Perspectives is a series uncovering routines, inspiration, and insights by marketing leaders shaping the future around the globe.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Shriya Dayal is a Social Media Professional with an extensive background working with big brands. She believes that the best marketing is values-driven and puts real people at the forefront.
In her words, she shares:
- What it’s really like working in social media marketing
- What brands should do more of
- Why it’s important to think big
What does social media marketing really entail?
Honestly, it can look different depending on the industry that you’re in today – especially in the current health environment across the globe. We’ve seen many shifts in the digital marketing space. Social is everywhere these days and you have to be in this space as a brand if you’re going to compete.
There’s a new platform every day; it’s so hard to keep up with everything, but staying ahead of the trends and beyond that – even if just social media – is really the way that brands communicate with not only customers but the general public – and also, how they stay relevant today.
The digital marketing space is, as I mentioned, ever-evolving. Socializing, especially in the pandemic, has looked so different these days; everyone’s online all the time. It’s a 24-hour space, a 24-hour news cycle. Everyone has the ability to be their own source of news with short-form video, TikTok, all the way to Reddit, chat forums, and text-based communications.
Blogging is also still super relevant – the longer form content – so [social media marketing] can really mean a lot of things to different people in different brands. But I think it’s just really about finding what makes sense for you, what makes sense for your customers, and at the end of the day, your brand. So, staying relevant is still super important, but so is really tapping into the channels that make sense for you as a brand and a company – that’s something that’s always been a challenge working in this space.
It’s interesting to stay in touch with people and see what users are flocking to. We’ve seen, for example, the rise of TikTok, which has been huge; video content is so compelling these days, and almost every brand has something they can put into a video. So, it’s been really interesting to be a player in space and see how it’s evolving, but [social media marketing] can mean so many different things depending on who you are.
What is your favorite social media platform?
I’m a visual person, so I’ll say Instagram. I learn so much from the platform every day. It’s always changing and they’ve done a good job of adapting, but I’m that person that storyboards things and creates mood boards for myself. I’m actually moving into a new home soon, so that’s been a huge kind of resource for me to collect pictures. I kind of use it like Pinterest and I also weirdly like to learn a lot from it – like I follow my favorite news channels, sites, and blogs there as well. It’s definitely my go-to.
Where do you typically get your news from?
In terms of marketing news, I’m a huge fan of AdWeek and Adage. From a social standpoint, definitely Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit – there’s a lot you can learn from forums.
People on chat forums are always having really insightful conversations (like on Twitter and Reddit), so I try to keep abreast of the relevant conversations for myself there – but again, Instagram, TikTok.
Also, Forbes, Business Insider, all kinds of actual business resources. The New York Times is my favorite publication, in terms of general news, but depending on the purpose, I really look everywhere. I can’t really pick one. I also listen to the New York Times podcast, The Daily, very often.
What have you’ve learned in the last year?
I’ve definitely learned how adaptive the human race is.
This last year has shown us how necessary it is to be able to adapt to change and the unexpected – and I’m not surprised, but humans are capable of so much. We’ve seen people coming together to really help each other in times of need; it’s been so amazing, whether or not you’re in the marketing and brand space, we’ve seen civil rights movements and that’s played out on social media. You can’t get away from that these days; standing for something and having a values-based approach is so important – and people have really shown how we deal with adversity across the world, and how different countries in different cultures adapt to that change. But also their voice, their values, and what they stand for.
It’s been amazing to see how brands have also played into that space – with the pandemic and the civil rights movements that have been going on. So there’s a lot of things that have happened and unfolded over the past few months and over the past year. But I’m just happy to see that we’re all here for each other in times of need, and I think that’s been a beautiful thing.
As a consumer, what do you value from our brand?
A values-based approach. It’s simple. For me, it’s seeing that the brands that I follow, love, and use stand for something and have a purpose. That goes far wider and beyond any trend today.
Jumping on trends is something that’s super easy to do, but when you have a reason for it – where you have an actual purpose behind your communications, and your branding and marketing – that makes me as a consumer actually pay attention a lot more and feel good about buying into something. So, I’m always a huge advocate for having a values-based approach.
