Oct 09, 2020

Practical Social Media Strategy

Julie Atherton photo

byJulie Atherton

Posted on Oct 09, 2020

In this episode, Will gets the full low-down on practical ways to approach your social media strategy. He talks to Julie Atherton, founder and managing director of the UK marketing consultancy Small Wonder. With 30 years of experience, she has seen firsthand the transition from traditional to digital marketing, and explored every channel out there. Her book - Social Media Strategy: A Practical Guide to Social Media Marketing & Engagement - is already a classic guide. And our podcast listeners can get a 20% discount on on the cover price!


Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. This episode is a big Q&A, where we explore an area of marketing through a leading industry expert. I'm your host Will Francis and today I'll be talking to Julie Atherton, the founder and managing director of the marketing consultancy Small Wonder. A business leader, author, public speaker, consultant, and strategist, she has 30 years of experience gained working with global brands including Nissan, AXA, Deloitte, ASOS, and many more.


Her book, "Social Media Strategy: A Practical Guide to Social Media Marketing and Customer Engagement" was published in 2019 and is widely used by marketing professionals and as a core text in universities in the UK and the U.S. Julie's made her book available to our listeners with 20% off the cover price if you go to koganpage.com\sms and use the discount code FMKSMS20. So in this episode, we're talking all about social media strategy, and here's the expert herself, Julie Atherton. Hi, Julie, welcome to the podcast.


Julie: Great to be here. And thanks for inviting me.


Will: It's an absolute pleasure. I mean, you wrote the book about social media strategy, so I think we're gonna learn a lot today. So okay, first of all, tell us why you're interested specifically in social media strategy and why it's become so important today?


Julie: So I think social media is a completely different way of brands engaging with and communicating with their audience, with their customers. And it's different from every other media that we use because I think it's got three very unique characteristics. It's brave, it's very fresh, and it's also hyper-creative. And I think the reason it's brave is because brands have to give up some of the ownership they have of the narrative, the way that they talk about themselves, the way they present themselves. They are actually opening themselves up to have that affected and influenced by the people who want to engage with them.


And so for me, that makes it a very, very exciting environment. And in order to be able to navigate that, a brand has to have a strategy. And it has to have a strategy because it needs to be able to make sure the money that it spends in that space is giving it the return that it needs. And also, it needs to make sure that although it is giving up some control over the narrative, that narrative is still true to the brand's values, the brand's purpose. And over time, they're building equity in that brand, building revenue from the sales and from the engagements that they have.


So, you know, the strategy is really important. But actually, it's done in a way that's quite different from the way that you're going to execute, you know, say an email strategy, or a display strategy or something like that.


Will: I mean, that's the challenge, though, because brands are generally a little bit on the back foot. And so the temptation is always to be reactive without a strategy because new things are coming along all the time just as Facebook did, you know, for brands just over 10 years ago. Now, we've got brands just reacting to things like TikTok, and they don't feel like there's time to strategize, they just feel like there's an opportunity that they must capitalize now. But then they get caught in the cycle of doing that without ever taking the time to truly lay down a strategy. So I suppose the question is, can a social media strategy be timeless in a way that allows a brand to be reactive in that way to new technologies?


Julie: I think that's a really, really good point actually, Will. Because I think the temptation is for people to start with the delivery mechanism. So they start with "Oh, well, I'm in TikTok, and how am I gonna wait...everyone is in TikTok, I need to be in TikTok, I need to make that work for my brand." But actually, if you start with a more strategic approach, then you will determine through that strategy whether you need to be in TikTok in the first place, and then how you would make TikTok work if we're using TikTok as an example.


So, in my book, I really, really simplify social strategy into three areas. So I call it ABC, it's audience, brand, and campaigns. So rather than starting with the campaign part, which is where you will be if you're starting with, "Should I go in TikTok or not?" I start with the audience, who is the audience that is actually going to be essential for you to engage with if your business or brand is going to succeed? And then how much do we know about our audience? Find out everything that you can about the way that they behave and what they do in social and what they want from a relationship in social with your brand.


Then we think about your brand and what your brand stands for, your positioning, what you need to deliver in terms of the brand for your business. And then you put the campaigns on there. And when you're putting that campaign activity in, they'll then be able to decide, you know, which channels you want to use, what kind of other ton of tactics you want to use, based on meeting those audience and brand objectives. And if you start that way, you've then got a way of determining whether you need to jump on the bandwagon of the latest channel or the latest, you know, app within that channel, or not.


