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SOS: managing the siren song of social media

We’ve all done it. Whether it’s buying the latest smartphone or seeing the movie that’s getting all the Oscar hype, with all the trending information being pushed at us these days it’s easier than ever to follow the crowd.

Marketers are especially susceptible to what’s come to be known as Shiny Object Syndrome: the tendency to be attracted by the next big thing, that is until something newer and flashier comes along. Social media in particular has proven to be particularly alluring, due no doubt to its perceived low barriers to entry and the promise of connecting with the increasingly valued and equally elusive millennial audience.

Snapchat is a great example of this phenomenon. With a user base estimated at more than 60 million in the U.S. and Canada alone, the platform has enjoyed a meteoric rise: it took Twitter nearly twice as long to reach that kind of critical mass. Brands are especially attracted to Snapchat’s appeal among millennials seven out of 10 users fall into this demographic, while 60 percent of U.S. smartphone users age 13-34 are utilizing the popular storytelling tool.

All that said, Snapchat may not be right for every brand. As with any media channel consideration, marketers should be prepared to answer the following questions to determine whether an emerging social media platform is the right fit.

Does it effectively reach your target audience?

This one seems pretty obvious, but often it’s where Shiny Object Syndrome obscures the ability to make smart decisions. If your primary audience is baby boomers then you’re probably better off exploring ways to engage with them at a deeper level via Facebook, for instance, instead of investing time and other resources starting a new presence on Snapchat or Instagram, both of which are the domain of a much younger user base.

You might also ask yourself whether an existing platform might allow you to accomplish the same thing. Instagram stories, for instance, provides similar engagement to Snapchat’s offering but with a more robust analytics offering, making it a smart choice for brands that already have an established, engaged Instagram user base.

Finally, you may be able to dip your toe into the water rather than diving in head first. Sponsoring a Snapchat filter for an event or a location is a great way to test the platform’s effectiveness with your brand’s audience without going all in on a channel that needs to be maintained long-term.

Does it align with your business goals?

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. So it is with social media, where the lack of a clear objective can result in a lot of wheel-spinning and wasted effort. Think about the communications challenges and opportunities facing your organization, then evaluate whether a particular platform is well-suited to that task.

For example, LGA client Visit North Carolina had a crystal-clear objective: showcasing the accessibility of the state’s diverse tourism destinations to encourage trips from out-of-state visitors and residents alike. Snapchat proved to be the perfect forum for sharing experiential stories via breathtaking imagery and real-time video that would inspire younger travelers to explore the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, or take on a zip-lining adventure at The Gorge in Saluda.

How will you use this new platform to engage with your audience?

A number of best practices have emerged for adding a new platform to a brand’s social media efforts. First and foremost is having a plan for the content you’ll create what will you be posting, who will create it, what’s the right frequency for your audience, and perhaps most importantly, can you maintain this plan long term?

With that plan in place, you can focus your energies on a launch campaign to make a big splash coming out of the gate. And don’t forget to think of ways to cross-promote your new presence across your other owned channels: social media, brand website, e-news subscribers, loyalty clubs, etc. as well as third-party influencers to amplify your efforts and grow your following.

As a long-term strategy, you may wish to complement your organic efforts by considering a paid social presence. Snapchat, for instance, has several ad offerings that allow brands to enhance engagement and grow their audience. Gatorade used this approach to promote its U.S. Open tennis sponsorship, while Marriott was one of the first hospitality brands to successfully market on Snapchat by partnering with four influencers to co-create content and drive community engagement.

How will you measure success?

Like any other marketing channel, quantifying social media results means demonstrating the impact of your communications efforts toward achieving your business goals. Many platforms have robust analytics capabilities baked in, but you may also wish to consider paid tools like Snaplytics to paint the most complete picture possible.

Numbers are great, but don’t lose sight in your evaluation process of the primary feature of social media: engagement. Capture screenshots, monitor direct chats and 1:1 conversations, and look for other anecdotal evidence of success like mentions of your new efforts among loyal followers on existing platforms.

Track your performance regularly, curate your findings, and identify trends or insights that will help you make subtle shifts in your approach from messaging to imagery to frequency that will help optimize performance.


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