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Social Media Strategy, an Interview with Libby Cattalini


Interviewer: Tim Martin, April 2014.  Episode #11 from the NET:101 podcast.


Podcast Transcript


TIM: Today I’ve got Libby Cattalini with me, who is the Social Media Strategy Manager for a large FMCG company based here in Australia, with a stable of about nine brands. Is that right, Libby?


LIBBY: Yes, that’s right, Tim. Hi, how are you going?


TIM: Good, good. We can’t mention the name of the company, and that’s okay, but we can talk in general terms, so that’s what we’re going to do today. What does a social media strategy manager do, Libby?


LIBBY: That’s a really good question, Tim, because I think there’s quite a few titles now appearing with “strategy manager” in it. One of the main roles that I have apart from looking after the team and managing the general day-to-day of social media is getting the other side of the analytics and really measuring everything that we do and how we can improve that and come up with some new options and pretty much going forward with the more strategic approach rather than just a creative one.


TIM: Right, so it’s not just working out clever things to post through Facebook.


LIBBY: No. I mean, that is a part of it, but it’s every move and decision that you make has a reason behind it, pretty much.


TIM: And accountability for a financial return?


LIBBY: Yeah, absolutely. I think every company would like to see ROI on anything that they pursue. But it’s also important to decide how that ROI is envisioned, and it’s not always just a monetary decision. You hear a lot more of “ROR” now in social media, so it’s your return on relationship, because obviously relationship will then turn into dollars as well.


TIM: That intermediate step, the return on the relationship, how does one go about measuring that?


LIBBY: It’s really interesting, because I think that there’s some – especially if we bring it back to Facebook, I suppose, there’s that metric that shows that people are engaged with you and that people want to talk to you and want to be a part of your brand communication. So building that relationship, whether that just be through your post or through customer service query and private messaging as well, it goes across the board. There are measurements that you can do using Facebook to get that ROR as well.


TIM: Sure. I do want to talk to you about Facebook today, but before we do that, there’s a perception out there with a company as large as yours, and you’ve got a lot of brands that you have oversight for – does that mean you’ve got a very large team of people in social media side of things, or does that mean you’ve got a huge budget to play with?


LIBBY: It’s a really good question. It depends on what company that you’re talking to and what you consider to be large. We’d always like to have more people on the team. I think the more that you’re doing social media, the more you realize that it would be great to have more on your team.

Currently what we have here is we have two full-time community managers, and they look after four of our brands. And then we outsource three of our other brands currently. So that’s a lot of people involved in just social media. Yeah, I think that we’d probably like to have more, but that’s considered quite a nice size team in Australia as we currently stand.


TIM: Is that an experiment that you’re running, that you have some brands that you’re looking after in-house and then the other half you’ve outsourced?


LIBBY: I believe it was – prior to my time, it was more outsourced, and we’re trying bringing some in-house as well rather than having the totality outsourced. We’ve got really good relationships with the agencies that we currently use, and they’ve been with us for quite some time. But it just made sense that the company was growing in a certain direction, especially with the digital team, that we had the ability to bring some in-house.


TIM: I guess you get to enjoy the best of both worlds, some of the outside perspective and expertise that can be offered through an agency, but also you’re actually learning yourselves internally with what you’re looking after.


LIBBY: Absolutely. And it’s really interesting; I think it’s great to have agency input, but it’s also great that your team and having other staff around makes it – you know your brand, so I think that [inaudible 00:05:20] perspective [inaudible 00:05:22] other people in companies. No one knows your brand better than you do. Learning how to let other people know that knowledge that you have about your brand is great.


TIM: Let’s talk about Facebook. That would be a major part of your overarching social media strategy, yeah?


LIBBY: Absolutely. When I joined the company, the only social channel that we had was Facebook, and we found that it was a really strong avenue for the company to pursue from a social perspective, to start with. We have branched off into other areas, but Facebook really is where a lot of the activity is for our consumers. So we do a lot within Facebook.


TIM: Explain what might be particular about using channels such as Facebook for an FMCG as opposed to a B-to-B business or maybe a product that I would only occasionally buy once every couple years, like some car tires.