And you've got a commercial way of deciding that as well, which is really, really important. Because, you know, it's fine for us, you know, we just might wanna go and have a play in TikTok as individuals. But when we're actually taking a brand into that environment, like I said, a moment ago, it's quite a brave thing to give up that ownership of the full brand narrative. And if you do that without knowing what the consequence is gonna be, then you're really not making a very sound commercial decision.


Will: Yeah, I think that's a really good point, isn't it? And something I think I cannot overstress to people listening who are in marketing, that you have to have that strategy that underpins the why of everything that you do. But how do you think social strategy has changed over the last decade? You know, is it still underpinned by the fundamentals of marketing like, you know, the AIDA model that originated in the 19th century, as you talk about in the book?


Julie: Yeah, so I think the AIDA model is so simple and clear, you know, this kind of awareness, interest, desire, and driving action. And I think...you know, I was brought up in a direct marketing heritage. So action is absolutely fundamental, what is it the reaction or action that we want somebody to take, we definitely need to be thinking about that in what we're doing. But I prefer, from a social media strategy point of view, to think more in the lines of the McKinsey customer decision journey.


And what that does is it recognizes that in a digital environment, in a social environment, we are one click away from choosing another brand, a competitor. And it's very, very easy for us to do something different at the last moment. So the old AIDA model, you start at the top, you move through that funnel, and eventually, the people who get to the end, you know, take the action that the brand wants they buy, they sign up, or whatever it might be.


But the reality is in a digital environment, what we're doing is we're constantly moving brands in and out of that consideration set. And while we're doing that in our heads, we're whittling down the reasons we might buy into the core criteria, the fundamentals that, is it because it's got to be pink or blue? Is it because it's got to fit in a certain space that I've got on my desk? Is it because I need it to have you know, a certain amount of memory, or whatever it might be, we're whittling down in that choice down to the final criteria.


And then at the last moment, we get a referral, we see a review site, one of our friends mentions, you know, that they've just bought something in one of our social feeds. And we say, "Oh, actually, this brand that I've never even considered meets all the criteria that I want, I'm gonna go with that one." And actually, that completely throws data on its head in terms of a process. All those criteria that are involved in AIDA are there, but the process of it is gone. And so in a social strategy, we need to be aware that influence, recommendation, word of mouth through digital means, and other means can have an enormous impact on that final decision. And that final decision can change at the very, very last moment.


Will: Could you give us an example?


Julie: So let's pick a thing that I've just bought. So I just bought a fridge. And obviously, I need a fridge to be something that can hold...you know, that's cold and fits in a certain space in my kitchen. So I start researching that fridge. And in the AIDA model, I would maybe have 10 or 11 different fridges that I was looking at and I'd start to compare those, you know. And I'd start to move through, whittling them down. I might get down to two at the end. And I might pick one because it's cheaper than the other one or I prefer something about it.


In the customer decision journey, I might see my friend's fridge and it's a Smeg, for example. And I think I really, really want a Smeg. And I really want that Smeg because it's blue. And then I start to look online and research that. And I start to add, "Oh, hold on a minute, there's loads and loads of other blue fridges out there that I can start to consider." And so I go through this process where I start to add in other brands, I see other things, I go to review sites, and I'm whittling it down, whittling it down.


And then I get to the final point where I'm about to buy and I, for some reason, somebody in their, you know, on Facebook, tells me that they've just bought a green fridge from a brand that I didn't even consider. I go and have a look at it and I think wow, that color is amazing. I knew I wanted a colored fridge, but now I want a green one. And why don't I get the same one my friends got because you know they love theirs, so I'm just gonna get that, and I buy it.


And that is not AIDA, you know, marketing strategy taught you by AIDA wouldn't do that. But if you've got a social media strategy that's looking at all of those places on that journey, where we can affect people, we know that what our friends say will have a much bigger effect on us than anything a brand says. But also a brand that we trust, that we've built up some kind of relationship with, that we maybe aspire to be part of, and that we're in some regular communication, and that doesn't have to always be two way, but we are looking out for what they're talking about and what they're saying, will keep us...you know, will stay front of mind and we're more likely to choose them.


