Design Mind frogcast Ep.39 - Forget the Social Algorithm

Our Guests: Laura Davies, Senior Performance Marketing Manager, Deliveroo, Isabelle Cavanagh, Marketing Consultant, frog

Today on our show, we’re jumping into the constantly shifting, sometimes chaotic world of social media. For those developing social media strategy for brands, these are places to tell stories, curate content, sell products and measure engagement. To talk about how to capture attention amidst all the noise while also managing to somehow be authentic on these platforms, we’re joined by two voices deeply enmeshed in this space: Laura Davies, a Senior Performance Marketing Manager at Deliveroo and Isabelle Cavanagh, Marketing Consultant here at frog.

Listen to the podcast episode and watch the full video below. You can also find the Design Mind frogcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotifyand anywhere you listen to podcasts. 

Episode Transcript:

Design Mind frogcast
Episode 39: Forget the Social Algorithm
Guests: Laura Davies, Senior Performance Marketing Manager, Deliveroo & Isabelle Cavanagh, Consultant, frog

[00:09] Elizabeth Wood: Welcome to the Design Mind frogcast. Each episode, we go behind the scenes to meet the people designing what’s next in the world of products, services and experiences, both here at frog and far, far outside the pond. I’m Elizabeth Wood.

[00:24] Elizabeth Wood: Today on our show, we’re jumping into the constantly shifting, sometimes chaotic world of social media. As consumers, we might know social media as online spaces to join friends, celebrities, influencers and total strangers to post, scroll, swipe, like, share, scroll, click, duet, follow, scroll, comment and, yes, scroll some more. But for those developing social media strategy for brands, these are places to tell stories, curate content, sell products and measure engagement. To talk about how to capture attention amidst all the noise while also managing to somehow be authentic on these platforms, we’re joined by two voices deeply enmeshed in this space. You’re going to hear a conversation between Laura Davies, a Senior Performance Marketing Manager at Deliveroo and Isabelle Cavanagh, a marketing consultant here at frog. Quick listener note: social media trends, behaviors and rules of engagement change fast. So you may notice that this episode was recorded before Twitter became X (at least in logo anyway) and Threads came onto the scene. Instead, Laura and Isabelle discuss cracking TikTok for brands that might be nervous to do so, social media as an emerging alternative to search engines, plus social’s status as a resource to find inspiration, convert audiences and even rescue neighborhood cats. So, let’s jump in.

[01:46] Laura Davies: Hi, I’m Laura Davies. I’m a senior performance marketing manager at Deliveroo, which is an app-based food delivery company. I lead a team of specialists who own our paid advertising across social media platforms like TikTok, Meta and Snapchat. My job is to use these platforms to maximize acquisition engagement and retention across different user groups.

[02:07] Isabelle Cavanagh: Hi I’m Isabelle Cavanagh, a marketing consultant on the strategy and transformation team here at frog London. Laura, so before we start, we’d like to tell a bit more about you and how did you become involved in social media?

[02:20] Laura Davies: So when I was at university, digital marketing degrees weren’t really a thing. That probably makes me sound really old. You know, you just couldn’t take them. So I ended up taking psychology. And I was always really interested in people’s perceptions of things and understanding why people think the way that they do. So in my final year, I wrote my dissertation on the usage of the selfie by the millennial generation, and that’s gonna make me sound old as well (laughs). You know, at the time, there was such a huge boom around the selfie. It was really fitting because the Oxford Dictionary had just named ‘selfie’ the Word of 2013. And in 2014, Twitter declared it the year of the selfie. And you also had the Oscars selfie with Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Pitt, and that broke the record for the most retweeted tweet of all time, with, I think it was 1.7 million in less than an hour. So selfies were hugely relevant at the time, there was a massive hype around them. So, you know, I chose that as my dissertation, I was really excited.

[03:19] Laura Davies: But the first time I really used social media for something other than personal consumption was when I joined my women’s football team at university. I actually joined as a media secretary. So my role was really just to create video content and to push this out on their social platforms, and try and recruit new members for the next year. So when I saw those posts really getting traction, that was when I became hooked with social and, you know, just digital marketing in general. So I took up a master’s in Marketing. I got my first digital job in a very small agency doing, you know, the same thing for different companies, and then eventually applied for an entry-level position at Deliveroo because I have an obsession with good food. And yeah, I’ve been at Deliveroo for about four and a half years now.

