Shifting Marketing Strategy

Thoughts from a Social Media Strategist in an XM World

For me, the beauty of sitting in a Social Media Strategy role at an experiential marketing agency is tracking the natural extension of XM from in-person to online. Live events may be cancelled, but I believe a brand experience can extend far beyond the reach of a physical footprint.

Brand experiences don’t end when a consumer leaves the store, event, or website, and the way consumers experience your brand online matters, even when we’re not in the middle of a global crisis. In times of uncertainty, people are turning to brands to provide value and act intentionally. It’s time to think strategically about how we can bring the same shared experience to consumers through social and digital touchpoints.

While the XM industry has come to a grinding halt and agencies everywhere scramble to pivot, social media consumption has skyrocketed over the past 5 weeks. Social networks such as Facebook and YouTube have reported traffic spikes up to 27%, and Apple screen-time reports have gone through the roof since people have been confined to their homes.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to ditch the mentality that XM is separate from other marketing efforts.

Brands should facilitate the same emotion and connection through digital that naturally flows from an event. I believe marketers can seize the opportunity to provide value without being opportunistic.

As marketers, we should all be asking ourselves the following questions as we craft messaging strategies in the “new normal”.

In a normal world, we use XM to solve unique business problems, like getting a new product into the hands of a target audience, allowing them to experience it with their own senses. That same thinking should be applied to social experiences. Your social content should be providing real value to your audience — especially now, when digital brand touchpoints are all that’s available.

Think strategically about what value proposition aligns with your brand mission, persona, and tone of voice. Will you provide entertainment? Escapism? Distraction? Inspiration? Hope? Information? Education? People are looking to brands to solve problems and ultimately, the ones that deliver will come out on top.

2. How can my business authentically contribute to the world right now?

Good leaders don’t ask what they can get out of a situation, they ask how they can contribute. Now is the time to think about ways your business is equipped to help. Announce meaningful brand actions on social such as major operation-based pivots, measures taken to protect employees and customers, donations to non-profits, and action to support frontline healthcare workers or small businesses.

Brands have the opportunity to use their platforms for good. Use strong calls to action to activate your audience for a common purpose and contribute as part of a community. In the long run, you’ll see your efforts repaid in brand loyalty and positive sentiment.

3. How can my brand provide connection at a time when many people feel more isolated than ever?

Experiential marketing is about drawing people together to build community around a shared experience. Think about how to invite people in to connect with each other around your brand at a time where many feel isolated. Brands like Chipotle have been inviting people into Zoom meetings with a celebrity where they can connect virtually. Peloton runs an Official Peloton Member Page where customers can connect around their shared home cycling experience and seek support or encouragement.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CPG brand or a lifestyle company, consumers are looking to you to come up with creative solutions that facilitate the same meaningful connections online as they would experience in real life.

As we work through these unique marketing challenges, it’s important to work with experts to navigate the nuances of social during this unprecedented time. Experts can help craft effective social messaging that is mindful of social algorithm changes as platforms censor virus-related messaging in an effort to combat false information. Instagram stories that mention any of the disease-related words are seeing 10x fewer impressions than those without. Working closely with digital and creative teams is crucial right now to ensure content is optimized to reach your audience, foster connection, and create a meaningful brand experience.

It’s also crucial to be flexible with your tone of voice and to revisit your brand promise with a critical eye. For some brands, this is an opportunity to live up to their positioning. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. Be strategic, but not unyielding in your messaging decisions and tone.

In a nutshell, experiential marketing is about solving business problems, providing value, and fostering meaningful connections. Even on a normal day in the XM world, social media should be used to enhance brand experience. There’s no time to waste. It’s time you think strategically about how you can bring the same shared experience that thrives under XM to your consumers through social.

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Austen Overman

Social Media Strategist at Match MG & Professional Organization Coach with a passion for sustainability, rescue dogs, & mountains.