So a good example of a brand that is not in the fridge space, but in the mattress space is Casper. So how often do you buy a mattress? Not very often. Probably less often than we should they recommend one every 10 years, I think, don't they? But you know, we don't buy mattresses very often. But we might buy more than one mattress, you know, we might buy 10 mattresses in our lifetime. And what Casper do is they recognize that nobody cares about...you know, nobody even understands what five springs per square inch, or whatever it is, means.


But what they do want to do is they want to be part of people's lives so that they remember them when they're buying a mattress. So they try and own sleep. So they have DVDs, they have bedtime stories, they have, you know, recipes for making things to eat in bed that don't make too many crumbs. And they kind of have a playful, joyful kind of experience with their customers that they maintain through social, through, in the past, having pop-up beds in, you know, Times Square and places like that, and try to build a relationship with people around sleep and making your bed like this wonderful haven and recognizing that they're synonymous with that.


Will: Yeah, that's a good example. And I suppose what you're talking about to some extent exists past the funnel, past the traditional AIDA marketing funnel, isn't it? It's that stuff where people become customers and then they become this referral engine and they loop round to repeat buying but also advocating. And that was never quite accounted for in the same way in those traditional marketing models.


Julie: Absolutely. And I think...and this is something that I think this decision journey really considers because my personal feeling is that although in the McKinsey model, they think that the buy moment is the most important part of that model. So you know...and in AIDA, we say, "The buy moment is the most important part," and arguably for the brand is the most important part. But I personally believe that that is the most dangerous moment in a brand-customer relationship.


So I think that at the moment of purchase, we suddenly are wracked with indecision and insecurity that we've made the wrong decision. And the longer that buying, that consideration journey is, and the higher the ticket item, and the more the ticket price of the item, and the more people who may be affected by the purchase, the more we are wracked with indecision.


So actually, as a brand, we need to recognize that at that moment of purchase, we need to really understand how a consumer feels and make sure we're putting in that reinforcement, and reassurance, and support, and education to enable the experience of buying from us to feel as safe as possible.


You know, if I book a holiday...you know, when I worked with travel clients, we used to say, "A holiday is only as good as your unhappiest child." When you go on holiday, you may think it's gonna be marvelous, but if you haven't picked a decent...something that's gonna work for everybody, then it's gonna...it's a disaster, whether you've spent, you know, 2,000 pounds or 20,000 pounds on it.


If it's a B2B purchase, you know, it's not just you...it's not like going out and having McDonald's or Burger King and you wish, you'd have the other one. Your whole job and your career prospects could be on the line if you've picked the wrong choice. So we need to recognize, exactly as you've talked about, that bonded relationship beyond purchase comes from making purchase feel good and giving a really positive experience of the brand all the way through that consideration and evaluation process at the moment of purchase and beyond. Because not only does it create advocacy, but it also createsjoy, happiness, confidence, or at least, you know, a feeling that you've made the right decision when you did make that purchase.


Will: Yeah, and I think that, to some extent, manifests in the unboxing experience with e-commerce, which I think was influenced hugely by the way that Apple packaged their products. And everybody started to realize actually, that's something that we never thought about investing in. But the better someone feels about unwrapping something, the more likely they are to wanna share that and to want to remain loyal and get that again, get that thrill again sometime. But also what, of course, smart e-commerce brands do is put a social call to action in that package literally, you know. And you know, if it's, say, an item of clothing, like, "Instagram, your look with this brand hashtag," you know, because they're at their most engaged and their most thrilled and it does that reinforcement. It's a really good point.


Julie: And I think also if you think about outside of that e-commerce environment, you think about automotive, for example. So Nissan, when they launched the Nissan Leaf, recognized that the first moment that you drive an electric vehicle...I don't know if you...have you ever driven an electric vehicle?


Will: I haven't, no.


Julie: Okay. So if you ever get a chance to drive an electric vehicle, they are just a joyful experience, they are like nothing else, it's a completely different mode of travel. You're nought to 60 in like turning on a light switch, you know, there's no kind of delay. So if you're a little bit of a boy racer, then that's really great.


My parents live in a farm and...well, sort of, was a farm. And when I drove from their home down their lane, because there's no engine sounds, you could hear the leaves crunching under the tires as you're driving along. And because they live higher than me, you're braking and you can see yourself more than you're accelerating on the journey. So when you get home, you've actually created power, rather than used energy.


