Recently, I attended The Social Shake-Up Show. I was among nearly 600 social media, public relations, marketing and communications pros in attendance. It was a whirlwind two days packed with networking and presentations, but I left with some new friends, a love for Atlanta and four social media Shake-aways.

1.  Authentic Storytelling

Shawn “Shonduras” McBride kicked-off the show by sharing his own social media journey and the career he built out of creativity, collaboration, positivity – and a whole lot of trial and error – to become a successful Snapchat pioneer. He reminded us that your audience is helping you build the story and community together. Don’t tell them what to do but “work smarter, not harder” to find a reason for your followers to move from one platform to another.

Although most brand managers may describe themselves as storytellers, Renegade Founder and CEO, Drew Neisser, cautioned against a few common pitfalls and to bear in mind: We’re not the hero. We’re the sage. He took us back to the basics of storytelling – and the art of creating an emotional connection – which you can’t do without conflict.

Doug Busk, global group director, digital communications and social media at Coca-Cola, added that authenticity and trust is built by responding to conflicts – not shying away from them and not always posting perfectly manicured content. Brands have a trust issue – generally speaking – not people, which is what makes user-generated content so powerful.

2. Millennials and Brand Loyalty

A panel of millennial industry professionals had a conversation about how great brands are trying to connect with them. Although it’s impossible to speak for an entire generation, one panelist tried to sum it up: Being a brand loyalist is a millennial trait. When asked, “What’s a barrier for brands targeting millennials?” The answer was, “Not reaching us in time.” Their candid advice also included the following:

  • For brands that are hesitant to respond to a negative tweet, understand that millennials expect a timely – and personal – response. It shows that you care.
  • Be prepared for potential negative scenarios so that you’re comfortable replying in real-time, without using a generic scripted reply. Create a playbook and decision tree for your team.
  • If you’re competing for millennials’ attention, be relevant, but also be sure that it’s something that’s even important to your audience. Just because it’s trending on Twitter, it doesn’t mean that it’s right for your company’s narrative.
  • Pay attention to Arby’s social media strategy. They are sharing creative content for niche groups (like the gaming community) to build engagement and brand loyalty. Josh Martin, senior director, digital and social media at Arby’s, said that first and foremost, his team monitors and listens, and when they feel like they’re on to something, they lean in.

3. Influencer Partnerships

Use influencers for stories that your brand can’t tell on its own. Trina Small (The Baby Shopaholic) defined an influencer as an “online trusted friend” sharing their honest opinion. Getting information from your peers vs. an executive is powerful and authentic. There’s that word again! So, how do you find the right influencers for your brand? Research hashtags or content themes to find individuals who are genuinely passionate about – and are already talking about – your industry topics. Or, you can have your agency partner help you make those connections.

Pro tips from Trina: When you work with an influencer, be specific on the minimum number of pieces of content you’re looking for, but don’t limit their creativity. It’s helpful to get guidelines on words not to use and to prompt (not script) them. It’s also okay to ask for a draft or to request an edit.

4. Social Voice

Miri Rodriguez, storyteller at Microsoft, said “social media is no longer a channel, but part of digital strategy” and we need to unify our messaging across our PR, marketing and sales teams. She shared an example of their Microsoft 10 launch, when they introduced the hashtag #UpgradeYourSummer, overlooking the fact that it wasn’t summertime for their customers in Brazil and others in the Southern hemisphere. It was a lesson learned that helped improve communications among their internal teams and align their brand’s social voice.

Social listening also applies to building a strong employee engagement program. Repurpose and respond to your employees’ social media posts. Consider employee take-over days (arm them with best practices/guidelines) and give them the freedom to share their voice and your company’s culture.

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