Social Media Strategists Don’t Make Integrated Marketing Work — Users Do!

by Braam Swart

In social media marketing, more means more. Bigger budgets equal more ads, more leads and more revenue for our clients, right? But more stuff published online piles into bigger and bigger digital landfills. And with every ad that misses the mark, audiences simply become less interested in what businesses have to say. So how do we activate them in an arena filled with more narratives than ever before? Spoiler: telling more stories doesn’t work. Making your brand more user-centric does.

We’re in a digital paradigm shift toward the user, and this double-edged sword can either help or harm marketers. In this piece, we’ll explore how understanding new user attitudes and using new messaging tactics can help us resonate better with the audiences we reach.

Multidimensional brands use integrated marketing

Let’s start at the top. Multidimensional brands have more depth than their cookie-cutter counterparts. They resonate with real audiences — and a multidimensional brand needs the messaging to match. That’s where integrated marketing comes in. It aims to construct a cohesive conversation with users across business channels (from social media to TV to print). This powerful strategy to build better brand presences began as a storytelling tactic, and has now evolved from buzzword to benchmark. In the late ‘80s, it helped align businesses’ PR, advertising and direct marketing efforts so that each avenue reinforced the others. Since then, however, it has encompassed even the most distant outlier marketing disciplines.

A few years ago, we reached television audiences during show times on social media to provide a ‘second screen experience’ with the brand for users. Today, we have access to more user data, which means more opportunities to reach audiences at similar critical touch points. Because users are sharing more information with us, we no longer need show times to reach the right audience. We just need to segment our audiences, curate our content per segment, and plug in the data to make an impactful connection.

So, what does this mean for integrated marketing? Where the discipline previously blended cross-channel marketing with top-down content strategies, we’re now seeing the magic of seamless customer experiences starting at the bottom, with the user itself. Today, digital strategists help create brands that are more human than ever by drawing closer to consumers, listening to users’ needs, and responding in one-on-one conversations rather than by addressing collective groups.

Intuitive messaging like this, which understands its users’ needs and resonates with audiences on a deeper level than age, demographic, and location now give marketers the potential for success in a cluttered conversation. For example, targeting “lookalike” audiences on Facebook to market your grocery shopping app to (that is, to users who resemble those who’ve already downloaded it) will generate better results than simply targeting people who like sales, cooking, and shopping. From there, getting this new audience to advocate for your app is a much simpler task when there’s a brand-user conversation in place from which analytics can be pulled for deepened audience insights.

Plugging in pain-point data gathered from surveys on the app itself can also take your data-gathering efforts a step further, and can help inform your next round of messaging and audience targeting. These data-driven pieces will target and communicate more effectively than ones that simply assume the attitudes of its users.

Once businesses start revealing user attitudes through data and begin crafting content strategies around them, results start to rise. And what better platform to reveal these user attitudes than social media? First, their ability to gather user data helps marketers access consumer insights that’ll streamline future efforts (like we did with our brand new lookalike audience). And ultimately, they acquaint us with who we’re reaching through what traditional marketing lacks: a two-way conversation that gives a clear voice to the user.

The best part is that social media marketing is underscored by valuable data that can inform other marketing avenues, and their value climbs as better tools for understanding users come to light. It’s also perfect for consolidating a brand’s voice, tying together all its different integrated messaging across its various channels.

With user data becoming more comprehensive, and conversion becoming more complex, social media marketers are more responsible for the user journey than in the past. We need to know who we’re reaching on a more individual level and communicate in appropriate ways to be engaging. When brands reach people with tailored messages, users feel heard and understood. Authentic conversation primes users to respond to a call to action, driving better results.

Find your audience on the social side

How do we tackle this on social media? First we need to build the right audience. Facebook IQ’s insights tool, as well as Facebook Business’ endless list of targeting metrics, are still perfect for segmenting audiences into more individualized sets, helping us build more complex user interactions. Armed with a Facebook Pixel & Google Analytics, your brand can distinguish between user groups with intent vs. the general engaging audience to help pinpoint efforts. To truly reach, resonate with, and activate these users, however, we need to go the extra mile in identifying who you’re targeting. This is where remarketing comes in.

Once a user reacts positively to a brand’s initial messaging (with a site visit, an email open or even just a like, comment or or other engagement on social media), they officially enter this one-on-one conversation. We called them to action, and those who showed intent become part of our remarketing audience. From there, success boils down to whether the rest of the journey is engaging or not.

Online listening tools like Sprout Social offer a window into the conversations of focal user groups. Listening profiles aimed at your key audiences take you directly to the individuals talking about your industry, your competition, your brand and it’s products as well as your C- level leadership. From here, customer profiles can be created, which remain one of the most effective ways to truly understand who your different audiences are.

Once you’ve established your remarketing audiences, why not further incentivize them to take quick online surveys loaded up with the key questions your brand needs answered? Here’s an example of a questionnaire that a business could deploy to understand more about its social media audiences and to compile sound customer profiles.

So, how do marketers succeed within a cluttered arena that diminishes the value of our messaging? Simply by foregrounding the user in your approach. When businesses have seen and heard its potential customers speak, answering them becomes much simpler and more effective through marketing from a user-centric perspective. Cut through the social media cacophony by segmenting your key audiences into individualized sets and by constructing powerful, step-by-step digital narratives per audience set that’ll convert them over time – or enlist the PR & marketing professionals who have been sparking brands’ digital conversations for 20 years to get the job done!

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About the Author

Braam Swart is a social media manager at Spark PR who works remotely from South Africa. He has half a decade’s experience in managing brands on digital media from strategy to execution, and has proven experience in driving results for Fortune 500 clients.