The Future of Social Media Marketing

We are excited to have Anna Hewstan join the Outsource Marketing team, and lead our social media marketing service offering to clients.

I had a chance to sit down and speak with Anna shortly after she joined and ask her a few questions. Here is a quick recap of our conversation on the future of social media marketing.


How has social media marketing changed since you ‘tweeted your first tweet?’

Initially, many organizations approached social media in the same way they deployed traditional marketing and brand building. They viewed Facebook and Twitter as just another channel for one-way communication.

Not long ago, companies truly ‘owned’ their brand, and controlled the dialogue with consumers. Of course, social media has changed all of that. But many companies were slow to respond and adapt.

Slowly, but surely, progressive organizations realize they no longer have the level of control over their brands that they once did. They no longer own all the channels of communication. With social media, consumers have more control and can share their brand experience with each other to the betterment, or detriment of a company’s reputation.

What has really struck me is that, over the past few years, companies have begun to embrace social media as a strategy to engage their community, to figure out what they are doing well and what they should do differently to improve whatever product or service they offer.

It has evolved from a one-way communication channel to one that is frequently being used to dialogue with customers in a meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still very much used to promote a company’s product or service offering, and to broaden its reach. But more and more organizations and getting the fact that it pays to develop deeper relationships with existing and prospective clients, and that social media is an excellent tool for accomplishing this.

We often hear about how companies want to create brand champions. That’s probably harder today than it ever has, given the control or lack thereof, companies have over their brands. But if companies take a proactive, sincere approach to build engagement with the use of social media, for example, they have a greater chance to create brand champions – consumers that are willing to ‘stand up’ for a brand, tell its story, and encourage others to give it a try.

Social media platforms have tailored their user experience to allow individuals to communicate and express themselves in unique ways, which also differentiates the platforms from each other. To make best use of social media, organizations need to understand how their customers like to communicate, and then tailor their strategy accordingly.


What is the most important thing about social media marketing that small to medium-sized companies need to keep in mind?

Be clear on what you are trying to achieve, and make sure everything you do is aligned with meeting this objective. And when thinking about what you are trying to achieve, it’s helpful to see things from your audience or consumer’s perspective.

How can you make their experience with your brand or organization better? What information do they seek at different stages of their buying journey? If you are clear on what you are trying to achieve, and also understand what you need to do to improve the consumer’s experience, you should be able to leverage social media marketing to accomplish something great.

It’s also important to understand that as part of a broader content-marketing plan, commitment and consistency are key to social media marketing success. Once a company creates an account on social media, it is important to stay active with regular content that not only fits the channel but also is relevant and engages the audience.


Where do you see social media marketing in five years?

Good question. The honest answer is that no one really knows. But I believe that it will ultimately be the primary source for news, information (from those you trust – friends, family and brands) and entertainment for people. We already see people asking for and sharing recommendations on social media, from where to go out to dinner to where to travel for spring break.

Regardless of where social media marketing is in five years, the challenge for companies will be the same – figuring out how to use social media in a non-invasive but effective way to reach their target audience.


What’s the biggest mistake you see most companies making with respect to their social media marketing efforts?

Well, more of the mistakes I see being made fall into one of three categories.

First off, many organizations tend to expect the same results with the same strategies and tactics that were used a year or two ago. Social media changes at a fast rate, and those who stop paying attention to the changes find their social media ineffective.

The second type of mistake I see is companies not including social media as part of their promotional and advertising budget. Long gone are the days of free, high reach on social media. Quality content creation often requires a budget, and content amplification through paid ads is certainly a necessity for social media to grow a brand’s reach, and help it reach its goals.

The last type of mistake I see frequently is companies creating one type of content to share across all platforms without tailoring it to account for the audience and best practices of a specific social media channel. Content, how it is created and shared, for Twitter needs to be different from, say, Facebook. A YouTube video should not be shared on Facebook as a link, but it should rather be uploaded as a native content type. This takes more effort but is much more rewarding and effective.


What do you love most about developing social media marketing strategies for clients?

I really enjoy identifying the best way to fit social media into the company’s marketing strategy based on its objectives. Then create a plan that supports, and is part of, the broader marketing strategy.

That’s what I like, but what I really love is seeing the results. As with most types of digital marketing, everything related to social media marketing is quantifiable and can be measured. This not only lets us celebrate when things are going according to plan but adjust as well when required to ensure that clients are getting a good return from investing in social media marketing.


Some people think that social media marketing is only for B2C companies targeting the younger generation. What do you have to say to them?

Social media is not going away. Sixty-nine percent of US residents use social media to connect with each other, get news content, share information and be entertained. The Canadian population mirrors our neighbours to the south with time spent on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. And these numbers have continued to grow since 2005.

The truth is, we are all consumers. You may be buying something for yourself, or be responsible for selecting a new service provider for the company you work for. And as consumers, we are influenced by social media.

Yes, social media was embraced first by B2C brands, but B2B organizations are quickly joining the party and seeing that it’s a very effective way to reach other organizations and individuals they want to do business with, and create stronger engagement.