social Engagement,” Forbes, May 1, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/benkepes/2015/05/01/jetblue-and-the-power-of-some-simple-social-engagement/#303062057a87. Accessed February 8, 2017.
7. H. Abramyk, “Online Reputation Management Fails,” Vendasta [blog], August 2, 2016, https://www.vendasta.com/blog/online-reputation-management-fails. Accessed February 12, 2017.
8. A. Carr, “The Inside Story of Starbucks’s Race Together Campaign, No Foam,” Fast Company, June 15, 2015, https://www.fastcompany.com/3046890/the-inside-story-of-starbuckss-race-together-campaign-no-foam. Accessed February 5, 2017.
9. S. Balderson, “4 Startups’ Social Media Marketing Campaigns That Big Businesses Can Learn From,” Company Formations 24.7 [blog], July 22, 2016, https://www.companyformations247.co.uk/blog/4-start-social-media-marketing-campaigns-big-business-can-learn/. Accessed February 2, 2017.
10. E. Schuman, “Domino’s Tweet-to-Eat Campaign Is Sneaky Social Media at Its Best,” ComputerWorld, May 21, 2015, http://www.computerworld.com/article/2925500/retail-it/dominos-tweet-to-eat-campaign-is-sneaky-social-media-at-its-best.html; B. Snyder, “Domino’s Growth Driven by Digital Orders,” Fortune, July 16, 2015, http://fortune.com/2015/07/16/dominos-digital-orders/. Accessed February 1, 2017.
11. Personal communication with M. Lawler, July 13, 2016.
12. J. A. Gallegos, “The Best Social Media Marketing Campaigns of 2016,” Tint, December 31, 2016, https://www.tintup.com/blog/the-best-social-media-campaigns-of-2016-so-far/. Accessed January 29, 2017.
13. Personal communication with J. Runkle, July 12, 2016.
14. L. Kolowich, “How the News Feed Algorithms Work on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram,” HubSpot [blog], April 14, 2016, https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-algorithm-works-facebook-twitter-instagram#sm.0001qpr0ca74bdzxrd11w0gc5ivpj.[Page 275]
15. N. Mitchell, “Quality Content Is King in Latest Facebook Algorithm Change,” LMC: Laura Mitchell Consulting [blog], May 4, 2016, http://lmcllc.us/2016/05/04/quality-content-facebook-algorithm-change/. Accessed February 12, 2017. See also M. Blank, “News Feed FYI: More Articles You Want to Spend Time Viewing,” Facebook Newsroom, April 21, 2016, http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/04/news-feed-fyi-more-articles-you-want-to-spend-time-viewing/. Accessed February 12, 2017.
16. See Facebook post from April 21, 2014 (reposted August 31, 2016), https://www.facebook.com/LauraMitchellConsulting/posts/1197009647008017. Accessed February 12, 2017.
17. N. Mitchell, “Quality Content Is King.”[Page 276]
The five components of a social media strategy: coordinates, channels, content, connections, and corrections. See also channels, connections, content, coordinates, and corrections.
The process of monitoring two versions of the same post—using, for example, different images, words, calls to action, and even the timing of the posts—to determine which has the most traffic.
This strategy is representative of a “many and rich is more” approach; there are many user relationships to maintain and those relationships are strong in nature.
Actively managed platforms:
The channels in which you invest significant time and energy by, for example, actively pushing out content.
Objective statements about important patterns regarding the competitive environment. These are the key insights the social media strategist extracted from the facts collected about the organization, competitors, and the social media environment.
Assess and respond strategy:
An approach in which you assess posts and respond in an appropriate manner. The responses could range from directly replying to the post to ignoring it.
A document that presents an in-depth look at the effectiveness of an organization’s social media strategy. A social media assessment report typically reveals changes that have occurred since the last report, focusing on the main platforms that the organization is utilizing. It could reveal factors such as growth (or loss) in followership, reach, and different types of engagement and an explanation of potential factors influencing the numbers.
