Ensuring your social media strategy is fully aligned with your broader business objectives is a perennial challenge for brands and marketers. At our conference earlier this year Figaro Digital listened to Jack Lundie, Director of Communications at Oxfam chat to the organisation’s Social Media Manager Stuart Fowkes about content, context and consistency
As social media develops into digital marketing’s dominant communication channel, brands in all sectors need to ensure their social strategies are born out of – and feed right back into – their overarching business objectives.
At Figaro Digital’s Marketing Conference earlier this year Jack Lundie, Director of Communications at Oxfam, chatted to the organisation’s Social Media Manager Stuart Fowkes about the importance of clear, consistent messaging which generates meaningful engagement while serving Oxfam’s real-world objectives.
“How do we work together,” asks Lundie, “to ensure that our organisational strategy and the social media strategy – which is full of insight into what works with an audience – are aligned with what Oxfam needs to do most, which is to recruit supporters who give us their time, money and voices to serve our mission to eradicate poverty?” The answer, he says, involves taking three key factors into account: strategy, branding and risk.
“First,” explains Social Media Manager Fowkes, “we need to ask how we’re using social media within our overall strategy to end poverty. Secondly, we take a more micro-level view, which is what we do with each Facebook post; how is this going to help us achieve our overall goal? Those are criteria you can feasibly apply to everything. If we post about drilling bore holes in South Sudan to create clean water, we’re demonstrating impact, effectiveness, and we’re saying to people that when you donate to Oxfam this is how your money’s being used. From the post itself right up to strategy level, everything should be tapping into what Oxfam is trying to do overall.”
But, notes Lundie, Oxfam is a huge organisation with a broad range of objectives, from promoting women’s rights to raising awareness of climate change. Each of those objectives may require different strategic approaches. How does the social media team decide what’s likely to make effective content?
“There are two sides to this,” says Fowkes. “There are the ‘campaign moments’ – those spikes in interest that any organisation has. Then there’s the ongoing narrative. In terms of priority, there are three factors which I bear in mind. The first is how does something fit in with the overall corporate strategy? Secondly, how does it add value? Is social media a nice-to-have, or is it something without which a project will collapse? Thirdly, from a channel-based perspective, is it going to be interesting content?”
Those criteria, notes Lundie, all contribute to a “climate for engagement.” But what about measuring the all-important return? Like any business, Oxfam has monthly performance benchmarks. These, says Fowkes, help him establish what sort of content is working on social media. But since Oxfam’s remit covers both fundraising and campaigning, that content needs to drive income as well as influence. Research indicates that if a user can be persuaded to interact with the organisation just once on social media, they’re four times more likely to do so again. “What we have to do in the first instance,” says Fowkes, “is make it explicitly clear to people how supporting us makes a difference.” When it comes to fundraising however, he acknowledges certain fundamental challenges.
“I think it’s true to say that nobody’s cracked fundraising on social media in the charity world,” he says. “I go to a lot of conferences and you hear those stats: 70 per cent of your income will come from 20 per cent of your customers. There’s a parallel in the charity world. It costs five or six times more to recruit new customers than it does to retain existing ones. For social media, there’s a fundamental job to be done in reinforcing to existing supporters that their money is going somewhere useful.”
Defining the brand
For Lundie, effective branding is grounded in repetition, continuity, focus and presence. “I’m a big believer in Seth Godin’s definition,” he says. “It’s about the expectations, memory and emotions that you associate with an organisation.”
Within social media, however, there’s a natural tendency to break that brand experience down into small, easily digestible chunks designed to drive a particular conversation. Is there a danger, then, that social media ends up diluting rather than reinforcing a brand’s presence and messaging?
Fowkes says not. Just as we, as individuals, adapt our behaviour according to context, so it’s possible for a brand to adopt different voices in different places without losing overall consistency. Oxfam’s approach to social media, says Fowkes, “is about being respectful of the overall brand personality, while at the same time appreciating that you need to talk in a certain way on certain social channels in order to have maximum impact.”
Risk and reward
For an organisation like Oxfam, taking a stand on potentially contentious issues is part of the job description. That involves an element of risk. How, asks Lundie, can social media balance the need to provide bold and influential content without jeopardising the organisation’s ability to perform its work?
“This is one of the areas where social media is very interesting,” says Fowkes. “It can throw up challenges for companies they may not be aware they had. If you’ve got problems with tone-of-voice or you’re doing too many things at the same time, social media really surfaces those things. At a very basic level it’s about having freedom within certain boundaries and knowing where the red flags are. The moment a social media manager starts to think only in terms of social media is the moment they’re not doing an effective job. Don’t just think about social media – think about how it ties in with email, the website, what the media and PR team are doing. That policy needs to extend across all channels. They all need to work together. Otherwise you’re going to have fundamental problems from the word go.”
This article appeared in Figaro Digital issue 21: October 2014
Article by Jon Fortgang