Going back to your objectives and why you exist is super important, and as a consumer for myself, working in marketing, you really have to mean what you do at the end of the day. I’ve seen it time and time again; consumers really appreciate that, and a brand with a purpose has a lot more legs than a brand that just exists.
As far as some do’s and don’ts in social media marketing, what recommendations do you have for brands out there?
It really depends on the space or industry that you’re in, but I would love to see brands taking a step back and pausing before they jump onto the next trend or do things that other brands or competitors are doing. It all goes back to purpose; you have to question why before you do something. I would like to see more brands not only just doing things because their competitors or peers are doing them but actually understanding the reason behind it.
In terms of start doing, I would love to see brands embrace real content. I’m a huge advocate of UGC, user-generated content, and I don’t think there’s any other better way to show how the benefits of your product, or whatever you’re selling, play out in the real, everyday lives of real people. People like to see people on their feeds and on their channels – that does all of the “selling” for you.
UGC has been my go-to since I’ve worked in marketing, I’ve seen it work, and I understand why, so I would love to see more brands kind of embrace that real content approach. We’ve definitely seen a shift towards that in the past year; real content and UGC is becoming more important than ever.
Let’s talk about the value of UGC. What do you need to do in order to create that customer advocacy? What have you seen work?
People like to see people that look like them and think like them on their feeds, so I’m a huge advocate of it because I’ve seen the impact it can have on brand love and brand engagement. Your customers are people and they relate with other people who think like them. So why not show them how your brand is naturally integrated into their lives? It’s also very cost and time-efficient.
In terms of creating advocacy, it’s about understanding your customer first, and finding those people who can be your spokespeople, your ambassadors, and really having a value proposition that they can bring to the table – and a testimonial that they can share with other people who will learn something from it. So pinpoint who those people are, maybe internally first, like test the waters with advocacy programs internally with employees.
Talking to people, like internal interviews, learning from the people you work with, why they’re at the company, what they believe in, what drew them to the brand, I think you’d learn a lot about your customer through the people that actually work at the company. So, having those conversations is the first step for me.
It’s easy to go externally and start looking outside the company for answers, but I think taking a step back and actually doing some introspective work and navel-gazing – there’s something to be said about that. Because to your point, those people are your resources… they’re right at your fingertips. So why not use that resource?
What’s a common marketing belief that you disagree with?
I don’t agree that good, hard-working content has to be expensive. Of course, our agency partners are important in helping us create content and those bigger campaigns, but I have seen content created in one of my colleagues’ living rooms perform just as well as content that we’ve spent a lot of investment in. So, I don’t think all content has to be expensive to actually hit the mark.
I encourage marketers to be scrappy and resourceful and understand the capabilities of their own teams first before looking for those bigger investments.
I’ve seen content evolve to look more scrappy – we’re seeing this shift and I’ve noticed it for so many months now. It’s like people are being given the phone in our hands. Everyone has a camera pretty much within arm’s reach these days, so we’re seeing the shift in content to be a lot more authentic and real – even from a brand perspective.
People and consumers are also getting a lot more conditioned to that and desensitized to really beautiful or high production assets, or high-value campaigns. They can see beyond that and towards the more authentic, real sentiment. It’s important to recognize that, otherwise, you’re going to fall into the trap of just pushing products, or creating these campaigns, that might be a little bit too much product-sales messaging.
What do you feel most marketers struggle with? And how can you fix this?
There’s so much content out there and there’s so much learning. Like I said, it’s a 24-hour news cycle, so there’s always something to be reading and looking at, and there are so many things vying for our attention. It goes back to the purpose and as a marketer, you have to tie back to your objectives and your purpose and stay grounded in those and your content pillars, and really understand why you exist so you don’t get lost in the noise.
Of course, you have to stay ahead of the trends and what’s going on around you, but it’s difficult to channel focus and purpose if you don’t tie back to your essential why and your value statement and your value prop. As a marketer, you definitely have to stay grounded and focus; there are so many things that I struggle with, too; there are many things happening, especially in the social space that if you don’t take a step back and take time to digest what you’re seeing and learning, it’ll be really hard to produce meaningful content at the end of the day.
What kind of changes are you starting to see in marketing, overall?
