Social Media Interview: Joanne Sweeney-Burke, Founder – Digital Training Institute

A short description of how and why you got started in social media

I use to be a professional storyteller (journalist) and also worked in PR and all areas of traditional media. So with the arrival of the social web it provided me with multiple new and exciting platforms to continue storytelling but to larger audiences.

I started experimenting and studying social media in 2006. As the late noughties progressed it became clear to me that media in all forms was changing and how we as individuals communicated would change forever.

I had noted skills, which crossed radio, print and TV, so online was just a natural next step for me. I completed a number of academic and professional courses over the past six years, which culminated in a Masters degree in digital marketing last year.

What do you believe are the benefits of using social media for business?

There are a number of tangible benefits for businesses that use social media, not least getting up close and personal with your customers. What a remarkable opportunity social media has given businesses to talk, engage, converse, have fun and sell to their customers. Building brand awareness is a real challenge for startups because, after all, nobody wants to hear from you if they haven't heard of you.

Positioning your brand amongst with of the best in your sector is a real opportunity social media provides. Showcasing brand distinctiveness, personality, your people and passion for your product or service builds trust, awareness and an online community of marketers.

The other benefit social media brings is targeted advertising. It’s remarkable how easy it is to target the right customers, at the right time with an interest in your product or service. We divulge so much information to social networking sites so not only do they know who we are, where we live, who we engage with, but they are also gauging our purchasing habits based on sentiment and conversations. Sometimes I think social networking sites know more about me than I know about myself! The algorithmic assessment of our online habits is hugely fascinating but also hugely beneficial for business.

The final benefit to business is Online PR. As a former PR professional, social media gives companies the chance to shine online and connect with journalists and influencers. News is now being broken on social media with the arrival of the ‘social citizen journalist’. Traditional media outlets are using social media for research and to find great business and human-interest stories. Therefore in my opinion, all businesses should consider their social media footprints as newsroom opportunities.

What do you think are common mistakes business owners make when building brand awareness on social media?

They sell, sell, sell. Too much! Please stop selling to me! I don’t want to be sold to, neither do your customers, until they are in a buying position. You will know when they are ready to buy when they are engaging with you, asking you questions and enquiring about your product or service. Also some business owners have expectations that are much too great such as expecting to become a YouTube sensation overnight, or going viral on Facebook or trending on Twitter. This takes work and actually usually happens accidentally!

Social media requires an investment – time and money, expertise and patience. You need all of this to deliver a successful social media strategy, and you also need to be consistent in your social media habits.

Posting on Facebook once a month and sending out ‘the odd’ tweet won’t cut it. Would you run your business like this? I often come across businesses that just don’t have the skills to deliver a creative social media strategy. They know how to post, tweet, like or share but that’s as far as it goes.

You must be willing to interact with the various social media sites at their deepest level, monitor analytics and test and iterate. It’s only by experimenting with different strategies will you realise what works best for your audiences.

What qualities do you think social media managers should have?

Social media managers should:

- Be creative
- Be great copywriters
- Understand analytics
- Be representative of the voice of the brand they are speaking for
- Understand that the company social media policy is sacrosanct
- Be a natural online conversationalist
- Be informed on current news (especially in your business sector) and generally in relation to culture, entertainment, news, sport etc.
- Have an interest in people
- Be committed to ongoing research and learn about social media updates and changes

How do Business owners know if their social media campaign is working?

It’s all about the analytics stupid! So what’s your ROI (return on investment)? These should be set out at the outset of your social media strategy. So they could be:

- Positioning of the brand as ‘brand of choice’ and you might measure this on the size of your online community and engagement and influence levels;

- Building up a permission-based database of prospects;

- Generating strategic connections which can help position your business or give you a route to market;

- Create an engaged online community who become your online marketers and brand ambassadors;

- Driving web traffic;

- Generating sales leads;

- Attracting positive media profiling;

But remember all of this will have to be measured and the numbers won’t lie so being analytical about your analytics and tracking engagement is key.

How do you see social media evolving over the next 5 years …what do you hope to see?

I predict an expansion of video content and improved functionality in many social media sites as well as a greater emphasis on social advertising. I predict buying ads will become the norm for businesses. Mobile will continue its dominance and with that it will become a core purchasing device. So online shopping will become mobile shopping. Afterall, we consume news, entertainment, run our businesses, and organise ourselves on our smartphone.

If you could share one best practice about using social media to grow a business, what would it be?

Humanise the brand, who are the faces behind the company? What makes you tick? Give me an insight into what happens behind the scenes. Tell me stories. Quite simply, think people not technology. Think stories, not sales.

What are your favourite platforms for social media marketing?

Twitter has to be my number one platform as I describe it as a platform to ‘influence the influencers’ and it’s very easy to connect with like-minded people or brands on a global scale.

For reach and social advertising, Facebook still ranks number one in my books and with their integration of video, I’m falling back in love with it, but I have also come to realise that a social spend is vital to compete on this social networking site.

Snapchat is an experimental platform for me. I use it to research the habits of teens and tweens as part of my work on policing and social media and on cyberbullying. It’s a very good example of how social media behavior has changed among digital natives, in terms of a new form of storytelling. Periscope is an amazing new platform and I see the phenomenon of citizen journalism spiraling with this live broadcasting tool.

Instagram is all about the photo and its popularity will grow further. It’s great for visual brands and product marketing. Their new advertising strategy will also prove useful.

YouTube has many benefits not least its SEO potential and the pure simplicity of sharing video. But with Facebook’s autoplay, it’s becoming a hub for your social life.

What tools do you use to manage these platforms? – What are the limitations for these tools?

I use Hoosuite and also use Tweetdeck and Facebook Scheduler – depending on what accounts or strategies I’m working on.

Name 5 tools that you can’t live without?

1. iMovie app – editing video on my smartphone
2. Hootsuite – scheduling / social media management
3. Google Analytics to track web impact of social activity
4. Evernote to organise my business and personal life!
5. Canva for creative digital design

Describe one of your social media campaigns that went really well.

I launched a social media campaign to connect with police officers that are interested in social media for professional purposes. I offered 20 free places for the beta version of my online course and within 14 days I had those places filled. It’s so useful in connecting with like-minded people. I used Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

How is your social media strategy adapted to your industry?

I adapt my social media activities based on my client base. I work with a broad range of clients so at the outset I would undertake a number of strategic steps.

- Ascertain customer persona
- Assess where they are online
- Document their interests/pains
- Develop a content strategy
- Develop campaign concepts
- Social advertising
- Measure and iterate

Using these fundamental steps with each customer campaign I ensure we launch and adapt social media to suit the client and their sector.

Manal Bouchacra

Manal Bouchacra

Manal is interested in social media and is working on her creative writing skills. Outside of work she enjoys the gym and hanging out with friends and family.


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