7 steps to crafting an integrated social media strategy

Mark Bonington is a digital PR consultant and content strategist. He’s guest on the PRN blog today giving us his top 7 tips for integrating social media effectively into PR campaigns. 

Social media is the source of a lot of frustration in the modern PR industry. I see many campaigns where it’s put in as something of an afterthought to the offline media event or as the tail-end of a TV ad campaign.
The view is often that social media is not going to make much difference, that it takes a lot of time and effort to create something that is simply going to garner a few likes and shares. In short, it can start to feel like a lot of effort for very little return.

The truth? The secret to getting social media right is one word: Integration.

Whether your client is looking to make sales (known in digital marketing as “macro conversions”) or is simply looking to increase exposure, engagement, followers or newsletter subscribers (“micro conversions”), consumers need to be targeted across different channels, with bespoke content, and often re-targeted in order to achieve results.

This means uniting social media with offline PR, alongside search marketing, content strategy and sophisticated audience targeting across digital platforms.

So, what are some steps you can take in order to offer clients an integrated strategy and getting the results they want?

1. Communication. Even in the digital age, teams don’t talk enough. Check in with the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) team – which Google search keywords are bringing people to your client’s website? How could you utilise that data to create different types of content which are going to attract potential customers and answer the questions they’re already asking?

Which keywords are the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) team bidding on? That could be a starting point to new ides for journalists or influencers you hadn’t considered.

Is there a big difference between the sales audience and the social media audience? If so, which is more important to reach? Data is a great place to start when planning a communication strategy, so invite analytics and search teams to the table too and use their knowledge before you start brainstorming.

2. Accept the limitations. Integration is important because each of the aforementioned teams have strengths and weaknesses. Social media, content and PR is great for discovery, but users are less likely to buy direct from these channels, that’s where search and affiliate marketing comes into play. Accept that each of these tools in your arsenal has limits and no single one is going to offer a miracle cure or a quick fix. Get them working in synch and you’ll be onto a win.

3. Go back to the beginning. This is a great technique for when you’re stuck on coming up with a creative PR strategy, especially for a client which on the surface seems quite dry, like a finance brand. Go back to the beginning and investigate why and how that brand started. What does it represent, beyond making money? Use those touchstones and themes as starting points for stories.

Direct Line was originally started in order to help people. Perrier-Jouet was founded in 1811 by a husband-and-wife team to create a champagne which captured the spirit of France’s Belle Epoque. Facebook was created to connect with the world. Google to sort its information. What’s at the heart of your client’s business and what story-led strategies could you build around it?

4. Make it genuine. Using the above information should set you on the road to creating an effective multi-platform strategy, while keeping it genuine to the brand principles you’ve identified.

But why is this important? Remember that ad-immunity and brand cynicism is at an all-time high, especially among Gen Y and Z customers. The modern consumer is unlikely to be interested unless the content they are served feels bespoke and personalised to them as an individual. Iris Worldwide’s campaign for Superdry is a great example of marketing to millennials.

5. Go niche. Too often in the PR industry we are still concerned with reaching as many people as possible as fast as possible. But thanks to the data we have access to during our research, we can narrow audiences down considerably.

Make it your goal to define the audience who are, realistically, going to be looking to buy your client’s products. Then think about where and how you can most effectively reach them. This could be a much smaller audience than you first thought, but it will be the right audience to target in order to grow their business.

For example, luxury men’s grooming products may be followed by males on social media, but they are most often bought by female consumers. Expensive teen hobbies or games might get good Snapchat engagements, but it will be the parents, not the teens, putting down the money to purchase them.

Apply this thinking when you seek to connect with influencers and online content creators too. Don’t just go after the biggest followings, seek out “micro influencers” who match your identified brand principles and have small, but highly relevant, communities engaging with them.

6. Report on what matters. Clients still need good PR, but as much as possible they want it to be measurable. And in digital marketing this can go far beyond simply reach and follower counts. Use Facebook Ads Manager and Power Editor to target the right audiences and test to see which are most effective. Look to implement pixel tracking on web-pages, so users who clicked through can be re-targeted on audience networks from Facebook, Google or (more recently) LinkedIn.

7. Collaboration. Don’t understand one aspect of the strategy? That’s why many minds working towards a goal are better than one. Look to foster an environment where expertise is shared and teams are educated on the different tools, and how they can compliment one another. Not to mention a client who is better educated is one who is going to be more open to new ideas.

I hope you found this list useful and that it inspires you to set the bar even higher on your next campaign. Integrate all the opportunities at your disposal together and not only will you be well on your way to creating communication that works, you’ll be standing head and shoulders above your competition.

@markbonington

Click here to connect with Mark on LinkedIn where he regularly publishes articles on how to implement more effective social media and digital marketing strategy.

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