At the end of 2020 Twitter began overhauling its verification process with a view to launching the new and improved version early this year. It’s a move that’s long overdue and will improve trust between organisations and their audiences by defining what verification means, who is eligible and why some accounts might lose verification.
This year has taken us on quite a ride hasn’t it? Things kicked off with devastating bush fires in Australia whilst Prince Harry and Meghan Markle upped sticks to America and it wasn’t long before Covid-19 arrived, the stock markets crashed, Black Lives Matter protests flooded the streets and life as we knew it changed forever.
Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence are everywhere. For most people working in communications we’ll already be aware of them and what they do, but a tweet by the Chair of the CIPR’s AI in PR Panel, Kerry Sheehan made me stop and consider what the wider implications of the use of these technologies are now and what they will be in the future.
Shitposting masterclass or just a plain shitshow? That’s the question that everyone is asking after the design horror show in the government Covid-19 public health campaign. And it’s not only communications professionals.
Covid-19 has changed the way businesses and organisations position and market themselves. DTW Strategist Hannah Cheetham takes time to draw breath and consider how organisations need to re-focus social media in a Covid-19 world.
The social media world was turned upside down by Covid-19. The landscape changed overnight and content that was appropriate suddenly became redundant and out of date.
When Covid-19 began to emerge as an issue in the UK during February and March, we reacted quickly for our clients to review plans and strategies. In many cases this meant quickly pivoting to remove or replace content and tailor messaging.
For clients like the Law Society, we re-planned the list of topics we were covering for our weekly Twitter chat, SolicitorChat, and developed new graphics focussed on Covid-19. For others, such as Road Safety GB North East, we updated our content schedule to focus messaging on the increased number of pedestrians and cyclists using the roads.
As we look ahead to the next 12-18 months it’s important to move beyond the react and pivot stage. Plans need to be made for the “new normal” where social and digital media will play an increasingly important role in communications.
If you’re wondering where to start with dealing with all of this, here are our top five tips for getting your digital and social strategy right in the new post-lockdown world:
1. Be clear on your goals
Before you start out, it’s critical you know what you’re setting out to achieve. Targets, goals and KPIs that you have set previously may no longer be relevant or may require revising. Depending on what your approach to digital and social has been over the last 10 weeks, take a look at the data and analytics you have available to help inform this process.
2. Know your audience
When was the last time you took the pulse of your audience’s online activity? Covid-19 has changed the way that people use and interact with their peers and brands online and what you knew in January could have changed massively now. Tools such as Sprout Social’s listening platform (paid) and Answer the Public (offers free and paid options) are great for getting snapshots of online behaviours which you can feed into your plans.
3. Be timely and be relevant
This was always important but is even more so now. Consider things like greater use of long form content such as featured articles and blogs which provide your audience with a more detailed insight into the topics you’re communicating than you might have done in the past. We’re all spending more time online now and as a result are more likely to engage with this detailed content.
4. Stop, evaluate and listen
Things are changing constantly, so consider breaking your campaign or activity into phased bursts with pauses built in to review what is working (and what isn’t). This allows you to tweak and amend your approach to take into account what’s generating the best results and any changes in the wider world which may have an impact on your work.
5. Don’t be afraid to be bold
We’ve already seen a number of big brands successfully change their approach to social and digital as a result of Covid-19. If the data and insights back up the idea of ripping up your carefully thought out plans from earlier in the year and setting out in a new direction, don’t be afraid to do this!
What’s certain, in addition to the above, is that things will continue to change and develop as we adapt to new ways of living and working – and I think that digital and social media will be right at the centre of this.
How does having your own private social media army sound? Interesting…then please read on.
When it comes to posting content as a brand on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn it’s becoming increasing difficult to reach your audience if you just rely on organic (i.e. you don’t pay to promote it) content.
There is a rapidly diminishing return in terms of the natural organic performance of content – this can mean reach as low as 2% of your page’s audience – as networks push to make themselves more relevant to users and simultaneously try to grow revenue through advertising.