LIBBY: It’s really interesting, Tim, because when you’re communicating with people about a product that they’re potentially purchasing numerous times a week and there’s quite a lot of choices out there – and more often than not, they’re not purchasing directly from you; they’re purchasing through another store. So you don’t have that direct relationship like coming to our store. It’s very much information around the product.

But in saying that, it’s also about building that relationship with people. A lot of the information that we post is really gaining an understanding of our consumers and how we can communicate with them not just about our product. So I guess it’s being able to have that conversation that’s not always sell, sell, sell, sell. It’s about “tell me about yourself, and this is something about us” via the content that you’re posting.

So you are actually learning about your consumer, and your consumer’s gaining an understanding of the brand through your brand’s personality on Facebook, which is really important.


TIM: I’m looking at one of your brand pages now. This is for one of your frozen food products, and I do see some of your product in some of those posts, but at a quick glance, it’s probably 1 in 5 or 1 in 7 or 8 posts that you’re actually making any mention of any of your products at all.


LIBBY: Yeah, it might not be directly about our products. We have particular recipes, and that brings it back to the product, or we might have the product itself, or perhaps where the products are grown, because they are actually Australian grown, and a lot of consumers like to know about that background.

However, there’s still a lot of information that is just purely about connecting with our consumers. One of the things, especially with this brand, is that we notice especially with mothers, they don’t want to always know “how-to” tips and everything like that. That could’ve been the easy route to make that about our brand, and it was something that you’d automatically think “Mums, they need to know how to do this, it’s about washing or household chores, and how can we do that?”

It’s very much about entertaining mums, giving them that 5 minute break. Getting into consumer behavior and for example, how do mums use Facebook, often mums are checking early in the morning, late at night, before they pick up the kids at school. They’ll pick up their phone and go onto Facebook probably about seven times a day.

So how can we be one of those points of destination? And that’s to entertain, and that’s to make them laugh, or that’s to connect with them in a way that is something that we get them and we understand what it’s like. So it’s really important to know how you want to do it, how you want to communicate with your consumers, and I think that has to be something really genuine and not something that is just continuously [inaudible 00:09:52].

It’s really interesting, because you can just ask yourself, “Would I enjoy this? As a consumer, would I enjoy this content? Would I share that with my friends?” And if it’s always about your product, no, I wouldn’t. Unless I’m a diehard fan, you can’t get excited every day or every second day about a product. It’s just not really possible.


TIM: No, no. I’m looking at a post here that says “Yay! It’s the weekend. Oh wait, I’m a mum.” It does have the brand logo within that post, but as you say, that’s more connecting with the consumer and the type of people they are rather than their needs around cooking or having to put food on the table for the family, right?


LIBBY: Absolutely. And I think it’s also something that, at the end of the day, it’s a realistic part of being a mum. You’re doing it to put food on the table, and it is really hard, but also that’s sprinkled in there as well. So it’s a fine balance of being able to provide content that is applicable to all facets of the consumer.


TIM: You and I are both big fans of the numbers. We’ve had many discussions around metrics and what does success look like and what does it not look like. But the flipside of things, the creative side, to come up with inspirational quotes that aren’t corny and come up with ideas that have humor, that resonate, that’s a very right brain activity. How do you balance the analytics on one side and then being very clever and creative on the other?


LIBBY: That’s a really good question. The thing is, for me personally, I’ve always loved content. I love looking at content. I’m like everyone else, really; everything that you see out there, it’s got to be entertaining. It’s got to grab you in some aspect.

Once you get into the foresight of knowing what your consumer personality is like, it’s a lot easier to start to look for that information. Because you want to think of content that is – just like you’d be looking through your regular newsfeed, what appeals to you? And start to look through the eyes of a consumer.

For me, I’m great at picking good content. I’m not a content creator. I’ve done my days of community management, and it’s really hard slogging. Fortunately for me, I’ve got a great team here that come up with some fantastic content for our Facebook pages.

But everyone has their own unique way of starting with content, and I think if I can give one piece of advice in regards to content, it’s start saving or bookmarking content that appeals to you or what you think would appeal to your consumer, and just start to create folders. You’ll find a pattern, because that’s I guess where my numbers and figures come into it: you’ll find a pattern with the content that you start collecting, that there’s a lot of similarities there.

