Permission to personalise: Safeguarding your social media strategy

Targeting individuals through social media is a strategy marketers are increasingly good at – and one that pays off. But with privacy concerns and the need to remain relevant in a crowded market ever present, content producers can’t simply rest on the data. So, we engage social media experts to ask what makes for a winning strategy and discover insights from brands realising the results.

If anything, the feud between Apple and Facebook over data tracking and transparent privacy settings has highlighted the sensitive nature of collecting customer information via social media channels. This is especially true for the subsequent sharing of said information with third parties – advertisers.

At the same time, the ability for marketers to target their brands in a personalised way tends to goes hand in hand with social media. In this format, brands can craft their content for audiences based on a variety of attributes – demographics as well as any number of other elements based on audience profiles. This doesn’t give marketers the ability to address people personally, but it does ensure they can target their content at the type of people who’re most likely to engage with their brands and messaging.

In August, Mosh Social Media released its ‘New Zealand Facebook & Instagram Report 2021’, which revealed the social strategies behind top Kiwi brands that are reaching millions of viewers. According to the report, social media attracted more than 110,000 new active users in 2020, taking the total number of Kiwis with active social
media accounts to 3.97 million — a whopping 82 percent of the population aged 16 to 64. Importantly, 97 percent of those users access social media through mobile devices, which are now mostly used to view video content. 

David Bowes.

Trends examined in the report found video to be the main driver of high engagement. A satirical clip announcing the NZ Police adopting skateboards as their mode of transportation gained over 2.3 million views, more than New Zealand’s biggest-ever TV audience for a single broadcast (the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final, France vs the All Blacks, at 2,036,900 viewers).

Other trends the report highlighted include the power of live messaging, cross-app messaging and content planning; the importance of owned media; and concerns over data privacy. While the former trends represent ways in which marketers can improve their social media strategy and maximise engagement, the latter on privacy concerns is one that can’t be ignored, given the growing fears people have about their online privacy, not to mention the NZ Privacy Act, which took effect from December 1, 2020 and seeks to strengthen privacy protection. 

With regards to this, the report states: “Sensitivity to data privacy is on the rise. 40.2 percent of New Zealanders are worried about how companies use their personal data online.”

This begs the question: how, then, can brands better engage consumers at a personal level – improve their social media strategy – without compromising trust over privacy and data sharing? 

Insightful, effective targeting

For a start, Head of Talking and Partner at Mosh Jon Randles says it’s about educating your customers about how and why you’re using their information. “The more people understand how companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are using their data, the better. For brands, it’s about being open, honest and transparent. Get a privacy and data management policy and stick to it. Treat people’s private data with respect – don’t attach unprotected data to emails.”

Jon says the complex topic of privacy deserves a dedicated discussion framed by insights from privacy advocates, consumer groups, brands, social platforms and agencies – discussions he says marketers need to
be engaging in with their various stakeholders. It’s a sentiment shared by David Bowes, CEO of Zavy, a company that partners with brands to help them improve their social media strategy and is producer of the Social Media Scorecard published on StopPress. 

“Privacy is critical from a legal, ethical and trust perspective,” he says. “Social media platforms control what data is passed on to marketers for communications, so they must ensure all elements comply with privacy laws and expectations. The companies themselves must also ensure they comply when asking for personal information, for example to enter a promotion. Ultimately, marketers should err on the side of caution and seek legal advice if they’re unsure.”

This means customer data needs to be respected at all times – no matter the intention of its use. “Where brands use customers’ data for their convenience, they’ll love you for it, but when brands use customers’ details for their own benefit or because they think it to be clever, with no benefit to the customer – they’ll come unstuck and are likely to lose trust,” says Jon. “Then it’s game over.”

Just as privacy concerns are becoming heightened, the tools available to social media marketers are becoming more sophisticated in terms of how they’re able to target customers at a more personal level. There’s simply no excuse not to tailor messages to audience segments these days. But, as Jon cautions, just because you have the data to segment and sharpen, doesn’t mean that you should. “Personalisation is so hot it’s likely to get brands burned. Marketers need to tread cautiously.”

Jon says targeting audiences for more personalised engagement can get complicated quickly, and suggests an 80-20 approach be applied. “Eighty percent of the results come from 20 percent of the effort; a little effort goes a long way. Segment your audience into the key groups, create and save these audiences in Facebook Business Manager, and use them accordingly when you’re posting or running ad campaigns.”

His advice to brands is to focus on creating content that’s super relevant to your market. “Relevant and honest content means something to people, and only once they overtly indicate their interest to hear directly from the brand should personalisation be considered. As an example, a brand should announce a sale to its market by making it relevant to and targeting those it considers ideal customers. When individuals identify themselves in order to learn the specifics of the sale, then brands have permission to personalise.”

Zavy’s research has seen a surge in the use of social media by Kiwi organisations, particularly during lockdowns. “We saw a seismic shift in consumer behaviour due to social media prior to Covid-19, and lockdowns have only increased this rate,” says David. “The widespread adoption of social media has seen people spending more time in their social feeds than on TV. As a marketer, it’s important to get your messages to where your audiences are, so having a great social media strategy is critical.”

