With over three billion people around the world using social media every month, it is no surprise that businesses are driving marketing spend towards social platforms to help them connect with their consumers, increase awareness about their brand, and (importantly) boost leads and sales.

DLA Piper recently hosted an event focussing on ‘The Connected Consumer’ and one of the speakers was Jenny Emslie, founder and director of 24/7 social media agency Sunshine Communications. The leaders in the room were very engaged with the top tips that Jenny revealed on the evening on how to best connect with your consumer, so we invited her for an interview to delve deeper into the issues raised.

You mentioned that one of the key success factors for a marketing campaign is knowing your consumer, how do you recommend that your clients do this via social media?

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook provide real time data and analytics. You can look at the back end of the systems and learn a lot about your consumers such as demographic, behaviours, location, social media usage etc.”

Jenny continues “If you implement tools such as Sprout Social, Falcon and Google Analytics, you can analyse your consumer data in much more detail such as how long they spend on your website, whether they converted to a purchase and where they drop off in the user journey – then make improvements to products and services based on these insights. Additionally, social media gives you an incredible advantage where you can actually communicate with your consumers by the minute and ask for their feedback. Brands should be utilising Twitter/ Facebook polls, questions on Instagram stories and engaging with consumers on all social media content to find out what they like about their product/ service and what they don’t like. This is an incredibly powerful tool for companies to utilise especially if they are developing new products or services and would like consumer input”.

So from a legal and contractual perspective, it is important that the contract also reflects an agile approach to facilitate any change in direction which may be influenced by this real time customer feedback, for example, a last minute change in the desired marketing campaign or products offered.

There was also a big focus on consumer loyalty schemes, and you mentioned that the most valuable consumers are those who engage with businesses on different channels (e.g. online and in stores). How do you recommend clients leverage social media for their loyalty schemes/rewards programme?  

Jenny commented that “Once you have built a community on your social media channels, you know you already have a dedicated fan base to talk to. This is the perfect opportunity to start a social advertising strategy to serve them adverts relating to the loyalty programme – since the audience is already warm, you have more chance of a sign-up.

You can also run lead advertisements through Facebook / LinkedIn and Instagram encouraging people to sign up to a loyalty programme or a newsletter series. We have found these to be incredibly successful and are adding over 1000 new subscribers a month for one of our hotel brands for the cost of £100″.

With so many users on social media, giving your consumers the option to earn rewards for social actions they perform on a regular basis will make them feel like reaching a certain points balance is attainable. These achievable milestones will in turn increase the likelihood of them participating in your programme and will drive loyalty long-term.”

We have certainly seen an increase in requests for assistance with ensuring the user journeys and marketing statements are GDPR compliant. From a practical perspective, we know that an engaged consumer who is receiving relevant marketing is more likely to convert from a lead to a sale; so it is critical to ensure there is a correct legal basis for the marketing and loyalty schemes/newsletters.

Data protection was mentioned during the evening as an important balancing check, and it seemed like many of the brands were interested in hearing how other businesses are approaching this. What is your best advice on how to fully utilise the social media tools whilst ensuring compliance?

“The social media platforms themselves had to remove/improve certain features to become GDPR compliant, so they did our job for us in a sense. For example, you used to be able to target people based on income through Facebook but they had to remove this section when GDPR came into play and it’s no longer available. We always ensure that our clients have the right policies on their website and consents to carry out email marketing for GDPR. We also ensure that any data that is uploaded to Facebook / Instagram is compliant (i.e. was lawfully obtained) and that the individuals were informed their data would be used for social media retargeting. We work with our client and their lawyers on this process as they own their data rather than us.”

This is certainly an area that many companies are grappling with and knowing whether you need consent, or whether you can rely on legitimate interest is a common question that we face. It is important to mention, specifically in the social media sphere, that the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK published a report this year on adtech and real time bidding. The report confirmed that the scenarios where legitimate interests can apply are limited and that it is very important to ensure that consumers understand what processing is taking place and what profiles are being created about them. It is also clarified in the recently published draft guidance on direct marketing that consent is required on social media platforms where the content is “direct and targeted” and/or via the direct message functions  – but that for non-discriminate marketing or general content appearing on social media feeds, companies  may seek to rely on legitimate interests if the balancing test is met. It is generally understood amongst marketing organisations that basing processing of personal data on GDPR-compliant consent gives your consumers genuine choice and ongoing control over how you use their data. Some top tips for ensuring you obtain a valid consent – (1) sufficient information should be provided i.e. describe what media you will be marketing on (e.g. email v. social media), (2) define which entity is sending the marketing; and (3) explain how they can opt-out if they change their mind. In other words, be transparent and ensure that any consent you obtain is informed.

Finally, what’s next – what are your priorities for 2020 as a social media agency?

In 2020, we will see the rise of more video based platforms such as Tik-Tok which is already starting to take over the younger generation. We’ll see consumers want to engage more with user generated content and less with influencers as the trust shifts towards peer to peer marketing. Video content is going to continue to grow and, by 2022, it is estimated to 82% of all internet traffic!

 At Sunshine, we’ll continue to mould and shape our clients’ strategies around these new changes in social and in technology to ensure we get the best possible results for our clients! We’ll be focusing on our key markets such as food & drink, retail and travel whilst looking to expand into new markets such as housing and the ‘alcohol-free’ drinks sector.”