What agencies and brands are getting wrong in social media and content marketing 2017 review

Jan 9, 2018 · 16 min read

I gathered some thoughts from my work last year and put together what agencies and brands are getting wrong in social media and content marketing.

I came to realise that in 2017 there are still teams of marketers, agencies and brand owners that are not getting social media and content marketing right.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing a blog post to have a go or criticise anyone, it’s more about how they have the greatest intentions and want things to work but are missing a trick. With one simple change or a different approach, they can make their campaigns, activity, promotions, events or anything else work that much harder.

So here’s a list of what I discovered, plus a bit of an explanation on how it can be improved.

Random Content planning

This is something I tend to go on about in The content blueprint Facebook group I run. I didn’t only notice this in 2017 but have most of my career.

Picture the scene; you are tasked to write the months content plan. You open a spreadsheet with the dates in it and start filling it in. You start off inspired and have some great ideas to post on your channels, then you run out of steam and just fill in the rest of the month with random musings, a product shot, a happy Friday and a picture of some kittens. (kittens always get engagement right?)

content marketing
content marketing

I’ve seen this process month after month, churning out random content, occasionally adding some promotional stuff as the marketing plan demands it. It does nothing; it doesn’t help grow your channels, it doesn’t drive traffic, it doesn’t create conversions or at least put the user on that journey.

What if you planned content using data? What if you looked at what happened in the past and started using that?

Imagine you noticed videos on a Thursday seem to get a bit of traction, so you add a placeholder to your content plan “Videos on Thursday’. Or you notice that a particular hashtag on Instagram gets more comments than anything else, so you add a note to your Instagram content plan to always use that hashtag while trying others.

Do you see what I’m getting at? This is it in its simplest form, discovering what your audience reacts to and taking note of that. Add it as small notes to your content template, over time you will have created a pattern of what to create or talk about. Imagine next time you open your content template to plan the month you have a series of prompts to inspire you, based on your audiences’ behaviour and what works.

Granted this will take time, but each insight you find and execute will enable you to eventually have a data-centric content plan. You’ll even start to see what are the best times to post, what channels you should concentrate more on and loads more insights.

Use the data, don’t post for the sake of posting. Click To Tweet

Saturating channels

Content Marketing
Content Marketing

Which is a nice segway to channel saturation. I have been called in on a couple of projects where the client doesn’t think social media works for them. They list out every social channel available, plus another twenty subchannels. Now they want to make them work harder.

Concentrate on one channel. Simple. Find the channel that is doing slightly better than the others and make it work harder. Click To Tweet Apply the approach above with regards to data-centric posting. Just get one channel right.

Once you have a community that is receptive to your content consider fixing or setting up the next channel. The beauty here is if you have an established community that is enjoying your posts you can now tell them about your other channel(s). Chances are some of them head over there too. Also, consider that there are different audiences for each channel, so you may find you are pushing completely different messaging on Facebook than what you are on Instagram. (but that’s another discussion)

Get one channel right, test all the time, find out what works and what doesn’t. Then, if all else fails and the channel just isn’t doing what you hoped, try another channel. I’ve had clients where we concentrated on Facebook, got some growth and then it flatlined, no matter what we did, we then moved our attention to Instagram and it’s their best channel yet. We may even try to revitalise the facebook channel at some point, but for now, we are making sure the Instagram channel is working to its full potential.

Don’t spread yourself thin trying to get them all working perfectly. Get one working it’s ass off, then you can try the others

Not using paid advertising

This is something that is happening a lot. Organic social media and content marketing is hard and bloody slow. You may luck out here and there, but everything needs that first little boost. We all know Facebook is an absolute arsehole when it comes to getting in front of your existing fans let alone potential ones.

Everything needs a little boost, you can ride the wave of a boost when new users discover you, but you need to maintain a routine of making sure your content is being put in front of new targets. This doesn’t have to be the biggest budget in the world (this is campaign dependent) but a couple of quid behind a Facebook post promoting an article, video, blog or whatever will help get you that reach and new customers. This part deserves an entirely separate post as there are things like targeting and budget and tagging to consider to make it work even better. However, always consider a bit of a paid budget for your activity. It’s no longer a ‘post it, and they will come’ — there’s a shitload of other content you need to cut through. Adding a bit of a boost behind it will make it that much easier to start the ball rolling.

