Social media and the campaigns that drive brand success are nothing without the people who make things happen!
Each week we profile one innovative industry executive and get them to answer 12 questions. Then, we share their insight with you!
This week I had the opportunity to chat with the Social Strategy Director at STM Social, Kieran Edwards.
Hello! My name is Kieran and as Linleigh said, and I have a passion for creative advertising and intelligent marketing, specifically within the social media arena. I specialise in intelligent strategy and creative content, tailored towards increasing the affinity between a brand and its consumers.
After gaining ample experience both client and agency-side, I’m now the Co-Founder and Social Strategy Director of STM Social, part of Shoot The Moon.
My work to date has allowed me to create campaigns for brands & agencies, both national and global, such as JWT, Soreen Malt Loaf, WRG, Tesco Opticians, John West Tuna, Food Porn Awards, DW Sports Fitness, Best Companies, Chip Strips, Sofaworks, Udi’s gluten Free, and more. I’ve also had the pleasure of receiving coverage from the likes of the BBC, Prolific North, MixMag, Young Entrepreneur and other online publications.
Excellent! It’s incredible how much you have done! What you’ve achieved by the age of 25 is seriously inspiring! So with that, we will jump right in:
About Social Media In General
1. Which is your favorite social media platform? (Please briefly explain why)
From a personal perspective – Instagram. I still like the fact that you can’t schedule posts as easily, unlike a lot of other platforms. It keeps it quite fresh, with people posting directly from their mobile devices. There’s not as much saturated content with streams of photoshopped images, quotes and memes. You are more likely to find those on Facebook and Twitter. I really connect with the sort of creative element on Instagram.
To be honest, while I do work in social media, I actually find myself using it less and less, because I use it so much for work. I browse for hours and get lost in stories but I don’t post as much as I used to. But quite often, if I’m am doing something cool and fun, I will snap it and put it on Instagram, because it is super easy, and can be connected straight through to Facebook.
2. Which social platform is used most by your brand/agency?
The most used for our clients is Facebook. Our “bread & butter” is creating result-driven strategies and engaging campaigns. Working with FMCG, Hospitality & Consumer brands, means that the visual aspect and advertising capabilities of Facebook is essential . At the office, we have many in-house creatives. We even have a photography studio, complete with a full mock-up kitchen that many of our clients utilise. That’s where we do all of the food photography and things like that. We also work with some Retail and Tech Start-ups, but it’s mainly the Food and Drink that is really our niche.
As I mentioned, I find Facebook a bit more visual than Twitter, and engagement-wise I still think it works better for many of our clients. Many of them don’t really focus their attention on e-commerce. It is more about building an affinity, and the time-spent with the brand, building awareness and engagement. Therefore Facebook, coupled with its ads offerings churns really great results.
Obviously it comes down to strategy, and what they want to get out of it. Many clients will come to us, with a platform already in mind, and it is my job to bring them back and ask them what they want to get out of the strategy. We then work together to find the most cost-effective route to achieving what they really want from the project.
However, Facebook seems to be where many clients start, because of the ability to see results quite quickly. Facebook really allows us to create a story and build on that affinity between the consumer and the brand. It allows us to do what we love to do, which is to create the interaction that allows the consumer to feel like they aren’t just talking/engaging with a brand, but rather a friend.
3. In your opinion, what is the future of social media, and which platforms do you think will lead the way?
At the end of the day each platform fulfills the different needs of different types of clients. With that said though, I do think Facebook will still be at the top, or close to the top. I do think many people think Facebook is dying, but I disagree. I think it’s getting bigger, especially with many add-ons, such as canvas and the potential for upcoming social commerce. I think it will just continue to grow.
With that said though, the opening of ads on Instagram will see that platform get stronger and stronger too.