More embracing of real content – authentic, purposeful – but also just seeing real people and how they use brands, what brands mean to them. I’m seeing that a lot; the younger demographic having more voice. With TikTok and the rise of different social media platforms and different tools at our disposal, the younger generations are coming to the forefront a lot more and I love that we can learn so much from them. They’ve gone through a lot of change, they’ve seen a lot.
Learn from your history and from people who have pioneered different marketing objectives and strategies, but also embrace what the younger generation can tell us.
What does the future of marketing look like to you?
The future of marketing is digital. We’re definitely not going to go away from digital anytime soon. Everything is becoming computerized and a lot quicker.
The future of marketing is also real people – authenticity.
You just have to show the people behind brands and people who work there. I actually notice when brands put their workforce at the forefront, like on their website – they have pictures of the people who work behind the brands. I follow a lot of agencies as well. This is another resource I use to stay ahead of the game in terms of the marketing world, but I follow a lot of agencies’ work and watch what they’re doing to see the creative mindset, but it’s amazing because you’ll see agencies have this habit of showing you who’s working behind the scenes. I think that’s really interesting.
What is a book person or event that shaped your career and why?
I had the opportunity to work with probably one of the smartest digital marketers I’ve ever met, Youri Hollier. He really opened my eyes to the massive potential of social media and content. He truly pushed our teams to trust our gut and be limitless in our thinking. No idea was too big or small – and that mentality really helped liberate me in my career, in my creative thinking, and also helped shape the way I approach coaching my own team today.
So just having that no bounds kind of mentality is really fresh – and I really appreciated learning from him because he has an agency background, too. Just having the opportunity to be exposed to somebody with such a variety of experience and working on different brands, and understanding really what a true digital marketing strategy looks like, has really helped. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
Who or what do you look to for inspiration?
I can’t really pinpoint one place or one resource, but I’m a very outdoorsy person, so I’m always out in nature. I’m always trying to get out for walks during the day when I can get less screen time, so I try to go beyond my screen for inspiration outside.
My friends, people I’m close to, people I can learn from… I try to surround myself with people who are not only successful but doing different things. I love to have a variety of people in my network. So I’m always learning from different things that people are doing – in and outside of my industry. I’m also a huge lover of art.
What advice do you have for marketers and creatives who look up to you?
Shoot for the blue sky vision and shoot for the stars sounds cliche, but I really think the bigger you think, the bigger you can picture your ideas.
If you need to scale down, you can always do that – but have that mentality of just being limitless and find creativity from everywhere; pull inspiration from anywhere in your life. Also, speak to each other about where you come from and your experiences… you learn so much from people; we have a habit of doing that with agencies to where we just learn from each other and have brainstorm working sessions. So, ask a lot of questions. No question is ever too small or too big. Ask as many questions as you can when you start working and build your network. That’s a big one for me; I have relied so much on my network. I’ve been blessed to work with such amazing people and I’ve learned so much from them.
Never, ever underestimate the value of a really strong network… meet people, reach out, make that cold call, set up that coffee chat – even if you feel a little awkward, message that stranger on LinkedIn. I’ve never been turned down from a coffee chat. I’ve messaged people that I’ve had no connections with, but they just seem like someone interesting, people I could learn something from, and if nothing pans out in terms of a job, you’ll still learn something. So make that cold call and set up that coffee chat.
How do you wind down from a long day of work?
I am a huge yoga person, so for me, it’s just 10-15 minutes of breathing exercises or yoga. It’s a go-to for me. I do that multiple times a week.
And just taking a walk. It’s super easy to just step away. If I can take a call outside, I will if I don’t need to be in front of my screen. After work, it’s having a cup of chai, either in the morning or in the evenings, or doing some yoga – and if I can do both, I’ll do both.
What are you excited about or looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to going back to seeing people in person when everyone’s safe. I can’t think of anything better. I’m a very social person in terms of learning and developing, so I’m definitely missing learning from people IRL.
I’m kind of like an introverted extrovert – like I really appreciated the time to do a lot of introspective, engaging things at home, but just sharing experiences, traveling, meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures… I love immersing myself in different cultures.
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