So Nissan recognized this, that when you first get that, when you first experience it, there are these moments of wonder. And so they facilitate through Twitter for people to share those moments of wonder when they first got their car. And you know, just there's so many of them, and everyone has a different thing that they just think is absolutely incredible. You know, so as a brand, recognizing that people are gonna feel this, like you say, euphoria, how are they going to share that? What are they gonna do?


And we can help that as a brand by signposting these opportunities to share because we're social beings, aren't we? We wanna tell people about things that are great that happen and the surprises. And you know, so there's lots of different ways that we can do it.


Will: Absolutely. That's a really good example, the Nissan one. So, okay. Let's start to kind of unpack social media strategy. I mean, there are several sub-strategies, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on how they play into, you know, an overarching social media strategy. So firstly, just thinking about listening and monitoring because that's often part of that initial research phase, what's important for our listeners to think about here when they're conducting that?


Julie: So I think it's really important for us to identify the audience is gonna be the most important one for us to connect with. And then to have a look at where they are in social media. Because we may find that our core audience on our e-commerce database isn't actually the same audience that we have on social media. So we need to be aware that there could be differences between those things. So you know, a lot of luxury brands who have high aspirational followings on social, their social media audience will be at its core an influencer audience, you know, and a brand amplification audience rather than necessarily a customer of their business.


So I think we need to be very clear about who that audience is. Is it our customer? Is it our consumer? Or is it an influencer on behalf of our brand? And that will then change the way that we might want to consider looking and listening to what they're doing. And then when we're listening, we'll want to understand, you know, what content they're interested in, how they use that channel, what channels they're on, how passive or active they are in that environment, and also, what kind of context can we gauge from what they're doing. You know, so what time of day are they engaging with us? Where are they engaging with us? And how are they doing that?


You know, if we're in a B2B environment and somebody's, you know, looking at Twitter on their commute to work on a mobile device, they're not gonna download a whitepaper. You know, that isn't gonna be an appropriate action for us to ask for. So, therefore, understanding that context will help us determine what we're using those channels for, what we're using those audiences for at different times of the day, different days of the week, and all of those things. And the monitoring, will...you know, the social listening allows us to gauge insights about these individuals which helps us build a strategy, but also then allows us to monitor what's happening, while the campaign is running when the activity is running to be able to tweak and manipulate that.


So, you know, if we see that certain types of content are working better than others, we see that changing when we post by a few hours has a dramatic impact on results, then we can start to tweak that as the activity is running rather than just setting off, you know, a social campaign and letting it run.


Will: Yes, so that initial social media listening is kind of understanding, like you say, the context, some of the lifestyle aspects of the audience, you know, how and when they use, which channels, etc.


Julie: Yeah. So a good example, I suppose, is the University of Gloucestershire. Like all other universities, they communicate with their existing students, and they use channels that, you know, students love using, you know. Obviously, they use, you know, Instagram is really popular, students use a lot of Snap and TikTok and things like that. But when they are trying to persuade people to come to the university, so either at clearing in August when people get their exam results or on open days when people are visiting the university, their primary channel of choice is actually Facebook.


And the reason it's Facebook is because that's where both the parents and the students meet, they're both in that media. And because they know it's a shared decision and the parents have a big influence on where those young people decide to go, they're choosing a channel for their primary comms in the area where both those audiences exist. And they know that by social listening, and they can monitor the engagement from these two different audiences on the content that they're using to be able to make sure it's still effective for them.


Will: That's a great example because that wouldn't be everybody's first assumption. You know, from a marketing point of view, you would think that Facebook wasn't the right...


Julie: And certainly once they join the university that isn't gonna be their channel of choice to communicate because, you know, they don't spend a huge amount of time on Facebook.


Will: Hello, a quick reminder from me that if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars and case studies to toolkits and more real-life insights from the world of digital marketing. Head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com/aheadofthegame, sign up for free. Now back to the podcast.


Okay. So kind of moving through the social media strategy, content strategy, you know, what do you think that looks like today at its most basic, and how do you think that's changed or is changing?


Julie: So I think, you know, content strategy has to be really, based on this inbound marketing model. You know, content is about attracting people to our brand or business because we're answering the questions that they have, that we're really connecting with the needs that they have. And that should be part of a content strategy and should be fundamental. So when we're thinking about building a content strategy, the pillars, the topic areas that we choose to communicate with people around should be based on what's really fundamental to our brand and also meet customer need in a relevant way.


