Despite social media’s coming of age, it’s fair to say that it’s still an afterthought in the marketing communications programs of many brands in the region (big and small, multinational and local).  The urge of “doing digital marketing” and “having a social media presence” is undoubtedly widespread (we need to thank FOMO for that) but few brands adopt a thoughtful approach that plays to the strengths of the medium in order to obtain tangible business results.

It’s common to see brands flooding their social media accounts with deals, contests, prize draws, etc.  Though promotions certainly have their place in any marketer’s toolbox, treating social media as a promotions dumpster has undesirable consequences. An obvious one is that brands get “hooked” on incentivizing people to boost likes, views, shares, etc., while failing to deliver any meaningful experience and attracting the wrong crowd in the process. But more importantly, this promotions galore typically comes at the expense of initiatives that cater to long-term objectives related to brand building and product differentiation.

The challenge for brands is then to develop a social media program that effectively balances short-term and long-term objectives.  This is certainly easier said than done, yet a useful first step is to adopt a framework that aligns all stakeholders (e.g. internal team members, creative agencies, etc.) and gently nudges them to make the right considerations regarding strategy, content development and content distribution.  

At The Online Project, we’ve developed a framework that includes two key components:

  • Always-on.  This component is focused on long-term objectives related to brand image. Messaging revolves around the brand’s purpose and values, sometimes supporting other brand-level initiatives like sponsorships and CSR. Engagement rates (user reactions relative to reach) are used as proxy metrics to evaluate performance. Creative content is developed and distributed on an on-going basis, partially supported with media spend.
  • Campaigns.  This component is focused on short-term objectives, with messaging revolving around product and promotions.  Engagement rates (related to likes, comments, shares) come second to more specific metrics like click-through-rates and landing page conversion rates. Creative content is deployed in concentrated bursts, most of it supported with media spend.

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This approach has the flexibility to enable us to develop and manage social media programs for clients in a wide range of industries like Nescafé (FMCG), IKEA (furniture), Umniah (telecom), Riyad Bank (financial services) and Sony PlayStation (consumer electronics). Its simplicity also facilitates the integration with other key functions related to social media like customer care and community management. The end result are social marketing programs that work hard for the brand.

Certainly social media is not the answer to all questions, but its ubiquity, targeting prowess and variety in terms of content formats gives marketers what other channels simply can’t: the opportunity to run a diverse range of initiatives to the extent of the richness of their marketing playbooks. Promotions included.

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