And then you can also start to look at your competitors and start to see what they’re doing. That’s a way that you can measure, if you’re starting out, “Am I on track here? Yep, it looks like I’m doing some similar things to what my competitors are doing.” But then also you might see something that’s a bit less [inaudible 00:13:23] and think, “No, I think that could really work” and really just take the risk.


TIM: To what extent do you use the feedback loop? You put a post out there and you think it’s quite good and it might get quite a bit of engagement, and maybe it doesn’t. Do you look at the numbers to try and figure out what you should be doing more and less of?


LIBBY: Absolutely. Absolutely, it’s really important. Where I am here, every fortnight we have meetings that go through all our reporting and looking at the content. What made those posts so successful? Why didn’t’ those other ones perform as well? And sometimes it is the content; sometimes it’s about our timing; sometime it’s about our strategy wasn’t particularly as good as it could’ve been.

It’s never just that one thing, and I think that by being able to have a look – even in Facebook, you can see from a basic level, they provide you some really interesting insights through the Insights. As a page manager, you can just click on the “See all” under Insights, and there’s some really great info there, so you can have a look at that, your engagement levels and your reach, etc.

Sometimes it’s as simple as it just wasn’t posted at the right time; other times, consumers just don’t connect with it, and it’s simple as that, and that’s fine. Maybe you can tweak it just a little bit, or maybe you just ditch it and move on.

So it’s having the ability to just throw things out there. I often have done, especially when I’m working on a new brand, I’ll just throw a few posts out there, just so I can learn and read what the community likes. And without doing that, I wouldn’t be able to get more specific. I think it’s really good to take risks with your content as long as you don’t go – you’re not insensitive.


TIM: You have a culture of experimentation that’s strongly encouraged, and I guess by extinction, embracing failure. Because you can’t experiment without having failures.


LIBBY: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think one of the most positive things that I’ve ever done in my career is always try and always give it a go. Because it’s often those points that you take that risk that we get such phenomenal feedback and a gaining of knowledge that you might not have been able to get that response unless you gave it a try. I think that as long as you have reasoning behind trying something and then measuring it and then taking action about it, there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong. It’s always a trial.

In saying that, I think it’s always really important with social media, because it is something that gains a lot of traction, whether it’s good or bad, can be when you don’t actually think before you post as well. So if you are doing something experimental, you’ve also got to look at it, is this politically correct? Could there be repercussions with this from the aspect of offending consumers? You’ve got to have a look at when I’m saying experimentation, it’s more so about content that you’re thinking, “Oh, maybe that could work or it couldn’t.” Give it a go. Get the answer. Don’t just sit on the fence.


TIM: Is sometimes part of that process getting a fresh pair of eyes to look at it before you hit the publish button?


LIBBY: Absolutely. Absolutely. We have an internal approval process here that is quite stringent, and I always recommend that – especially if you’re making a content calendar or you’ve got some post ideas, get someone else to look over it. Because sometimes you can get a little bit too close to your content, especially if you’ve been working on stuff for a bit, and it’s really good to get a second pair of eyes over it. That could really shift with any negative repercussions from that information. Yeah, highly recommend it.


TIM: Yeah, and especially humor, too. Because I like ironic humor, but not everybody gets ironic. They can take it quite literally. So you have to be careful in some respects.


LIBBY: Absolutely, and it’s really interesting that you get it all the time, and no matter how long you’ve been with a particular brand, there’s always people that will – even if you’ve done something quite innocently, there’ll always be someone who can take offense to that.

One of the other recommendations with stuff that we do here, we’ve got great community managers who are well-trained at responding. I think being able to comment and respond back to your consumers is just as important as posting your content, and having that foresight of potential commentary that can come from posting certain things is really important, and being able to handle those inquiries and not talking back is just imperative.


TIM: I sometimes quip that to be a social media community manager, you have to have the patience of a saint and skin the thickness of an elephant.


