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Ecommerce | Social media

Social Media Lessons from the Campaign Trail

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If nothing else, the U.S. presidential campaign shows how social media has become an integral part of the user experience

Whatever you may think of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign so far, one thing is clear: Digital media, and in particular social media, have become a driving force. Experts anticipate that a record $1 billion will be spent on digital advertising and marketing by the time election day rolls around in November.


More than half of that sum is allocated for social media. So far, observers say it's the Bernie Sanders campaign that's making a real social impact even though Sanders has far fewer supporters and voters than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.


"Sanders's social media campaign gets a solid A-," Nikki Usher Layser, assistant professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, told Fast Company magazine.


In the same article, Scott Goodstein, CEO of Revolution Messaging, the digital media firm behind the Sanders campaign's social strategies, said it was critical to keep social media "baked into the entire DNA structure" of the campaign. It's a need vital to all organisations, whether they're businesses or nonprofits.


"That's one way of describing the giant leap beyond integration that is today's social marketing environment," notes Mike DiLeo, president of Management and Strategy Institute, a provider of online certification courses. "How to get your own company there is a question we hear often from clients when they're pursuing social media marketing certification."



Social media as customer experience

Companies today know that social media is critical to customer experience, and customer experience is the center of new marketing strategies. Managing the connected community is all the more daunting as companies reach across multiple social platforms while trying to maintain clarity of voice and consistent messaging.


One of the first things social marketing managers need to know is that there is no substitute for responsiveness. There's a fluidity that can't be overlooked in the day-to-day, and scheduling posts and tweets to reinforce other advertising channels isn't enough. That presence is important, but customers have higher expectations based on their mobility and the immediacy of communication.


The solid advice that most experts give is: Be responsive, especially to user-generated content that is negative or raises concerns that have the potential to impact brand and reputation. For an organisation to do that effectively, though, social connectivity must be a structural element of its processes and culture—in other words, it must be "baked in."


Responsiveness is just as important—maybe even more so—when positive reviews appear on your company's Facebook page or pop up showcased on Instagram. Ultimately, social media is about engagement. Yes, there's a world of metrics and analytics that will matter to your business, but savvy social media marketing is focused on authentic responsiveness that creates that engagement. It's how your social interactions pivot quickly to relevant current affairs or entertainment events that matter to different channels and demographics, and how your firm can be playful and whimsical too.



"Listen" as an action verb

While you're monitoring your social channels in real time, it's critical to listen—carefully. Managing communities and creating and curating content means you're always learning about new ideas, and those ideas have real potential when it comes to co-creating products and services, and the messages around them. That's exactly what happened with the #feelthebern slogan, according to Goodstein: Volunteers introduced it, and the campaign integrated it and the energy it engendered into the strategy.


The same principles are at work when companies see both their employees and their customers as brand ambassadors and seek to strengthen these organic and grassroots impulses with corporate guidance that both amplifies and protects the message. Social media marketers need to think of listening as an active role, so that they can hear those messages.


That's also how social management professionals glean information about what competitors are doing and communicate what they hear across the enterprise so that the company's business intelligence is supported by social too. Likewise, it's how community managers learn about trends as they are evolving. If there's a subtle shift in perception or an uptick in engagement with a surprise demographic target, they hear it first. They'll see the opportunity for conversions and know how to create customer experience connections that invite and delight. This is where a commitment to responsiveness pays off in profitability—and where you'll see social media marketing expertise reflected in your data analytics, metrics, and ROI.


As unusual as the 2016 election cycle has been so far, all the #imwithher hashtags and the Trump Facebook pages are putting social media managers at the forefront of messaging. But the sheer volume points to another area where social media training and expertise matter: evaluating how legitimate the numbers are, and what they mean.


Fortune and TechRepublic are only two of the media outlets looking at just how many Twitter followers are fake or Facebook "likes" are paid. It's the experienced social manager who knows how to spot this problem and keep it real for customers. Beyond the question of validity, certified social media marketers serve their organizations well when they understand and report data that are meaningful, and therefore able to be acted upon.


The value of social media, translated into deep-insight data, may not be how your organisation has traditionally thought of the role or how it has broadly defined responsiveness. The value of being responsive is the driving force, though, in the new customer experience environment, and all these expressions of real-time relationship are what it means to have big social media wins be a part of your firm's DNA.


author: Laureen Fagan

Laureen Fagan

A senior PR counsel and thought leader at Ugly Dog Media, Laureen Fagan has 15 years experience as a media and PR professional, which includes stints at CBS and Fox broadcast affiliates in the U.S. and in print and wire-service newsrooms in Chicago, Washington D.C., and Jerusalem.



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