Meet Ashlie Lanning, social media extraordinaire. Having started studying how, exactly, a strong social media strategy comes to be successful for brands, businesses, and people at the advent of the channels she believes the right mindset is, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” She shares with us how she makes a difference for Draper DNA clients, where she sees the future of social media heading and just how important the right strategy is online.
Ashlie: I am Ashlie Lanning and I’m part of the Draper DNA team where I lead the social media strategies for our clients.
With all of the traffic online, how do you get attention to your content specifically?
Ashlie: Great question. There is a lot of noise and traffic online. The first thing you have to do is figure out your purpose. So as a brand, what is the reason you’re online? From a business standpoint, it is probably to drive sales, but that’s not really the best reason to have an online presence. The real reason is to give your customers something that they’re lacking. Whether that’s informational content about your product or your brand, or maybe you have a shared value and shared mission — that is often a great pillar for content. It’s really about filling in that hole of what your community needs from you.
Secondly, brands have to decide how to get attention with content. Part two is understanding the distribution of your content. Where is it going to be online? Is it going to be in the right places where your customers are? Are they in the mindset to then consume that content and that channel within that mindset?
Another part of getting attention with your content online is about creating really quality content. You know, often times we see a lot of brands and companies who will push out messages and post updates all the time, but they’re not really of value. They don’t do anything for your customers. And there’s a phrase that I sort of live by – “What’s in it for me?” As a content producer or as a brand, you want to always ask yourself, what’s in it for me, the customer. What is this going to give them that they don’t already have? Is this going to bring a little bit of joy to their day? Is this going to answer a question? It is going to help them understand why your product or service is better than the competitions. So always asking that question upfront is a great way to make sure that you’re really producing that quality content.
How do businesses grow followers organically on social media?
Ashlie: This is probably the most asked question I get. But the answer isn’t so neatly wrapped up in a package. The first thing you really need is to go back to that purpose. What is your purpose of being on that channel? Are you there for the right reasons to meet the customers in the right mindset, where they’re ready to hear from you on a regular basis in order to follow you? The second thing is, well, again, this is the channel. So again, are you on the right channel? You might be posting a lot of Instagram content, where people are really seeking out your content could be on YouTube. So maybe that’s where you need to focus.
Really narrowing down where it is you want to grow and not just have a catch-all growth for all channels need for growth. We hear that a lot and that’s not a strategic way to look at it. If you really want to grow organically, it’s about engagement. Just like I learned to speak Spanish fluently. In order to do that, I had to immerse myself in that language, be a part of the culture. Listen to Spanish speaking TV shows and movies, listen to music from that culture, visit the country, live in the country. You had to do it in order to be it, right? So in order to grow a channel, you need to engage in that channel. You need to be active on there too. It takes more than just scheduling some posts and hoping for the best.
Finally, you really need to find people who think like you. Find customers, find influencers, engage with them, leave comments, re-share their content… It really is about that reciprocal engagement. That’s honestly the best way to do it. That takes a lot of time. It takes energy, but the best companies can do that. If you want the closest thing to silver bullets that I can offer — host a contest or influencer programs. Those are two tactics that can quickly work to increase followers. But again, think about that experience and what’s in it for your customer. Let’s say you’re running a contest on Instagram with an influencer. One of the stipulations is to follow. They go and look at your channel and that content isn’t doing anything for them. They’re not likely to remain a follower for long or follow at all. So again, it all ties in together, but influencer programs and contests can work for a quick lift if you need one.
What is the difference between what you do and what others do on social media?
Ashlie: My experience is probably the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve worked with Fortune 100 companies. I’ve trained CEOs at household brand name companies that I’m not going to mention here. There aren’t too many people who have been through that experience. I think that gives me a lot of insight and understanding that others might not have. Also, I really tie everything back to the community. My background specifically is in community management and content creation. So for me, it’s really about creating a sense of community. And there are pillars that can do that.
