Social Media vs. Reality: What Your Brand’s Social Media Manager Wants You to Know

Adopted from SoCal street slang and popularized by ‘90s rap lyrics, real talk is a phrase that represents a free exchange of unabashed opinions and after the year we all endured, safe professional spaces where creatives can share fearless feedback with one another are necessary.

In an effort to foster a safe space for professionals to get real with one another digitally, we created the PhotoShelter for Brands Slack community where over 1,300 people gather to exchange ideas, discuss creative work challenges, share projects that inspire and make connections.

Three weeks ago we took our commitment to community-building to the next level and launched a virtual, bi-monthly event series on Zoom called Real Talk.

During the first session we connected with a handful of professional sports photographers who gave play-by-plays about how they produce their best work. They even shared technical tips for amateurs, hobbyists and pro peers to learn from.

For the second session, we connected with a group of wickedly talented social media experts who boldly and freely shared their How-It-Started to How-It’s-Going professional career stories and predictions for where social media will take their brands’ reputation (and all of us and our attention spans👀📲) in 2022.

Read more state-of-the-social-media-union predictions and content marketing advice below—and tweet at us (@psforbrands) with your own social media hot takes!

1. Social media platforms may seem like they’re constantly changing, but they’re actually staying the same—(and stealing from one another!)

Jeremy Berkowitz, PhotoShelter’s Social Media and Content Marketing Specialist began the session by asking folks to share their observations of how social media platforms have changed over the past year and a half.

Sarah Gardner, National Geographic’s Audience Development Manager aptly replied first, “First, isn’t a better question, ‘What hasn’t changed?’”

As a social media expert who’s been working for the same brand for over six years, she noted how although no two days are the same in terms of tasks, she’s noticed ever-growing similarities between user experience and functionality across social platforms.

She said, “I mean I’ve been in social for six years for the same brand but I’ve never done the same thing for more than five months at a time. We’re always tweaking and adding; mostly, we’re always adding (let’s be honest, we just continually do more, it seems like.) But I think the biggest thing that stands out to me is this continual, gradual shift and the same-ification of all the platforms. You see Facebook start to become what it is now, you see Instagram start to become more like Facebook, but then actually it decides ‘no, actually, I want to be more like TikTok.’ You see all the platforms kind of steal from one another, right?


Remember the ‘What People Think I Do vs. What I Actually Do’ meme era?

While scoping out new social platforms and staying up-to-date on platform and feature changes are key parts of the job for any social marketer, part of the fun and excitement that comes with developing a solid and effective social media strategy is applying the scientific process to strategy.

More on how and when to invest in strategizing beyond the platform ecosystem you know from additional pros, below.

2. Every brand doesn’t need to be on every platform.

How did your brand pivot when the great Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp blackout of 2021 occurred?

When the social media mainframe collapsed on October 4, 2021, Twitter welcomed new and dormant users with open arms while other popular platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn saw a surge in activity, naturally.

What would you do if your main source of content distribution and communication with your audience ceased to exist? What then?

Although our Zoom session predated this content-apocalypse, Yoav Guttman PhotoShelter’s Director of Revenue Marketing posed a thought-provoking question to the group that elicited a round of thoughtful responses which can help social media managers define and optimize their platform strategies.

Yoav asked, “How do you know if or when it’s worth it to invest time and resources into developing a presence on a new social platform versus if you’re just doing it because you feel like you need to?

Sarah Gardner replied first: “That’s where the business hat comes into play…I think the biggest thing is that you have to know your end goal. You absolutely must know what you’re trying to achieve and then, by paying attention to what other brands are doing, by reading the research, reading the platform updates, you can kind of get a sense of the map of where your users are headed. Pinterest is booming right now for e-commerce; if e-commerce is a huge part of your business strategy or goals, you may decide that that’s a market that you haven’t tapped into and you should try that over something like TikTok which is incredibly popular.

For social teams, which are usually lean (a.k.a small, but MIGHTY!) metering excitement for trying new social platforms and features within platforms can be a balancing act; you’ve got to find the time to play around and learn about the platform and how it works while also working on new creative asset formats for different post types.

