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GUEST COMMENT How to build – and maintain – social influence

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A social media strategy is too often sidelined as an afterthought. When you use social media regularly in your personal life, it’s tempting to think that the knowledge you’ve gained from that experience is equally applicable to business.

However, ecommerce marketers who make this assumption are making a mistake: social media for business is challenging, and requires specific skills and strategies to execute well. Everyone can do with a social media refresher, whether you’re just starting out or are a qualified ‘guru’, so here are some pointers for getting social right in 2017.

Who’s popular around here?

One of the first things you should do when auditing your company’s social media is look for existing influencers. Develop a list of trendsetters on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or any other platform you’re targeting, and keep track of which retailers are already in touch with them – this will come in handy later.

Building up a solid influencer list is the foundation of an influencer marketing strategy. This is where you work with third-party influencers to market your product on certain platforms. The goal here is to use these influencers and their considerable reach to create ‘organic’ ads which don’t have to be labelled as such.

Influencer marketing is often approached with a ‘gut feel’ mentality due to the fact that, at its heart, it’s relationship management. However, there needs to be a focus on the data: according to Markerly, influencers with between 10k-100k followers on Instagram have a like rate of 2.4%, while those with 1m-10m followers attract only 1.7%. This is counterintuitive, and without paying attention to data like this you may well not have realised that when it comes to influencer marketing less is often more.

Video can be your friend

Video is the ascendant format in social media marketing these days. Everyone’s at it: according to Cisco, this year video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic. If your retail products lend themselves to video then you should really consider investing some time and money into video social media advertising.

And the investment may not be as large as you might at first assume: often thought as one of the more expensive marketing channels, video is can be surprisingly cheap to produce. Video can be captured and edited on a smartphone, and many social media audiences would find the authenticity of a video produced and edited on a smartphone far more compelling than something more high-budget, as long as the video and sound are of good enough baseline quality.

Watch out for the ‘gram

Recently Snapchat has been stealing the limelight with its IPO, but Instagram is the platform with the stronger fundamentals. While Snapchat’s user growth is flagging, Instagram raced past the 600 million user milestone at the end of last year, and is maintaining healthy growth in 2017.

Instagram is also keeping up with Snapchat in terms of featureset. While Snapchat was the first to introduce the ‘stories’ feature – short videos that last 24 hours – Instagram has actually seen far stronger uptake with its version.

What this demonstrates is that it’s never worth abandoning existing platforms for the newer entrants immediately. While Snapchat might have the buzz and the ‘cool factor’, marketers are finding the experience and reach of Instagram hard to match.

Don’t lose what you’ve fought for

Social media management isn’t just about growing subscriber numbers continually – your figures can go down as well as up, and they can fall very quickly indeed under certain circumstances. Paradoxically, the more subscribers you have the easier it often is to lose them: once your follower group reaches a certain size, people within that group will start to feel anonymous, like their input doesn’t really matter anymore. If you’re in the lucky position of managing a brand with a large social media presence, you may find it’s much harder than you think.

There are several different tactics available to social media managers to help mitigate this. A good place to start is by initiating a reassessment of your social media policy in general. Look carefully at your existing analytics tools: find out what content performs really well, and pivot your marketing plans towards that. Keep your standards high: when your followers are in the hundreds of thousands, fractions of a percent in engagement rates will still amount to many people indeed.

Depending on your audience, you could also ask them directly for tips on what they’d like to see change. Handle this tactic with care – we need only look to the ‘Boaty McBoatface’ incident to remember what can happen when we allow social media to make our decisions for us. However, asking your followers in a limited capacity what they’d like to see more of should not be off the cards completely.

People’s habits on social media change month to month, making it tricky for marketers and retailers to keep their skills up to date. Because of this it’s never a bad time to refresh your knowledge as there’s always something new to learn. Nearly three billion people will have access to a social media account by 2020, according to Statista, so social media is one skillset that marketers can’t afford to ignore.

Romain Ouzeau is CEO of Iconosquare

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