So, aside from reviewing the approach and tone of the content you’re posting or going cap in hand and asking for a bigger budget for promoted content on social media, what are the options?
As I see it, the biggest opportunity for anyone delivering social media in 2019 has to be around harnessing the power of your employees as social media advocates who can utilise their personal social media channels to amplify your organisation’s messages and activity.
Advocacy grows the potential audience for your content beyond your owned channels to the networks of your employees and creates a more personal link between your messages and the audience – think of it as having your own private army of micro-influencers.
And you’ll be getting one over on those pesky algorithms. The platforms are much more likely to favour content that has been posted by an individual rather than an organisation.
Naturally, there are risks to taking this approach – you are delegating some control of your brand away from the carefully controlled confines of the marketing/communications team and in the hands of your employees, but with careful planning and oversight the risks to this can be negated.
For example, in our work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we have helped to train over 100 advocates on how they can effectively use their presence on social media (across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) to amplify the SRA’s messages in a time and place that suits them whilst at the same time enhancing their own presences on social media – a true win-win situation.
Training and resources
In conjunction with training, putting in place a system to centralise and track advocates not only ensures that sharing content is a simple and straightforward process, but also means you can track and reward the advocates who are doing the most to share content. There are a whole range of these platforms out there including Smarp (which we use in our work with the SRA) and Bambu which we have access to as part of our membership of Sprout Social’s Agency Partner programme.
We’re currently working on a whitepaper which will provide a much more detailed insight into how we see social media advocacy developing over the coming months, but in the meantime here are our three top recommendations for setting up an advocacy programme:
Plan ahead – make sure what you want to achieve from launching an advocacy programme is aligned with your organisation’s overall objectives
Support your advocates – consider ways you can train your advocates around effective use of social media, provide context and give them the confidence to take ownership of their work in the programme.
Put a structure in place to systemise the programme – this includes thinking about how you will disseminate the content you want to be shared, track the effectiveness of the programme and recognise/reward success.
If you want to register to receive a copy of our whitepaper when it’s published later in the spring or find out how you could make an advocacy programme work for your organisation get in touch with me – firstname.lastname@example.org or Jess – email@example.com – and we’d be happy to chat things through with you over a cup of coffee.
Recent headlines around data and social media means both consumers and marketeers are feeling wary about using and sharing data on platforms like Facebook. Is data being used ethically? How can it be used to effectively target the right audience?
This blog is not here to scaremonger. Instead, it is going to show you how, when done right, targeting using social data is a win/win for everyone involved.
We’re going to focus on Facebook, but LinkedIn and Twitter have similar advert targeting platforms and functionalities.
How targeting works
Once a consumer has signed up and accepted those terms and conditions (the ones we all accept, but hardly ever read), a social network can start gathering information on them. They look at who they follow, which posts they like, where they log on from, what device they log on from and – through cookies – what sites they visit.
It’s worth noting that social networks like Facebook are not unusual when it comes to this data gathering – Google is just the same.
The networks then provide this information, confidentially, to advertisers so they can serve content that they think is relevant to the consumer. For example, if a consumer has interacted with a lot of fitness and swimming content from their phone, and you are running the new swimming baths nearby, you might want to advertise your new swimming lessons to them when they’re on their phone next.
Image source: Buzzfeed
How to target effectively
Poor targeting is the thing that gives social data a bad name. If you’re a passionate swimmer, you’re not really interested in seeing an advert for expensive running shoes. You also don’t particularly want to see an advert too specific: “You love swimming, why not try running instead?”. This can, quite rightly, freak people out.
Facebook has advertising policies that outline what advertisers can and can’t put in their adverts to ensure the content is relevant to their users. Users can also access, and limit, the information Facebook provides advertisers via their account settings (and for the record, Facebook doesn’t listen to our conversations).
