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The Difference between ‘Doing Social’ and Winning at Social

The difference between ‘doing social’ and winning at social

When brands make the decision to ‘do social’, there is usually an immediate obsession with content. Great content gets followers, likes and shares, which is what social media is all about, right? This makes perfect sense, but it is the wrong approach if you want to get the most out of social.

Before thinking about content, there must be an objective – a solid business objective that exists outside of social media (‘get more followers’ doesn’t count). Without an objective, it’s too easy to forget things like measurement, analysis and optimization – standard practice for any other media channel but somehow missing from most social media strategies.

Although it might surprise you that the most important part of social media is not what you say to the world; it’s what the world is saying about you. There’s a wealth of invaluable social data out there that can uncover the finest details about your customers – and make a real difference to your company’s bottom line. When you approach social this way, it ceases to be an expenditure and becomes a vital part of your business, influencing your most important decisions and bringing your business much closer to its customers.

What ‘Doing social’ looks like

It usually plays out like this: An in-house social media manager or an agency will perform some research and put together a content calendar. Most will categorize their posts in some way so that they can see what kind of content works best. The content is posted on certain days and at certain times that are believed to be the most effective, and if a post performs well, more similar content is produced.

If performance is slow (as with most social media launches) the decision is made to boost followers with ads. Numbers get a bump, everything looks a bit more respectable and the cycle goes on: more content, more ads, more followers, more likes.

Part of the next big campaign’s budget is allocated to social, so adapted versions of the campaign’s digital ads are run on the main social channels. One or two ad variants are created and budget is split equally across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Once the ads are set live, they just run until the budget is spent. No optimization and no comparisons are made between platforms and placements until the campaign is over. Some ad placements work, but most are ineffective compared to other digital media.

A handful of high profile influencers are paid to promote the product, but there’s no way to know if their efforts actually helped your campaign.

For most brands, this is ‘doing social’. Put in time, money and effort, and get very little back that has any effect on your business objectives. There’s often a shrug of the shoulders and a feeling that you’ve got to be on it, but you aren’t really sure what you’re getting out of it.

What winning at social looks like

Let’s say you are the brand manager for a cat food company. You run paid social media campaigns on all the major social networks. You monitor performance and you can compare results from different platforms all in one place. You can see the big picture and judge the performance of your social media content based on your business objectives (not by guesswork) and you can measure return on investment.

When a campaign or platform isn’t performing well, you can see this and quickly shift budget to other campaigns or platforms that are performing well or set up rules so that this optimization happens automatically.

Viewing campaign health on the Sether platform:


When someone mentions your brand on social media, you have listening software set up to log the mention as positive or negative (based on the language used) and whether that user has been exposed to any of your ads or follows you on any social platforms. Ditto if someone mentions cats, cat food, buying a cat, feeding a cat or any of your direct competitors.

Here’s a great example of a positive mention:

And a negative mention:

All this social data is collected and used to build distinct and detailed audience segments that are unique to your brand and market. These might be Mature Cat Owners, New Kitten Owners, Cat Lovers Who Don’t Have a Cat, Cat Over-Sharers, Only the Best for my Cat, I’ll Feed my Cat Anything and so on. Each segment has clearly defined needs and interests that you target with separate campaigns, content and products. When a new market segment appears or if your products aren’t getting any traction in a particular segment, you know about it and can react.

For example, Whiskas – the top cat food brand for mature cats in the UK – wanted to increase sales in the New Kitten Owners segment. They created Kitten Kollege, a YouTube campaign that celebrates kitten curiosity and shows that they care about the education of the UK’s young cats:

Listening also means you can spot trends, such as new foods that people are feeding their cats, and react to them quickly by producing new products or tweaking recipes.

If something happens on social media that has anything to do with cat food, you know about it and can react to it in real-time.

Content is just the beginning

‘Doing social’ is like paying the admission ticket to a theme park, then not going on any of the rides. If you just look at market leading brands on social media and then do as they do, you will miss out on everything that they do that you can’t see. It might seem as if the,y dominate social channels by producing good content, but in reality they are running ad campaigns that you can’t see and working hard behind the scenes tracking, analysing and optimising. Good content is only part of the story.

For a small brand, this might seem overwhelming. You might think that this is something only global brands with huge social teams can do, but this isn’t true. There are now very cost-effective (and even free) ways to monitor and optimise your social media campaigns. Talk to us at Sether and we’ll help you start winning at social.

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