About Great Social Media Campaigns
4. Please tell us about the one social media campaign you liked the most this year?
The one that most recently caught my eye was the Heineken, “Moderate Drinkers Wanted” campaign. I think it’s a great campaign all-round; their strategy of pushing video on Facebook is working really well. Just scanning the other day, I saw they had upwards of 600k views per video post. The engagement and just everything about the campaign is working so well, but the one thing I love about it is that the social media campaign is really starting to shape the brand. I mean in terms of its positioning as “not your party beer” but rather a nice, high-quality social beer. It’s not so in your face with “We are better”, but rather they show you WHY they think they are.
From another angle, the Body Coach “Lean in 15” is a whole different approach to a social media campaigning. This guy has 700k+ fans on Facebook alone, just by snapping real-time videos or photos from his phone and sharing these tasty healthy meals. I like that the meals themselves seem so much more real in comparison to fancy recipes you can get from M&S. It’s relatable and it works. It is really raw content that the viewers connect with because it inspires them to do it themselves. Ultimately, his approach is really all about educating people and showing them how easy it really is to eat and cook healthy.
At the end of the day, his focus is on selling his book, but his posts never say that. It’s all about inspiring his followers to dig deeper, and crave knowing more… therefore they buy his book. More proof that educational content works.
5. What about the latest campaign your brand or agency was involved in?
My favourite campaign this year is the “Food Porn Awards“. Whilst we treat it like a client, we also sponsor the event due to the fact that it is an amazing concept to be involved with. It’s not an awards show in the sense that you get nominated and you have to pay £1,000 to get a table at an awards dinner, but rather it’s a celebration of the best restaurants in the North West of England. The idea of this was really centered around the photography, expertly done by STM Photography, and the social media done by us. None of it is based on taste, just looks.
We started by inviting ANY restaurant or chef in the North West, to join the competition by submitting a picture of their most attractive dish. For our first year running, we had just short of 300 entries, which is pretty good considering! We then invited a panel of experts in the industry as judges; from food critics to food-development experts. Their job was then to judge the images completely anonymously, and mark/grade them based on the “Food Porn” factors; presentation, wow-factor, style and etc. Split into 4 categories; Fine Dining, Casual Dining, Alternative Eats and Boutique Pubs, 4 finalists were picked from each category.
We then invited each of those finalists to do a live cook-off against each other, in an allotted time, and filmed it all in a very “Master Chef” style. Then, STM Photography shot the dishes professionally, before hosting a final judging session where the images were presented via large canvases for the judges to decide the winners.
The social media interaction that we had within the industry was phenomenal. So much so, that when we exhibited at the NRB show in front of 7,000 passing trade, everybody already knew about awards and came to visit our Food Porn Awards gallery.
Why I loved it, ties back to social media. We set up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from nothing and it grew quite quickly, organically too. We didn’t chuck a lot of money behind advertising, because we really wanted to see how we could develop it organically – and it really took off. People in Manchester especially, have started to tag #FoodPornAwards in posts throughout the city. The term Food Porn is becoming synonymous with good-looing food, so adopting the #FoodPornAwards hashtag worked well for us. It also allowed us to really have a fun tone of voice within the promotion of the campaign. It wasn’t done on a massive scale like Heineken, but it was by far one of my favourites that we have done recently.
6. What is the most important thing that brands and agencies must keep in mind in order to build a successful social media campaign?
For me, I think it comes down to not losing sight of your objectives. It really is a crucial factor. It is important to know what the aim is, and always come back and check what it is that you’re actually achieving. I’ve seen brands become dazzled by content that they might love, but they may lose sight of what the content is supposed to do. This is especially true with video. If your frames are too slow in the first few seconds, you might find your consumers pass by it on Facebook. This is even more true with YouTube, if you don’t engage your consumers within the first 5 seconds they will skip you, and your content didn’t do its job.
Brands need to really focus on engagement retention though. While reaching people is great, one thing I always try to think about is the mental availability (a theory by Byron Sharp). He discusses that the quickest way to grow a brand is based on your physical and mental availability; physical being where your consumer starts, (i.e. your website, where they can get your product) and the mental being “are you at the forefront of their minds?”
