If you’re serious about social, you’ll need more than just your brand

ConnectionsIf you’re not a Coca-Cola of this world – a brand with near ubiquitous awareness – building reach and engagement for your brand can seem like a bit of a slog; a lone voice battling against the increasing social media cacophony.

Another challenge faced by branded channels is that they have a habit of acting solely as owned media rather than helping to drive earned; often being used to push stuff out rather than pull people in. Getting people to engage with a brand can be tricky, people tend to follow people, and brands are…well, brands. To realise the full value of social within your business you need a way to drive credibility, scale and reach.

An often overlook strategy for achieving this is to embed social sharing within the culture of your business and harness the networks and reach of the people you work with.  Think about it, rather than having one channel talking about your brand, why not tens, or hundreds, or thousands of trusted voices (people to people) sharing your message?

The data we see around the reach of our event brands shows us time and time again that our branded channel reach pales in comparison with the reach our communities can achieve when they’re talking about us. Your people are plugged into the communities you serve; actively encouraging social sharing by your colleagues will earn you so much more than restricting yourself to the official brand channels alone.

The real opportunity for social media comes when your business is being social, and that’s about more than just your brand.

Photo credit ‘Connection’ by jazbeck is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

A return to the dark side of social sharing

Dark Social

If you can, cast your mind back to December 2012 and this post on tracking Dark Social in which we explored the idea of a huge chunk of social data being hidden away in the Typed/Bookmarked segment within SiteCatalyst, rather than being allocated to Social Network referrals.

An ongoing challenge for any of us trying to demonstrate the value of social media to our businesses is that it can be very tricky to prove it. While we’re able to track direct conversions, it’s much harder to track those indirect conversions resulting from engagement. It’s not impossible to do, but does require more expensive and sophisticated tools than many businesses are able/willing to invest in without that proof of return, resulting in a chicken and egg situation.

This is one of the major reasons why being able to more accurately see the true level of socially driven traffic coming through to our site it so important. This year we’ve been having another tinker with the Dark Social segment to try and get as truer picture as possible.

Our new and improved segment definition looks like this:

Includes | Visit

  • Referrer Type equals Typed/Bookmarked (we only want to see this referrer as this is where our Dark Social traffic is hiding)

Excludes | Visit

  • Tracking code is not null (we’re looking for anything and everything without a tracking code on it)
  • Referrer Type equals (Add in all the other referrer types listed as we want to make sure the visit can’t be attributed anywhere else)

Excludes | Page View

Below is the January data from one of our UBM Live events (in the first Dark Social post we looked specifically at a media brand, this time we’re looking at an event brand) with data showing the impact that the new and improved Dark Social segment is having on our social results:

Page Views


Unique Visitors

All Visits




Visits from Social Sites segment




Dark Social segment




Social Sites and Dark Social Combined




And if we look at the Referrer Types Report and compare the results with and without the Dark Social segment applied, here’s what we get:

Return to dark social

This is a really important result as it gives us an indication of the impact that the community’s social sharing is having on traffic to our sites. Remember that due to the absence of tracking codes, we know that this isn’t social sharing which has been driven by our brand channels through our existing campaigns. This is our community being social about us off their own backs – that’s where the power of social media really lies and this segment is starting to help us prove it.

(As a follow-up to this post, I’m going to do another looking at the results for an event site compared with a media brand to see what impact the availability of content has on Dark Social sharing)


Photo credit: ‘Dark Matter Map’ by thebadastronomer is licensed under  CC BY-NC 2.0

How can I grow my Twitter followers?

twitterMany people are understandably keen to increase their Twitter followers, and while having an engaged community of followers – no matter the size – is often more beneficial than having thousands of uninterested followers, there are some tips and tricks you can employ to give yourself a boost:

  • It sounds silly, but keep going – generally the more active you are the more followers you gain
  • Make sure you’re using #tags and @handles as often as possible to draw people in
  • Retweet and share interesting content from others regularly
  • Use Followerwonk to analyse your followers and find industry influencers to follow and engage with
  • Use a dashboard like HootSuite to schedule your tweets in advance so you can maintain constant and set-up search streams following keywords, phrases, lists of people you’re interested in
  • Find Twitter chats to join to raise your profile within the community you’re interested in
  • Make sure that you’ve optimised your Twitter bio with the keywords you think your potential new followers will be searching for
  • Use Twitter’s Favourite button to like what other people have shared and highlight that you’re interested in them
  • Don’t be afraid to show your personality – some of the most interesting people on Twitter share a mix of professional and personal updates
  • Be social – thank people for retweeting or mentioning you, say hi to interesting new followers, and share other people’s content

Beware of any company offering to sell you new followers – these are highly unlikely to ever be of real value to you. And you could be paying for fakes.

How much automation is OK in social media?

If you’re running marketing campaigns on social media, it makes sense to be using automation tools. Automation increases your efficiency by making it easier to plan and execute your campaigns; giving you back precious time to use on the rest of your to-do list. But it’s crucial to strike the right balance between auto updates and that critical real-time engagement which makes social such a successful channel for your brands. Too much automation can result in your social efforts coming across as contrived rather than authentic, potentially damaging your relationship with your followers and wider community.

