TATOC 2017 Conference round-up: John Heffernan
In our latest report on the highlights of the 2017 TATOC conference, LEIGH CONNELLY looks back on an insightful presentation by John Heffernan, Sales and Marketing Director at Red Live Media.
John Heffernan discussed the importance of social media and the constant evolution of digital marketing strategy in his presentation ‘Not another Social Media Presentation! Failing the way to Sales and Success’.
He opened by emphasising the importance of being able to evolve your online marketing strategy and that those companies who can evolve and adapt will be the ones who survive: “Evolve or die”, he said.
He then shared with delegates his views on the changing role of the marketing function. “Five years ago marketing was important for the initial awareness of a product or service. After this point, the consideration, evaluation and purchase stages would have been dealt with by the sales department. Today, sales is a later part of the process, with responsibility for the previous stages sitting with the the marketers.”
Heffernan explained that marketing has never been more important. “Without it, sales will not happen. They won’t happen and you won’t even know, because you weren’t aware of the opportunity,” he said. Social media is a huge part of the marketing process, and where many opportunities lie.
But why are some companies getting this element so wrong? Heffernan says it’s all about strategy. “Many companies say they have a strategy, but that strategy is simply to start and see what happens – to figure it out later. They haven’t thought about what content they want, who is going to create it and generally what should be happening!”
Heffernan also revealed what he deems to be the biggest mistake made by many companies. “Giving the youngest person in the company responsibility for social media,” he said. “Allowing apprentices and university leavers to be in charge of your entire social media strategy, just because they have a Facebook account is a big mistake. By all means, let them do the implementation, but a more experienced marketer should be in charge of the strategy.”
“People say to me: “There is so much noise… How do I cut through that, so my potential customers can hear me?” The answer? Build your image,” said Heffernan.
He explained that companies must be visible. “The holiday experience starts the minute people look to book,” he said. “But where some holiday companies fail, is a lack of connection between the booking and arrival stages.”
Heffernan emphasises the importance of engaging with your customers, explaining that if a great experience is created, the customer will share and enthuse about it and your brand reputation will be strengthened as a result.
The presentation then progressed to discuss the difference between traditional and social media marketing.
“The difference is that we are kicking up hill,” he said. “You are not in control – the customer is.”
He then listed the main fears which companies tend to have with regards to social media marketing:
- Loss of control – of the brand and messaging
- The possibility of negative reactions
- The issue of personal versus brand identity
- Fear of failure
- Wasted time
- Information overload.
Heffernan was confident that each concern could be overcome with good management of social media and he shared some tips for success:
- Write the way you would speak. Google has semantic indexing and the content which does best is that which is easiest to read.
- It’s not all about cash injection. People think that they need an excess of money to do social media well, but it’s more about resource and organisation. Plan your content well and create an editorial calendar.
- Don’t think of social media marketing as easy, low-hanging fruit. Take it seriously and treat it the same as any other marketing.
- Not all platforms are good for your brand. Look at what each one does and decide which ones are suitable.
- Likes, fans and followers are just numbers, concentrate on quality engagement.
“The best place to hide a dead body? On page two of Google search results,” Heffernan joked. He stated that when a customer Googles your company or brand name, they are likely to see social media pages, including LinkedIn, YouTube videos and blogs, before they even get to your company website. This content may or may not have been produced by yourselves. It’s a case of telling your story, or having it told for you.
The presentation also highlighted the importance of not ending up embarrassed by your social media activity by attracting attention for the wrong reasons.
- Check your facts: Heffernan shared various examples of brands creating posts, with good intentions, but making assumptions or incorrect statements, only to be corrected by hundreds, or thousands of users.
- Check the diary: Is your post going out at a time which could be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate, due to religious or political tension or important public events. Or, are you marketing at a time that doesn’t make good business sense. For instance, if there has just been a price increase, or legal issues.
Heffernan finished by saying that people think social media marketing will be easy, will quickly drive results and be immediately successful, but of course, success is a winding road. His last piece of advice was focused around keeping people interested: “Write something worth reading about or do something worth writing about.”
Heffernan’s insightful presentation provided food for thought on the last day of the conference, as delegates began to plan how they might implement the weekend’s learnings into their day-to-day work.