Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Does a Social Media Strategist Do?

Most of my friends, hell, even my wife, have no real clue what I do for a living. “It’s something to do with Facebook, right?” I’m not surprised. Social media is a disciple with a crop of specific roles with specialist responsibilities, and a lot of ‘made-up-titles’. From now on, this is the post I’ll be referring people to when they ask.

There’s a difference between being a Social Media Manager, an Assistant, a Social Media Executive/Coordinator/Editor or whatever, and a Social Media Strategist.  I’m basically the latter, though my work does also spill into other areas like content marketing and campaign management.


"Here's the plan."

Ninjas, Divas, Gurus, Rockstars, Wizards and other made-up titles be damned. I’m talking about the real job. Real qualifications, responsibilities and experience.

In the trenches, day-to-day, talking in the channels and being the brand, this tends to be the job of the Social Media Manager. These are the people who follow the strategy, monitor what’s going on, and stimulate the conversation. Often they build the accounts, and sometimes they set-up the apps and do the graphics etc. They make custom content and liaise with clients on a daily basis. They often conduct in-house training. They collate reports, based on whatever’s required for measurement. It’s hard work, because there’s no room for error when you’re the voice of someone’s company. It needs great writing skills and a good eye for an opportunity. You need to be a customer-services rep, a salesman, an obsessive, and it needs a degree of accuracy and of flexibility bordering on insanity. On the whole it’s paid pretty well, but don’t expect a lot of time off.

Social Media Executive/Coordinator/Editor are titles that are oftern found in larger teams and may have specific responsibilities from the list above, but are usually just aspects of Social Media Manager with another title.

A Social Media Strategist does all of the above, though doing so is more common in agencies or small departments. It’s good practice to stay hands-on, but it depends on the size of the team or how many people are needed to support a specific brand and it's efforts.

The Strategist is the one who creates a road map for a client, based on their goals and objective, and decides how those objectives will be measured to prove ROI and to show what’s working and what's not. We research the market, the competition, the brand, the ‘target demographic’ etc. and rationalise the best place for the brand to engage with it’s target audience.

We create sample messaging for each proposed channel and set standards, based on brands traits and identity. We also create editorial calendars for writers or artists to produce synchronised content. We identify who the audience is, and what they want from a brand in order to hang around and to get the most out of the experience. We identify the stories. We do all of this on time, within resources, and under budget.

We develop campaigns, competitions, and work out what other media needs to tie in to raise awareness – from packaging placement and web, to social ads or raising in-house knowledge. We write a lot of documentation to make all of this clear – sometimes with graphical mock-ups, brand personas if they don’t already exist, mood boards, or whatever it takes. It's advantageous to have a broad knowledge of everything from video production to brand journalism, and from web development to PPC - the wider your experience the more ammunition you have to draw on, obviously. I'm lucky, I've been doing this nearly 20 years. Even still I spend a lot of time keeping abreast of what’s new, current, and experimenting to achieve maximum reach and maximum effect.

We review measurement, and tweak the overall approach to achieve the core objectives. We keep an eye on things and, in my case, Social Media Managers report to me and we revisit strategy weekly to make sure things are working and that the road map still holds true. Any problems, we fix them tactically. Any room for improvement, we do so strategically.


there's worse jobs, and trust me I've done my share

I also train and lecture. Usually to corporate board members, to my own staff to foster best practices, or to staff in other agencies where specialist knowledge is what they're paying for.

Social Strategists, in an agency environment, are far more involved with the pitching process. We listen to the client from day one and we’re part of the overall PR mix. It’s a management position, mixed with the work of the Social Media Manager.

So there you are. If you asked, now you know. That’s what I do, for the agency I work for and for brands large and small.

It’s a living, and I'm lucky. I enjoy it, and it's never boring. If you fancy stepping up and giving the job ago I'll save my advice on how to start for another post ;)


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Social Media Managers Need to be Content Creators

You’ve set up your LinkedIn Business Profile and your Twitter account, and your ready to engage with the world. What’s next?

