January 28, 2021

Letโ€™s Talk Local #07: Social Media strategy with Josh Hood

Josh Hood, Social Strategist at Above+Beyond, joined the Let's Talk Local pod to talk SoMe strategizing in the time of Covid & how you can tell Subway sandwiches apart based on the sound they make when you bite into them (hint: lettuce is crunchy).

๐Ÿ“ Adapting social strategies to the โ€œnew normalโ€ of Covid

๐Ÿ“ Which content goes best on which platform

๐Ÿ“ How to tailor content to local audiences

Find the pod on Spotify at the link below, or search Let's Talk Local on your favorite pod platform!

Find the episode on Spotify, or search "Let's Talk Local" on your favorite podcasting platform!

Conversation transcript

Text has been lightly edited for clarity.

Today, we'll be talking about social media strategy with Josh Hood. Josh, welcome. Thank you for joining us. I'll let you introduce yourself.

Thanks Evan. My name is Josh, Iโ€™m a social strategist at Above+Beyond. We are a creative agency working from London, and we work on social media strategies across the multichannel from Facebook all the way through to TikTok now. And we have a variety of different clients that we work on, either on a project basis or as an "always online" daily social account.

We're recording this interview in mid-January, and I have just started to see in my Facebook feed these pictures of people getting their covid vaccinations. So that's starting, but we are a long way from being through this. And this is the first question I want to start off with is to ask if you could tell us a bit about how you've been adapting your social media strategies since covid, and especially for brands that have an online-to-offline customer journey where eventually they're hoping the customer will come into the store.

It's been a hugely challenging year for everyone, across multiple different industries. From a social point of view, it's been really interesting to understand how audiences on the platforms themselves have changed in the way that they engage with content over the course of covid, from March through to now in January 2021. It's been really interesting for us, experimenting with those different audiences for different clients.

Originally, it was really about getting the reopening message out there For example, one of the brands that we work on is Subway, and we've been working with them to kind of tell the UK and Ireland audience that we were back open and we were ready for business and that we were here for them and all the work that the franchise owners were doing across their local communities throughout the original lockdown period in the U.K. So there was a lot of different messaging we were trying to get across. And from a strategic point of view, that meant that we we had to be quite tactical in terms of when we drove those certain types of messages to make sure that they weren't overreaching on different parts, and making sure that customers and audiences were aware of the right message at the right time, especially when everyone was at home.

Obviously, social was playing a much bigger part of people's lives with the fewer media opportunities for brands to engage their audiences with. One of the things that we found is that there were some big changes to audience behaviour, and a lot of that was dictated by the change from working in offices to working from home, alongside the emergence, and โ€“ certainly for me โ€“ mass use of TikTok throughout the year. As we sat around all day in between meetings, or just took five minutes to sit on the sofa, you end up immersed in TikTok as an app because of the way it's built and the sound-on nature. And that had a massive effect: we saw from videos that we were running that there tended to be a lot more click to play on the video. And that was indicating to us, "Well, hold on, maybe we need to add more sound or more dynamic music to the videos that we're making, and the content that goes out," because people are more likely to have their phones on full sound, rather than being in an office where you're trying not to be caught out all the time, when you're scrolling through your phone.

So it's really interesting, the behaviours that were dictated by the different environment that people were in, and app usage in general.

That's fascinating. I had never thought of that, and I personally don't have TikTok โ€“ that's not to say that I don't take breaks when I'm working from home, or have other time-distracting strategies โ€“ but I don't use TikTok, and I hadn't known that. So it will actually automatically start with the audio playing when you're scrolling through your TikTok feed?

Yes. TikTok itself is a sound-on platform, it automatically plays, sometimes a bit loud, depending on whether you've forgotten to change that on your phone. And obviously that has flowed through to other platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, where we were suddenly changing the ads that we were running and the audio that we're putting on behind it to kind of help tell the story rather than, traditionally, how you'd kind of just think, "Well, it's a six-second ad, we don't need to spend a huge amount of time finding the right audio to go along with it. We just need to kind a quick backing track, or even just leave it sound off if it's directly driving through."

It changed a lot, and changed the content that we ran and the thought process into some of the content that we came up with for what we call "Business as usual" on the monthly content calendars. We were starting to play around with sounds as a way to create content. We ran a "guess the sub" competition post over the course of a couple of weeks in summer, where it's similar to how on the radio you'll have "Can you guess what the sound is?" contests, whether it's a shoelace being pulled out of the hole it goes in in the shoe, or anything like that. And so we thought, "What if we did that with a sub?" where people had to guess what ingredients were in the Subway sandwich based on the sound it made when someone crunched into it. We would never have thought of doing something like that until we saw those changes in user behavior, of people being more into sound content.

