A lot can happen in 16 years. Cast your mind back to 2004. Outcast had us ‘shaking it like a polaroid picture.’ We said goodbye to Friends, and everyone seemed to own a von dutch velour tracksuit or cap. 2004 was also the year that Facebook was created. Facebook wasn’t the first social media platform, but with over 2.32 billion active users, it has become the most popular. 

Studies estimate that 45% of the current population uses social media, with the average user spending 3 hours a day on social platforms and messaging. During the Coronavirus crisis, social media has become a lifeline and a way for people to keep in touch with their loved ones. Over the last few weeks, many brands have been using social media to stay in touch with their customers. Some brands like Coca Cola have even repurposed their social channels, on April 7th they announced that their Twitter feed had been donated to experts and partners that are sharing helpful information and making a difference. My favourite Coronavirus related social post was from the American frozen beef brand Steak-umm, who went viral when their tweet warning people against fake news relating to Coronavirus generated over 13,000 retweets, over 48,000 likes, and hundreds of comments.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has almost 100k followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and each month the social team receives over 12k messages from people affected by heart and circulatory diseases. I’ve asked my colleague, Jo Eden, BHF’s Social Media Manager, to share some of her wisdom with us.

What are your top tips for creating and delivering engaging social content?

My top tip for creating engaging social content is to put your user first. I think people often think that there’s a magic formula that you can apply to social media that will help you go viral, but realistically this is never the case. At the BHF, we look at what people are currently engaging with, what they’re not engaging with, and ask ourselves why that might be. We continuously adapt our content to suit the needs of our users better. Then we will continually monitor, test, and optimise content to make it more effective, engaging, and entertaining.

What tools do you use to help you manage social media?

We use a couple of different social listening tools as the analytics help us understand what other brands are doing well and it helps us keep an eye on the content that is trending. The main tool that’s been helpful for us is meltwater. It is good at consolidating data from across a range of different platforms, not just social media, but news stories and blogs too. There is so much good content on social media now. I joined Twitter 11 years ago, which is terrifying, but I still believe that it’s an engaging platform. I like the RNLI’s social account. They’re agile, which means they’re able to jump on trends, but they do so in an authentic way. I hate it when brands jump on a trend to be self-indulgent.  

During this unsettling time, should brands shift their social media strategy? 

Yes. I’m surprised that I’m saying that, but they should. It was one of the first conversations that we had. I’m not saying that you should abandon your social media strategy altogether, but you must adapt it. 

Before, we were publishing our social content based on user behaviour. We used to see peaks around 8.00 am and from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm when people were commuting, but this has changed significantly. Screen time has gone through the roof because a lot of people don’t have anything else to do.

While it is still important to be consistent and reassuring, you can’t carry on like usual and post regular social content as you run the risk of becoming irrelevant. You need to engage with conversations that people are already having. Currently, there is a ‘good news movement’ which we’re taking advantage of as we have plenty of good news stories to tell. 

What did you wish you knew when you first began managing social media? 

There are probably two things I wish I knew when I started working in social media.

The first is that I didn’t think I’d ever get to the point of social media saturation. I thought I would be one of those people who would be able to separate ‘work social’ from ‘personal life social.’

Regardless of the time, if I see something on social media and it is related to either the BHF, or the way that we work, or a new platform update, I jump on it because of how my brain works. I can’t separate the two out and yet. I can’t have a screen detox and because it’s part of my job. I don’t know how people can strike a healthy balance.

When you work in social media, you have to be aware of what’s going on all the time. Most of the time, someone else has already done what you want to do, which is disheartening, but it forces you to think of new and different ways to do things constantly.

The second thing I wish I had known is how diverse the role would be. When I was starting my career, I worked as a copywriter and in digital marketing. My family worried that by specialising in social media, I would be pigeonholing myself or that the industry would die, but in the 15 years I’ve spent working in social media, this hasn’t been the case at all. The role of a social media manager requires you have a multidisciplinary approach to work. You can’t think of social media as an isolated channel; you have to think about the whole customer’s user journey. 

Since working at the BHF, I’ve learned so much, including; search engine optimisation, user experience, and audience segmentation. I never thought I’d need to understand the principles of display advertising as it isn’t a requirement of my role, but in doing so, you’re able to create more compelling content for the BHF. As for the death of social media? I don’t think social media is ever going to die. It will merely change over time, and social media managers will change too. Luckily, unlike some other professions, working in social media is so diverse you end up picking up additional skills along the way, which means that we naturally adapt to change.  

Further reading

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