Since Twitter debuted (not launched – key distinction apparently) at SXSW eight years ago, unsurprisingly social media has been a massive part of the content of the festival. As more and more social platforms clamber for users’ attention the big fear for brands and broadcasters was how best to grapple with this fragmentation and the challenges it presents: Which platforms are our target audiences using? What content works best on each platform? Can I pay to reach them? What new services should I be all over?
A session called The Mosh Pit of Experts – a pseudo game show that pitted social media experts head to head against each other – provided some answers. Fragmentation will continue and cannot be controlled. Brands and broadcasters will need to invest time and energy to find the best places to scale. Now there are a tonne of different services with no real dominant one it will be even more essential to look to data and analytics to untangle where your audiences are and how to reach them.
Danah Boyd’s session ‘It’s Complicated: Teens’ Social Media Practices’ gave a more academic yet refreshingly positive insight on how and why a teenage audience uses social media. Her revelations about the increase in ephemeral services like Snapchat show that young people are less concerned with the persistence of their posts and think that their permanence may ultimately get them into trouble. She also identified a counter trend away from the likes of Facebook and Twitter where users want to look in, pay attention but not be named. Platforms like Whisper and Secret provide this anonymity but are not well established in the UK yet, but on their way. So why do teens use social media? It allows them to be part of a bigger phenomenon (facilitated with hashtags and shares) and gives them a place to feel part of public life, to connect, to flirt, to gossip, to hang out and to have fun – all things that, Boyd believes, have been restricted as societal fears about safety of young people have been blown out of all proportion. So how can we engage teens while on social media? The key, says Boyd, is trust. Generally, posts are ignored unless it comes from someone who is trusted; friends, brands or celebrities. It must also be easily shareable in anyway possible. You can download her book that shares the same title as the session for free here.
As David Cameron was lambasted for ‘buying’ friends for his Facebook account recently, is paying to reach your audience such a bad idea? Back in the mosh pit, the consensus was clear. Whilst buying friends on Facebook is not great, boosting posts to a targeted audience is possibly the only real way to achieve cut through on that platform. Many seasoned social media managers quoted organic engagement levels that were once 10% on Facebook that are now much lower unpaid – their conclusion was that without paid media on Facebook you stand no chance of any scale. Facebook’s staff at the session explained how this presents a great opportunity for smaller brands and companies that, with a properly targeted paid campaign, can take on the big boys – most of Facebook’s paid media revenue comes from small businesses now. Twitter, however, according to the mosh pit, still creates some organic reach so as a small production company, brand or broadcaster this should remain important.
The #SoloSocial session turned out to be much needed group therapy for the huge number of social media managers at the festival who have been tasked to manage their channels on their own. This is often the case for production companies and even broadcasters in the UK. There were a variety of organisations represented at this session; tech companies, broadcasters, lawyers, public service, e-commerce platforms and even a church. All shared the same challenges around audience development, engagement and growth. On average each spent at least ninety minutes a day actively conversing with followers, six to seven hours a week listening to their social channels and the same time scheduling content. It’s a huge commitment and takes a massive effort to sustain successful engagement levels. The key to get greater investment is to track and log all the time spent on social media activity.
There was an overwhelming amount of sessions focused on social media at SXSW that it would’ve been impossible to get insight from them all but here are some tips and tools that I found useful:
1. Twitter directories, like @WeFollow are a great place to build relevant followers. This comparison from Mashable will help.
2. Facebook’s graph search will help you find people with similar interests. It’s only in Beta at this so restricted right now, but already much of this is in place when creating boosted posts and targeted ads.
3. A good gauge for when your audience is online can be found in Facebook insights to help you schedule your own content – just click on posts
4. You are now also able to download post-level data from Facebook to measure performance.
5. Sproatsocial may be a good alternative to Hootsuite as it offers you the ability to schedule messages based on your target audience’s activity online.
6. Some superb tips on creating engaging social media content can be found on this presentation here
7. You can download a useful social media strategy template from Marketo
8. Econsultancy has created a pretty cool Periodic Table of Content Marketing.