The ever-evolving nature of social media can make it an abstruse beast for brands to master their marketing strategy in a way that fuels sustainable commercial outcomes. And this challenge is exacerbated if you haven’t benchmarked your social media maturity to develop a blueprint to focus your energy.
In a perfect world, social media should be your most cost-effective channel to understand audiences, attract new customers, provide smart customer service and nurture loyalty.
But too often it just isn’t given the opportunity to be successful. For a lot of brands, their social media strategy looks good on the surface, but when we dig under the hood, we see siloed workflows, and too much energy spent grappling with tactics and new channels. The missing element is an embedded, sophisticated social media marketing strategy and operating model that drives real business outcomes and efficiencies.
The million-dollar question is: What’s the secret to social domination? Ask Ubiquity Lab’s resident social guru Nicola Swankie, and she’ll tell you it has two essential elements.
Firstly, you need a razor-sharp strategy that enables you to leverage technology to drive down costs, optimise your performance marketing and deliver sustainable commercial returns.
Secondly, you need to understand how everyday people are using social media. That’s the key to finding and leveraging the nexus between your audience’s wants, needs and behaviour, as well as what your brand wants to talk about, and typically ‘sell’.
Understanding the intricacies of each platform is one thing, but you need to make data-led decisions about where and when to invest time and money to maximise commercial results.
The often-unheralded benefit of having a sophisticated strategy and guiding social media principles is that it provides you with agility. When you’re clear on the parameters you’re operating within, you have the freedom to be adaptable and can be ready to pilot opportunities to take advantage of what’s next.
The phases of social media maturity: walk, jog, run, sprint
To be clear on the direction you need to take, you first need to establish where you currently sit on the road to social domination.
Our four-phase social media roadmap is a steady and sustainable guide to supercharging a brand’s maturity at your own pace, whether that’s a walk, jog, run or sprint.
For many, ‘sprint’ is purely aspirational; for others, it may not make commercial sense to strive for it.
However, large corporates that want a serious return on investment should absolutely be operating at ‘run’ with thier social media marketing strategy.
Our social media benchmark provides an unbiased assessment of your maturity based on 19 questions.
‘Walk’: Activating the social roadmap but it’s sporadic and siloed
Organisations in the ‘walk’ phase are active on social media but their activity is sporadic.
In our experience, this is where many organisations sit on the roadmap – and there’s no shame in that. Knowing where you are on the journey is the first step in developing a sophisticated plan to take your social media roadmap to the next level.
Often a social media marketing strategy can be in place but be siloed or separate to the overarching business goals. It might focus on views or likes, but not be aligned to the meaningful metrics the rest of the business’ marketing activity speaks to.
From a collaborative point of view, the social team may be sitting separately and have no integration of social flowing through different parts of the marketing team.
In this stage, social media is often treated as a bolt-on, something that’s brought into the campaign process after the planning has taken place. But social is vast and complicated and should be at the heart of campaign planning.
Businesses here also typically have limited advocacy or external social influence to support authority pitching.
‘Walk’ is typified by:
‘Jog’: Integrating and embedding a business-wide social media strategy and operating model
To progress from a ‘walk’ to a ‘jog’ the keyword is integration.
Instead of the siloed approach in ‘walk’, there starts to be cross-business planning. Different teams come together to plan the use of social media channels to maximise results around a key objective.
The social media marketing strategy and internal operating models are now aligned and embedded, and the business has integrated its paid, owned and earned channels.
This means the various social and content touch points have been mapped out and the business is thinking from a paid, owned and earned point of view across all areas. Importantly, the activity is then mapped back to achieving objectives and business priorities.
For example, if you’re at an awareness stage of the marketing funnel, then you can look at your social media activity with clear goals. It shouldn’t matter if you’re using social media or traditional media, as long as it’s integrated.
Instead of sporadic activity, there’s a clear plan, budget and publishing rhythm for each of the different channels.
The business is starting to develop basic measurement and social listening, rather than just putting everything out there on the internet and hoping for the best. It’s also developing a resourced customer-service framework and some internal advocacy.
‘Jog’ is typified by:
‘Run’: Fuelling a fully integrated and efficient paid, owned and earned ecosystem
This is where we see a serious shift in gear driving meaningful results in NPS, salience and sales through the implementation of a formalised social media marketing strategy.
In terms of maturity, it’s completing the loop from strategy through to measurement and having an ability to dynamically optimise the social media roadmap. Various specialities across the business are aligned and a scalable operating model is formed.
A fully integrated and efficient paid, owned and earned ecosystem is flourishing. The various touchpoints and how they come to life for your average user are mapped out, maximising cost efficiency and exposure.
‘Run’ is typified by:
‘Sprint’: Integrating a social culture, powered by AI technology, delivering sophisticated results and ROI maturity
‘Sprint’ – the epitome of social media maturity – is virtually a social-first approach. It’s not so much a strategy as an integrated culture, which readily adopts technology as it arrives, across all business functions.
That means engaging a socially empowered and trained workforce. Social media is a centralised entity that acts as a service provider for the rest of the business, taking briefs and delivering integrated approaches.
Paid media is dynamically optimised and powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, with machine-learning delivering sophisticated results, reducing costs, delivering higher ROI and reducing the need for human involvement.
The social media marketing strategy becomes seamlessly integrated with other business systems, enabling holistic customer visibility and personalisation.
Content and creative is optimised based on thier performance through the use of dynamic creative optimisation (DCO). This technology optimises the creative on the go based on user interaction.
DCO is where multiple headlines, copy and other elements are built into a paid social ad and the technology switches the elements interchangeably until it finds the combination that resonates or performs best. It’s learning from user experience and optimising content at a rapid rate.
The customer journey is optimised via AI through all touchpoints, resulting in an intuitive and intelligent customer experience. All acquisition activity is based on social data to build intelligence for dynamic targeting and overall performance optimisation.
‘Sprint’ is typified by:
Social specialists: Best practice in action
The skincare brand Dove is a classic example (in many elements) of social media maturity at its best. Where it continually excels is in its campaigns that start conversations around social purpose, mobilising people around an insight, and creating conversation and content as a result.
It harnesses technology to bring people together around common passions, and it has clear strategies in place that leverage social conversations and organic sharing behaviour to build its brand and spread its message.
The scale achieved through social media and subsequently earned media has helped Dove position itself as more than just a skincare brand.
Its social media focus on empowering women to love their bodies and grow their self-esteem has contributed to its community growth and brand loyalty.
Its #ShowUs campaign was launched as a call-to-arms to talk about body positivity and acceptance. Project #ShowUs, in partnership with Getty Images, features a library of more than 5000 photographs of women from 39 countries around the world.
Analysis of Dove’s paid media activity shows the brand is dynamically optimising content with cutting-edge social technology. This enables advertisers to provide a combination of images, text and platform-specific preferences so that systems can automatically create the right combination for the audience.
It has a sophisticated use of social creators and influencers in its social publishing. It also partners with retailers in its social content and has thoughtful customer journeys leading to other areas of content or eCommerce from social. This clearly marries customer needs and commercial outcomes, while differentiating it from competitors – all aiding in delivering a well-collated social media marketing strategy.
Dove’s success on the social scene has proven enduring. Year after year, its ability to stay relevant to its customers, through social media, is seeing well-documented results in boosting brand love and, crucially, commercial outcomes.
Unfortunately, we can’t click our fingers and reach the heights of Dove’s success overnight, but we can run our own race.
Knowing where you sit in your current social media roadmap to online domination and where to invest your energy is a powerful place to start.