Frank Strong on Next Steps in Social Media Marketing

I have been writing about issues challenging social media and digital communications, and speaking with thought leaders on the topic. In this installment, I interview Frank Strong, Founder & President of Sword & Script Media, LLC. He’s a tech PR guy and long-time PR blogger, so he can’t be all bad 🙂 Seriously, Frank has written some great stuff, and is very savvy about matters related to PR, digital and content. We’ve kicked ideas and blog posts back and forth over Twitter, and I thought he would be a good person to ask. Thanks for participating, Frank!

Frank Strong, Founder & President, Sword & Script Media

Are the social media waters still safe for marketing?

I don’t think it’s a question of safe, rather it’s a question of whether or not your customers and prospects are on social media. If they are, then there’s a pretty good chance you still need to be there too. And if that’s true, then you need to ensure your use of that medium matches customer expectations which typically means being honest, transparent and consistent.

Have you been recommending a change in strategy regarding social media?

I never quite got on board with the “social media strategy” part (see this post from 2012 titled: Social Media Strategists will be Gone in 2 Years). This is because social media is a channel and just one of many in the marketing mix. So, what businesses need the most is marketing strategy and the fundamentals – audience identification, positioning, messaging, distribution and feedback or measurement – haven’t changed even as tactics have evolved.

That said, business does need to bring something more to social media channels because the platforms have changed: organic efforts alone probably won’t cut it for most. You need to be both engaging and worth engaging. Too many brands still operate in output-only mode and then wonder why no one has noticed. You need to have a way of activating stakeholders on social media, like employees, because their efforts are likely to go further and advance a brand’s efforts. Finally, you probably need to bring some budget for social media advertising and time to experiment with paid media techniques.

What comes after social media?

This question implies that we are writing the epitaph on social media platforms and I don’t think that’s true. Marketing has evolved and will continue to evolved so social media will be one part of the mix. In terms of digital marketing there are several new tactics worth watching:

  • Voice as a user interface that replaces or augments touch screens and keyboards – Google returns 10 organic listings to any given search query – voice assistants will return one;
  • Amazon’s move into advertising is breathtaking, both as an opportunity and an emerging marketing specialization in Amazon ads, much like what we saw with Google ads 15 years ago; and;
  • The speed of business continues to accelerate – to compete business have to find ways to bring better content to market faster without sacrificing quality; to do this they must break down bureaucracy, internal politics and hire people with the experience they can trust to act accordingly.

Can the ship be righted?

There’s always been disinformation.  You could (and they did) spread rumors in ancient Rome the same way you could on a web bulletin board in 1999.  Some of it sticks for a while but people learn to discern the difference, the crowd beat it back, the providers find a way to tamp it down and that sets off the next evolution.  It’s giant game of cat and mouse and it’s always going to be that way so long as there’s incentive to do so, which is a matter of human behavior not a matter technology, and regardless of what comes down the line that’s “new.”

Is Facebook still a good place to invest in social media marketing?

If your customers and prospects are on Facebook, than it probably is.  If Facebook lost half of it’s users tomorrow, which will not happen because it had deep roots in the years of friend-making and photos users have invested on the platform, then it will still have somewhere around a billion users.  Still, it’s always worth hedging bets and keeping an eye out for other opportunities. 

Have these changes affected your social media habits for personal brand building?

The term “personal branding” drives me absolutely bonkers, especially in a team environment like that a business strives to cultivate, because it suggests personal priorities over brand priorities and the ego always wins in marketing. However, the disinformation on social media certainly changes the way I share and consume information on social media.  As the old adage goes, trust, but verify.  That’s not just for reading but also for attribution in sharing.

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