Originally published on the Ogilvy Sell or Else blog 

For most brands today social media management is a check box. “‘We know our audiences are there on social, so we need to be there” is the often-used excuse for superficial, half-hearted efforts. As more and more people spend extensive amounts of time on social media channels, and as these channels take on multiple roles in their lives (friend-maker, advice-giver, reading-recommender, news curator, and more), it becomes even more important to take social media strategy seriously. Here are a few ways you can get serious about it :

  1. Place in marketing: Some of the most active social media marketers treat social media channels as a separate unconnected silo. We need to get social media a place on the real marketing table. It is just as important as TV, print, paid digital, PR and every other marketing function. Don’t get ‘someone’ to manage it for you. Get someone important to do it.
  2. Purpose: Social by design requires the audience to have co-authored or totally bought into the purpose. And the best examples of brand-led social campaigns emerge from a joint discovery with audiences, and a strong understanding of what a particular audience segment truly enjoys as content. Here, more than ever before, you need to think like the consumer.
  3. Quality over quantity: Facebook perhaps did us a favor when they decided to reduce organic reach close to nothing. Because then we started hearing smarter lines like ‘quality over quantity’. But why was that a trade off in the first place? In social – as in any other good marketing – there is relevance and value in a core, targeted thought, and the need for good story telling. Being in someone’s face with nothing spectacular to say, never ever made sense – even when it didn’t cost anything.
  4. Recognizing it as a skill, not a task: Whoever manages your social channels (internally or externally) must be passionate about it, know channels and their best use, and be connected to the audiences you want to engage with. If Executive Assistants, Admin staff or even the junior-most marketing resource in the team takes on the social mandate, it might be preferable to do nothing at all. You will get no real impact from just ‘being’ on social, and not putting the right skill set behind it.
  5. Benchmarks: Watch out for rationalizing lack of quality with quick-thinking, speedy execution, and average content. I have been in meetings with brand owners who speak very highly of the fantastic social content they create, completely oblivious to how average the work is. Managing a social media page at a very tactical level is high effort. But don’t equate effort to outcome or quality. Don’t make concessions for yourself. And this is just as relevant for agencies.
  6. Talent : Social media strategists will grow into being some of the most valued resources in the marketing field. But not just as community managers, social analysts or content writers. They have to evolve into rounded marketing people who understand the channels enough, come from a brand planning orientation to be able to have a think about what goals can be achieved on social, and how one can get there (through content, social engagement and consumer understanding).

And this is not just a factor of knowing pop culture, being young and ‘with-it’, being able to write in a contemporary, engaging manner or being able to come up with topical (and tactical) social spikes. It is all of these, but most importantly it is about having a fundamental understanding of brands, the ability to look at larger goals and metrics, and the skill set to tell a compelling, engaging and relevant brand story with multiple chapters, across multiple platforms to relevant audiences.

  1. Integration : It is easy for any social media professional to come up with a ‘social media engagement’ idea, or amplify something that is being done in some other medium on social. What is difficult – and truly rewarding – is being able to start with a core brand or campaign idea, and amplify it across all channels and media. This requires us to start with a media or channel agnostic brand thought. And see what marketing channel best amplifies it.

Nothing new you say? That’s true. But as audience segments become fragmented, and attention spans reduce, marketing professionals (brands and agency) are mirroring this fragmented, disparate thought process. As digital and social media finds a more defined space in marketing conversations, it is also time to go back to the basics and correct this approach. No more social-only campaign briefs. Start with the business or communication problem.

There are enough examples and cases today – globally and in India – of brands that have been strengthened significantly with a sound and integrated social media strategy, and execution. In markets like India, where traditional media continues to rule the roost as far as media spends and marketing investments go, smart marketers can gain a significant advantage by giving social media strategy adequate thought. It can do way more than just create the occasional buzz. Getting the approach right puts you in a much better position to be able to achieve a long term brand impact.