Here’s the part where, without strategy, many companies end up staring at their monitors like a dog that’s been shown a card trick. Social media is an avenue of communications where you can tell your story, but you still need a story to tell. You also need to present that story in an accessible way suitable for your audience.

Different people are at different stages of the purchase process. They all want different things. Different information, presented in different ways.

This may been in-depth white papers to highlight your brands thought leadership credentials. It might be animated videos to explain core concepts. It could be rich and visual infographics, to share and to make your data more digestible. It could be photographs of events and special occasions, or even products. It may be SEO friendly blog content answering their frequently asked questions. The list goes on.

All this needs to be gathered within the daily constraints of time and resources, and with a creative eye and sympathy towards the brand identity and how the company is seen by their audience. If all your going to do is be an aggregator of content, well that’s fine, but your not going to push many people back to your website, make any great relationships, or be seen as anything other than a content aggregator. You need to be producing your own creative content and using social media as a tool to place that under the right peoples noses.

Being a Jack of all Trades is awesome, but not as good as being a Brisco County, Jr.

Nowadays a social media manager needs to be a polymath and have skills in photography and Photoshop, research, creative writing, video scripting and production, branding, roleplaying, even basic coding and audio production. They also need to know the tools and how to get insight through measurement.

Above all, a social media manager needs to have an eye for an opportunity to generate content, in what ever form that takes.

Yes, good social media people are bloody hard to recruit. Yes, this raises capacity issues. Social media manager is a job in it’s own right. It’s not part of another job any more. Or it is, should I say, if you want to get the results and do it right. It’s strategic, creative, pro-active, and the social platforms move the goal-posts on you weekly to keep you guessing and on your toes (mostly on the morning before I’ve got new social media managers booked in for a training, I’ve found).

For me, having the back-up of an agency is pure fried gold. I have a broad range of experience, but the guys at Tank PR in Nottingham write better than I do and have kick-ass research skills. They can all handle a camera and think outside the box. They all understand how to talk in a brand voice. I fill in some specialist areas - like audio, training, strategy, video, etc. - and it lets us handle multiple brands, based on a clear social plan (we don’t take on new clients without). They see opportunities, and act accordingly. They help me help clients to see the possibilities. This is why the larger companies have teams to do this, and use people like me to train them. This isn't about being a Jack-of-all-Trades and master of none, it's about being a master of social media.

I’ve said it before, but I genuinely believe that PR and social are the closest match. Digital agencies, on the whole, just don’t generate the quality of content needed to make a brand stand out from the herd and rarely see beyond SEO. Creative agencies, while invariably masters of the infographic, haven't the kahoonas for strategy and keeping pace with all the techniques for exposure.

If you're an SME and your social team don’t have the skills (or access to the skills) to be generating regular fresh content then you’re going to stagnate and your channels will die. Sorry, but that's how it is. The algorithms of some channels will devalue your content if people don’t engage. People won't engage if you don't have a variety of insightful, creative, entertaining, on-brand content.

Unless you’re a content creator, as well as a social media manager, it’s just not going to work.

Find a polymath with brand skills, or hire an agency. It's the only way. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

It also helps if you're an ambidextrous insomniac, but that's for another post...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why is Facebook Organic Reach Dying off?

In case you’ve not noticed Facebook seems to have bottlenecked organic traffic of late, to our precious Business Pages. Rumours are rife that Facebook wants our ad money so it’s stopping our possible customers from getting to see what we’re putting out there. This is actually pretty unjust and the facts are a lot less sinister, but just as troubling for those of us relying on our customers finding our content through the platform. It’s a simple case of numbers and algorithms.

doesn't seem fair - but appearances can be deceptive

There isn’t space for everything in our newsfeeds, so Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to try to calculate what we want to see most. This mostly works, though does make for a bit of an insular experience that, long term, rather stifles what we see and who we see it from. Ever noticed how some friends disappear out of your feed if you don’t keep chatting to them? The same is true when it comes to people engaging with brands, and unless you’re publishing something pretty kick-ass or got a dedicated niche following than that’s invariably the case. The important basics are like this:

Time: Was it posted recently? The fresher the better.

