Arik Hanson began consulting in social media marketing in 2009. That makes him "super senior" in a relatively new profession, where five years of experience is more common.
As Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were emerging, Hanson, who had worked in communications and public relations, sensed bigger things were to come from these new digital branding and marketing platforms.
He launched Arik Hanson Social Media and embarked on consulting and coaching midsize and large companies. Current clients include Dairy Queen, Cargill, Second Harvest Heartland, Field Nation, Trustmark and Visit Richfield.
"You could tell social media was going to upend communications," Hanson recalls. "There was an authenticity to it, a timeliness to it and a community feel that you just didn't see in other communications vehicles."
Today, Hanson sees organizations scrambling to keep up with an ever-increasing number of platforms — and wonders why. Given Hanson's experience, these are some of his thoughts on how to approach social media marketing in 2023.
Prioritize. Rather than stretch social media marketing teams thin, prioritize. Big brands aside, three people are typical, while many have just one working in social media marketing. Now, for example, TikTok and Instagram reels need to be added to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn duties. Influencer marketing also is constantly changing, as well as analytics.
"If a lot of brands took a close look at what they were doing and narrowed their focus it would be more effective and a lot better for their teams," Hanson said. "They're just piling it on and they're not stopping to think."
Make the shift. Be prepared to move quickly with the audience — and other brands. Many right now are shifting to TikTok and LinkedIn, with Instagram still hanging in, Hanson said.
TikTok is a "huge cultural touchpoint" and offers advertising options that are "cost-effective at the moment," Hanson said. "And if you're under 30, you're hanging out on TikTok." (TikTok, owned by a Chinese internet company, faces government restrictions in nearly two dozen states and has been banned from federal employees' government devices. A more widespread federal ban clearly would be a "game changer.")
LinkedIn surged during the pandemic for employee connections, professional development and networking — and brands joined in. CEOs including Mike Roman at 3M (not a Hanson client) used their LinkedIn profiles to add a personal, more trusted voice to other company communications.
Social media marketing on LinkedIn can play a part in the sales cycle in terms of awareness, education and engagement, Hanson said. LinkedIn also is growing in importance amid a tight labor market as an employer-brand channel, giving rise to a new job — manager of employer brand — at local companies.
"We can show people what kind of company we are, what we stand for, what our culture is, what kind of people work here, what our benefits are and in a more storytelling format, and that's relatively new," Hanson said.
Know your strategy. In a fragmenting social media landscape, Hanson recommends beginning with research. Through audits, he looks at what a brand does now on social media and where competitors and market leaders show up online. He'll develop a content strategy, take resources into account and help clients, again, prioritize. Adding TikTok is a big deal, for example. Is it worth the time? If it is, drop other things.
Tailor content to each channel. Perhaps the biggest social media marketing mistake Hanson sees is posting the same content to every channel.
"It doesn't work that way," Hanson said. "Whatever you post on Facebook, if you're posting the same thing on LinkedIn, that's bad. They are different audiences, and they go to the platforms for different reasons. It just baffles me. They're missing a huge opportunity."
As far as Hanson's next steps, he sees himself continuing with his solo venture. He has added adjunct roles teaching social media classes at the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.
Hanson believes more students need to take classes on social media marketing. But students and professionals alike can start by experimenting.
"If you like TikTok, try to do that. If you like Instagram, be more active on Instagram. If you want to start a blog, start a blog," said Hanson, whose blog on his social media experiments helped him get started. "The best way to learn is just by doing it. I think they have a really good opportunity."
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.