When you first start looking to run an advertising campaign on Facebook, the best place to start is Audience Insights. This helps you define who would be best suited for your content and see how you can make it relevant to them. Again, let’s reiterate, this is all confidential data, there will never be any personal information like names, emails and addresses available to advertisers.
When you go to Facebook Audience Insights, you can filter for users within certain locations, demographics or interests. Once you’ve defined those filters, you can look at which pages they like, how they interact with posts, and what devices they use.
So, with our swimming example – we can see that the people we’ve defined on the left are more likely to click on ads than the average Facebook user, and use Facebook on their iPhones more than desktop.
Then, once we’ve got that audience defined, we can save it and use it when setting up an advertising campaign.
During this time, Facebook helpfully tells you if your audience is defined enough to run a decent campaign as seen here – the target is always to be in the green.
With this information, we can create relevant ad content for our audience, and make sure our ads look good on mobile.
Once your campaign is up and running, you’ll get a relevance score, which is a number between 1 and 10 that tells you how your target audience is responding to your ad. The higher the score, the more relevant your ad to your audience. This will hopefully mean that your audience is seeing the right content for them and won’t be annoyed or disappointed at seeing your content in their news feed.
We’ve established the sort of data that social networks can get from a user, and how it is used for advertising purposes, but the key thing to remember is that the better the targeting, the happier your audience will be and the more effective your marketing will become.
Here are some key things to remember to make sure you target your audience correctly:
Don’t be too broad or too niche – you want to cast a net wide enough to get your message out, but not too wide that people who wouldn’t be interested in your content get annoyed at seeing your ads in their feeds.
Tailor your content to your audience – using Audience Insights is a great way to get a steer on the kind of content that works for your audience.
Stay relevant – if your relevance score is under 5, have a look at your campaign results (in ads manager). See where people are clicking, who is clicking and tweak your targeting accordingly.4. Talk to an expert – If you’re really struggling, or just want a sense check, there are plenty of social media experts who know the ins and outs of good audience targeting.
AI… it’s a Steven Spielberg film starring Jude Law right? It’s a distant concept that isn’t impacting us yet. Think again. Machine learning and AI is growing and already impacts everyone’s lives every day. As I learned in a compelling morning of presentations around AI in PR at the very impressive PROTO in Gateshead, hosted by the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations).
The thing is, AI (that’s artificial intelligence by the way) is already in our lives, from social media algorithms, to customer service chatbots on websites. I can guarantee we all encounter AI every day in some form or another.
AI is defined in the dictionary as:
A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in computers. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour.
That’s quite a broad definition. If we took that at face value, a calculator is AI… so we need to add an extra layer to this, and that’s where machine learning comes in.
To quote AI startup Wordnerds: If it’s not making decisions, it’s not AI.
What struck me from the presentations I saw, is there are two aspects to perceptions of AI: Fear and opportunity.
Kerry Sheehan from the CIPR’s #AIinPR panel talked us through the impact that AI is having not only in our industry but across a lot of enterprise. On face value, AI is replacing a lot of work done by humans; doing it quicker and better, hence a fear that machines are taking our jobs; the robots are taking over!
Well, this is partly true. What machines are doing is taking away the entry-level work for graduates and young people to get into an industry. This is around the traditional skillsets such as risk management, data management, and listening; the day-to-day bits and bobs that get many of us starting out do to get the experience needed to take the next step on the career ladder. Without this work, what is the new starting off point for those coming into the industry at the beginning of their careers?
There are still some essential human skills that the robots will never be able to gain. Think strategy, creativity, ethics, and people management.
These two diagrams are the result of a study looking at the skillset in PR now and in 5 years, and how AI will impact on them.
As scary as new technology is, there is some real opportunity for all of us to use AI to improve our productivity and service, whatever line of business we operate in.