There’s another little trick for the PR people out there that will cost you about £50 at the most and help with your sell in that I explain in my training. (I’ll save that for another time)

Content marketing and social media training
Content marketing and social media training

Not using attribution

Earlier I mentioned about using data to build a content plan. There are facilities available to gain even more insights into your activities.
From monitoring specific hashtags, or creating unique URLs to tagging up your website. All these elements allow you to have much more precise attribution.

When looking through Google analytics for clients, I saw in some cases users were arriving on their page, and then that was the measure of success. What if you had an end goal? Like a sale or an email signup. By setting up your page correctly you would be able to quickly see that ‘Blog post 23’ drove the most sales, so we need to create more content like that.

The same goes with unique URLs; this is where UTMs come into play. In a few seconds, you can create links that will allow you to add variables that then go into your data and will enable you to see things like, what campaign, what piece of content, what site, or what channel drove conversions.

Its a lot simpler than it sounds. You’re creating a link that holds pieces of information to tell your monitoring software what drove conversions of your goal. The Google UTM tool is one of the easiest to use, check it out here, Google UTM generator.

Trust me; once you get these setup, you will love the insights you gain. Plus this will help with the content planner I mentioned earlier. Next time you take a look at your Google analytics you will be able to attribute better.

Bolting on

Bolting on Social media
Bolting on Social media

I spoke earlier about bolting on, I think this has been a thorn in my side for years. When I first started working in digital marketing, the traditional folk would devour the budget and give the leftovers to the digital department. It soon changed and became the priority channel. The same is happening for social media. I have been briefed on fully-fledged campaigns that have PR, exponential, outdoor, paid and more sorted then have been asked to add social to it.

Social Media does not work like this; the social and content element has to be there in the beginning. Click To Tweet

Image an educational drip fed campaign, priming your audience, getting front of mind, gathering feedback, and then you start the campaign. To an audience already prepped, curious and willing to get involved.

It happens to content campaigns too. You get a video and then have to bolt on some social. Which in most cases consists of a couple of shares and some gifs. There’s more to it. Looking into conversations, researching past content, asking your users, engaging with relevant users or influencers for that matter. Then off the back of that, create your video, share it, re-engage with the users you established relationships with pre-campaign.

A few years ago I worked on a campaign where we stopped the production of a video idea. Used social and search data and ended up defining the entire script for the video instead. This then allowed us to optimise it correctly, plan the paid activity, work with the right influencers for the audience. It worked a charm.

In short, it’s not a question of creating an asset off the back of some Friday afternoon brainstorm, but rather doing the research, finding the right people, hyping it, teasing it, launching it, maintaining it — for the next asset. (see sporadic campaigns below)

Want to discuss your social media and content marketing training needs?

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Not building authority


Authority within a niche is very powerful. You earn trust; you become the go-to person. Everything you say becomes gospel (in some way) Click To Tweet

Last year I saw campaigns where activity just appeared, opinions and recommendations appeared out of the blue from a brand. Screaming ‘Trust us, not them’ — People need to know more about you, before they give you that trust.

Consider the user journey, where does your customer start? Is it search? Do they see an ad and then visit? Right, you’ve probably found that no more than 50% of the people that see it will visit let alone convert. (I’m optimistic with that number)

Check out Google’s consumer Barometer for your industy and get an idea where the various disciplines play a role. Have a play around on there, it’s pretty handy.

What if, you had a blog or an Instagram page that was lapped up by a strong, engaged community all the time, all year. Not just when you’ve gone live with a campaign. Imagine that you had a community of trusting individuals that know you are the brand, person, product to go to in that niche.

Establish authority, get your brand or client on channels that answer questions, create a presence on sites like Medium or your own blog and just be known or discoverable. Get involved in relevant Twitter chats. Use your channels as educational areas, not just pushing sales all the time. Always help out or give advice, or answer questions, don’t just make it opinions or statements.

