Another day, another example of social agility

Drake Tweet

The latest clever @Tesco tweet about Drake’s so-called ghost-written raps saw tens of thousands of organic retweets, major positive sentiment and tons of valuable coverage by everyone from The Independent to Buzzfeed.

But how did Tesco do it? A dedicated war room packed with data analysts, writers and brand strategists staring at banks of wall-mounted displays paid for by a ton of budget?

Nah, rather a community manager with a keen eye for a trend, an active listening tool and a login to the brand’s Twitter feed. Agility: activated.

Social newsrooms are about thinking big, not spending big. And far from over-complicating the process and coming with a major price tag, technology is now the enabler.

Any brand, from large FMCG to SMEs, can adopt an agile, newsroom approach without massive investment. With the right understanding of audience and what they’re into, all it takes is one person and a smartphone.

So, with budget no longer a barrier, what are the basic requirements for a successful social newsroom set-up?

Always-on audience experts

Finding the right hook in a haystack of conversations and trending topics requires people who know what they’re looking for and what’s genuinely going to appeal to your target audience.

A 9-5 clock-watcher isn’t going to cut it because news waits for nobody. The right social newsroom content creators need to have a good grounding in the more traditional journalistic principles i.e. ‘always-on’ with the ability to distil potentially complicated commentary on a breaking news item down to a snappy headline.

After all, that’s where the newsroom concept hails from.

Cancer Research UK’s oft-quoted No Make-Up Selfie success was in fact the result of some smart active listening. It wasn’t its idea, the team just reacted swiftly to a rising internet trend and thus captured the zeitgeist.

Baked-in distribution

With around 6,000 tweets every second, it’s tough to gain cut-through. Just chucking out some content and hoping for the best will only take you so far, so in addition to having the right hook, you need to have the right channel, posting and even influencer strategy if you want to hit a collective nerve and see your content fly. 

A timely, relevant post from Arby’s about Pharrell’s hat during the Grammys is fun. But when it’s posted on Twitter, where @Pharrell is prolific, using his handle at a time when we know he’s actively tweeting (through active listening), this leads to a retweet, driving distribution, engagement and eventually becomes trending.

This is when you see real ROI for your social effort.

Arby Tweet to Pharrell 

Brand bravery

Today’s “on fleek” is tomorrow’s #justsayin (correct at time of writing, insert current post-millennial buzzword as appropriate). So a brand team (and, if required, legal team) need to have the confidence, and structure, to sign this social content off in real-time.

Clear guidelines, frameworks and any compliance rules need to be agreed upfront. Well thought-through plans and a set morning call or ‘scrum’ to sift through the ideas can serve to free up the creative process, empowering your content creators to deliver award-winning agility. 

A back-up plan

Where the news goes, nobody knows, and the internet is littered with awful examples of forced reactive social posts offering zero value to the audience, clearly irrelevant to the brand’s objectives or erroneously based on last year’s audience behaviour data. So, it’s crucial that a newsroom set-up plans for slow news days.

A steady stream of everyday content should ideally still form part of your branded content offering.

Planned agility, the process whereby your content creators schedule some ‘we know it’s going to happen we just don’t know when’ content, is another way to bulk out your monthly content calendar with some of the topics you’re looking to capitalise on, such as the birth of a royal or the Pluto fly-by.


The right tools and tech

Platforms are increasingly developing components that are of obvious value to the nimble newsroom approach for brands.

Any number of active listening tools can help you keep your finger on the pulse, while Twitter has unveiled a new set of tools designed to enable brands to better prepare for real-time campaigns.

Video too is becoming far easier to implement in real-time.

The merits of Periscope over Meerkat (and vice versa) will continue to be debated, but the game of one-upmanship in terms of adding new functionality (for example, you can now live-stream from a Go Pro via Meerkat) can only be of help to brands looking at taking a newsroom approach to event marketing

Today’s newsrooms can truly be nimble, and with a little bravery, every brand can reap the rewards.