Social media: how to drive results

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Blog

Recently we attended an event organised by American Express entitled: ‘Social Media: Does it really drive results?’


It was a panel led discussion and the panel was made up of:

  • Alex Connock, Head of Video for LAD Bible
  • Charlie Beckett, Professor of Media and Communications at LSE
  • Claire Higgins, Head of Digital Marketing at Selfridges
  • Gord Ray, Brand Development for Instagram
  • Kate Silverton was a brilliant facilitator, leading a thought provoking and lively discussion.

Here at Reed we pride ourselves on bringing the best marketing communication techniques from the forefront of the business world and tailoring them for schools, so I want to share with you some of the key messages from the event:

Different platforms for different audiences

screenshot-2016-09-20-09-41-31Social media is not one homogeneous mass. There are real differences between each platform and their user-profiles and you need keep up to date with these as they are constantly changing. For example, these days you wouldn’t catch a 13 year old Snapchat user looking at, or even thinking about Facebook. Each platform has its own culture and identity.
It’s important to understand which of these platforms your audience is using, why they are using it and what they are thinking about when they do, in order to engage with them. The Financial Times demonstrates this in-depth  understanding of their audience impressively through their use of social media.

They know their audience well, welcome feedback and use this to create intelligent and relevant content across a wide range of social media platforms.

Social media is personal

Social media is your audience’s own, personal space and it is vital to honour this. They don’t always want to be interrupted so you need to be very careful about the content that you are posting. Think about creating a balance of what is right for your brand, versus what the customer is looking for. Each interaction with your customers is valuable and should be respected for that.

Social media is just one piece of the marketing jigsaw

It slots in alongside, rather than instead of, the other communication channels. Content for all channels should emanate from your central marketing strategy in order to fit together well and work effectively.

The future is video

There is a huge growth in the popularity of video. Millenials in particular are now watching, on average, an hour of video a day. That’s a long time and it shows the importance of using video in social media. The first 3 seconds of any video are the most critical as you need to draw the audience in quickly and keep their attention. The main product message should be obvious in those first 3 seconds and if you keep the audience for that length of time, the next key point at which to fix them is 37 seconds, then finally 59. Retention here is an iterative process. Videos that are proven to engage the audience effectively are those with general content portrayed in a stylish way, where the brand appearance is tangential. A perfect example is this recent Apple promotion

Mobile first

Social media is now primarily accessed via mobile. “We live in a world where the mobile phone is an extension of our body, like a limb” Customers expect information and services to be easily accessible and view-able on their mobiles, in context and when they need it, so ensure that your content works first on mobile, and then on other devices. Video on mobile is increasingly being developed without sound (using subtitles) for obvious reasons of mobile use in public areas, so this another consideration when creating content.

Digital media empowers brand guardians

You are now able to manage your media in away that wasn’t possible before. For example you can A/B test your website and social media to see which styles get the most traffic and engagement before committing to any one. You are in the driving seat in terms of your brands means of distribution.

In the digital world, your competitors differ from your competitors in the bricks and mortar world so you need to adjust your marketing accordingly. This point is probably less relevant to schools but it is always worth looking at what your competitors are doing on social media

As a fan of social media, I didn’t need convincing that it really does drive results. The bubble surrounding it is not going to burst and the social media landscape is changing all the time. Schools that match market knowledge with appropriate creativity in their social media will be the winners.

Top tip:

If there was one key insight that I came away with, it was this: the need to know your audience. This is a top priority for all businesses now that we are marketing in a different space that requires emotional engagement. It is especially important for schools where stakeholders span such a wide range of ages and segments and their social media use should reflect this.