LIBBY: Yeah, pretty much. That’s really, really, really true. I think any of the other community managers out there will be nodding in agreement, because sometimes – especially because there’s also that creative aspect that content creators have, you do sometimes become quite attached to certain posts, and not getting the love back can sometimes feel quite disheartening. But at other times, some of the commentaries that you can get from people are just so off the mark that you’ve just got to learn to be able to provide a great response.

One of the things that we do here, we’re very, very heavily involved in our social media response guidelines. We’ve got a whole heap, from a customer service perspective through to the ingredients, everything else, that everything that is sent back to our consumers is 100% correct. That’s a really good idea to start to jot some of those ideas down.


TIM: I would imagine that’s an organic document that gets added to and altered as new things happen and you discover more things?


LIBBY: Yes, it does. And it’s also – I strongly recommend that if anyone is ever outsourcing to agencies or contractors, that you have social media response guidelines set up, because it is such a fast-paced response platform that you’ve really got to have – putting that into someone else’s hands might not be the way that you handle it. So having things really set in stone there is pretty imperative.


TIM: I guess even internally, that you’re reacting on the fly, you’re reacting to a program or a set of guidelines that have been agreed upon well in advance, yeah?


LIBBY: Absolutely. Something like a bigger company like ours, we have to go through many approval processes to have that refined. For a smaller business, it might be through the manager and through the staff, and ask everyone on the team.

You might not think that asking all members of the team is important, but it really is, because other people might have a lot more knowledge about certain feedback from consumers already that you wouldn’t have at a particular management level. So it’s really important to chat to everyone about that and get everyone involved.


TIM: Let’s go back to the posts that I’m looking at on this page that you can quite clearly see targeted at mums. There is inspiration there, there’s humor. Is social in some respects starting to drive brand personalities beyond social, like in an offline sense? If I’m in a supermarket and I see this branded product, am I thinking inspiration, am I thinking humor based on what I’ve seen on the Facebook page?


LIBBY: That’s a really good question, Tim. I think that social is a part of that, but I think marketing has been doing that for a long, long time anyway through TVCs and through inspirational magazine and through radio, etc. I think we’re just a part of that conversation and a part of that brand experience as well.

And hopefully we can be top of mind through that relationship when mums are shopping, or when any of our consumers are shopping for any of our brands. It might be that joke that they saw our brand in a different light or having that sense of “Oh wow, they really get me and my needs, and therefore that product is going to be helpful to me.” That’s pretty much a part of what we’re hoping to achieve through some of our posts, because it is the truth of the matter. So hopefully that is reflected through our social media as well.


TIM: Apart from a few clever advertising campaigns, I never really got a sense of personality of a lot of big brands out there. Not a sense of personality in the respect that I’m starting to get through some of these social media efforts, the ones that are doing it quite well. I’m wondering if social actually allows products and companies that represent those products, for the first time ever, to have more personality.


LIBBY: Yeah, and hopefully that does. It’s also just another aspect of communicating with your consumers, and I think social media gives that permission to be able to do that, and it’s on a constant basis. Whereas if you have something like TVC, it’s not as regular and it doesn’t change as often, whereas with social you have the opportunity – it’s more of an ability to have a conversation as you would with someone that you know.

It’s a two-way thing as well, so it’s not just continuously, “Oh, here we go, here’s our brand” and there you have it. It’s “We want to hear back from you, we want to be able to communicate with you, and we want to be able to share with you, the consumer, a part of what we do and what we stand for.” Social gives you that ability.


TIM: Yeah, for sure. I’m looking at your April Fools post. We’ve got a traditional frozen product here that you’ve turned into a chocolate-coated aspect of it for kids, and you got a huge engagement. You pretty happy with that campaign?


LIBBY: Really, really, really happy. I’m so happy with the chain on that post. We had our community manager who loves April Fools, so I think his passion really shone through on that past. The brand manager was really involved as well. The whole team was really excited about it. We thought it would be funny, and we knew it would connect with our Facebook fans, because we know them really well and we thought that would do fantastic.

But it went viral, and we were sitting there just watching the numbers. We had over 10,000 shares. It was a really great result, and it was great that everyone could join in the fun. Yeah, I’m really proud of it.