[04:06] Isabelle Cavanagh: So when we look at the numbers, it’s clear the role that social plays. Social D2C has become a $173 billion industry, which has not only attracted digital native brands like Deliveroo. But now heritage brands like banks and retailers are also staking a claim in the space. More often than not, they’re not delivering social strategy themselves, but instead relinquishing control to media agencies to fulfill the work for them. Question to you is, how do you model yourselves to strategize and deliver on social?

[04:36] Laura Davies: So we have quite an interesting setup at Deliveroo. We have an in-house paid social team that consists of about four to five people and then we also have an in-house strategy and planning team. So we work collaboratively, centrally but also with local marketing teams.

[04:54] Isabelle Cavanagh: Since Facebook introduced the advertising business model in 2008, the social network involved into social media, a place no longer about connecting or listening, but simply about broadcasting. Do you agree that social media has become the ultimate brand marketplace?

[05:10] Laura Davies: Yeah, I think that social media is heavily congested with ads. And in the UK alone, I think digital advertising spend has increased from 3.3 million in 2008, all the way to 15.5 million in 2020. And in recent years, there’s been such a surge in brands moving online to market their products. So if we look at COVID, as an example, that was really the only way for a lot of small to medium-sized businesses to stay afloat. And a lot of them were adopting digital marketing for the first time. But simultaneously, you’ve got a lot of the major players in the advertising space who have actually pulled back spend for numerous reasons like, you know, maybe they’re steering towards profitability, as opposed to hyper growth. And then you’ve got Apple’s privacy changes that are making it a lot harder for advertisers to have a full picture of their attribution. So there’s a lot of confusion and maybe distrust in digital investment. And what that’s meant is there’s a softer market now. So there’s several digital marketing platforms that have lowered their ad pricing. And these opportunities have then opened up for less sort of exacting advertisers. That opens up the floodgates for less relevant ads to be surfaced on the platforms. And I think that’s potentially what we’re seeing in more recent years as more large advertisers are pulling back their marketing spend.

[06:34] Isabelle Cavanagh: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point. I have maybe a slightly different take on it. I agree there’s been an en masse approach to social strategy and social content production. And I think brands are realistically sleepwalking towards a disaster. They are approaching social strategy in a very transactional way. And they are pushing out the same sort of templatized—for lack of better phrasing—basic assets, and infiltrating feeds of consumers. And this transactional approach, I think, is going to fail as more and more consumers seek authenticity. I think an interesting point to make is that social has moved from a place of earned media, i.e., where consumers promote your product because they like it. I’m going to show you, Laura, this mascara because I really like it, versus paid media: a space that any brand with enough budget, no matter how good their product or service is, can infiltrate. And I think that links quite nicely to what you’re saying it is a playground for anyone, no matter whether or not they actually deserve that space.

[07:33] Isabelle Cavanagh: The disruptive paid advertisements have evolved into constant endless feed saturation of sales. Whilst this has undeniably worked with millennials and above for years, 99% of Gen Z now say they do not like nor engage with such disruptive content. Laura, do you agree that this sort of disruptive paid advertisements are no longer effective as a way to market on social?

[07:58] Laura Davies: I completely agree, I don’t think it’s useful to be disruptive, but I think it’s useful to be attention-grabbing. And I think when you’re talking about Gen Z, you know, we can’t forget that they’re a completely unique audience. They are the first generation of digital natives. So they’re the first generation that’s actually grown up with, you know, social media, iPads from a very young age. So advertising has always been in their lives. And it’s actually a lot harder for advertisers to make an impact on Gen Z than other generations. And Gen Z is super hyper aware of when they’re being sold to. There’s a lot of distrust. So you have to come across as a really credible source if you’re going to make Gen Z convert.

[08:40] Laura Davies: But I think there’s a couple of ways that you can do that. There’s a few ways that you can be more attention-grabbing than just simply disrupting their flow on social media. So one example would be using content creators. I think advertisers have a unique opportunity to be able to tap into different communities. And a lot of the time where we’re going wrong is advertisers will try and sell to Gen Z or any other group, and they’ll go straight in for the sale instead of spending the time to really build those connections, build the trust within a community, often by using things like content creators to kind of solidify their brand message. So that’s one example.

