Will Your Online Strategy be out of Date Soon?
Karl Wiseman, Digital and Content
But you probably already knew that.
We know that technology and social media move very fast and that every social platform is working hard to keep their users happy. This means that for brands looking to utilise social media as part of their marketing and communications, they have to constantly review which platforms their audiences are using, which features work best, and how to use that information from a corporate perspective. It can make for a daunting task. And there’s an additional challenge around the corner: a whole new ‘Generation Z’ of adults.
Within the next few years, we will move into a generation that truly did not know life before social media. Soon, if not already, this generation will become colleagues, business partners, and perhaps significantly, customers. As per this time of year, we recently had a number of work experience students come to our office to learn about Redleaf. We saw this as an opportunity to learn more about how they use social media, in turn illustrating to them how their social media habits are used by brands. There were a few really useful pieces of information that came out of it that I feel are worth exploring:
So where is Generation Z communing online?
The standout new platform that is completely unused by financial services institutions is Snapchat. In fact it’s underused by probably every sector apart from music and fashion. For those not in the know, Snapchat is an app-only (i.e. no browser/desktop/laptop access) way for people to take photos and videos, add text and drawings, and send them to friends for a controlled period of time. That is, the messages self-destruct after the allotted time (from 1-10 seconds, or added to your timeline for 24 hours). The ‘Discover’ and ‘Live’ functions offer a way for people to follow brands and events as-they-happen.
The other social media platform that brands need to consider for the future is Facebook-owned WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a simple instant messaging app - allowing users to chat with groups or privately –and it is a true gem of the tech world with over 800m users. Unlike most platforms, the opportunities to use Whatsapp are perhaps less clear; but they do exist. You can start a news feed to update subscribers on the latest updates and provide further insight and exclusive offers, through to using it as a medium by which to communicate with customers on a personal basis.
Twitter is another platform that Generation Z is using, still. This is useful because Twitter is a platform that many brands are familiar with. However, the way in which it should be used will change dramatically, mainly due to new content needs.
The quality of the content posted simply has to be of a higher standard than what most are currently posting. The expectations of younger generations is significantly higher and the brands that invest in making their content polished, well-thought through, and creative will continue to dominate the new marketing mix online.
Imagery of all types is a great mean of attracting new followers and encouraging existing ones to stick around. The branding of the profiles needs to be vibrant and colourful. Include a variety of media: photos, videos, graphics and emojis. This will ensure a balanced, fresh mix of content that subscribers won’t tire of easily. This sort of content requires planning and investment to produce on-brand campaigns that will fit with the messages you’re trying to get across.
Your language needs to be clear, concise, and jargon-free; make sure your explanations aren’t condescending. Remember, when people are reading your posts, you’re on borrowed time - keeping it short and simple will deliver better results.
Identifying what resonates with Generation Z is the challenge of any planned content strategy. But it is important to react appropriately to popular events and seasons. This means snappy, creative processes using appropriate spokespeople and figures in a witty, strategic way. No mean feat. Celebrity endorsement will play an increasing role, but that does not necessarily mean getting a film star or musician involved necessarily, but it can extend to engaging ‘social media stars’ that have already built an impressive audience.
What is becoming ever clearer is that budget saved from traditional advertising needs to be shifted into a cohesive content strategy delivering leads and conversions. It’s now entirely within the hands of the corporates to speak to their audiences directly and with that comes the responsibility of building the following you need to continue delivering results.
A new way of working
This may well seem like a challenge equivalent to climbing Everest.
But really it’s about evolving the way in which marketers and communicators plan campaigns. It’s less about looking to peers for inspiration and more about how you can fit into your audience’s use of ‘online’ and ‘digital’. Rather than seeing the audience as an observer, put yourselves into their shoes and ask how you can fit in with what they’re already seeing and interacting with. Your posts need to fit naturally within this context. Rather than mimicking your peers, consider who else outside of your industry is targeting the same individuals you are. Behave less like a corporate with a target, and more like a useful source to a person.
This is all about having a better understanding of your audience, and your future audience. It’s not uncommon for brands to use their industry peers as a benchmark, looking at how they are communicating. But now is a good time to think about brands from other sectors that are successfully getting through to your audience. It’s time to find out what we can learn from fashion, music and media brands.
More from me on how to do that next time…