TIM: Yeah, impressive set of numbers. As you said, 10,500 shares, 3,500 people liked it, and 2,300 comments. Gosh.


LIBBY: Yeah, it was great. And interestingly enough – I mean, this is how the power of virality can go – so many people who commented on that post actually tagged their friends. That in itself is again another aspect of appearing on other people’s Facebook pages as well. So it went through the roof, which was really exciting for us.

Just to put it into perspective, that amount of reach – it reached over 1 million people, and the interesting point of that is there’s been so much change with reaching Facebook. There’s been a lot of talk of how reach has dropped and all the rest of it. It just goes to show that when you have content that people really connect with, that you can reach over a million people. We’re absolutely proud of that. It was really, really good.

And also, for those kinds of posts, to get that kind of response in Australia, you’d have to put quite a bit of advertising spend behind that. But out of that post, 90% of that was organic. So again, that just really highlights that content is really important, that you’re able to connect that strongly with your consumer, that it’s possible.


TIM: That was strongly branded image within that post, so it achieved a lot. Just engagement generally, I’m looking at the page here, and 120,000 fans, 48,000 people talking about this in the last 7 days. That’s what, around 23%, 24% engagement rate. Fairly impressive number.

I know you do pay, you do boost posts. How are you finding paid against organic and return on investment, the time to understand the algorithm from an organic perspective against spending money to boost it and extend reach?


LIBBY: Look, yes, we do put money behind certain posts. It’s not all of them, and compared to most other brands, our spending is quite minimum. So therefore, we have to be really clever and strategic in the way that we do our advertising spends.

What we generally do is we have a look at the kind of content that we’ve got coming up in the calendar. We’ll be able to see which ones we think will perform well, but then we are quite strategic around the time that we post, the time that we promote that post, how much organic reach would we get prior to promoting that post. There’s a lot of different aspects. We put a lot of work into our strategy behind our advertising.

In saying that, there has been a drop in reach with Facebook algorithm. Facebook wanted to clean up their pages in regards to brands and companies in the newsfeed. It used to be the more you pay, the more you get seen, but with a lot of the Facebook algorithm changes, it’s more about people who actually connect with your brand and spend time with your brand – just the same way that it does with your friends. The way that it works now is if I interact more with my friends, I’m going to see them more at the top of my timeline than if I don’t engage with them. But it works the same way for brands now.

One of the things that we have to work with is how do we become that brand that are in people’s newsfeeds? And yes, advertising does help us with that, but if we didn’t produce good content, no much how advertising we do, we’ve still got to get people to engage with us. You can get that reach through advertising, but you can’t get that engagement without having good content. So you’ve really got to have balance.


TIM: Yeah, so you’re quite happy to pay, which is the traditional way that we advertised; we paid for it. But you can actually minimize the amount of money you’re paying by ensuring that you’ve got good organic engagement. Is that what you’re saying?


LIBBY: Absolutely. I think that with anything [inaudible 00:30:32] at Facebook, there’s [inaudible 00:30:34] people in Australia on Facebook. The way that you can target your promoted posts, as well as your advertising, is really quite unique. You can really hone it down to a particular demographic that you can’t do with a lot of other traditional media as refined.

I think that a lot of people complain that “Oh, we’ve got to pay for this and we’ve got to get people to see it.” Well, you kind of have to on lots of other things anyway. So it’s of the attitude that you can either decide to or not. The fact of the matter is that to get more people to see and engage with some of your great content, you do have to advertise that for some of the cases. And that’s just something that we’ve decided to master and do it right rather than just complain about it and sit back and say, “Oh, Facebook has changed.”


TIM: Yeah. It sounds like what you’re saying is it’s a carefully thought out blend of good content that engages and being prepared to pay for it strategically at the right time when that’s required.


LIBBY: Absolutely.


TIM: I know there are different schools of thought out there: “Look, if we’re going to pay for it, let’s just throw money at it and not worry about having engaging content. We’ll just pay our way,” and then the flip to that is “I’m not going to pay for it. We never have paid for it, I never will, and I’m just going to work out  how to – not game the system, but how to use or understand the algorithm to maximum advantage.”