David says that according to his company’s research over the first lockdown in 2020, some sectors and categories increased their posting frequency by up to 300 percent. This was matched with investment to ensure the messages reached the people they needed to. 

Jon adds that part of this success lies in knowing where your audience is. “The stats are clear – it’s where Kiwis are spending their time. Having a solid strategy is important because turning up to social media with an old fashioned ad-first approach is a recipe for failure.”

Getting the thumbs up

David says that by using AI, Zavy has been able to analyse a load of social media content and categorise it into five strands: brand narrative posts, products and promotions, competitions and giveaways, cultural moments (the things people case about at a moment in time e.g Easter, Matariki), and corporate social responsibility and sponsorships. Based on this, it’s identified, generally speaking, what content works well on social media.

“Our analysis highlights that cultural moments and CSR/sponsorship posts create the strongest and deepest engagements,” he says. “People don’t respond well to product posts that aren’t relevant to them, and although competitions create comments, because you need to comment to win, they don’t have the shareability and therefore organic reach of other post types.”

The sort of content that works well on social media comes down to the type of brand and its audience, but Jon says that there are generalisations Mosh can make about what works best. “Being authentic is one. Yes, it’s a total buzzword at the moment, but it’s true. Brands that try to be something they’re not typically get knocked down pretty quick – particularly here in New Zealand, where our tolerance for superficiality tends to be quite low. Similarly, brands that don’t over-polish their content often do well. Basically, keep it real. Social media audiences will see through anything else, and they’re not shy about letting you know.”

This brings us back to the fact that social media audiences are becoming more savvy, attuned to the BS (fake news), their privacy and the terms on which they want to be propositioned. According to Mosh’s report, brands in the sporting, tourism and media sector are most in sync with their content pillars and audience likes/needs, it also makes special mention of video making the social media star.

Sarah Tuck.

Eye candy

Dish is one media brand that features in the report for it social media success. Expanding on why the magazine has done particularly well, Jon says it’s pretty simple. “Instagram accounts that understand their audience and cater content to them are rewarded with high levels of engagement.” 

He says Dish’s top-quality content – great photography, mouth-watering imagery, a blend of easy to more challenging food inspiration – has proved a winning combination. He also notes the cleaver use of video content. “Instagram also rewards a very focused content strategy – sticking to your niche works well. In contrast, Facebook is more tolerant of a broader content strategy.”

Editor Sarah Tuck says it’s been her team’s strategy to grow the magazine’s already engaged Facebook and Instagram follower base by providing a sneak peek into the world of Dish. “We aim to consolidate our existing magazine-reader base while introducing a new, generally younger, audience to Dish through website links, EDM sign-ups, and ultimately magazine subscriptions and brand awareness for retail sales.”

She’s pleased with the recognition in the Mosh report as it affirms what the team’s doing works and that they understand their audience. “[To achieve this], we review the analytics across all available platforms and utilise reader and website user surveys, comparing them to get a really clear view of who the Dish audience is. The basic profile is very similar – it’s mostly the age that varies across the different forms of engagement – so we tailor our social media strategy based on our understanding of the audience and by using historical data that shows us clearly what resonates the most across the different platforms. In addition, we tap into the mood of the country and our readers to connect more personally, whether that’s as simple as the start of spring, the opening of the Olympics or a Level 4 lockdown.”

Supporting the insights from Zavy’s research into content categories that work, Dish’s Digital Editor Liam Carr says promotional content and posts informed by cultural moments produce the best results. “Competitions work; comfort food works, particularly in winter and in times of national stress; and commercial content is also a part of the mix. We know some colours work best and seasonal recipes are very effective, particularly if they’re posted to match the current weather. We know our Instagram followers like a wee bit of sass and our Facebook audience is older, so even though the recipe content might be the same, the ‘delivery’ might be a little different.”

Liam also acknowledges that appealing to the Dish audience on a personal level is fundamental to the success of the brand and in encouraging greater interaction and trust. “This in turn gives us the opportunity to engage back and forward with our audience in real time, which we can’t do through the magazine. It isn’t just important for growing our online presence, but also because we see our relationship with our audience across all platforms as genuine. We value the trust put in Dish as a friend and advisor, and take that relationship very seriously.”

Another brand that has been ranked favourably in terms of its Facebook and Instagram strategy is Resene. Laura Lynn Johnston says she’s not surprised Resene’s social channels caught Mosh’s attention, given the impressive engagement numbers the brand garners. She’s just one of Resene’s many content producers, which includes a varied team of stylists, designers, photographers and writers, but as the former editor of the brand’s magazine Habitat, and the current editor of BlackWhite magazine and art director for many Resene photo shoots, her opinions benefit from her intimate knowledge of the brand.

“Looking at that one Instagram account is so myopic when you’re trying to wrap your head around a brand like Resene,” she says. “There was a comment in the report that Resene’s Instagram eschews video entirely, which isn’t strictly true, and I found it interesting that it was something they honed in on. The industry has become obsessed with the growth of video over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean it’s a magic bullet for everyone and everything. The medium has to fit the needs of the audience.