[09:22] Laura Davies: Another example would be contextual advertising. A lot of the time, you’ll find that you’re being served ads that aren’t overly relevant. So for example, you might be scrolling through your Instagram feed, and you’ll see something that’s absolutely not related to any of the content that you’re interacting with and it’s just annoying. But contextual advertising is different. So one example of a really cool new feature that I’ve seen on TikTok is keyword bidding. So people are using TikTok more and more as a search engine, as opposed to just a place of exploration and discovery. You know, they’ve got some sort of idea as to what they want to find. I went on a holiday to Prague, and before then I was scouring the internet for, you know, blogs and articles for recommendations on things that I can do, places I could go, food I could eat. And it took me hours to find and collate, like, different pieces of information. And when I went onto TikTok and I just typed in ‘Prague itinerary,’ I had a whole, you know, four-day itinerary within half an hour. It’s so crazy how the way that we’re consuming content is changing, the way that we’re using it for personal gain.

[10:35] Isabelle Cavanagh: I think that’s a really fair point. TikTok has undeniably taught everyone the power of human connection and giving real people the stage versus corporates or untouchable influencers. It really supports the hypothesis that brands need to focus on earning their way to engage with consumers who are true advocates. Buying your way will potentially become self-destructive as consumers continue to seek that authenticity and human connection. And I think that’s really been proven by this TikTok search feature. Laura, as you noted, you searched for your holiday in Prague. But I challenge you to say when you searched top attractions in Prague, what came up was not advertisements from brands, it was real people who were really in Prague on holiday. I think the question to that is: Do you think ingraining that human approach and really leveraging real people or micro-influencers, people with lesser followings, is the future of social and something that brands really must look to tap into?

[11:36] Laura Davies: I definitely think it’s something that brands should look at as a way to supplement their existing strategy. I mean, leveraging content creators, you know, might work for some brands in terms of, they don’t do anything else, they only leverage content creators. But for others, it might just form part of a multimedia strategy where you might allocate a proportion of your budget to it. So I think it goes back to the fact that you want to be putting content out there that’s authentic, that’s trustworthy. And it’s not all about the conversions. So as an advertiser, I think you have to sacrifice conversions for a period of time in order to build that connection with a given community and trust that the conversions are going to come later.

[12:22] Isabelle Cavanagh: So traditionally, marketing has been content-rich, but now we’ve seen a convergence of content and commerce, which has blurred the funnel as we know it. Brands have reversed their funnel approach, driving connection with product availability and end of funnel conversion, rather than focusing on awareness and loyalty—something that used to be so key and core to any strategy. Consumers might say this is taking all the emotion and true connection out of marketing. Plus, despite brand infiltration, 68% of consumers intend to use social media primarily to connect and communicate with friends and family and to be inspired. They don’t visit as an intended transactional marketplace. So Laura, what do you say to the idea that brands are losing out if they’re just considering those sort of conversion-based metrics with all their content, rather than investing in upper funnel?

[13:17] Laura Davies: Getting the right balance between brand and performance is really tricky. And I think that really depends on your business goals, and whether you’re valuing short-term returns or long-term growth. Or in some instances, you might want to pivot between the two. So if we look at COVID, as an example, there were lots of companies that needed to make a quick short-term return on their investment, and so they turned to more performance marketing. And that shift has come at quite a great expense to their longer term brand building. And there’s been a significant imbalance since that time. So I would say that we definitely still need to invest in longer term brand building, mostly to solidify awareness and perception amongst consumers for years to come. Because, otherwise, you’re going to end up with a really saturated lower funnel. You know, it’s all well and good that you’re driving the conversions, but eventually, they’re going to dry up and you’re going to have to explore new growth opportunities.

[14:13] Laura Davies: But if you do invest in performance marketing, and if you are going sort of lower funnel, I would heavily recommend to also invest in either an individual or a team to help you understand the value of your marketing spend. So this all comes back to incrementality. You could spend millions across different performance marketing channels, but if you have limited insights as to what that spend actually generates, you might be cannibalizing, you know, organic traffic sources. And you might have got those orders or those signups or those applications anyway, which makes your marketing spend redundant. So measuring incrementality is such an important part of any sort of performance marketing. And it’s the same with brand marketing—running those Brand Lift studies to really understand what levers you can pull, what are the strategies to really increase metrics like top of mind awareness or ad recall. That’s going to be really vital for getting a good brand strategy as well. So I think getting the right balance is difficult, but as long as you have the right measurement solutions, that should be your guiding factor as to how much you’re spending on both.