We at DTW have found opportunity in AI through some of the tools we use. We’ve been trialling a tool that automatically transcribes our videos so we don’t have to manually make subtitles (thus increasing accessibility of our clients’ messages). We use social media smart scheduling tools that analyse when the most engaging time of day is for our clients’ Twitter and Facebook accounts so we can post when they’ll get the most exposure.
So, these are some of the lessons we’re learning in PR around AI that can be applied to other industries:
Don’t be scared. Take advantage of the technologies to improve your productivity and professional offering.
Make sure you have an understanding of the technology. The CIPR is going to offer coding classes so PR professionals can create and better understand how AI programmes work.
Don’t use tools for the sake of using them. Make sure they offer the right solution for you.
We all have an ethical responsibility to ensure AI is influencing decisions in the right way (i.e. not biased or prejudiced or inappropriate). For example, Amazon became aware that children were learning how to talk through voice commands on their Echo devices, which meant they were learning a blunt way of talking: “Alexa, do this… do that”. So, they decided to adapt the AI technology to only respond to commands from children that included a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’.
We all try to keep our LinkedIn feeds up to date don’t we? We try to log in frequently to check-in to the oldest ‘big’ social network out there but let’s face it, for many of us it’s never our most used app or website. Well, this blog might change all that.
In October, LinkedIn announced BIG changes to their feed algorithm meaning not only will we be seeing some fairly different content when we log in, but we’ll notice our personal content getting a lot more attention.
What’s the update?
Let’s set the scene: LinkedIn has over 567m members who post more than a million posts, videos and articles each day. The thing is, it was the content from a select few (the most followed 1%) that dominated the LinkedIn feed meaning that lowly users like me (and probably you) didn’t get much of a chance of our posts appearing on feeds, let alone get engagement.
LinkedIn followed the common rule in social networks – the more engagement a post gets, the more likely it will appear in feeds, which means that key influencers like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, who have a lot of followers, get more engagement, and therefore appear in more feeds – which gives them more engagement, which gets them in more feeds and…well, you get the picture.
What those clever folk behind LinkedIn have decided to do is look at who is posting that content and evaluate how much a like, comment or share would mean to the author.
Following me so far? Ok – to use the examples that the social network have used themselves:
Why does this matter?
LinkedIn started as, and remains to be, a social network focused on individuals (professionals) connecting with each other; rather than organisations talking to their audience. Indeed, here at DTW, we champion individuals using LinkedIn over organisations – as seen in the employee advocacy work we do with our clients. It is this personal level that LinkedIn are bringing with this new change.
Therefore, if you are looking to spread your organisation’s message on LinkedIn, now is the time to do it from your personal profile, rather than your company’s.
What should communicators do?
When you’re posting content on social media, what is the main objective? It’s for your audience to read it, and engage with it. From DTW’s perspective, it doesn’t matter if that reach comes in the form of a company post, or an employee’s post, as long as that content is being read and engaged with.
Therefore, if you use LinkedIn as a platform for your communications, now is the time to think about enabling your employees to share that content in their own feeds and networks, as well as sharing it on your company page too.
It’s important to encourage employees to share your organisation’s updates and content on their own channels. This might be in the form of internal communications like an intranet or companywide email – either way, let them know the content is there. As part of this, encourage engagement on other posts that they see in their feed too.
This personal-level of sharing might be trickier to monitor as engagement on personal posts won’t appear in your company’s LinkedIn analytics. For us, it’s not too important (we all chat to each other about our posts), but if tracking ROI is a key objective for your organisation, there are employee advocacy tools out there that can help; like Smarp or Sprout Social’s Bambu.
We’ve helped clients build confidence amongst their employees to post on their company’s behalf, and using an employee advocacy tool, it can be easier for everyone to share content. With this new algorithm update, it’s a great opportunity to get engagement and recognition for it.
We’re really excited about this LinkedIn update – it’s a step forward to bringing social media back to being social.
Thanks for reading!
Creating meaningful campaigns that make a difference and help our clients succeed.
DTW, Bank Chambers, Market Place, Guisborough, TS14 6BN
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