Who #brands the brands? Recently, I’ve been talking with someone who’s been working as a professional social media manager for the past seven years, architecting Facebook posts for maximum engagement and transforming corporate Twitter accounts into “personalities” for some pretty huge brands. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous (obvs), agreed to tell me a bit about the small armies of people who quietly mill content for brands, day in and day out, hopefully without incident (except, of course, a huge viral hit).
How many followers have your accounts had?
I have managed social media accounts ranging from ten thousand to twenty-four million. Usually entertainment brands have a higher follower/fan count because it’s a natural behavior for people to proactively share and express what TV shows, movies, and music they like. Also, they are more willing to subscribe for updates like changes in show times, updates on tour dates, or announcements about live events.
Another huge factor in audience sizes are ad buys to acquire new fans and followers. It’s one thing to organically grow an audience from two hundred thousand to over a million, which can take months even if you have a solid brand name. But if you are willing to spend money, you could go from two hundred thousand to a million in a few days, even if you have a crappy brand. What sucks the most about social is that sometimes the teams who are most familiar with the content and audience don’t have much buying power because of organizational divisions.
What goes through your mind composing a tweet? Do many people have to approve it? Does it have to maintain a consistent and specific tone?
Thinking about a post is like drawing a Venn diagram. One side is about what your audience wants to hear, the other side is your brand message, and the trick is figuring out what overlaps before attaching the right call to action (buy this/click here/watch this).
For the past few years, I’ve always created a fake persona for my brand’s feeds, often giving him or her a name that I jokingly use with my fellow social managers. These personas are usually fairly developed — to the point my team and I identify their favorite movies, TV shows, shopping habits, hopes, fears, favorite color and how they use smiley faces with friends. This creepy exercise is necessary, because there’s often multiple people drafting and posting content but we all have to sound the same.
Right now, I’m the approver of our social content but further back in my career there might’ve been up to five people to review content before it went live. There’s usually an ad team, a marketing team, and a content team or agency working on content. Each link that’s shared is carefully monitored for both engagement and revenue purposes. And, even though I am the final approver now, I still have to factor in my brand’s identity and our content is strategically helping our overall brand and business.
But if you’re using social media to try and build your brand reputation instead of product sales, it’s necessary to have a small team. Whenever there seems to be too many cooks in a social media kitchen, I bring up the Obama vs. Romney Twitter campaign, where Obama’s social media team proved that being able to be nimble is sometimes better than being over-prepared.
Do you have a certain number of tweets you have to send in a period of time — maybe the best way to ask this is, “What’s your schedule?”
Creating a social media calendar is like going on a family vacation. You plan everything out but then it all changes while you’re there (that tweet featuring a photo of Hilary Clinton on her phone along with top ten email etiquette tips was great two weeks ago but suddenly is horribly wrong!). That being said, finding the right posting frequency is a bit of a science, especially thanks to Facebook’s temperamental algorithm that encourages more brands to spend money for ad space.
In order to establish the right posting frequency for a brand, I start with my go-to post strategy, which is: three to five tweets per weekday and two tweets per weekend day; three Facebook posts per week, with at least one over the weekend; and daily on Instagram — or five times per week, if it’s not a very consumer-friendly brand.
After a few weeks of this basic post strategy, I’ll begin looking at data and determine the following: What days are seeing the most engagement? What hours are seeing the most engagement? Am I seeing more engagement on Saturday or Sundays? What are the purchasing behaviors of my audience members and how does that align with my engagement? Are there periods where people are posting on my FB page or tweeting at me when we’re not posting content? If so, we should plan on pushing content at that time.
Based on all the findings, I’ll work with my teams on outlining the ideal posting strategy. However, that posting strategy evolves every few months. When you’re with a brand for more than a year, you can start comparing historical data with current data to determine if trends are remaining the same or if they’re changing over time. If they’re changing over time, it’s usually worth looking into why and making sure your posting strategy and content is aligning to those changes.
There are essentially two reasons why your content on social will fail: It sucks, or you’re promoting it when your audience isn’t there.
If something hits (like the dress), do you need to address that somehow?
From a brand perspective, it’s usually best to let individuals create content that goes viral and “trend jack” it in a way that gets people engaged with us.
Do agencies believe that social media is actually working, in terms of sales?
Tracking social media sales is hard. I equate it often to the jingle in ads. An effective jingle gets stuck in your head and when you’re standing in front of a bunch of candy options, you see a product with a memorable jingle, the jingle starts playing in your head, and because that jingle triggers a craving of some sorts, that’s the candy you go with. However, there aren’t real strong ways to track the effectiveness of a jingle. The same can be said with social. While a 1-on-1 interaction with a customer doesn’t create an immediate sale, the chances of that person going and using your product after having a favorable experience on social is high.
And again, this is where some of the struggles in proving the effectiveness of social lies: Often the people who are creating the best content don’t have the same tools to quantify their work. Meanwhile, the people who can quantify the work don’t necessarily know how to create meaningful points of engagement online. At the end of the day, I find it’s easier to teach creative people the metric side of social media than try and teach a quantitative person how to be super engaging.
On something like a national day of mourning, are you instructed to write some kind of nationalistic tweets? Does that go without being said, or is it up to the social media manager?
Typically these decisions are up to a social media manager. While it’s fine to celebrate holidays, jumping on things like 9/11, MLK day, Columbus Day, and other historically charged days is risky and I prefer avoiding them. As a social media manager for a brand, you have to think critically about when people want to hear from you and when they don’t. It’s best to err on the side of silence because it’s more likely someone will call you tone-deaf for posting rather than staying silent.
Knowing what you know, if you were heading a campaign, how would you change how social media is currently being used?
Marketers, content creators, and advertisers alike tend to create campaigns without thinking about how to use the sophisticated technology built around social networks to create unique, branded experiences for customers. Often campaigns are over-simplified to “Like this,” “Customize a photo of you with our image generator,” or “Post with a hashtag to win.” These are all flat campaigns. My favorite social media campaign was a map I created by pulling in people’s Facebook movie interests to map out what movies were the most popular with their friend group. The client was in the movie industry and it gave us an opportunity to remind people who participated in the campaign how the brand optimized their movie-going experience.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.