Chances are that if the consumer is aware of you, they are also likely aware of the competitor as well.
So, while awareness is great, it doesn’t mean they are going to go out and buy the product. If you are at the forefront of their minds, you are the first brand they think of when they want crisps, a drink etc. The focus needs to adjust from getting the likes, comments and etc. to retaining that engagement.
7. In your opinion, which is the most important KPI to watch during a social media campaign?
As you probably could have guessed, engagement is a big one for me. However, reach is also important; I think that goes back to the FMCG clients who I am used to working with. Many of the clients we work with aren’t e-commerce brands, so engagement and reach are important for the retention of current customers, as well as those who may be acquired by creating awareness on social.
As I tell my clients, “Likes” are essentially irrelevant, because you can like a Facebook page, but you can also unfollow it. With that said, “Likes” are fans, and you do those grow organically. They just aren’t a major focus for me. If you can get in front of people, and get them to engage, “Likes” will come.
About The Future Of Social Media Marketing
8. What will be the role of social media in the marketing mix of the future?
I think it will become much more prominent than it currently is, to be honest. I think the future holds many more people investing more time and more resource and/or money into social. I guess the reason for me leaving my previous jobs roles, and wanting to start something new, really boils down to me wanting a job that really tied in my love of both creative and strategy for social media. Not just because I enjoy it though, but because it is what brands will need. And for an agency, being able to adapt and deliver what a brand needs, means stability and longer lasting relationships.
I previously found that people will spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a TV advert or print campaign, but then they screenshot that or do little edits for use on social. There’s no strategy here to say whether said content would even resonate with the social audience as they operate in a different way to those watching TV. I think what people still fail to realise is that for a quarter of that budget you can reach the same amount, if not more people, via a targeted ad campaign on social media.
The big brands are already doing it, but I think size won’t matter and everyone will begin to see the value and transition from low-quality material, to high-quality content, because of the impact people see through social media.
9. What would you say is the biggest obstacle within the field of social media marketing?
Convincing decision-makers and businesses to get involved, has been the biggest obstacles I have found. And obviously for the client, getting quick results also poses a bit of a challenge. We would all be lying if we said, “Do this and you will get ‘x’ amount of money back by next week.” There is no real guarantee. Social is a bit of trial and error in the beginning, and you have to take a little leap of faith, and patience, with the agency you go with. At the end of the day results don’t necessarily happen overnight.
It really all comes down to analysing the content you post, and really taking a look at your audience to understanding what they expect from you on social.
10. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who has just started out in the industry, what would it be?
A big one, and a little clichéd at the same time is to be creative. I think it’s getting to the point now that social is starting to catch up with itself, and anyone can write a tweet, anyone can copy and paste the title of an article and use that on Facebook. You really have to think outside the box a little bit. “How can you make someone want to read what you have to say?”
Another thing is to just be REALLY involved with social media yourself, in terms of people. I don’t mean constantly engaging people, but I myself constantly scan channels, and look at what people are doing. I actually have a bank of images that are just screenshots from my iPhone of content that I like, including social media adverts. It provides me with a bit of inspiration – It’s like any design career.
Creativity always comes from inspiration, and having that bank of social media screenshots really allows me to stop and think about upcoming things that we at STM can introduce or test out.
And… Find your niche! So many people think a position in social media is just all about writing tweets and posting photos, but there are so many different elements to it – from content to adverts, strategy, analytics, branding and so on… find what you love to do and stick to it!
11. In your opinion, which is the “ad format of the future”?
I think immersive platforms are going to play a big part in the future of advertising. The likes of Canvas and VR are already coming to fruition and they will play a major part in the immersive experiential atmosphere. Rather than telling people about a product, we can show and let them experience it.
12. Finally, tell us one thing someone would NOT be able to find about you from looking at your social media profiles.
I absolutely LOVE funk and soul music. It’s always in my headphones at work – Motown and Funk is where it’s at for me!
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