Did you try it yourself? Were you able to tell a meatball marinara apart from an Italian BMT based on the sound?

We were! We found that having the lettuce and onions and stuff like that in there was obviously making a big change, because they're quite crunchy. So we were teasing our creative director. "You've got to make it easier for us! Fewer fillings, it's too crunchy.โ€

That sounds really fun. And it leads in well to another thing I want to talk about, which was about how to decide which content goes out on which platforms. You just got into why audio-forward stuff can be on TikTok. But I'm wondering, first of all, how are you โ€“ or are you โ€“ basing certain things? Like this will go out on Facebook but not TikTok, and this will go out on Twitter but not Facebook. And, if you're doing that, also how do you decide what kind of stuff goes out on which kind of platform?

We tend to look at it as if the platforms are the most important thing. So we don't kind of make content and be like, "Well, this is just going to sit on all of the platforms." We try to be thinking platform-first, because then you're kind of getting in the headspace of thinking audience-first at the beginning as well, because you have to think about what's right for the audience on the platform to make the content. So we kind of work back from there. So every piece of content will sit on the place that the audience will engage with it most.

If we come up with some static images, for example, and have a shoot for it, we're already thinking that's going to be Instagram-led, because we found that audiences tend to engage a little more with the static post that we run for a lot of our clients. And that's just based on the opportunity to engage, rather than โ€“ if simplifying โ€“ the journey for audiences, where instead of having to watch something and then engage with it, you get to just see it and engage at the same time. So I tend to think about the audience first and work our way back through the platforms, as we said.

And from an ad point of view, we do the same sort of strategy. So again, you'll be thinking, "What's the what's the objective we want to run for these campaigns? Let's work our way through the platforms. How are we going to get that best objective through this, through Instagram, through Twitter, through Facebook, with the campaigns that we're going to run and then the assets that we're going to build into that?" How these assets optimize for each channel, each one will be different depending on the objective that we're trying to achieve.

We do tend to look at the platforms themselves and understand how to get the most out of them and the audiences, what the audiences want on those platforms as well.

I guess that's sort of assuming that the audiences are somewhat similar, that there are certain demographics that can be found on certain platforms. And I'm wondering if you've seen these demographics shifting at all? For example, after these new WhatsApp terms of services, I've seen a lot of friends that are now suddenly off WhatsApp and using alternative forms of messaging. How do you adapt to that when these demographics are shifting?

It's a real challenge. To try to find your audiences is obviously the key part of media planning in general. It's how are we going to find the right people to engage with the product in the ad, at the right time, to complete the objective that we need them to do. And especially with social being such a fluid world, users will kind of jump across depending on trends, depending on, as you alluded to, the terms of service on WhatsApp, other mitigating factors like that. It's a real challenge.

Trying to stay up to date on those things is obviously the key. Working with partners to go through surveys, to go through insights on what are the trends in terms of audience retention on these platforms. All those sorts of things are really, really important for understanding how you can plan effectively to reach these audiences and make sure that you're using the platforms in the right way.

We found, a lot of the times, that โ€“ as we all know โ€“ Facebook tends to have a slightly older active user base. And that's kind of just been a trend that we've been seeing the last few years. But then it's a case of, "So how does our content need to adapt to that?" Because obviously we can't have the same messages that we run on TikTok and Snapchat as we do on Facebook, where it's a completely different demographic. And then, when you're running those messages, are you seeing the results that you want to see? Because that's a key way to understand whether the audience is still on the platform. Are you seeing the results that you're predicting? Are you seeing the right people that can take the action? So as much as it is trying to plan ahead, and trying to stay up to date with the current trends, and being really clued up on where you think it's going to happen, it's also being reactive in the campaign stage. Of seeing, is it working in the way it's intended? Do we need to change this? Do we need to re-evaluate the messaging? Do we need to re-evaluate targeting?

And being adaptive is is really important. That's been amplified even more by covid, and especially in the UK, the changes to restrictions that happen on a regional level, rather than just a national level. We're having to be adaptive in different areas of the UK to make sure that our messaging for the audiences that are there, that we've identified, is right for the regional restrictions that are happening at the time.