“Video is very literal, so it’s useful when you’re trying to demonstrate how to do something like a DIY project or a painting technique. But if someone is on Instagram trying to decide what colours to paint their home, they need static images so that they can latch on to the idea that’s being presented to

them, soak it in and fall in love with the colour. That image isn’t a recipe or formula that they’re going to follow to the letter – they’re going to pick and choose things from it and blend those ideas with others and make it fit within their circumstances and tastes. The images invite them to use their imagination and creativity, and that’s where people are in their customer journey when they’re engaging with Resene’s Instagram.”

When customers are ready to roll up their sleeves, its Resene’s YouTube channels that they flock to. One DIY video on the Habitat by Resene YouTube channel has clocked more than 1.8 million views, another has over 1.7 million.

Laura Lynn says another piece of the puzzle that gives context to Resene’s Instagram success is the sheer volume of custom content the brand is involved in. “As a homegrown company, we’re a big supporter of locally produced, high-quality content. We’ve mastered the art of collaboration and understand the value of making [other brands’] content and imagery available for others [in collaboration with Resene’s].”

Laura Lynn.

She adds that the key difference with Resene is that they see their target market as the entire population of New Zealand and Australia. “As long as Resene’s product is geographically available to the consumer, they’re going to market it to them. There’s some marketer out there who’s going to read that and think, ‘Well, that’s silly’ because it flies in the face of key things they were taught. But if they look at the numbers, they’re not silly at all. I think that’s what really makes Resene a disruptor: in a time when everyone else is lasering in on audience segments, they’re taking a big-picture approach – and they’re really good at it.

“Resene recognises that almost anyone could need paint, for a whole host of different purposes. So when you’re looking at as broad a market as Resene is, there’s real benefit in having lots of different people producing their content. It’s not just one person deciding what qualifies as ‘good’ and what everyone’s going to want. Instead, you have a dozen or more creators with different backgrounds and skills and preferences to draw from. And even if something they make isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, Resene knows it’s absolutely going to appeal to someone in their audience.”

Resene commissions a mix of custom content across a number of different platforms. For more than 17 years, it has been producing Habitat, which is filled with content that appeals primarily to the homeowner market. With a print run in excess of 400,000 copies, Habitat can be found in homes across the country. In November 2020, Resene launched BlackWhite magazine as a channel for engaging with their professional audience.

In addition, whereas many publications simply repost their print content to their website verbatim, Resene’s digital content is unique, and on any given day, what’s being posted to Resene’s three different Instagram and Facebook accounts is also unique, which means that if the audience is following all of the accounts, they’re not being served up the same things several times a day. It takes more time to create, but that effort offers more value for the audience, rather than annoyance or fatigue.

“Resene values creativity and experimentation, and encourages it among those who manage our channels,” says Laura Lynn. “The Habitat and BlackWhite teams both examine data on at least a weekly basis to see what we can extrapolate from it, and then we continue to test and refine. Each of these audiences is looking for something different. On Resene’s main Instagram channel, colour palettes – especially those that feature Resene’s iconic testpots – perform particularly well. With Habitat, it’s styled room imagery, and for BlackWhite, it’s a split mix of visually pleasing architectural projects and conceptual ones.

“There are always going to be evergreen topics in the home-decorating market, and there are certain subjects that consistently perform well,” she continues. “But you can’t just only talk about only the most popular topics, either. You want the audience to be able to find the answers to all their decorating questions, otherwise they’re going to go somewhere else to look for it.” 

“Many of us have great clients we love working with, but I’ve never been so invested in one brand before, without being an in-house member of that team,” says Laura Lynn. “Resene is so supportive, not just of their customers and the community, but of the people who work with them too. You can’t help but want to see them win.”

The TikTok trend

Although the Mosh report focused on Facebook and Instagram, TikTok’s a platform Jon and the team is watching it with interest. “But – and we say this in the report – TikTok’s actual reach remains comparatively low, so our focus in this report was on the two undisputed heavyweights of the social media world – especially in New Zealand.”

He says that if you’re a brand with a sizable youth audience, though, TikTok should probably be part of your mix. “TikTok will almost certainly be a big player in the social media landscape, and we’re rooting for it because, as marketers, we need diversity and competition.” Watch this space!

Constant salience

Our social media experts tell what makes for a killer social media strategy.

Jon: “The fundamentals of engaging audiences are no different on social media. It’s part art and part science. Know your audience, know your brand, know your tools, make great creative – then measure, optimise, rinse and repeat. The difference is everything is so much faster. Most times, you know within minutes or hours if what you’re doing is working or not, so being agile is paramount.”

David: “There are two key fundamentals to a killer social media strategy. Firstly, you need to have constant presence to create brand salience. In social, this manifests itself by being in the right social channels for your audience, having strong posting frequency and investing enough to create high ‘reach’. The second lever we can pull as marketers is ensuring our content is engaging. This will ensure the reach and presence we’ve created through your investment is maximised, and ultimately delivers higher marketing return on investment. By creating a positive emotional response, you’ll create a brand memory and engagement, including people sharing your content, organic reach and higher earned media.”

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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