Digital Marketing & Engagement: Best Practice Playbook

Social Media

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, from the way people seek information, communicate, and even purchase. These changes mean that brands have to rethink how they market and communicate with customers and find new ways to connect.

We all know that social media usage has grown, but how much? According to econsultancy, global ad spend across Facebook and Instagram is soaring in the wake of the pandemic, according to new data found in Emplifi’s State of social media and CX Q3 2021 report. Analysis indicates that combined spend on these platforms grew by 43% year-on-year during Q3 2021, matching the peak seen in 2020’s golden quarter[1].

As the landscape has changed, clearly a shift in your digital marketing strategy is required. So here are some key Playbook ideas to amplify your social presence.

Know your Audience

Listen to your audience

Personas are the ideal way to target messaging, but if you don’t have personas (and while you work on achieving your personas), then target with your segmentation. Here’s an example, make sure you have messaging for your different demographics, one for students, another for professionals, and if you have them another for retirees. They have different needs and wants and you will come across too generic if you don’t address their individual needs and wants.

Creating personas makes this a no-brainer

  • Identify the basic information. Answer questions such as age, location, gender, basic interests, income level, etc. Once you have a basic outline of a profile, go further and ask yourself “so what?” and “what does this mean?” 
  • Find out what your customer is thinking and feeling now. Do some research, check in with influencers that are active in your customer space, and do what you need to do to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. As people were forced to stay at home, they started to do things differently. While online behaviors changed, so did their expectations. We all expect more from brands and their online experience. If our expectations are not matched by a brand’s delivery, then we turn elsewhere to find it and competition is fierce.
  • Take those answers and take a step back. Zoom out and forget everything you’ve done before and everything you thought you knew about your customer. Are there any new opportunities to share your event in different ways with different people? How can you pivot to meet or exceed the needs of your customers right now? 

Answering the above questions will all impact your digital marketing and engagement plan.

This is a basic development of personas.  At Halmyre, when we’re working with clients, we go through a step-by-step process of combing through data and sometimes interviewing customers, and find common threads or patterns.

To explain personas more thoroughly:

  • Personas are fictitious representations of your events customers or even stakeholders, developed using information gathered through user research.
  • Represent typical customer behaviour patterns and help to guide decision-making by allowing preliminary testing of how marketing will affect these types of members
  • They can provide a helpful framework in making marketing and operational decisions, replacing assumptions about what customers need, and why, with real feedback from your events’ customers

If you have personas, even better!

Make sure you cycle through your persona types with the different needs and wants that they represent. This will help you be in tune with your members and shows you are listening and engaging with them, on their terms.

Adjust your Messaging

You are welcome to adjust your messages to communicate safety and togetherness, but do not adjust your key strategic position. You can promote social positive messaging aligned to your event strategy and focus more on your audience. Many will also include a sense of empathy, compassion and adaptability where applicable.

Twitter suggests[2] running a quick brand audit by asking a few key questions:

  1. Does your current positioning make sense given the current market climate?
  2. Has your target audience changed at all during the pandemic? How will it change again as restrictions begin to lift?
  3. Are you still addressing your customer’s primary pain points, or have those changed?

Explore New Ways to Share your Message

Think social media video, more organic options that are better for quick listening and sharing. In our fast-past, attention-stretched society, including short video is an important dynamic to your messaging variety.

Use appropriate #hashtags for searching and creating the ability to group content together. Another key structure in your audience search patterns.

Additionally, we can’t say enough about creating and using a content calendar, which is simple a grid of themes and dates (think Motivation Monday). Plan activities using a content calendar and then include ways to include your audience in your activities. Ask your audience to share pictures of event prep or event participate. People are sharing content more than ever, so campaigns that have strong share appeal are going to increase their reach and impact at a much higher rate.

An example of this could include polls:

  • Twitter polls within a tweet (ask the audience for feedback in real-time)
  • Facebook polls on the page itself
  • Instagram polls within stories

Twitter suggests, but it is applicable across all platforms, key things to make your posts shareable:

  • They’re useful. They teach something valuable, applicable, or insightful and make things easier for readers.
  • They’re entertaining. Everybody shares funny or amusing things they find on the internet. Your Tweets should be no different.
  • They’re inspiring. Especially lately, people want to feel uplifted. If they get that feeling from your company, all the better.

Drive growth in your social engagement

Social media ecosystem is like the social scene of the digital space. Envision you are at your favourite neighbour restaurant/pub and people are walking in and out, they are having a beverage, maybe talking with strangers, and dropping their façade and engaging with others. This is the description of two-way conversation. This group of users want to engage in a more social environment, they are less like to engage with a one-way conversation with you talking at them from across the table.

Short case study of learnings and take aways. For our client OSPE, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, to help them drive growth and engagement across their social media. We built a strategy that aligned with their strategic pillars – Engineers Care. Engineers Lead. Engineers Unite.

With this approach, we built a campaign that was aligned with their strategy by supporting the strategic pillars. We started out by introducing the campaign and we let the audience know that every day we were going to be creating new content focuses on one of each of their pillars. We developed a new suite of creative to support the campaign which gave the campaign a real creative focus. We asked the audience to share experiences of their own that amplified the strategic pillars and sourced our own content in the beginning as the campaign ramped up. As people began to start to share their experiences, people began sending us messages with suggestions. We ran an Instagram Live with our client’s CEO, where we asked for questions ahead of time and allowed him to answer questions submitted live. This positioned him as approachable and authentic, answering users questions right on the spot. This effort positioned the client’s platform as a community hub.

Here’s a snapshot of the success that we achieved over three weeks: 

Playbook Development: Measure, measure, measure.

This goes back to the old saying – you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Of all the steps in developing your best practice playbook, measuring and benchmarking is undoubtedly the most important. 

Actually, it’s never been more important to have data in place to track how effectively you’re meeting the new needs of your customers and adapting to the circumstances. There are a lot of tools at your disposal to use. We recommend two “must haves”

  1. Google Analytics
  2. GA is free to use, and too often treated as a free tool.  To use GA properly takes some serious skill and time honing your knowledge. Here are three steps to using GA:
  3. Setting your account up properly.  You need to be using Google Tag Manager to track your content, integrate with a pixel from Facebook, and set up your events to track conversions accurately. 
  4. Pulling the data regularly from GA, knowing where to source it from and how to manipulate it. 
  5. Lastly, once you have the data, you need to parse it to understand what it means.  What actionable insights can you gather from it?    
  • A social scheduling/analytics/listening tool – more commonly known as a social media management suite. 
  • These tools are imperative to deriving value and implementing ongoing key learnings into your social media efforts.  I don’t know if you remember the iconic American Express slogan – don’t leave home without it – but the same applies to a social media management suite – don’t put effort into social without it.
  • This is the digital equivalent to putting on a fair, exhibition or other event, and not talking to attendees or listening to what they’re saying.  A social suite will allow you to create a content calendar, like I mentioned before, provide advanced listening features to understand that your audience is talking about, inform you of your top advocates and give you insights into their networks, as well as providing in-depth analytics that can quickly be converted into actionable insights to continuously improve your social media efforts, resulting in much quicker success.

Investing in your ability to measure and manage audience engagement will help you grow your ability to engage.

Ursula Green, CM, is theVP, Chief Experience Officer at Halmyre. She is a 25-year veteran of branding, digital marketing, direct and engagement marketing, and customer experience. She has the expertise and discipline to conduct primary research, develop journey maps, and identify service opportunities to ensure your brand’s success. Learn more at