I want to go back a little bit to when you talked about how you're determining how effective certain campaigns have been. And I just want to ask about the insights you're looking at, and the stats. I do some of the social media at PinMeTo, and LinkedIn is our big platform, and impressions are our big metric. I wanted to ask if you have any personal favorite insights, or if those stats vary really widely based on platform or individual campaign.

When we're basing off KPIs and looking at the insights that we want to measure for success, and different clients and different brands, it tends to be platform-centric. So rather than just having a baseline number of, for example, impressions or video views that we want to achieve across the year, or want to achieve through social, we'll trim it down. And that's going back to the usage of the platforms themselves, we'll say "What do we want to achieve from working on that platform?" What is it that we want to get out of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat? And from there, we'll be able to identify how we then measure it.

So LinkedIn, for example, you're looking at trying to get PinMeTo's name out there, and get awareness of the brand, impressions are going to be really useful for that. It's showing the amount of people that have seen it, and seen who you are. And as you go through, you can then identify other metrics that will help you articulate who's sticking with that, and who's really identifying with the brand, and who are the kind of people that you want to then build lookalike audiences of, for example.

We tend to do it platform-centric. My favorites are things like active engagements, rather than just looking at an engagement rate. We identify active engagements as where someone has taken an action as a result of seeing the ad that isn't just a โ€œlike.โ€ Because liking is quite a passive action. You'll like, and, chances are, you'll probably scroll past it at the same time. So you haven't really engaged and identified with a post and identified the brand that you've seen it from, and it's not likely to come back in your recall in a few days' time. You're probably unlikely to remember it, but if you've taken the step to comment or click through to the website or share it, you've really identified with what you've seen and you've decided to put it onto what we call "Brand Me," which is our individual brands, whether it's sharing it and saying, "I agree with this" or "I disagree with this," or commented on it, and cognitively thought of a response that you wanted to say to it. Even if it's just tagging your friend, you've identified who you think would like this, for whatever reason.

Those are kind of things that we really like to measure from a content point of view, because it's showing who's really resonating with your brand on an ongoing basis. And you can see that go up and down. But ultimately, the numbers are showing that people are having an active response to what you're showing them.

Active engagement sounds like a more specific version of what the engagement rate is clumsily measuring. Active engagement is saying these people have not only liked it, but actually they've done something that leads you to believe that it'll stick in their brain better.

Yeah, definitely. And there are so many things that go into the engagement rate and the engagements number that you see on platforms, that can be anything from media views all the way through to, as we said, shares and traffic. So it's trying to narrow that down into a number and a metric that you're actually able to say that the ad or the content has worked, the content has done what we really wanted them to.

I want to ask you about the division between what we call brand-level messaging โ€“ which can be a post from a brand's global page โ€“ and the local level, these posts that come from an individual store's page. I want to ask how you think about the difference here, and how you decide what kind of things to post at the brand level and what kind of things to post at the local level. And also, how you tailor that to the platforms.

think that that's always the big challenge for brands and advertisers: that difference between global, national, and local, how you're trying to get the bigger messages across to a wide group of audiences, versus the messages that show people that a brand is active in your community and it has a vested interest in the world that you live in. It's always so important.

We've been trying a lot, while working with you guys on local messaging, to make sure the audiences feel that brands have a vested interest in the area around them. So whether that's showing, for example, what Subway stores are doing on a local level for their community during lockdown last year, or whether it's just letting them know that they're open and that they're there for them. Those are what we've found are really, really important for driving advocacy and driving a real relevancy to audiences' lives.

This has to be balanced with the overall national messaging that you're trying to achieve, whether it's product and prices, or new campaigns that are launching, ultimately you want people to have seen the bigger picture campaigns that are running and then feel a bit of a connection with the brand at the local level. And that means that the content is then dictated quite simply in terms of we're able to then have the national stuff at the beginning, and that's that's not local-centric, and then bring it all the way down to "What have we worked with on a local basis that we can then put into this area and run in this region?"

And especially during lockdown that's been, again, dictated by the circumstances that we live in, in 2021, where we're saying, โ€œOK, we need to activate in this area a different set of messaging for these regional restrictions. Here's how we can do that.โ€ PinMeTo has been so useful in doing that, because we're able to make it super clear for audiences which stores are relevant and which pages on Facebook are relevant to them, and making it really simple for people in that area to have a clear use journey.

I think that sums it up nicely. Thank you for being here, Josh.

Thanks very much for having me on.

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