Want some inspiration for what people are asking regarding your product or topic? Head over to answerthepublic.com — this is a great source for ideas especially blog headlines and video titles as its based on search data.

Then, when you’ve got that headline or title, use this CoSchedule Headline Analyser

Plus, most importantly you have to keep this up all the time. Think about it, if you had a bunch of mates that you only spoke to at birthdays or continuously asked them for money, never helped them or gave advise — they would lose interest quickly.

Imagine you are a friend that is always there, at the right place, at the right time. Offering advice or showing your knowledge on a particular topic.

That’s what you need to do, always on, always helping. Build your authority, build your trust.

Sporadic campaigns

In my training, I always push the notion that ‘Social is not campaign led’. Not only in 2017 but since getting into this industry I have been briefed to run social campaigns for a launch that is three weeks away. I pulled it off, using some paid activity, but then the buzz would die down, and the channels would go quiet. Then a month or two later another campaign and we’d repeat. Costing more money to get that buzz back every time. You need to maintain that buzz.

What if, between those promotional periods you were still running things, always engaging with the audience, still answering questions, maintaining relationships. Then think about how much bigger each promotion would become.

Think about it, everytime you run a large campaign, you put a budget behind it, only to have it die down and start again on the next one. Plan your in-between / downtime content too, maintain it. Don’t let that advertising budget go to waste.

No dedicated social media and content team

Social media team
Social media team

This was quite surprising to me; I got it a few years back. When social was starting to take off and having someone run the MySpace or Bebo campaigns was just something you did.

I’ve worked with some agencies where some poor soul not only has to do their day job but they have a responsibility to run all the social channels and content production.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. In order to get any of this right, you need dedicated team member(s). Thier sole job is making all this work well and help towards your campaign goals.
Time after time in my training session when I have shown the attendees the various processes and ways to get social media campaigns and content marketing right, they say they don’t have time because of their day to day responsibilities, and the social channels or blog are just part of that..

So what happens here, you get rush jobs, you get content plans that have quickly been filled in to tick some boxes, you get random Instagram posts that have no thought or strategy behind them, blog posts written for the sake of having a blog post. So you’re stuck in this monotonous churn of pushing out some ‘stuff’ that does nothing for your prescnece, does not aid towards your targets or help your channels grow.

You need a dedicated person or team, their only responsibility is to grow and nurture your communities, build new channels, analyse data for ideas, and more.

There are other elements here such as maintaining of tone of voice guidelines, paid activity, reporting, asset creation and more. Get someone or a team on just this, nothing else.

Content marketing and social media training
Content marketing and social media training

Not having the correct tools

One thing I noticed during my consultancy projects and training sessions is how people situp when you start mentioning tools. I get it; they don’t know about them — but love what they can do. It’s not their job to research or find them. In most cases, they will use something they heard of or inherited. Something like Hootsuite… which is fine but there are soooo many better ones.

Speak to a consultant, search on google, check out reviews. Or even better speak to me.

At the end of a training session, I present the company with the complete arsenal they need to achieve their goals. I don’t believe in overkill, so I find what fits their budget and helps them work better, gain insights easier and most importantly is affordable. There are some pretty expensive tools out there, that are amazing, but you don’t always need everything they offer. So each campaign or company needs a specific tool that is relevant to what they are doing or what they can afford.

(One thing I always consider is ease of reporting — which is important as you need that data to decide whats working and whats not, there is nothing worse than spending time generating a report when you should be spending that time running your channels and content — so I always help out with one click reporting or even building automations that give you the data you need)

Find out what tools will make life easier for you, you will thank me later ;-)

Not measuring correctly

Beleive it or not, likes and followers are still a measure of success. I believe this is the fault of the so-called social media gurus that buy their followers or quote their quora score then brag about how influential they are as they have a load of followers.

I worked on a project middle of last year where the brief was to get 10,000 followers on Instagram. That was it. No context, just a vanity metric.
I could get you 20,000 followers by tomorrow. Easily. But they would all be shit. Would you not rather have a highly engaged, loyal group of people behind your brand? It’s a slow process but so worth it.