LIBBY: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that the more you learn about the algorithm and using it to your advantage, you’ll probably realize that if you include some paid in there, it’ll work to your own advantage anyway.

If we put it back to small business owners, I think that one of the things will be – first step is get your content right for your consumer. When you’re peeking through your newsfeed – because most people won’t go directly to your page. I think it’s like 2% of people will go and click on your page. They’re going to see you in newsfeed, so you want to be something that is engaging in the newsfeed anyway. Let’s face it; so many people peek through their mobile, and they’re scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. It’s going to be competitive in that field. And it doesn’t have to be really branded; it can look like things that your friends would post as well, but putting a brand onto it in a lot of cases. So that’s Step 1.

Step 2 would be putting spend behind some of that and deciding “this is my budget.” For some people, it might be $100 bucks; for some, it might be $50, for some it might be $5,000. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your budget is, how can you spend that in the best way possible to get a particular post seen? If I was a small business owner and I knew that I had a particular post that I wanted everyone to see, then I’d put the money behind it, because it’s no good having great content that no one can see.


TIM: With people starting out with Facebook, there seems to be a tendency that the metric obsesses them and takes up most of their waking hours. The number of fans that they’ve got on the page, right? Obviously that is important in terms of potentially having anyone be able to see your stuff at all, but that can be a trap, can’t it? Just the idea of trying to chase fans.


LIBBY: Absolutely. It’s really interesting, depending on what your business is. Back in the early days of Facebook, it was [inaudible 00:34:21] to have the most number of fans. Fortunately for me, I was not one of those people that looked at having the biggest number of fans, because the way that it affects your engagement levels, etc., it actually in turn can sometimes make it more difficult.

I think that if you’re working really hard to get those fans ,I personally would rather have fans that want to be there rather than just there as a figure. Yes, it can help you with your reach, but over time and the way the Facebook algorithm has changed, if those people aren’t engaging with your brand, those figures can get [inaudible 00:35:00] anyway.

So I would prefer to have less numbers and more people engaging with me and really having a tight, strong community for people who want to be there. Otherwise, you potentially could be making content for people who just aren’t going to buy from you or don’t want to really connect with you. And especially from a small business perspective or an e-commerce perspective, you want to be able – it’s better to have one person that you can build a relationship with [inaudible 00:35:33] because that one person is going to purchase from you. It’s an easy trap to fall into.


TIM: Yeah, surely bigger must be better, right? Not always.


LIBBY: So they say.


TIM: So they say. Final question and I’ll let you go. The new look and feel of Facebook, reducing it down to one column and a slightly wider column, are there some things, general advice that you think we need to know about to take full advantage of this new layout?


LIBBY: It’s really interesting, because I was actually talking to someone at Facebook about these changes were coming up, and again, the feedback that we received from them was pretty much “it’s the same as what it’s always been; keep your content engaging, keep your content the best it can be to lock in your newsfeed.” As I said before, there’s not a lot of people that purposely come to your page. Majority of the time, they’ll see you in their newsfeed, then come to your page.

So I think that tabs have moved around now and we’ve had a few changes here and there with the setup. I personally prefer this setup, but from a brand perspective I think that just ensure that it visually seems to fit right and look good. I don’t really think you have to change much in your strategies for that, because everything is pretty much the same. It’s just more of an aesthetic look and feel.


TIM: Excellent. Okay, now I’m only going to let you go if you promise to come back and talk to me again, because there’s so many other questions that I’ve got, and I really would like to dive a little bit deeper into some of the more arcane aspects of Facebook especially. Given your level of insight, I’d love to be able to share that with others.

So Libby, you’ve got to agree on air right now that you’re going to come back and talk to me.


LIBBY: All right, Tim, maybe we’ll have to do it in person and have a glass of wine or something next time. But no, I’ve really enjoyed it, thank you. And I’m, as you can see, pretty excited about talking about Facebook and social media, and I think there’s a lot to learn from a lot of people. Yeah, just try to enjoy it and have fun.


TIM: Excellent. Libby, thank you so much.


LIBBY: Thanks, Tim.


TIM: Okay, see ya.