So you know, I usually talk about us having...recognizing a customer need, the brand or business having expertise in that area have the right to talk about that content. And both the brand and the customer are passionate about it, they care about it. So that's how I would think about building...think about the pillars.


And then from an executional delivery point of view, I really liked the Google Hero-Hub-Hygiene. And I know you use that as well, don't you when you're talking about content? I think that's a fantastic model. It's really simple, it's clear, the whole organization can understand it. You know, it's easily put into a laydown plan at a high level and a more detailed level. And fundamentally, what we're talking about is you then take each content pillar and you say, okay, what's the hero content for this pillar? What's really going to be the temple, big temple idea which I will hang this activity, this campaign around?


And then the hub content is that kind of regular promotional content that keeps people involved in that idea and, you know, keeps the conversation alive, keeps people coming back again and again. And then finally, the help content is the content that answers, you know, their questions that they might have, is always on, is always available, and they can...you know, is there when people want to see it.


So, I love Greggs. So, for people who are not in the UK, Greggs is a very cheeky brand which in 2017 moved away from being a bakery proposition selling sausage rolls and sandwiches, to saying we're gonna compete in the food-on-the-go market against Costa and Starbucks and against Pret A Manger, which is sort of much higher, you know, widely known brand. So we're gonna compete against McDonald's, Pret A Manger, we're gonna compete against Costa and Starbucks. How are we gonna do that? We're gonna create a digital strategy based around social media that really demonstrates our personality and our attractiveness. And they used the hero-hub model, I think, to do that.


So fab example is launching the vegan sausage roll in veganuary and they do exactly like you. We're talking about, they've got the unboxing of a vegan sausage roll in an iPhone box, in a box that looks like an iPhone box. And they've got a brilliant little film that goes out, which shows you know, all the attributes of a vegan sausage roll like talked about like an iPhone. So that's their hero content. Their hub content is all of their social activity that's, you know, keeping that conversation going, answering people's questions on social, and you know, adding cheeky little comments and keeping the momentum around the activity.


And their help content is you know, their Google answer boxes there, sort of, you know, can it be true that this is a real sausage roll that is, you know, really vegan when it tastes so good and all that reassurance stuff. So you know, they're a really good brand to watch. I would recommend having a little look at their social feed if you're interested in seeing a brand that really builds its personality and uses topical, you know, timing. So whether it's Christmas, Valentine's Day, veganuary to add its personality, and its standpoint on all of those things. So yeah, very good little brand.


Will: It is a great case study. Greggs is well-loved in the UK. And what I like about it is that they just owned who they are. You know, they're in every town, and it's kind of a cheap bakery type little shop and in most towns has been there for decades. And they just really owned that, you know, and rather than trying to reinvent to something, you know, kind of higher-end. And it's everyone's kind of guilty pleasure and I think we all love it.


But what really strikes me about that strategy is I always tell my delegates that all good content is either...is one of two things, it's either useful or entertaining, you know. It either meets an informational need on the part of the audience, or it meets an entertainment need. And Greggs do both those things in a way that you wouldn't expect a little kind of bakery chain to do. And yet, like you say, the videos the kind of pastiche, the iPhone launch video is very entertaining at the same time.


Julie: So have you seen the Greggs diet sheet which...


Will: No.


Julie: ...does both of those things in exactly that way. So you can do the Greggs diet, and have a sausage roll every day, and still lose weight. So there's information on there but it's also very funny.


Will: Yeah, that's great. And it's just such a big point not to be missed for me, for listeners, that, you know, it's so important to make sure that you go beyond merely promoting your business because that's not what social media is for. And it's not what people want to see in their feeds, they will reject it and avoid it. And Greggs understand and they understand that they've got to make content that when it lands in people's feeds, to some extent, welcome there because it meets the needs of the audience in those two fundamental ways.


So, I suppose then, moving on from content strategy is the platform strategy, which I know you talk lots about in your book. And in today's very fractured landscape, how do brands decide where to focus their resources and which social platforms to invest time and resource in?


Julie: So I think it comes down to doing less channels well and not feeling like you have to be in every single channel. And also signposting I think sometimes for customers, for people engaging with you, with your followers, what's happening in those channels. So you know, if your best response to complaints is to put them into Twitter, then ask them to go to Twitter, and you'll respond much more quickly there. Not that you won't do it in other places. But actually, if that's gonna be where the fastest place for response is, then I would recommend you signpost those things and are clear with people. So open and transparent about what you're using each channel for.