[15:22] Laura Davies: Another interesting example that I’ve seen is Airbnb in 2022 released an article showing that they’ve actually shifted the majority of their marketing spend into brand building, and they’re spending significantly less on the performance marketing side. And I just thought that was super interesting. It’s very disruptive, it’s very different to what we’re typically used to seeing. And their CEO reports that their companies still use performance marketing, but for very specific goals, so to laser in on supply and demand, rather than just generating a large amount of customers. So I think that really signals a shift in, you know, Airbnb, but also other companies where they’re focusing on value over volume in this new age of profitability.

[16:08] Isabelle Cavanagh: Yeah, I think that’s super interesting. And something that I kind of will talk about a lot at the moment is the need of these big corporations to drop corporate agendas. Quite like you said, if you give up that short-term gain, you can drive so much more than you could ever expect through loyalty revenue. And I have an example to go with your Airbnb one, Laura. Virality and popularity on social has never really been birthed before from a really standardized, templatized creative or strategy. You have to think slightly out of the box. And I think a lot of corporations think that means you have to put in millions of pounds and hire a creative team from LA and do it on such a large scale.

[16:49] Isabelle Cavanagh: But I would challenge that. I think right now, and with Gen Z, the richest content is often the simplest. And the example I want to give is that of Ryanair. By leveraging a photo of a plain and a simple eyes and mouth filter, which we can only assume was thought up by an entry-level, Gen Z social exec, they gained 100,000 followers, millions of likes and generated their highest ever third quarter profit of $230 million. Simply by this girl behind the screen making hilarious content pretending to be a plane. Ryanair recognized the power of humor, a good trend and relatable content. I can only imagine, bar paying this amazing Gen Z social exec’s salary, they didn’t have to spend a single dollar on that content. And the shock of seeing a corporate advertised like this made them personable and human, something all users seek out and keep them top of mind when consumers went to book their next flight.

[17:59] Isabelle Cavanagh: Laura, you said something earlier that really kind of pricked my ears, and that’s strategy incorporates loads of different elements. And corporations generally are thinking of the next big KPI or blocker to overrun before they move on. And I think we can all agree the biggest blocker or fear monger on social for all is the dreaded algorithm. Even to those who tried to be different, they always seem to follow the same rule to get there, and that can only come down to the rules that are the algorithm. I personally would say forget the algorithm. I think this piece of logic is stripping the human out of social because brands are constantly trying to beat it. And we all know there’s different algorithms on every platform. I think it’s time for brands to stop strategizing to please this fickle piece of logic and instead start focusing on really understanding and connecting with your consumer to achieve results like Ryanair. Laura, how does Deliveroo approach the algorithm and what place does it have in your social strategy?

[19:04] Laura Davies: So when we’re posting organically I don’t think we think too much about the algorithm. We definitely keep an eye on any sort of trends on platforms like TikTok. But we try and be creative and fun with our, you know, video production. Like, algorithms in general though they’re usually a bit of a black box unless you actually work for the publisher, right? And, generally speaking, any kind of machine learning is just based on simple inputs and outputs. So, every interaction that you have with a piece of content on TikTok, like a like or a share or a comment, is just a signal to the algorithm that you are enjoying that content and you might want to see more of it. So ultimately, the output of this algorithm is content that should be most relevant to you, as well as other recommendations, right?

[19:54] Laura Davies: A really interesting example of how these algorithm wars has actually played out across different publishers is that with TikTok being such a high engagement platform, even Meta has responded to changes with its algorithm. Last year in 2022, highly engaging content was actually being pushed quite heavily in Meta’s algorithm. And that’s not something that’s been done before. So historically, if you went on Facebook or Instagram, you’d expect to see a lot of content from your friends and your family. But actually, now, in your newsfeed, you’re seeing recommendations from different brands in the same way that you would if you are on your Instagram Explore page. So there’s a lot of different pieces of content being factored into the algorithm now, as opposed to just being able to go on to platforms like Facebook and Instagram to be able to connect with your loved ones.