Weight: Different things have a higher ‘value’, so the likes of ‘images’ and ‘video’ seem to rank better than just links or simple comments. It seems the more effort you put in, the better the content ranks.

Affinity: What’s the relationship between the ‘edge’ and the user? Has the user commented on, liked, shared, or whatever, things from the brand page before? The more the better and different actions have different values. Probably.

The problem is simple. If people don’t interact then they don’t get to see your content further down the line. Interest drops, and it’s hard to rekindle once it’s gone.

try something different

Obviously this makes the likes of Facebook promoted posts more valuable. If you post good strong content, asking poignant questions or with details of small sweepstakes or competitions, this can rekindle a flagging follower-ship. If you do, remember consistency is key and you’re going to need to commit to your Page to get the community active again. It won’t do it by itself and you’ll need to get them sharing and liking again by giving them creative, humorous, and edgy content suitable for doing so. Something for your followers to get their teeth into.

In many ways I approve of this, at least for now. It encourages good quality content and creativity. It does raise the question, however, of how long Facebook can support using this system? In many ways this is leading to the stagnation of the platform if we just see content from the same people, and may even lead to it’s eventual downfall.

Regardless, for now this is just how it is. Let’s work it the best we can.

One decent solar flare and we’re all out of a job anyway.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

How to Find Content to Aggregate for Your Social Media Business Pages

To be of value to your social media audience you need to offer them something other than messaging and ads about you. It’s that simple.

Very often you simply can’t produce all the (decent) content you’d need yourself, so you’re gonna to need to find it somewhere else. There’s a lot of different ways of doing this, but one common tactic is to add other peoples content into your mix. Often, the creative content produced by your competition (and invariably branded with their logo or on their website) isn’t suitable, so this narrows down your options.

I have no excuse for using this image.

Daunting? Well, a little, but here’s a few tricks and tools I use to make the information come to me instead of us having to go looking for it every morning.


Feedly is a serious god send. I used to use Google Reader to collate content from RSS feeds, but when Google scrapped the service I had to find an alternative. I did a lot of research and Feedly was the best of the bunch. Set-up an account and give it a try. You can build lists, by topic, and search via hashtag to gather other feeds into your stream. Also, you can export your feeds and import other peoples as OBML files (we share them around the agency as we build collections for different topics and clients – our regional feeds, like Nottingham, often work well on multiple accounts). Youtube, Vimeo, Tumblr, and the likes of Etsy all produce feeds you can pull in by topic. I use it in conjunction with the Google Chrome browser and RSS Subscription Extension, which help me grab feeds if they’re available. If you’re totally lost for topical feeds, AllTop is a good place to start, and once you gather a collection of "neutral" (not competition branded) RSS content it's there for ever and for other projects in the future.

There’s a few other sources that tend to be less niche, but offer good value if you enjoy browsing in a magazine format. These tend to be more suitable for general accounts rather than brands, but there's still some good stuff. I often tweet to my personal account from whatever I’m reading in the bath on the iPad - via
Flipboard, Newsle, and (of course) Reddit. I also rather like Scoop.it, and run my own (somewhat sporadic) page that collates stuff on the Internet marketing business.

Or this one. No excuse what so ever.

When we set-up Google Plus and Facebook company pages for clients we invariably follow other pages of interest, including partner brands. This is great, because it gives us other content to share as well as content to engage with. Also, when you engage with this content your followers see it. It’s often overlooked, and can bring back some great stuff worth checking out - especially as you're already there in the channels anyway. Check out the “What’s Hot” button in Google Plus, which mixes your preferences with the best of the general G+ community.

On top of this there’s the obvious. Give Pinterest a go and search by hashtag, and the same with Facebook and G+, but there’s also “Pulse” in LinkedIn and good old StumbleUpon. Also, get the brand name registered as a Google Alert to pull back any links to ongoing PR content.

That should keep you talking. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

How to Unfollow Contacts on LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be a proper mare sometimes. It's so stable, doggedly reliable, but the interface can be a pig if you're looking for something specific. After a month of job hunting last year I need to purge a bunch of agents who are still spamming with the latest positions.