But fundamentally, I think what we need to remember in social is that every channel is as different from each other as display is from above the line, as email is from direct mail. They are a different ecosystem in each place and we need to understand that when we're building our platform strategy, and understand which channels are our audience going to want to engage with us within and, more importantly, where they will be exhibiting the behavior that's going to be helpful for us as a business.


So I don't think we're really, as marketers, in the business of trying to change people's behavior. What we want to do...I mean, we can try and do that. When I worked with gym brands we were trying to help people change their behavior, but because they wanted to change their behavior. They wanted to get fitter, they wanted to be more healthy. But from a marketing perspective, you know, we're not trying to change how people naturally behave in these environments.


So we need to understand what are the natural behaviors of our audience in each channel. And what are the tools that that channel has that will naturally amplify what we're trying to do as an organization, and therefore, let's be in that channel? And if people aren't doing that behavior, then there's no point in us being there.


So for instance, if our audience is really active in Facebook, for example, are constantly sharing and commenting and adding to the stories that we tell love to participate in Facebook live events, and things like that, then that's a fantastic place for us to be. But if our audience has a Facebook ID, and just sits there and passively absorbs what's going on, that might not be the right channel for us, for us to be engaging with that audience. And therefore, we could question whether we need to be there at all, even though it is universally available. If it's not doing the job for us that we need it to do, then we should really challenge whether we're there or not and whether we need to move into newer channels.


So I think a lot of people have a legacy Facebook presence for their brand, which may or may not be effective now that their audience is primarily using Instagram. And we need to think about what the purpose is of why we're in each of those channels, and what purpose it's doing, not only for us as a brand, but what purpose it's doing for our audience. And if we weren't investing time and money in something that isn't working for us anymore, or never worked for us, then what else could we be doing with that time and money? And that's the marketing decision.


And I think we're very ruthless with our other marketing channels. But because social sometimes isn't well understood at a board level maybe some of the measurements that get discussed about social aren't as easily understood by key decision-makers in businesses. And because we may be a bit afraid not to be where everybody else is, we sometimes carry on in social and channels that might not still be right for us.


Will: I agree. I mean, I actually heard you say that on another podcast about, you know, different social channels being as different from one another as different market channels. And I love that point, it was a real lightbulb moment for me because I've never thought about it in that way. And you're so right and it's so missed. People talk about social like they literally boil this whole world into social, "Are we doing social?" And you're right you know, it's such a different proposition, you operate so differently.


And it's like, you know, you see so many marketers...I think there's a few things going on there. But I think people who work in marketing are terrified of being asked, "So how's your company doing on Instagram then?" and having the answer, "Oh, we're not on Instagram." And they sort of feel like they'll be, you know, shown up to be some sort of dinosaur because they're not on these channels.


But what I tell my clients is...my clients and my delegates, I tell them, you know, actually, how few places can you be in and how brilliantly can you, you know, be there? Like play where you can win. You know, you don't play 10 different sports at the weekend because you'd never be able to learn to be good at those. If you think you've got an aptitude for football just go hard on being amazing at football.


And you know, as it is, with these social channels, I think that you know, if you're a visual brand and you can absolutely smash out of the park on Instagram, you know, to really try and conquer that first and foremost, and question whether you should be switching some of your other accounts off altogether because they appear in Google search results and might be just gathering tumbleweed and not representing your brand particularly well.


Julie: So you're exactly right there because it's this 80/20 rule, isn't it? So if we think about our audience, yes, they might be on 15 different social channels but where is your core audience spending the majority of their time? And what are they doing there that they could do on behalf of your business or brand? And you might wanna go and spend...you know, be in those other places as well and that's fine, but they are your secondary channels for your marketing objectives. And recognizing that they have a secondary purpose will allow you to prioritize budget, prioritize time, and also prioritize effort in measuring in monitoring and all of those other things. Because let's face it, there's a huge amount of data that's created in social and we need to...you know, we can't do everything well.


And so exactly to your point, you know, a lot of our core decision making from a strategy point of view is deciding not what we could do, but what we shouldn't do, and what we're not gonna do, and why we're not gonna do it. And that's why strategy is so great because having a strategy enables you to have written down and articulated that decision-making process in a way that other people can absorb it and challenge and then agree on the route that you're gonna take. And therefore, those sorts of questions may come up, but you're very comfortable in answering them because, "Well, we've done a strategy and you know, our priorities are x, y, and z."