[20:46] Laura Davies: There’s probably hundreds of different test and control groups happening alongside these changes for publishers to try and understand exactly what changes to the algorithm are positively impacting user engagement with the least amount of change to user retention. Because ultimately, what they want to do is get you to spend more time on their platform without damaging their monthly active user base.

[21:13] Isabelle Cavanagh: Yeah, I think it’s an interesting one. I’m reverting back to TikTok, everyone’s favorite platform right now. Laura, did you know that on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter 40% of a user’s feed is made up of paid ads? And the longer a user stays on the platform, the more this increases. I think this has played a big part in the decrease in usage of these platforms largely by the younger generation. A Pew Research paper recently showed that Gen Z had reduced their usage of Facebook down from 71% to 31%. The first time Facebook had ever seen these decreases. Laura, how would you say brands can survive and thrive on TikTok and other new age connectivity platforms when the setup doesn’t really allow them to buy their way in?

[21:58] Laura Davies: If you want to have a successful paid strategy on TikTok, it definitely pays to have a strong organic presence. TikTok actually commissioned Nielsen recently to do a meta analysis of different media mix models. And they showed that brands with an organic strategy experienced a 13% year-on-year improvement in their return on ad spend. So you wouldn’t necessarily think that an organic strategy or somebody just, you know, posting videos on TikTok is going to have any link to your return on ad spend. But actually, it’s the perfect way to supplement your paid content. Or even the other way around, like, your paid content should supplement your organic strategy.

[22:36] Laura Davies: If a user has served your paid add on TikTok, and they click through to your TikTok handle, if there’s nothing there, or if the content’s just, you know, shiny, polished TV ads, there’s not really much that a user can gain from that. Whereas if you’re putting out educational content or how to videos, just pieces of information that are going to be relevant to your user base, they’re going to trust you a lot more. They’re going to be wanting to come back and engage with your content, and then eventually they might even want to purchase from you. So I think having that organic piece is definitely one of the key ingredients to having a successful TikTok strategy on the paid side as well.

[23:12] Isabelle Cavanagh: Absolutely, and I think this ties in nicely again to link back to the need to bring human back into social. This robotic corporate approach is not gonna last. You need to bring a bit of fun, true connection, emotion and human back into the strategy. But there’s one extra part to this. I think TikTok is undeniably a superpower. I think a lot of people’s biggest marketing mistake of the 2010s was underestimating TikTok when it emerged. Everyone thought it was going to be another fleeting attempt to compete with the big players, but it now stands as the most downloaded social platform of all time. Notably 3.5 billion times globally. It’s often said if you can’t crack TikTok, you’re going to fail. But I don’t think this is quite true. I think this is only true if your consumers are there. Do you agree, Laura, that brands must have a TikTok presence to survive? Or do you think this is a bit of scaremongering within the market?

[24:06] Laura Davies: Oh, could be a bit of scaremongering. I think even if your consumers aren’t currently on the platform, I do think that it’s such a strong opportunity for you to drive incrementality for your business. So if you look at where your existing customers are and how they’re distributed across different digital platforms or social platforms, TikTok will either have a large proportion of your existing customer base or likely none at all. And I think either one of those is an opportunity, right? So if you’ve got a retention strategy and your marketing to your existing customers, TikTok is a relatively cheap platform with cheap CPMs at the moment. It’s not as heavily congested by ads as other platforms because a lot of advertisers can’t currently master the strategy. Or, maybe they’re a bit afraid to tap into the space, afraid to tap into the unknown.

[24:58] Laura Davies: Or, if your consumers aren’t on the platform, there’s a really strong opportunity for you to drive incrementality and to tap into audiences that aren’t currently buying from your brand. So you can obviously measure that by running different incrementality tests with a simple test and control group: a test group who would see your ads and a control group who wouldn’t, and you can measure the uplift and that would indicate how many genuine sales you’re making that aren’t being cannibalized. And that would indicate the true value of your marketing spend on TikTok.

[25:33] Elizabeth Wood: We’re going to take a short break. When we return, Laura and Isabelle will share more about how different generations are using social media.


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[26:25] Elizabeth Wood: Now back to our conversation between Isabelle Cavanagh, Marketing Consultant in frog’s London Studio and Laura Davies, Senior Performance Marketing Manager at Deliveroo.