You wouldn't think it'd be rocket science to unfollow people, but it was a bugger to find. So much so it's worthy of a blog post.

To start with, on the main horizontal nav, go to 'Network>Contacts' in the drop-down (as below, but you can access this from the Home page as well).


From here you'll be directed to the main Contacts Page. Just scroll down a little and you'll see a large white area with a couple of drop-downs of filtering options. These include 'Recent Conversations', 'Last Name', 'First Name' and "New' (as in, new contacts). You can also filter by location, the companies you manage pages for, tags, job titles (handy in my case) etc.


Then once you've got some filtering sorted - and no offence to anyone in the pics above, I'm just using them as an example and not unfollowing any of these loverly peeps - head to the small drop-down under each that says 'More', and then click on 'Remove Connection'. It'll ask you if you're sure, just to be certain.


Not hard, but the devil to find if you don't know. For a couple more LinkedIn tips you could try "How to Automatically Post Content to LinkedIn and Google+", "Targeting Companies With LinkedIn and Facebook Social Data", and "How do you go Incognito When Viewing LinkedIn Profiles?".

Hope this helps someone :)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Why Killing Superman is my Favourite PR Stunt

When D.C. announced a fresh storyline called “The Death of Superman” back in '92, every comic book geek and his dog (myself included) rushed out to add it to their pull list.

So, Clarks's dead.

I don't even like D.C. stuff on the whole. I'm a committed fan-boy for all things Stan Lee. Vertigo (and it's precursors) in the late 80's and early 90's was brilliant, when Constantine was taking his monthly snipe at Thatcher and Sandman was still doing a 70 year stretch in a snow-globe, but it was just the occasional worthy Batman for me and that's about it. I often give D.C. a hard time but, to be fair, over the years I've loved Preacher, Fables, 100 Bullets etc. and they've helped changed the way I looked at comics.

As ever, I digress.

“The Death of Superman” was a bold move. This is a character that's been around since '38, and is the back bone of the D.C. universe. Moms apple pie, the very embodiment of all things Americana, leaping building, racing bullets, bench-pressing trains, laser vision, the whole 9 yards. He is, pretty much, indestructible. A demi-god who walked amongst us. My generation grew up with Mr. Christopher Reeve, turning the world backwards and fumbling with his bifocals. It only took a red towel, and any kid was Superman. Needless to say, the comic forums went nuts. Proper, nuts.

Now obviously D.C., never planned for one second to wave goodbye to their 65 year old cash-cow. They just had a strong enough knowledge of the market and the product to see something great, and to put their faith in it. They believed, and rightly so, that they could rely on their fan-base and the emotional attachment we all had to the character - in my case, weather we liked him or not.

Our curiosity was already killing us. We couldn't believe they'd go through with it. Where was the get-out clause? Who, from D.C.’s rogues gallery, would do (or even be powerful enough to do) the dirty deed? D.C., in one bold statement of faith in the fanbase, got priceless media coverage, viral word-of-mouth, and sales went through the roof. All this on what, at the time, was becoming something of a jaded title. Issue one of “The Death of Superman” sold out on the first day. “Funeral for a Friend” was the same, then the inevitable “The Return of Superman”. In this instance, all down to having faith in your audience and knowing they are hungry for what you have.

“Everybody going to be dead one day, just give them time.”
- Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys.

Working in PR, as I now do, I was asked the other day what my favourite PR campaign/stunt was. This one instantly sprang to mind. Not only did this give D.C. a lot of instant interest, it gave them a chance to - in subtle way - reinvent an ageing franchise. By adding a little spice to the mix they made themselves edgier, and added some kudos back into the brand. This is exactly how a 'stunt' like this should play. It should fulfil it's goals, but it shouldn't 'feel' like a stunt. It was an easy win (for them, as they controlled the art and story) so they were working within their assets and limitations - something to think about when we try this sort of thing at home. It's directed to, and 100% for, the community, and it's giving the brand a chance to update, modernise, and place itself firmly in the public consciousness.

Nicely played D.C., now please can you give Hellblazer a fresh kick up the arse?