I’ve mentioned before with making sure your purpose, that’s step number one, and then really sticking to that purpose. Then if you want to grow your communities, you’re going to go on and engage, like we just talked about, right? So it’s this continuous cycle. If you’re in it for the right reasons, you’re putting out the right kind of quality content. You’re engaging in the community. You know the community. That takes a lot of effort and practice, trial and error, (a whole lot of trial and error). And you have to be okay with failing. Especially with social media, these platforms are changing every day. And often they don’t update users about it.
There are new platforms popping up all the time. Users are very fickle about how they behave on social platforms. So you really have to keep up, you have to know your stuff, but you also have to stay committed. And that can be really hard for a company to do. It’s also why it is valuable to have somebody like myself who has the background, the experience and the patience and understanding of what’s going to matter in the end. And what’s not going to make much of an impact when it comes to all this platform changes.
I think that’s the biggest difference. What also comes to mind when you talk about the difference is most people think that my job is easy. It’s not. It’s like that meme where, “What my mom thinks I do at work all day, what my friends think, etc.” Everybody thinks because they have a Facebook account or a Twitter account or an Instagram, they can do social media marketing, all that. They can think all I do is just post on social all day. It’s so much more strategic than that. It’s really about tying it back to business objectives, knowing which metrics to track, knowing how to use the tools the right way at the right time to hit the right people. It really is a complicated marketing channel. And I think a lot of people just think it’s throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks. It’s not that easy.
What are most businesses missing in their social media strategies?
Ashlie: It depends on the industry. Sadly, a lot of businesses are missing a strategy. It really helps to have one written down. It can be one piece of paper if that’s what you need for now. But at least have something and have that purpose. I’ve very rarely seen a social media strategy with a purpose. So again, make sure you always lead with that and think with a “people first” mentality. A lot of times there isn’t a channel strategy. Companies might look at using all the channels as a big megaphone or a way to just spit out content where every channel should really have its own unique strategy that can require a lot more resources, time, and content that companies don’t have. Prioritize that. But making sure where your priority channels are, secondary channels and then any maybe like distribution or syndication channels.
Another thing that I see that’s missing out of a lot of social media strategies is a measurement plan. Often times you’re just pulling numbers from whatever Facebook or Instagram gives you and turning that over. But you’re not able to show how it has real business value. Social media can do that for you. That’s one of the great things about digital social media. Specifically, is that you can attribute in-store traffic, online traffic to your social media activity. Making sure that you have a plan for that and you know which metrics matter.
What does the future look like for social media?
Ashlie: If I had a crystal ball and could predict the future of social media, I probably wouldn’t have a job for very long as a fortune teller because it changes all the time. It’s hard to know what the future looks like. In a year from now, things could look quite different. If you’d asked me this, 18 months ago, I might not have told you about TikToK. Here we are today. People are spending more time on TikToK than they are on Facebook. It does change so quickly. But I think there are three trends that are important to highlight. The first is that people love the anonymity of social media. If you think about Facebook, for example, it’s probably a personal account for you. LinkedIn, same way, professional, but your name is still tied to it. People know who you are.
If we look at user behaviors now, we’re starting to see people feeling much more comfortable in being an anonymous person. You know, Reddit has been around for a long time, but we’re starting to see that pick up amongst some demographics that haven’t really used Reddit all too often before. One reason is because of the anonymity. You look at TikToK. Users can have an anonymous user name there where they feel safer engaging with content, posting content, that maybe you wouldn’t want everybody in your personal or professional life to see. That doesn’t mean you should do anything bad. It just means that people feel safer to maybe really express how they really feel. I think that’s a big trend and that we’re going to continue to see it more. I would also say we’ll see more direct messaging or private apps. Think WhatsApp, for example, or even Messenger. We know Facebook has been pushing that a lot, but I do think there is going to be a continuous push for these one-to-one messaging apps and platforms. And that’s about it. I’m not going to make too many predictions because it will change way too often!
Awesome insights, Ashlie! Thank you.
Do you have questions or a desire for a strategic social media plan? We’d love to chat. Email Ashlie at firstname.lastname@example.org