[26:35] Isabelle Cavanagh: I think whatever the debate, the rise of TikTok has really put the question out about demographic changes and uses of social platforms. Undeniably TikTok is seen as a platform of Gen Z and maybe a platform like Facebook or Instagram is that of millennials. Laura, what shift have you seen and demographic usage in Deliveroo’s campaigns and why do you think this shift might be happening?

[26:55] Laura Davies: We’re definitely seeing more of our existing customers on certain social media platforms over others. So our retention activity might prioritize platforms where we can speak to a large proportion of our existing customers. Equally, on platforms where it’s harder to reach them, there’s an opportunity to drive incremental new customers, but in turn incremental revenue. So we have to be quite flexible with the approach that we take. So we have to adopt a flexible approach to test and learn to make sure that we are maintaining efficiency on our existing platforms, but that we’re also open to new alternatives.

[27:29] Isabelle Cavanagh: It’s often been claimed by some marketing professionals that brands have ruined social media as we know it. And that has been linked to the fact that the demographics are, or the younger demographics, are moving away. Would you then disagree with that, Laura and say actually, that’s not really quite what you’re seeing? And instead you’re seeing people still can drive efficiencies into all the different heritage platforms like the Facebook, like the Instagram?

[27:52] Laura Davies: Well, there’s serious generational differences when we’re looking at the usage of social things. Thirty-eight percent of Gen Z actually report spending four or more hours a day on social in comparison to 18% of US adults. So that kind of reaffirms what we already know: younger generations are spending longer on social. And then it’s just a case of, okay, how do we reach them? Not every business will want to target Gen Z or will know how, but we can’t forget that this cohort, despite being younger, they will become the primary decision makers. They’ll be the ones with more disposable income when they’re older. So they’re definitely not a generation to be discounted from our marketing efforts. And I think if you’re, you know, scared of targeting Gen Z, or you’re not sure of the marketing strategies to use, I would definitely try and read up on it. Learn.

[28:43] Laura Davies: I think, generally speaking, Facebook’s still the most used social media site. It’s got 2.9 million monthly active users in comparison to 1 million on TikTok. And, you know, Meta’s had a huge advantage. Their platforms have been around for a lot longer, but we know that there’s been exponential growth on TikTok in more recent years. So there’s definitely a seismic shift in the way that the younger generations are consuming content. But I think if we take TikTok as an example, I wouldn’t say that it’s just Gen Z on the platform. You know, when I’m scrolling—I mean, I’m 28 so I’m not Gen Z, I’m a millennial—but when I’m scrolling through the platform, I’m seeing more and more content that’s tailored to my age group. There’s lots of 30 year olds that are talking about, you know, restarting their lives at 30 and all of the cool things that they want to be doing. And recently, I even saw a group of women on the news that we’re talking about their new TikTok account, which is something to help menopausal women. There’s lots of different niches within platforms that I think you just have to tap into. And from an advertising perspective, I don’t think it matters too much if that group is smaller than what you’re used to. I think as long as there is scale you just need to know where to find them and how exactly to target them. And I think once you can tap into that, once you’ve got that kind of golden nugget of inventory, then you can invest more into that and you can make it more efficient over time.

[30:07] Isabelle Cavanagh: I think anyone who works within social strategy can agree there’s been a rise of new social features and innovations which are really changing the game. Mostly, I think there’s a lot to say about social becoming the new search channel. Users are turning to platforms like TikTok and Amazon to find new products or be inspired before they even think to go on Google. Laura, what do you say to the idea that social is the new search?

[30:34] Laura Davies: I’m actually really excited about the fact that TikTok is bringing keyword bidding as one of its new placements. I think that it’s going to be a super contextually relevant way to tap into what users are already looking at on the platform. We were talking about advertisers needing to not disrupt a user’s flow on social media, and things being attention-grabbing as opposed to, you know, just putting out disruptive content. And I think that being able to bid on search terms that users are using on TikTok is going to be a really native and kind of fluid way for advertisers to position their ads without actually disrupting the privacy of TikTok users. So it’s going to be a much more relevant placement.

[31:22] Laura Davies: So I used the example earlier of, you know, I was looking for ideas for my trip to Prague. Well, it would have been great if there was some sort of tour company that was advertising for, you know, a local walking tour, and they positioned that ad next to the content I was looking at. That would have been super relevant to me. I probably would have clicked through. I might have even booked through them. So when we talk about bidding on keywords, it’s the same concept as Google Search.