For Kaylynn Knuth, Social Media Manager at Hudl, she said she repelled the urge to get on TikTok in 2020 because she simply couldn’t handle it with everything else going on. (We don’t blame her!) However, knowing their main audience demographics range from ages 13 to 18, and knowing that Snapchat has been a preferred and successful platform for them, she finally decided to dive in and try TikTok beginning in August 2021.

She noted, “Within the last month or two we’ve started to ramp it [TikTok] up and yeah, it’s addicting. We’re just constantly stuck going through the For You Page and figuring out how to adjust our content to fit there. It’s a treat.

Hudl is also a Snapchat Discovery partner with two shows on the platform — one was recently launched called Her Hudl which amplifies women’s sports content.

One great thing about being on a lean team, you can utilize the sameification of the platforms to your advantage. In this case, Kaylynn could repurpose storyboard ideas and vertical video assets made for the Snapchat Discover platform for TikTok.

Now, there’s an idea for testing which content resonates best across platforms!💡

3. It’s not all a numbers game. Keep your brand goals in perspective.

Social analytics platforms and native social platform insights dashboards with their endless mix-and-match KPI and metrics options (key performance indicators) can easily overwhelm any creative person. To keep your reports succinct with your business and audience growth goals, you need to hone in on specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) objectives for each platform and content campaign. Establishing these objectives are key to measuring your social media engagement and content performance.

For Jeremy Drey, Content Coordinator and Photographer at Troëgs Brewery, he noted how Instagram’s constantly changing algorithm is a poor compass for growing brands. “There’s no benchmarks. Everything’s changing…Within the last year, we went over 100,000 followers which is great, but as soon as that happened our likes and everything started to decrease. I don’t know if it’s an Instagram algorithm throttling thing or if it’s just that people aren’t engaged, but I mean the content really hasn’t changed that much and now we see certain things do well and other things just fall flat all the time,” he said.

For Brooke McDonough, Development and Communications Manager at iLCP, she said she sees the same kind of nonsensical dip in engagement as Jeremy does with Troëgs’ Instagram.

Brooke shared, “We do cultural and environmental conservation, so we have tons of amazing content from our photographers. I can post a cute picture of an animal any day and we will get so many likes, but that’s not always our goal—to just get a lot of likes. We also want to often talk about issues that are going on, or try to drive people to action, so a lot of times I will be posting a photo of people being affected by a pipeline being built or something like that and I know it’s not going to get that many likes and people on our Board will ask me, ‘why is this not not performing as well’ and I’m like, ‘well, it’s just not a cute animal.’ The story is really important to tell so it makes things interesting in terms of setting our goals; knowing that it might not perform’ as well or hit our KPIs, but it’s still falling within our storytelling goals, so that’s a really interesting dynamic that we’ve been working with.”

For Jenn Druchniak, Social Media Manager at Hungry Harry’s — an allergen-free baking mix company, of course sales matter, but their content strategy allows people to take action and purchase based on the authentic stories they share and the centering of the food allergy community in their storytelling.

She said, “We really try to lead with empathy and execute with creativity. We really try to do a lot of advocacy to try and share information rather than just be like, ‘Buy our mixes, you know? ​​Our founder Sarah is a documentary photographer, so she’s very into capturing the moment and capturing real authentic experiences. A way for us to do that and share those with the Hungry Harry’s audience is through user generated content we have. We get hundreds of photos back every month from people actually using our product, actually baking the pancake mix, (we have two cake mixes, we have a muffin mix and an all purpose flour, so you know the limit the baked goods are endless in terms of what people are able to create!) And we’re having that authentic review from a user…I know I work for the company, but it’s actually really good. It tastes amazing and to see these real baked goods that people make think, ‘Oh, this is this is real, this is legit!‘”

Taking all of these poignant and honest insights into consideration, how does this shift your perspective of the purpose of social media for your organization?

Join us and 1,300 creative professional on Slack and let’s have a #RealTalk discussion about it!

Social Media vs. Reality: What Your Brand’s Social Media Manager Wants You to Know is written by Larissa D Green for

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