An instrument or a means of monitoring daily, weekly, or quarterly statistics about performance. This tool may help with setting benchmarks, orienting management processes, and identifying continuous improvement opportunities.[Page 278]
Metrics that provide insights about the composition of your audiences and their preferences.
Gauges against which performance is measured.
The target node that you designate for your network. For example, it could be the “Buy” button or the “Apply here” button on your website. Or it could be “Tap to view products” or “Shop now” on a social media platform.
A network of connections with minimal hubs, hinge points, and short path links. It maximizes a “command and control” orientation.
The mediums through which messages pass. This would include Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest but also websites, email, and the telephone.
Content created with your followers’ or customers’ input.
Patterns of responses to your content, such as attitude, opinion, feelings, and emotion based on social conversations and comment threads.
The criteria or standards against which you can measure something.
The tendency to look for, favor, and remember information that confirms preexisting beliefs and to interpret all we discover in light of these beliefs while giving less consideration to alternative possibilities.
The links between various social media platforms, websites, non-digital channels, people, and departments. For example, a print ad that makes reference to a company’s Twitter account would be considered a connection.
A strategic thinking tool that underscores key decision points for the social media strategist. The horizontal axis measures the raw number of links in the network, from few to many; the vertical axis measures the intensity of connections that emerge from those links, from weak to strong.
The material posted on social media sites or platforms.[Page 279]
An ongoing effort to enhance processes, performance, and/or service.
A check to determine if your strategic goals are aligned with your channel choices, content selections, connection decisions, and correction plan.
Points of connection between big-picture goals (for example, between organizational and communication goals). In other words, coordinates are your strategic goals and their relationship to one another. In the social media cosmos, they represent goals that are strongly linked, interconnected, and mutually reinforcing. They answer the question, “What do I have to get right to end up where I want to be?”
Tweaks and major changes made to a firm’s social media strategy and tactics.
A tool that helps social media managers manage the correction process actively. It identifies 1) the level of severity of an error—whether it is strategic or tactical—and 2) the type of error—whether it is an error of omission or commission. The results point to errors ranging from minor oversights to major blunders.
Content drawn from other sources and repurposed by the social media strategist.
A network of connections that has many hubs and hinge points as well as a potentially large number of path links.
This strategy is representative of a “quality trumps quantity” approach; there are few user relationships to maintain, but those relationships are strong in nature.
A network of connections in which many or all nodes are connected to each other.
The social media platforms that push traffic to your website or target node. See also nodes.
Approaching social media by examining how users make use of a platform rather than by looking at an inherent characteristic of a platform. Factors such as time sensitivity (How important is the timing of the post?), word selection (How important are the words chosen in the post?) and image choice (How important are images in the post?) represent the underlying usage patterns that typically emerge from a platform’s attributes.[Page 280]
Measures of audience actions in relation to social media.
Approaching social media by critically examining your own social media practices.
An acronym that represents a fact-based approach to assessing social media’s competitive environment. The approach includes the following four stages: 1. Facts—Collect relevant facts, 2. Anchors—Isolate the essential analytical anchors implied by the facts, 3. Judgments—Make judgments based on the analytical anchors, and 4. Validation—Validate your judgments.
See 5 Cs, at the start of the glossary.
Form (category of content):
The choice among options for transmitting content on social media sites. The options include a picture, text, video, sound clip, or graphic.
Friendly spy network:
An informal group of people who watch over your posts and your competitors’ posts. Their role is to quickly alert you to possible miscues and missed opportunities.
Approaching social media in terms of the unique functions it performs, taking into account what your tools are intended to do and how they are actually used.
Positioning the message at just the right level of detail or abstraction—not too much and not too little. The zone is the “sweet spot” that guides but does not dictate actions.
Relevant keywords or phrases marked with the symbol #. Hashtags mark posts as relating to a topic and can also serve as keyword measures of interest across platforms.
