As it’s early in 2017, we’re still trend hunting. So we gathered select members of PR News’ Social Shake-Up Conference board of advisors for a roundtable on social trends for communicators. We also asked about best practices for social storytelling, how to spend little and get a lot from social and how to surmount obstacles to social media in regulated industries, all topics related to sessions on the agenda for the Shake-Up (May 22-24 in Atlanta, socialshakeupshow.com).
The participants: Eileen Sheil, executive director, corporate communications, Cleveland Clinic; Michael Stenberg, global VP, digital marketing, Siemens AG; Lee Frederiksen, managing partner, Hinge; and Drew Neisser, founder/CEO, Renegade.
PRNP: It’s the first month of the New Year. What trends do you see for social media in 2017 and why?
Eileen Sheil, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, Cleveland Clinic:First and foremost, live video, particularly Facebook Live. Live video broadcasts allow your followers to interact with your subject-matter experts in a more personal way and give the brand the opportunity to meet potential customers—in our case, patients—where they are. Not only are we as a brand looking at opportunities to use Facebook Live, but also we are seeking out opportunities with news outlets. In addition, we see live storytelling on social platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat, being big this year. Figuring out the best stories to tell based on a platform’s demographic is a challenge we’re up for.
Michael Stenberg, Global VP, Digital Marketing, Siemens AG:Indeed video content will be the king of social media as communication shifts away from text. We also will see Snapchat becoming mainstream, but brands will continue to struggle to find the right voice when using it.
Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner, Hinge: Video will remain a popular technique—companies will find even more creative ways to utilize it within their marketing strategies. Marketers now can purchase ads looking almost identical to organic search results, so we anticipate businesses will quickly recognize the benefits of this strategy as well.
Drew Neisser, Founder/CEO, Renegade: Facebook Live is going to kill it in 2017. We shot a live video for SocialMediaExplorer.com at CES and within 10 days it had 29,000+ views, which for us is off the charts, especially for an organic post. We also expect video ads to be huge on Instagram.
PRNP: So all agree that video is hot. How do you make sure your brand’s videos stand out from the crowd?
Stenberg:We see the best results with authentic content, which triggers an emotional chord.
Neisser:Since video is super hot the increase in volume will raise the bar for new entries. For starters, successful videos must deliver surprise, emotion and relevance. And then they need a boost, either through paid support, employee advocacy or influencer sharing.
PRNP:One more on video. How do you decide when a topic requires a video, text or a mix?
Stenberg: Doing video for video’s sake doesn’t work. We often look at real-time opportunities that will add value to current conversations. We use live streaming as a means of remote participation for events and thought-leadership opportunities.
PRNP: We all want to spend wisely. The Social Shake-Up session Paid Social Strategies That Won’t Break the Bank will address this. What tips do you advocate to communicators trying to cut through on a small budget?
Frederiksen: Killer content is the key. Focus on coming up with valuable, helpful content that addresses important concerns of your target audience. If it’s useful it will be read and shared. That will maximize impact from even a tiny budget.
Stenberg: Spend wisely only on content that starts to resonate. That way you amplify only content that works and you create reach with reasonable effort. This also induces outside-in thinking by marketers who are moving away from a broadcast mentality.
Neisser: Test your way to success starting with your current customers. Facebook makes this easy with its Custom Audience options. Upload your mailing list, test a variety of ad options against this list, build lookalike audiences, test again, add retargeting pixels on your landing pages and keep on testing.
PRNP: Social media is a chance for brands to humanize themselves. Storytelling is one tactic. The general session, Creating a Powerful Narrative Through Storytelling, will touch on this. What makes a good story? What are best practices for social storytelling? Besides your brand, who’s a good social storyteller?
Sheil: An authentic, relevant and timely message makes a great story that gives readers, viewers or listeners something to remember. Once they’re able to connect on a human level, they’ll be able to open themselves up to connect with the brand.
Your message should be simple enough that someone immediately “gets it” upon seeing or experiencing it, but complex enough that they’re reflecting on it long after they’ve seen it. A best-case scenario is that the message resonates so much that they’re willing to share it with their friends.
Amazon’s recent ad to promote its Prime service during the presidential campaign resonated with Americans. The promotional sell is soft, but the message of unity is profound. [youtu.be/Ouu6LGGIWsc]
Stenberg: Siemens has been advocating storytelling for more than five years. We’re seeing measurable impact on brand advocacy and brand loyalty. We’ve been using video and web-based formats, such as Twitter’s Moments feature.
Neisser: Storytelling is the consommé turducken of marketing. It sounds amazing but it’s incredibly hard to get right. Bounty paper towels does a great job, starting with its “strong but soft” story framework and then extending that to all channels, not just video, which typically is where other brands stop. That’s the secret: Get the story framework right and the stories will follow.
PRNP: How do you make certain your brand is responding promptly and appropriately to the social conversation? What can smaller brands do to make sure they’re involved in the two-way conversation on social?
Sheil: Having individuals dedicated to each social platform with an “always on” mentality is key, and having your entire team’s buy-in to the importance of social listening and monitoring helps in times of crisis. When the social media manager knows the audience, he or she can foresee what may or may not produce negative fallout and immediately recognize when something has gone awry. Small and large brands should dedicate time to training employees to be brand ambassadors. When employees are engaged, they can be the best brand advocates and can serve as “watchdogs” in the social sphere as well.
Neisser: Every brand must have a listening strategy that ideally matches customer expectations with service/staffing realities. Consumers typically expect a response in 24 hours but will praise brands that respond within 20 minutes. Small brands need to state their service policy publicly and then try to improve response times. If necessary, owners must take charge of the conversations themselves.
Stenberg: Channel and conversation management is a prerequisite and needs to be figured out and properly set up before a social media presence is created. The broadcast paradigm doesn’t apply to social media. Yes, in the pre-digital days, people wanted a quick response, but they understood if answers were provided during office hours only.
PRNP: Often we hear communicators say, “We don’t do social media. We’re in a regulated industry.” Or “Our company doesn’t do anything that would be a good fit for social media.” The SSU session, How to Be Social in a Regulated Industry, will respond to part of that. What do you advocate when confronted with such issues?
Frederiksen: You need to be where your clients (and customers) are, and they are on social. Follow clients and prospects to see what business issues they care about. Most regulatory restrictions focus on what you say about your products and services. Instead focus on a your business’ issues to build credibility and trust.
Stenberg: That’s right. Siemens Healthineers, our medical technology business, operates successfully in an FDA-regulated environment and has been using social media for several years to connect with customers and promote its presence at medical fairs and various other events and engagements.
Neisser: I agree. Many marketers in regulated industries have found great success engaging employees, prospects and customers via social channels. Once you understand the compliance and privacy issues, social media is just not that daunting, especially since your customers expect you to be on these channels.
PRNP: CES ended recently. Did anything seen or heard there stand out as important for communicators?
Neisser:The sudden ubiquity of Alexa, Amazon’s voice recognition platform, has implications for product development, purchasing and ultimately, ads. Another trend is the rise of drones as a B2B tool, which will have implications for content development (video) and more.
Stenberg: AI is making a growing impact on our lives. Its application will certainly influence the way people and machines communicate.
Note: This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, January 23, 2017. For subscription information, please visit: https://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info
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Editor’s Note: For more about the Social Shake-Up (May 22-24, Atlanta), please visit: http://www.socialshakeupshow.com/