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June 21, 2022
Interview

Q&A with James Friend: Head of Social Media at UNiDAYS

Get the inside scoop from UNiDAYS' very own head of Social Media

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James Friend has been in the Social Media industry for some time now. A former cocktail bartender, travelling from London to Sydney, he fancied a bit of a career change and after working in Social Media with everything from food & drink to fashion– James now heads the Social Media Team at the world’s largest Student Affinity Network–UNiDAYS

We tend to think of social media as a huge, complex, ever-changing beast. That's why we wanted to get expert and honest advice from someone who knows the field inside and out. Check out our chat with James Friend:

1. What is one thing to avoid doing when trying to grow on social media?

Aside from the obvious 'buying followers', I'd say that it's vital to make sure you're not making your content too 'tailored' or curated. It's a common mistake you see with a lot of brands where their feed (and content) comes across far too curated, and actually ends up deterring potential followers from viewing or engaging with your content, or even following you in the first place.

2. What are some challenges for influencer marketing in the next two years?

It's a difficult one. I think over the last few years it's become more and more apparent (especially since the issues with Fyre Festival came to light) that influencers can seem like they're not working with a brand because they simply love that brand, but more so for the money (which in many cases is a misconception). The most important thing for brands to make sure of in the coming years will be to give the influencer/creator as much creative freedom as physically possible. At the end of the day, there's a reason they've ended up amassing their audiences - so let them do what they think is going to engage best.

From my perspective, I think the above is the biggest challenge that brands will face when it comes to influencer marketing, and my advice would be to work with the influencers who you think are the best fit with your audience, and make sure you work with them on a continuous basis. It's better to work with 10 influencers who you love, and your audience loves than with 100 influencers on a one-time basis in the hope that 10 of them engage.

3. Which social media trends proved to be the most successful for your business?

Tough question! If we're talking outside of your typical 'TikTok / Instagram trending songs' then I'd probably say Reels. Reels have been a huge bonus for us, and many other brands who are focused on the Gen Z demographic (including my previous brand, NA-KD) simply because Gen Z have been found to have that shorter attention span (no offence intended to Gen Z!) - so you have an ideal amount of time on a relatively new medium to get them engaged and love your brand. They really are great engager identifiers.

4. What are your go-to/must-have tool/programmes that you use? (1 only)

Has to be Brandbassador. Touching on the topic above about the challenges that Influencer Marketing will face, Brandbassador gives a completely new avenue/direction where you can now get your brand's biggest fans to be the face of the brand.

5. What innovative techniques have you used to promote your business/client’s business?

Cutting through the noise on social is something that's become increasingly hard over the last few years, but I still stand by boosting/ad spend behind posts to lookalike/automatic audiences on Instagram. You're essentially boosting that post to an entire group of potential followers who have close-to-identical interests to those who are already following you - you can't go wrong!

Get yourself a solid social listening tool. Whether that's just having Tweetdeck up on a tab, or a more substantial platform, it's crucial to know what your customers are saying about you. And the quicker you can respond to trends as they emerge, the better!

6. Which is the most important social media platform for your business and why?

Answering this question today, I'd have to say Instagram, as it's been a top performer for us over the past few years, though if you'd ask me in a year, I'd be inclined to say TikTok. TikTok is the face of Gen Z and if you want your brand to be pushed to that demographic, then it's the ideal platform.

7. Best campaign ideas that brought your business success and why?

We recently did a month-long 'university pranks' project, contracting influencers to play pranks on their friends/family and it worked incredibly well for two reasons:

1. Humour - you can't go wrong with making people laugh; it's the key to authenticity!

2. It wasn't relentlessly pushing towards sales or business goals. If you want to push product; use ads, not organic social.

8. What is one secret to social media success that no one talks about?

Social is littered with it, but going back to my last point - humour! Making people laugh will never get old and it's easily the best way of making your audience fall in love with your content, and potentially your brand. Obviously, keep it PC and make sure you're not taking jokes too far, but there's nothing wrong with being adventurous with your tone of voice and giving your audience a giggle here and there.

9. Top tip for a start-up beginning their socials?

In my years in social, the best way of building relationships with influencers is to first and foremost make sure they're right for your audience. Without that connection from the influencer to your audience, they won't perform. Then–in building a relationship with them, making sure you're upfront with them/their management about all aspects of specific campaigns you're working on is key. If the communication between talent and a brand isn't on point, then relationships deteriorate.

Be reactive, and champion your audience. UGC (user-generated content) is a fantastic way of showing your audience that they are the reason that your brand thrives, and couldn't do so without them.

From a reactivity point of view, jump on as many trends as possible. From chiming into a Twitter debate about Colin the Caterpillar to creating your own reel drinking cranberry juice on a skateboard, these kinds of trends are what get you recognised on social.

10. Two companies do you think have mastered the social game?

Ryanair has to be up there. They've absolutely mastered their tone of voice on social, and their ability to realise what everyone thinks of them (a cheap, budget airline brand), and play into this in their content is exceptional.

Specsavers! Their reactive community management on Twitter especially is a force to be reckoned with. They jump on a plethora of moments, big and small, throughout the year, never failing to make people laugh with their commentary, which I'm sure does wonders for their engagement and keeps them front of mind for all audiences on social.

We're grateful to James who has been incredibly generous with his time to share his knowledge of social media management and the challenges of influencer marketing. We are delighted to share his insights with you and hope that you’ve found them valuable!

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