To help you make the most of the automation opportunity, here are my top 10 tips:

1 – Plan your campaign: Integrate updates to coincide with what you’re doing on other channels

It seems like a no-brainer, but is easy to forget, especially as social media is still often kept in a silo away from the more traditional/everyday marketing activities, rather than being fully integrated with them. Use your ability to schedule as an opportunity to align you social media messaging with your other campaign channels. If you’re running a social only campaign use automation as an opportunity to really map out the story you want to tell before you start to tell it. You’ll find that you have a much more coherent and cohesive message than if you’d taken a more adhoc approach.

2 – Make time for engagement

Automation shouldn’t be used as a replacement for engagement, quite the opposite. Use the time freed up by your automation efforts to talk to people, join conversations, respond, share and find new influencers to follow and engage. Make an effort to schedule time each day to dedicate to being engaging.

3 – Don’t schedule across all your channels in one go

It’s important to remember when you’re scheduling updates not to simply do a blanket update. Your communities and their expectations will differ from network to network and each social platform plays to different content strengths, so ensure that your updates reflect this understanding. Each social media channel has its own nuances and language – for example, there’s not much point sharing a tweet with an @handle to LinkedIn and Facebook; not only will it not have the same meaning as on Twitter but it will really highlight your social media inexperience (or laziness).  If you’re struggling to find different content for all your social channels, it’s worth thinking about whether you need to scale back and streamline your efforts.

4 – Use auto scheduling  

When to schedule updates for can be quite tricky, especially if you’re dealing with communities in global time zones. Tools like HootSuite have an autoschedule feature which uses an algorithm to determine when the optimal time to send your post will be. Sprout Social offers six suggested times for your posts based on data that show when your message is most likely to be seen.

5 – Make it interesting

Writing and planning content in advance can feel like a thankless task, and it’s really easy to become repetitive…as well as dull. Write your content when you’re feeling at your freshest and don’t try to do it all in one sitting. Have a look at your favourite social media accounts for inspiration – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

6 – Your agency: How much automation have you agreed with them?

If you’ve employed a social media agency to carry out a campaign on your behalf, ensure that you’ve talked about your automation expectations. You want to make sure that they’re adhering to best practice and that they’re not abusing automation, otherwise your brand could be missing out on valuable engagement opportunities which have been overlooked.

7 – Automation isn’t an excuse for spam 

Just because you can schedule marketing message after marketing message in advance doesn’t mean you should. No one wants to stand next to the person shouting about themselves at the party, don’t let that social media account be you. Your followers want you to be useful and valuable to them, so don’t forget about the quality of your messages in your hurry to schedule more stuff, this is what grabs people’s attention and prolongs the life of your post.

8 – Don’t automate too much

The social media community is savvy, it knows what automation looks like. And while users expect a certain amount of automation from brands, too much means your account goes from being ‘social media’ to ‘shouting media’, pull to push. How do you know if you’re automating too much? If your automated messages are outweighing your authentic actions then I’d suggest that you’ve already gone too far, however the best way to know is to test the response of your followers to more or less content. Gauge their reactions to the changes you make through monitoring your shares, likes, clicks and conversions – as well as how many people are un/following you.

9 – Beware scheduling too far in advance

Although tempting, scheduling too far in advance can be dangerous. The world is a changeable place and relying too heavily scheduling can mean that your content is out of sight, out of mind at times when you need to be on the ball. It could be a little thing, perhaps a speaker has dropped out of your event but a scheduled tweet has gone out about their attendance, through to world altering events which see your jolly message turning downright offensive in the blink of an eye.

10 – Never automate DM messages, follows, and RTs (and beware auto favourites) on Twitter

Though there are tools which enable you to do this, I feel very strongly about not automating DM messages to new followers (obviously spam and not authentic), follows (again, a spammy way to try and get new followers and can end up being rather confusing), and RTs (very dangerous as you can end up retweeting some really weird stuff, regardless of how smart you try to be with your keywords).

Auto Favourites is a tricky one as it can grow your followers and traffic to your site, but it can be dangerous as the auto functionality is set-up against keywords and phrases – so you could end up favouriting something completely inappropriate.

But overall, automation is a must for any busy marketing manager, there’s a great list here of seven time saving social media automation tools for you to be using – happy posting!

Dated event hashtags are so passé

HashtagHashtags are the lifeblood of conversation around your exhibition or conference, so it’s important to choose the right one. Just like a Goldilocks social media breakfast, it shouldn’t be too long, too obscure or too tricky to spell.

But what about timely? If you want your hashtags to live on in post-show engagement and discussion, it’s best to steer clear of dates, for example #yourevent13. And by choosing a hashtag with year-round appeal and relevancy, you don’t need to coach the community on using your #2014 tag – it’s already embedded in the conversation.

Also consider how you use your brand within your hashtag – or whether you leave it out altogether. A good hashtag is often one which is absorbed into the community and used in discussions not directly related to your event, but around the show’s topics or focus area.

We’ve seen this around #Ecobuild which is being used by the community as a synonym for sustainability in the built environment, and #thinkcircular on our Resource Event. #ThinkCircular is not only arguably a more interesting and appealing hashtag compared with #ResourceEvent, but has year-round relevancy for the community – it’s really taken on a life of its own since the show team started using it.

However not using your brand within a hashtag does carry its own risks, after all there’s nothing stopping a competitor jumping on your successful hashtag bandwagon, but I would argue that if you’re the first to adopt this as your event-related hashtag (obviously don’t pick something really generic which is already in use within the community, such as #furniture) you’ll be claiming it as your own and sending a signal to the community that you’re in social for the right reasons – to foster conversation, share knowledge, and be useful – not just to talk about your brand 24/7.