Competitions are run, the client is happy because they gained 3000 new followers. They are all competition hunters — that’s it. They are part of networks that let each other know where the free shit is. So they follow you, great. They never buy from you; they just wait for the giveaway. then next month when you report you cannot explain the sudden drop in engagment rates. Which effects the performance of your channel

Sites that offer millions of fans are everywhere, and people are still using these, they are very dodgy, and you run the risk of your channel being shut down.

This section of the post has been written about so many times, about how these numbers are just for show. Look at your engagement, look at how loyal your audience is. Do they buy? Better to have 100 people that buy then 10,000 that do nothing.

Check out this interview I did regarding fake followers. (I’ve jumped it to the part regarding this)

Not creating multi-assets from one

content types
content types

I discovered this when working with some video production companies. These guys do fantastic work. Highly produced videos costing an absolute fortune and you can see how proud they are of their work. They create a fantastic asset then upload it. Job done.

his is such a pity as that asset now gets lost in the ether of content.

What they should of done is create a series of tweets, a load of Instagram stills, Instagram clips, gifs, a blog post for behind the scenes, asked influencers to come and film with them creating more videos.

What I’m saying is, one asset has the potential to create another 20 (I made that number up, it could be more).

Say for instance you write a blog about Ten ways to be happy this year. That’s a list of ten things, which equals :

  • Ten Instagram posts
  • Ten tweets
  • A slide show on SlideShare
  • Ten pins on Pinterest
  • An animation on Youtube
  • Ten Instagram / Snapchat stories
  • Ten Facebook posts
  • A possible post on Reddit (be careful here)

That’s 73 pieces of content from one post. (granted if you are running this amount of channels)

When making the main asset consider how else this would roll out, what other methods could you customise the assets for. If it’s not a list post, pull some quotes or headlines out. If its a video, grab some stills, make a behind the scenes edit, a blooper reel. Create a live stream to share more details, there’s so many formats you can create from one piece.

Heres an example from one of my training session presentations (click to enlarge):

content marketing
content marketing

If you want some more ideas regarding Youtube, check this out : 21 ways to get more content from one video

Plus for even more channels to consider (remember what I said about saturation) : Another 14 Powerful channels you need to distribute your content on

Influencer research

Ah, influencers. Soooo much crap out there. Like the purchased followers I mentioned before, plus don’t get me started on the self-proclaimed Social Media Influencers and their ‘Top 100 marketer according to <insert shitty magazine here>’

Influence has been debated for years as to what it means in social media and content. In my opinion, it’s a user that has enough power to convince their users that your product is fantastic and a shitload of them buy it. Or they can get enough numbers to change perception or sentiment or a create massive awareness.

I’ve worked at agencies where the influencers chosen for the campaign were off the back of a Google search “top ten car bloggers” then it was my job to pick up the pieces and explain to the client why that campaign did not perform as well as expected.

You need to consider other metrics. For instance, you find a twitter account with a large following and think ‘this ones great’… take a look at their posts, compared to how many followers, what sort of retweets are they getting — this is where your true reach will come from. I’ve seen influencers with millions of followers and average around 25 retweets. How is this possible? The video above covers this too.

Oh, and the same goes for the self-proclaimed marketing geniuses that have 20k followers and not one retweet. Sure, you’re an influencer.

Use google by all means, but dig deeper. Get stats on the influencers blogs or whatever channel they are an influencer on. Check their views vs comments on their Youtube channel, look at how many people link to their blog. On Instagram, does every post get good engagement? Consider metrics that matter, not blown up numbers.

Quick tip. If you are hoping an influencer you want to use will send some traffic. Look for Bit.ly links in their posts. Copy one and add a ‘+’ to the link. This will load up the click stats. Do it with a few post so you can get a rough idea of performance. It’s not precise but can give you a good idea as to how their channel drives traffic.

So there you have it, my summary of things I discovered in 2017. I’m still on a mission to help brand teams, marketing teams and agencies to up their game in this and have seen some great results with past clients, from just making a change here and there with how they approach Social Media and Content Marketing

Here’s the sales pitch, if you fancy a chat to see where I could help you with a training or strategy point of view. Head over to the contact page or fill in your details on the training page and I’ll get right back to you!

Originally published at vhdigital.co.uk.

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