INTERVIEW Don’t get hung up on production values, says author of new B2B social media guide

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Banks should stop worrying about production values and start using social media to humanise themselves, according to the author of a new book on social media strategy.

The idea for the book, ‘Social Media Marketing for Business’, came from Andrew Jenkins’s experience teaching social media strategy for enterprises at the University of Toronto for eight years. The set text on the course, The Social Media Strategist, is now a decade old.

Andrew’s experience working with larger enterprises to help build their social media operating model, including the Royal Bank of Canada, convinced him that an updated social media guide was needed that would address new technologies, platforms and social media policies.

Some of the big changes he has identified include the rise of video and rise of live social media broadcasts, as well as the rise of personal branding on the likes of LinkedIn, which has raised questions about how far if at all companies should aim to influence their employees’ social media activities.

Video meanwhile creates other issues around privacy. For example, if the social media manager goes around the office filming a fun video about corporate culture, they might inadvertently capture people who don’t want to be seen or somebody who is in for a job interview from a competitor. The whiteboard might have proprietary information on it.

“We don’t think of every scenario,” he says.

Andrew says that some brand may determine that social media is a waste of time or a distraction, but he argues that the pandemic has been a huge catalyst for people’s social media adoption, with platforms such as TikTok being particular beneficiaries.

“Now people say they don’t use Google anymore, they just use TikTok to search for videos and find videos that explain it.

“The number one shared hashtag on TikTok is ‘TikTok made me buy it’.

“If I was selling a product, I would want that to be working in my favour.”

The book is aimed predominantly at marketers within larger organisations, equipping them with the tools and arguments they need to brief C-levels and make business cases. It also aims to help these companies create social media policies for a world that is rapidly changing, and even tackles the thorny question of whether there should be “policies” at all or whether there should just be guidelines.

As well as providing insight into what companies should be putting out on social media, Andrew argues that companies should be spending more time using it to garner insight, including sentiment analysis.

“I often say to organisations that if you just listen first, you’d be surprised at how much insight can be gleaned.”

He mentions working at Royal Bank of Canada, where the Twitter account called RBC News had around 700 followers who were all journalists.

“It had zero engagement but it served a critical role for the dissemination of corporate news.”

For reaching consumers directly with corporate news, however, he advocates a different approach.

“If you’re publicly traded you may be mandated to have a press release about certain milestones. Okay, fine – check that box.”

But he suggests recording a video of the CEO or media relations team discussing what is noteworthy about that press release.

“If there’s a provocative number in that press release that can be rendered as an infographic or video animation, that will jump out from someone’s social media feed.”

He uses the example of WealthSimple, a Canadian investment management company. When it reached $4 billion in assets under management it created a simple animated gif of a spiral staircase of zeroes going up to the number four.

“Again, it was just this visual representation of $4 billion as opposed to every press release which says ‘we’re very excited to announce’.”


Towards authentic content

Making this kind of content has been made easier for companies through the widespread availability of smartphones.

“You have Instagram, which is described as having an aesthetic. Then you have TikTok rising up and being described as authentic – it’s lower production value.”

He says that people now have a more prolific attitude to content.

“When it comes to your content, just ship it. Don’t get hung up on really, really glossy production.”

Andrew says that phones now offer more film editing and production capabilities than he had when at film school. One example he gives is a CEO of a bank who shot a video on an iPhone in a company building, talking about three books that had inspired his thinking.

“He’s literally just holding up a book to the iPhone camera shot by a colleague and he’s talking about what that book meant to him.”

In another video, the CEO shared his thoughts on leadership.

“There was no logo flourish at the beginning or end of the video, they just fired up the phone and recorded him talking.

“It was raw, it was authentic – it wasn’t polished, but that wasn’t the point. It was just capturing him in the moment and hearing his thoughts on leadership as a senior leader of the organisation.”

“[It’s difficult] when you suggest something of this lower production value when larger enterprises are accustomed to having ten different people from communications and marketing involved in reviewing and vetting and so on.

“As long as it passes compliance, why can’t we share this?”

Other examples he gives are people just coming out of conferences and sharing three takeaways that really resonated while they are still fresh.

“The device is there in the palm of your hand that can create great content. The goal is not to go viral. The goal is just to share content that will be of value to your audience.”

He says that these types of activities can help to humanise banks in particular. There are ways to do it, he says, while remaining on brand and without appearing to be trying too hard to be “one of the cool kids”.


The three Cs of success

This is all well and good, but how can brands know that their social media efforts are worthwhile and not simply fulfilling “vanity metrics”?

“A like is nice. If people are commenting or sharing, it’s indicative they saw even more value in the content because a like is very easy to give. If they’re sharing it to their own followers it’s because they thought it was funny or informative.”

Andrew measures success through what he calls the “three Cs of ROI”: community, content and conversion.

“You want to see your community grow over time because then the reach of your messaging is growing.

“The second thing is content you want to see: a like is the baseline, then a comment, then a share.

“With conversion, I’m not saying there has to be a call to action in every piece of content – we want to educate, provide value and occasionally when you’ve earned the right, you can actually be promotional.”

“Are our marketing efforts in our various social media channels showing or correlated with an increase in traffic to our website? Are they going to our contact page, are they signing up for our newsletter, are they downloading our ebooks?”

Andrew says metrics may appear to be vanity metrics to begin with but as long as you can prove awareness is building, that growing audience can be turned into customers and conversions.


‘Social Media Marketing for Business’ is available now from Kogan Page.

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