A lot of times with B2B, you know, people spend a lot of time being on a lot of different channels, and they're not always certain why they're on those channels. And then they end up just putting the same content out on those channels. Well, actually, the way people behave is so different in each of them that, you know, the worst thing to do is to have that same content on every channel. You're either doing one right and the rest wrong if you do that, or you're doing all of them wrong because you've got some kind of middling kind of approach.


Will: I'm trying to nail it but there are some sort of sailing analogy here. Because when you're sailing, if you...you know, absolutely, you react to the waves as they hit the boat, but if that's all that you do and you lose sight of your course, you just end up basically in the middle of nowhere and you're completely off course. And that social media strategy is the plotted course that you absolutely, you know, stick to it and keep in sight as you progress. And, of course, you know, having covered all that, then we get to the amplification end of the strategy, a paid strategy. So, my question to you is, do you think that, you know, today it's actually possible to have a viable social media presence without the support of ads in these times of content saturation and low organic reach?


Julie: So I'm not against paying for social media advertising. But I really am fundamentally against building a strategy that's based on advertising first, paid advertising first. And the reason for that is because I genuinely believe that social is not just an advertising platform. So a lot of the big platforms would like you to treat it like it's an advertising platform where you can go out there and target your audience, and you can find whatever you want. But if we think about the inbound-outbound model for marketing, I think primarily social should sit on that inbound side. So it should be about creating a space where a brand and a consumer meet and they both want to engage and talk about things that are important to each other.


And if we get that bit, right, if we understand our audience, and we understand our brand purpose and get that bit, right, we've actually got a dialogue there, a foundation there that we can add advertising on top of to increase our reach to find new audiences, to maybe you know, do retargeting to make sure that we sort of, you know, persuade people to actually make that purchase. But that will all be enhanced because it's on a really solid foundation of credible inbound social media presence. And I think that is where I always start with people.


And I really feel that you know, if we do that the amount of spend that you need to have will be a lot less. And for many organizations, depending on what they want to do, and certainly, for many smaller organizations, they will spend nothing to very little on that social advertising. And what they do spend will be highly targeted to affect specific and very tight marketing goals.


Will: So you think there's a danger of overreliance on ad spend and it can seem like a silver bullet to get numbers quickly. But in actual fact, the minute you turn it off, you don't have a community, you know, you don't have an actual social presence in the true sense of the word.


Julie: And also you are at risk of being lazy, I think, as well. Because you can pay to be seen by the people that you want to see your brand, you have less incentive to very clearly differentiate your proposition and very clearly differentiate your content strategy to be fundamentally something that you own as a business. And so you become much more likely to be commoditized and it's, you know, the offers that you've got that are driving purchase and lifetime value rather than, you know actually seeing yourself as being alongside that brand.


So Greggs doesn't sell...you know, nobody sells anything really, that's any different from their competitor. Greggs doesn't really sell anything different from you know, other fast food on the go chains. You know, you can get sausage rolls, you can get sandwiches, you can get a cup of coffee, you know, all of these things, and you can get them in all their competitors who sell the same stuff. The reason people engage with Greggs on social media is this cheeky maverick, you know, irreverent Maverick, as Adam Morgan would describe it in his challenger brand thinking personality that kind of is just out there.


And people wanna see what they're gonna do at Christmas, you know, putting the baby Jesus sausage roll. The Valentine's Day where you could book a table at Greggs, and you know, take somebody for a romantic dinner, which consisted of a, you know, sausage roll starters and steak slice and doughnuts for dessert, you know what I mean? These are sort of things that people...they make people laugh, and they enjoy the Greggs experience. And when you go to Greggs, you're reinforcing the fact that you have that...you've got a sense of humor, that you find that funny and you wanna engage with that, and you wanna be part of that. And it makes you smile, to see what they're gonna do.


And actually, if you follow them on social...I've become a bit of an addict, but I don't eat that many sorts of trolls, to be fair, as I don't eat meat. But I don't mind a vegan sausage roll every now and again. But yeah, I think, you know, you want to see what their take is gonna be on the next event. You know, what are they gonna do for Easter? What are they gonna do for Halloween, you know?