Nodes that connect otherwise separate groups in the network. Hinges are the linchpins of the network. If a hinge node goes down, then two groups will not be able to connect.
Nodes that play a role in more than one network.[Page 281]
A measurement of exposure to your content, or views of your posts.
Finding people within or outside of your network who have high potential for swaying your target audience; the goal is to connect with those influential individual or entities.
People who sway others.
Related or connected insights gleaned from the competitive analysis.
A measure of engagement that indicates positive sentiment. A “like” function usually lets social media users share their appreciation of content without having to make a written comment.
A link is a direct path between two nodes. The more links in the chain, the greater both the path length and the likelihood of distortion.
A strategic error of commission. The committed error is severe and has the potential to harm a firm’s image and long-term viability.
A system or standard of measurement or a number that measures something we believe is important, e.g., the engagement performance of a post.
A tactical error of omission. This type of error, which involves not doing something that should have been done, can be quickly rectified.
A strategic error of omission. Nothing “wrong” may have occurred, per se, but the organization, by not doing something, may have missed out on some innovative idea.
“Most like (ML) plus or minus” is a formula for understanding social media platforms. This approach has the strategist answer the following questions: 1. What familiar tool or activity is the social media most like? 2. What is a feature that is added to the familiar tool or activity? 3. What is a feature that is subtracted from the familiar tool or activity?
A tactical error of commission. The incident, which involves doing something wrong, may be moderately annoying to users, but the mistake can be easily corrected.
Social media channels that are less publicized and less well known but that might hold more innovative and edgy appeal.[Page 282]
Points of reference in a network. The most obvious nodes in the social media world include social media sites, websites, and the email system. Some less obvious nodes include traditional media (e.g., brochures, kiosks, menus, and advertisements) and partner advertisements.
Looking online at social media content and clicking on posts and links.
Using internal resources to boost social media performance naturally, such as by reaching out to already established friends.
Being moved to action. In the social media world, participation might involve following a Twitter account or liking, sharing, or commenting on a post.
Passively managed platforms:
The channels in which you invest little time and energy. Managing these platforms might involve, at a minimum, securing the platform names that some audience members might access or stumble across, as well as regularly monitoring these.
The number of links that separate any two nodes in the system. The more links in the chain, the greater both the path length and the likelihood of distortion.
Platform job description:
The role that a specific social media channel is to perform in the organization, or in other words, the aspiration that the channel is seeking to fulfill in a specific circumstance.
Analytical tools offered at the platform level of various social media, such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics, Pinterest Analytics, Instagram Insights, and YouTube Analytics.
Amplification of content when followers retweet, repost, repeat comments, share articles, or use your hashtags.
The number of unique visitors exposed to a message.
This strategy is representative of a “quantity trumps quality” approach; there are many user connections but the relationships are weak in nature.
Return on investment. In the social media realm, this financial measurement compares the benefits gained to the costs incurred by following a social media strategy or tactic.[Page 283]
A measure of engagement that indicates how many times social media users have shared your content. The number of “shares” can be used to identify which content was the most relevant for your audience.
This strategy is representative of a “less and lean is more” approach; there are few user connections to maintain, and those relationships are weak in nature.
Social Media Aspirational Triangle:
This illustration highlights three qualities that can position a social media strategist for success and sustained excellence: a strategic mindset, professional sensibilities, and enthusiastic zeal.
An electronic form of communication for users to share images and text within their selected communities. This communication is governed by the rules of platform providers.
Social media strategy:
Coordinated big-picture choices that form a coherent path forward and result in an orchestrated set of tactics.
Social media tactics:
The specific actions that implement the strategy.
Examples of content that produced the intended effect and accomplished your social media goals.
An approach to strategic planning that involves identifying a firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and what potentially threatens it.
These describe how the strategic elements strengthen and enrich one another.
A check to determine if your channel choices, content selections, connection decisions, and correction plan are aligned with one another.
