The importance of insight in social media marketing

The importance of insight over automation in social media marketing

How often do you see posts that say things like ‘businesses must do this to succeed in social media’? They crop up regularly — guides on the best times to post, the best platform strategy — posts that present information as scientific fact and prescribe a definitive approach to achieving best results.

But there’s no such thing as a prescriptive approach in social. By its very nature, social media is socially driven, which means different people and different audiences, people who’ll respond to different things in different ways.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s huge value in learning from other people’s experiences — there’s a lot to be learned from those who’ve already done the ground work in their own ways. In no way am I suggesting you should ignore the advice available to you, but it’s when that information is framed as fact that a level of scepticism creeps in.

Prescriptive process


The thing is, we all want a prescriptive process. We’d all love to know that if we spend X time doing X activity we’ll see X return. Because that’s what makes sense. That’s logic that we can rely on and invest in.

But the social media landscape is inherently more complex. The process for ‘winning’ at social is not only different for every business, it’s also different for every campaign, every process, every tweet and post. That complexity arises because it’s people in charge of the various avatars and profiles you’re trying to reach.

It’s not binary code you’re trying to crack or calculations you need to solve. It’s people you need to reach and engage with, and that process is something that can’t be narrowed down to a specific formula.

But yet, that formula is what we seek. “The best time to post to Facebook is…”, “the best content to produce…” If only we could crack this equation. If only there were a way to outline a fool-proof social media strategy that cannot, will not, and does not, fail. That would be amazing right? But we can’t. Because between the “best time to post” and the “best content to create” there are variable elements, individual nuances unique to your community. And those little differences can change everything.

Academic logic vs lived logic


Understanding the nuances of your community is the critical element that all the data and all the insights and all the “how to” posts in the world won’t be able to solve for you.

Academic logic is one thing — and it’s an important element, one which is becoming more beneficial every day as more data is created. More data means more variables to use in automation, as these data points form correlating signals, signals you can then use to sort the messages from the noise.

With an automation app like IFTTT, for example, you can create complex recipes based on any number of data points, enabling you to set up systems that can do almost anything, that can even respond to people on your behalf if you so choose. There’s a whole range of processes and procedures you can put in place that will automate and streamline your activities for you, but academic logic alone can’t work out the way such formulas should work and how people will respond.

This is where you need “lived logic”, real life experience of how people are, how people respond, and what people are more likely to respond to. An automated system doesn’t understand human emotions, how to connect with audiences on a level they’ll empathise with and appreciate. Only humans can do that. The biggest factor in maximising the opportunities of social media data is interpretation — how you interpret what’s important and what’s not.

This is precisely the case with your audience.

What works and what doesn’t work in terms of your social media strategy is defined by the people within your community, not by systems or algorithms or data. It comes down to lived experience, what you know of your audience, how well you understand their needs.

The better you’re listening and staying in touch with your online communities, the better placed you’ll be to provide content that resonates with them and builds engagement with — and trust in — your brand. Because academic logic can only tell you what you need to know, and if you don’t know what that is — if you’re not listening to your community enough to know who they are and what they need — then no amount of automated process, on its own, will be able to tell you.

Be insightful not automatic

Insight is where the true value of social media lies. Insight and contact, the opportunity to reach many people easily and on platforms with which they’re already familiar.

Insight into your audience can only be gained by analysing the information you have, viewing things from the perspective of your target users, and providing what people need based on the data they provide.

What works for one brand may not work for another — knowing your audience is far more valuable than knowing generic best practises. You may find that most people hate hashtags on Facebook, but they work for you. Maybe you can create a vibrant community of interactors via Twitter auto-DMs which most others wouldn’t even respond to.

The point here is that while it’s important to learn from the experts, it’s equally important to learn from your experts, from the people who are critically important to your business. What can you provide them that will help them in their day-to-day challenges? What types of content will they respond to and appreciate, and thus, more align with your brand?

That might mean you just follow those generalised guidelines, and that might work out fine. But the real rule of social media is that your audience rules. Everything else stems from that.

More reading:

3 reasons why a social media strategy is essential for your business
The ticking time bomb that sits at the heart of today’s ‘disconnected’ companies
Why trust is the new bottom line and how social media drives it


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