Will: No, I agree. I mean, there's no brand experience or brand relationship in purely promotional paid ads. But I suppose that's quite...yeah, it was sort of...I don't want this to sound like a negative take. Because of course, paid ads in social can be a really great way to complement what you're doing and a great way to remarket to people who nearly bought or who abandoned cart, a great way to ensure that your existing audience see a very important offer that day. So it's a sort of...it is a sprinkle on top, at the very least.


Julie: Absolutely, and I think it's a sprinkle on top and I think it's also...maybe I've done it a disservice in how I presented it before. I think it's a sprinkle on top and I think it's a very large part of the armory. So there's a lot of things that you can do with paid, which you can't do organically as easily. So for instance, if we go...I don't really want to use Greggs for every example, but it's quite good. Because, you know, there are certain times of the day where you're more likely to want a cup of coffee, or you're more likely to want to buy lunch.


So, therefore, if you can target people who are in the location of a Greggs with an offer at the time when they're most likely to want to consume that piece of...that food or drink, then you can do that really brilliantly through paid advertising. And you can make sure that's seen by everyone in that location, and you know, straight to their mobile.


So I think there are some really clever things that we can do with advertising. And exactly, you know, if you want to have a high impact for a campaign, you want to reach a really high target audience, you know, high volume of people, then paying for advertising is brilliant. And social has become, you know, one of the most highly used advertising channels, as well as being this inbound organic space that communities exist. And I think what I'm saying, I suppose, well, is we need to do both. But my starting point would be to start with the why we're on social and why those channels are right for me and then add the paid advertising to that rather than start off with the paid advertising as the core of that strategic positioning.


Will: Yeah, no, I agree. Incidentally, I think you could say the same thing about search, you know, because the minute you turn off paid search, you're invisible again. Whereas if you actually build an organic presence...and why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you want free traffic? And in the case of social, why wouldn't you want a community that loves what you do? And is the people in the world who would be most interested in what you do, and you've gathered them together to, you know, congregate around that. So yeah, I think you're right it's an important starting point.


Julie: It goes back to...so I don't know if you've read the IPAs, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising report, where they analyzed brand longevity and brand value. And they...there's been quite a big debate, actually, as well, it's been going on for a few years now about digital marketing encourages people to just do sales activation, short term sales activation. Because you know, you can spend some money, you get the responses, and you know what the return is. But actually, the brands that have long term brand value, who have brand longevity, are those that invest both in brand building and in sales activation. And recommendation is that you spend slightly more money on brand building than you spend on sales activation to have the optimum results.


So I think in any strategy, whether that's a social strategy, or any other kind of digital strategy, or any other marketing strategy, you know, really being honest about how much money you're spending on building your brand, building that community, or whatever it might be, and that reputation, and the reasons why somebody would want to engage and be part of that brand, are as important, if not more important, than the sales activation you add on top. So that kind of fits, I think, probably quite nicely with this mix between paid and organic.


Will: Yes, no, I get that. That's great. Well, that's all we have time for in this episode. I feel like in such a short space amount of time, I've learned so much. You're such a fountain of knowledge, so thanks...


Julie: Oh, thank you.


Will: ...a million for coming on and telling us this stuff. Because all of it I think is stuff that all marketers, whether they're running, you know, sole trader businesses or working at big global brands, it's all stuff that we really need to hear. Just to cap off, could you tell listeners where they can find you and follow you on the web and also where they can get your book?


Julie: So you can find me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter @JulieAthertonsw. And you can find my book at Kogan page, koganpage.com\sms. And the discount code FMKSMS20 then you can get 20% off. So hope you like it. And I've really enjoyed talking to you today, Will, so thanks very much for inviting me on.


Will: Thanks for your time, Julie, it was great. See you.


Julie: Bye.


Will: If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review wherever you listen to your podcasts, myself and all the team at the DMI would really, really appreciate that. And it would help us get the podcast to more people hoping to learn more about digital marketing. So thanks again for listening take care and I will see you soon.

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Julie Atherton

Julie is an award-winning digital strategist, with over 30 years’ experience. Having worked both agency and client-side, she has a wealth of knowledge on delivering marketing, brand and business strategy across almost every sector. In 2016, Julie set up Small Wonder. Drawing on her past experience, she now supports a wide range of businesses, from global brands, to educational organisations and social enterprises.She is the author of the book, Social Media Strategy which was a top read chosen by Thinkers360. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.