[31:48] Laura Davies: A lot of people in the industry have been wondering whether TikTok search is going to compete with Google Search. But I actually think the two can complement each other. So you can use insights from your TikTok keyword strategy, and harvest the search terms that users are using most frequently, and the ones that are working for you, the ones that have the highest click through rate and the lowest cost per click, and then bake those into your Google Search strategy and vice versa. So we actually think there’s a lot that you can learn from both strategies in combination. They shouldn’t necessarily be seen as being in competition with each other.

[32:24] Isabelle Cavanagh: I think that’s really interesting and actually ties nicely back to the idea that earned media is more powerful than people think. What you’re saying sounds amazing and very technical. But I think actually, if they took 20% of their energy, left that 80% for paid strategy, and directed that 20% into generating user-generated content, earned media, real loyal advocates who would post a TikTok or post on Instagram because they want to—not because they’ve been paid to—that can really change the game and open up the space for brands. Despite this paid bidding element coming in, right now as a platform like TikTok, for example, stands, if I search ‘Prague’ on TikTok, what comes up is UGC, user-generated content. There’s no brands there. How do you fill that space? Do you think there is weight in taking a portion of your budget and reinventing the wheel and really thinking about okay, let’s really focus on that sort of earned media, UGC, from advocates? Or do you think they should pause, keep strategizing on paid and keep pushing forward?

[33:30] Laura Davies: I think UGC is such an important lever, but you’ve got to do it right. So, messages are especially effective when they’re not coming directly from a brand. You know, word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools that you can have within advertising, especially amongst Gen Z. And a lot of the time you’re going to your friends or maybe even influencers or micro influencers that you really trust for different recommendations. And when it actually comes from the brand themselves, a lot of the time it can seem a bit inauthentic.

[34:02] Isabelle Cavanagh: So, Laura, do you think brands should take a portion of their energy, leave paid behind and really focus in on generating that real time media by loyal brand advocates?

[34:16] Laura Davies: I think there’s ways that you can do that without shifting your attention from the paid side. I’m probably biased because I work in paid media, but there are lots of different contextual advertising solutions that I would argue does the heavy lifting for you. So one example is Pulse on TikTok. It’s their first contextual advertising solution that places your brand next to the top 4% of trending videos across different TikTok categories. So it really allows a brand to reach the right audience without disrespecting their need for privacy, disrupting the flow, but also allows a brand to piggyback on some of the top trending videos in a given category without actually having to go and ask content creators to produce that content. TikTok splits half of the revenue with the creator whose video appeared before the ads. So, it’s really clear that they are prioritizing the creators and not just the advertisers. But I think those contextual targeting solutions like Pulse and the keyword bidding are ways for paid media to be positioned in a way that’s more relevant and less disruptive. I don’t feel that you need to completely shift your focus. I just think that we need to execute paid media in a more native way.

[35:33] Isabelle Cavanagh: That’s really the true social network coming back into full power isn’t it? I love that. How much do you personally use social media and what for?

[35:42] Laura Davies: In my younger years, I used it to keep in touch with friends. I used Facebook primarily as a way to build different photo albums. I think I had one pretty much every month, which is really embarrassing. And I was on Bebo a lot, so I was sharing the love every week. And I got into many arguments over who I was sharing the love with. But, despite working in social, I’m actually very bad at posting. So I can go months at a time without posting on platforms like Instagram, and I barely use Facebook unless I’m selling some old shoes on Facebook Marketplace. So I’m pretty rubbish at social I would say until I’m looking for recommendations or things to do, you know, foodie places to visit or different countries to travel to. So I’d say that the content I’m consuming now is a lot more educational. It’s how-to videos. It’s interior design. And I think that’s definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. But yeah, a lot less as a place of connectivity and a lot more as a place of discovery.

[36:42] Laura Davies: So I love the ability of social media to connect different people and to actually solve real world problems. An example is something that happened to me recently. I was going on a daily walk, and I go to the same lake pretty much every day. And I spotted this really lovely black and white cat. And he was completely out of place, like, there’s no houses near this lake. He shouldn’t have been there. And I stayed with him for like an hour, then I ended up having to leave and I felt super guilty. So I ended up posting on my hometown’s Facebook group to try and find his owner. And I was getting, you know, messages and comments from different charities saying, “Yep, we’re going to post him on our page, we’re going to spread the word, try and find his owner.” But no luck.

[37:29] Laura Davies: So the next day, I checked the post, and there were two new comments. One was from the owner saying they were on holiday, and Mr. Thompson must have got out. And the second was from somebody saying that they’d been to the lake today and he was still there. So naturally, I ran and got my cat carrier, I got to the lake, I rescued Mr. Thompson and I returned him to its owner. So it’s a funny story, but I just love the way that social media was able to reunite Mr. Thompson with his owner. And that just wouldn’t have happened unless I posted in that group and people were receptive. So it’s just a nice example of how social media can do good things.

[38:05] Isabelle Cavanagh: My advice to brands is to bring a level of humanity and realness back into what you do, whether that be advertisements or strategy. I think brands are in danger of losing the one thing that drove people to engage them in the first place: authenticity. Getting back to the basics, understanding your consumer, listening to your consumer and relinquishing that corporate agenda just for a little bit will help you drive a greater return. Laura, what advice would you give to other brands?

[38:31] Laura Davies: So my advice would be, from a paid perspective, don’t spread yourself too thin. Start with one platform and be data-driven about it. Keep testing. So, maybe start broad and then use data to hone in on what’s working for your brand or your company by using iterative testing. And don’t discount something just because it doesn’t work the first time. I think one of the things that I’ve learned in my career is you can have setbacks, you can try a certain strategy and it doesn’t work, but actually if you just iterate on it over time, you can definitely prove the value. I think brands using first-party data with measurement studies in place are going to have such a competitive advantage when it comes to tackling iOS changes. They’re going to have a better understanding of incrementality and the true value of each channel. So, to summarize, my advice would be keep testing, adopt incrementality and invest where it makes sense.

[39:27] Isabelle Cavanagh: Thank you Laura, thanks for joining us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

[39:31] Laura Davies: Thanks so much for hosting, Izzy.

[39:33] Elizabeth Wood: That’s our show. The Design Mind frogcast was brought to you by frog, a leading global creative consultancy that is part of Capgemini Invent. Check today’s show notes for transcripts and more from our conversation. We really want to thank Isabelle Cavanagh, Marketing Consultant in frog’s London Studio and Laura Davies, Senior Performance Marketing Manager at Deliveroo, for letting us in on their conversation about social media strategy for brands.

[39:58] Elizabeth Wood: We also want to thank you, dear listener. If you like what you heard, tell your friends. Rate and review to help others find us on Apple Podcasts and  Spotify . And be sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. Find lots more to think about from our global frog team at frog.co/designmind. That’s frog.co. Follow frog on Twitter at @frogdesign and @frog_design on Instagram. And if you have any thoughts about the show, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at frog.co/contact. Thanks for listening. Now go make your mark. 

Isabelle Cavanagh
Consultant, frog London
Isabelle Cavanagh
Isabelle Cavanagh
Consultant, frog London
Isabelle is a marketing consultant at frog, with a focus on digital transformation, creative technology innovation and social media strategy.
Isabelle has over 5 years experience in the CPRD sector, within the fields of ecommerce, paid planning, social content & listening strategy and creative automation solutions. Isabelle’s worked at start-ups driving engagement, conversion and buy in as they achieve their Unicorn status, as well as in media agencies delivering for companies like adidas and Reebok.
Elizabeth Wood
Host, Design Mind frogcast & Editorial Director, frog Global Marketing
Elizabeth Wood
Elizabeth Wood
Host, Design Mind frogcast & Editorial Director, frog Global Marketing

Elizabeth tells design stories for frog. She first joined the New York studio in 2011, working on multidisciplinary teams to design award-winning products and services. Today, Elizabeth works out of the London studio on the global frog marketing team, leading editorial content.

She has written and edited hundreds of articles about design and technology, and has given talks on the role of content in a weird, digital world. Her work has been published in The Content Strategist, UNDO-Ordinary magazine and the book Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America (Bogotá International Press).

Previously, Elizabeth was Communications Manager for UN OCHA’s Centre for Humanitarian Data in The Hague. She is a graduate of the Master’s Programme for Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Audio Production byLizard Media
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