Tease and seize strategy:
An approach in which you tease different audiences with several different kinds of posts, monitor the results, and then seize the opportunities implied by the feedback.
Test-post content strategy:
An approach that helps regulate what content to post and when to post it. For example, a person might ask these questions before posting content: “Does it need to be said?” “Does it need to be said by me?” “Does it need to be said now?”[Page 284]
Systematic patterns of thinking that deviate from rational judgment. See also confirmation bias.
The regular ways or approaches we take to reason through problems, challenges, or situations.
A measurement of exposure to your content. This is the total number of times content was seen, so if your content had only two viewers, one who saw your content 17 times and another who saw it twice, the number would be 19.
Metrics that help determine if people are paying attention to your content and if that content is driving traffic to your target node or website.
A check to determine if your strategy has been effectively transformed into action plans and tactics.
Type (category of content):
The choice among options regarding the kind of content that gets posted on social media sites. Examples include content featuring news and information, events, calls to action, and inspirational messages.
The term refers to the tenor of the discussion between organizational leaders and social media managers; the former have more dialogic power than the latter. Social media managers should argue vigorously for their point of view, but, in the final analysis, organizational goals always trump the social media goals.
Content that fans develop. This content may include a clever or funny use of a product that catches the eye of social media managers.
An image composed of words used in a text. As dominant words and phrases are visual proportional to their frequency of occurrence in the text, a word cloud provides a qualitative tool for visually analyzing blocks of texts.
About the Author
About the Contributors[Page 301]
Laleah Fernandez is an assistant professor in the Department of Information and Computing Science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Her research interests include network analysis and the role of new and emerging media in community-level and global mobilization efforts. Laleah has published research and reviews in the areas of advertising, economic development, mobilization, and science communication. She earned her PhD in media and information studies, her MA in advertising, and her BA in journalism, all from Michigan State University.
Elizabeth Hintz is a graduate student and teaching assistant in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. She also works as a freelance consultant specializing in digital strategy for health-care technology organizations. Most notably, her social media skills were commissioned for the Digital Health Summit at CES 2016.
Jena Richter Landers is social media specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and serves as a campus expert on social media. She received her bachelor of arts in communication from UW-Green Bay. Jena resides in Green Bay with her husband, Troy, and her English bull terrier, Floyd.
Amy Martin, talent maximizer and juggler-in-chief, is the manager of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management at Menasha Corporation in Neenah, Wisconsin. A native Floridian, Amy earned a master’s degree in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has worked in multiple corporate human resources roles for the past 15 years. You can connect with Amy at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amyjoymartin.
Ryan Martin is a psychologist and anger researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. His research interests include the study of healthy and unhealthy anger in a variety of contexts (e.g., the assessment and treatment of anger problems, understanding how anger is expressed online). He received his PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi.[Page 302]
Karli J. Peterson is a marketing, graphic design, and communication professional in Eau Claire, WI. Her bachelor of arts degrees were in communication and English literature from the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. She currently resides in Eau Claire. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Sadoff is the principal of Sadoff Consulting, a marketing and communications firm. She specializes in market research, brand development, customer experience management, and strategic development. She received her MS in integrated marketing and communications from Northwestern University. Her company’s website is www.sadoffconsulting.com.
Taylor (Thomson) Schroeder is a community affairs assistant for the City of Troy, Michigan. Her bachelor of arts degrees were in communication and Spanish and Latin American studies from UW–Green Bay. Taylor currently resides in Troy, MI, with her husband Lucas and their Alaskan Klee Kai husky, Pippin. Taylor served as president of the PRSSA for two years and was part of the founding executive board. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Katelyn Staaben is a social media specialist in the B2B advertising industry. Her clients represent industries ranging from golf turf products to specialized sealing solutions. See LinkedIn.com/in/katelynstaa ben for more information.[Page 303][Page 304][Page 305][Page 306]
- Historical Milestones: