What does social mean to you?

Putting user experience principles at the heart of social strategy

What does social mean to you? It’s likely that this question has different answers for different people, but when looking at social media for brands it’s often the wrong question entirely. Instead, brand marketers should be asking: what does social mean to my consumer?

Approaching social with user experience in mind should be standard practice. From tailoring the content to the right audience, to providing new ways to interact with brands and gather insight, there are many ways that social can be affected by, or improve, user experience.


Content is at the core of social, so it makes sense to consider your output with a content-first UX approach. Start by considering the content you want to direct users to and then work outwards, looking at the way content links together. By framing this journey as a conversation, it will allow you to focus the tone of voice to the right audience.
With research and a test-and-learn attitude you can put together a rudimentary strategy and view of which users to target and the content that works best for them. This was key in the success of Tate & Lyle Sugar’s We Love Baking Wednesday’s where we ran two competitions across Twitter and Facebook, but in different ways that best utilised user behaviour on each platform and community.


There’s a growing trend towards providing a more functional experience on social networks. Twitter is pushing towards this with the introduction of cards for brands. Their aim is to encourage branded interaction by providing richer content and clearer CTAs. You can see brands already using cards to increase CRM sign-ups and app downloads.

Google, meanwhile, has pushed the level of integration between its services. Maps can bring in up-to-date store information as well as images, reviews, and even peak hours of business – enhancing user experience for consumers. Google Now has also introduced branded cards, offering consumers automated ways to engage with brands and services.


Testing and iterating are key components of the UX process. There are a number of social tools available which will help measure the basic insight you need to optimise your brand’s social activity. From determining key times of engagement, to demographic breakdowns, these tools are invaluable. However, they’re not the only form of insight you can gain from social.

By tracking sentiment, brand affinities and common conversation themes, you can begin to understand how your audience is communicating on each channel. This can help lay the groundwork to see how well your brand’s most recent campaign is resonating, as well as identifying problem areas that you might be able to solve digitally. With Ben & Jerry’s recent summer activity we were able to determine which stops of their Cookie Core tour were the most popular as well as assess the positive impact their Big Ice Screening experiential event had on the brand’s association with movies.

So what does social mean to your consumer?

When attempting to optimise your brand’s social channels, do not lose sight of the founding principle of consumer first. This thinking has been at the core of successful brand activity in both traditional and new media advertising, and doesn’t change, even if the medium of messaging has.

iOS 9 brings support for Content Blockers

With the release of iOS 9, Apple officially added support for Content Blockers. Programs that intercept content being displayed in Safari (and some other apps) and modify that content to remove unwanted elements, such as advertisements.

The Evening Standard (standard.co.uk) site without the use of an Ad Blocker

The Evening Standard (standard.co.uk) site without the use of an Ad Blocker

The Evening Standard site (standard.co.uk) with Ad Blocker enabled

The Evening Standard site (standard.co.uk) with Ad Blocker enabl

Of course, Apple says this is to remove unnecessary distractions for the user and to streamline the browsing process. Cynics, however, are keen to point out that it will force websites who are dependent on advertising to switch to developing apps – from which Apple get a 30% cut of the advertising revenue, via their iAd platform – or, in the case of blogs and news sites, to start using the new Apple News reader – where Apple can sell advertising space on your behalf, also for a 30% cut.

Whilst the removal of Ads may seem like a god-send to many users – as many sites are borderline unusable on a mobile connection due to excessive and ill-presented advertising – one should spare a thought as to whether their favourite sites might rely on this precious advertising revenue to stay alive before installing a content blocker.

For brands, it means they will have to take much harder look at their approach to online advertising:

  • Consider your demographic – the use of Content Blockers is currently much more prevalent amongst tech-savvy young males than other audience segments.
  • Check your ads are being seen – concentrate on advertising platforms like the Google Display Network that try to only count impressions if they’re sure they’ve been seen by a physical human being. There’s no point in wasting money on ads that never make it onto the page.
  • Place your ads elsewhere – advertise on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Imgur, etc. where users browse primarily via apps, which aren’t affected by the Content Blocker.
  • Reallocate your budgets – try allocating more budget to SEO, and creating great content, that will increase organic traffic to your site. Look at whether you can use social sharing more effectively.
  • Improve your existing advertising – if you’re still putting budget into traditional online advertising, try to choose the less invasive, less disruptive formats. After all, you don’t want to tempt even more users to install Content Blockers.

With a bit of care and attention, this doesn’t have to be the disaster some marketers are predicting but it is a good example of how brands have to constantly adapt to this fast-paced medium.

One last thing…

It should also be mentioned that some of these Content Blockers will also block the tracking codes used to identify visitors to your website, effectively making them anonymous. This will have a considerable impact when it comes to producing meaningful and accurate statistics about your audience or if you wish to deliver personalised experiences without the use of logins. Make sure your agency considers this when discussing your site.

Mum’s the word, but digital’s the way

Despite the fact that mums have been leading digital trends in recent years, many brands have been slow to react. All too often we see them addressed as a homogenous group of women, communicating within closed, small personal networks. With that in mind, is it any wonder that 73% of mums are saying that advertisers/brands don’t understand them?

So what can a brand do online to drive mums to purchase?


First and foremost, brands have to recognise the increased sphere of mums’ influence. This has now expanded beyond the immediate circles of family and friends, to platforms that are community-minded, both seeking and giving advice to other mums and relying heavily on peer-tested advice.

Brands need to tap into this by fostering personal conversations through content that’s meaningful and connects to mums’ lives, and goes beyond the product. Huggies, for example, create content that relates directly to mums’ wider needs, and which isn’t just focused on selling.


Secondly, brands need to recognise that mums are influential, both to each other and within the family unit. Brands must ensure they are included within these networks to gain the ‘seal of approval’, but vitally, must not appear pushy or invasive. This is not just the case for baby food or baby products; moreover, brands like Netflix have this month been reported to have gained a real rise in word of mouth buzz between young mums.

After all, it’s vital to remember that motherhood does not define a mum’s interests. It adds an extra set of products to her basket, yes, but ultimately as marketers we should be focusing more on the power of her networks and communications habits, and less on pigeonholing her as a parent.


And thirdly, a 360 approach to digital is essential. This may sound obvious, but it’s astonishing how many gaps brands can have here. The Internet Advertising Bureau UK recently found that 60% of mums were using their smartphones in-store. It’s at this moment that a positive or negative review, or a promotion, or any other influencing result then greets them, which is critical to their decision to buy or not (or buy online or elsewhere). This is why digital needs to be considered as an integral part of every stage of the offline purchase journey.

Engage at the right place, right time.

Digital allows for the delivery of the right information at the right time and through the right channel. It also allows for the personal connection that brands crave for with mum.

This can be unlocked through a two-step approach. Firstly, engage her with a CRM program that learns and flexes to her habits, and social that allows the conversation to grow organically. To then drive purchase, employ newer technologies such as geo-targeting and location-based in-the-moment connections that allow brands to connect at an exact point of sale.

At the moment technologies like iBeacon, Face Recognition Ad Serving and Digital Out of Home are providing new platforms to connect with mums, as we see further integration with the internet of things. The most effective marketing campaigns are content driven, personalised and agile, and big data and further focus on mobile will allow brands to personalise everything to mums’ needs.

After all, a mum’s not just a mum; she’s an individual and wants to be treated like one. Now brands can use digital to do just that.

Shoppers vs Consumers: make it person first

The distinction between consumer and shopper has become a talking point within marketing circles. We have seen shopper savvy-ness maximising and gamifying promotions, the evolution and possible demise of the ‘weekly’ shop, and the awareness of just how messy the consumer purchase funnel can be. There’s good reason for both the increased distinction and confusion over what makes a consumer versus a shopper.

To start, it’s worth asking the basic question: is there a difference between consumer and shopper? Looking from a person-centric view we can take the standpoint that we all switch between different roles and facets of ourselves throughout the day. So it is essential to recognise differing need states when building a marketing and communications platform. In today’s connected world, digital becomes the perfect backbone to help connect with each of these modes.

The question is, do brands and marketers need to fear or embrace the change in landscape this brings? The quick answer is yes. While not only is there an essential marketing need to embrace what ‘homo modernus’ has to offer, but there is also a real strategic and creative opportunity too.

What does embracing mean?

Number one: Recognise the multi-faceted-ness of people’s lives

None of us follow linear purchase funnels. We aren’t consumer robots; we would be a boring bunch if we were. Our job as marketers is to connect within this, not force people into consumer/shopper models to suit a marketing laydown plan. Where are the opportunities for brands to connect in a meaningful and welcomed way?

Two: Recognise that people’s needs are different when in different modes

While we are all interchanging between different facets of our lives, we have specific needs when in certain modes. As marketers we need to understand what drives connection with brands within each area of the consumer journey, and what shoppers will need to know to help them decide to put your product in their basket?


Three: Give ‘control’ over to your consumer to access what they need, when they need it, where they are at the moment.

A person-centric approach acknowledges that people will be in different modes at different times, with expectations to connect with brands when and where they want (and equally to not connect when they don’t). Provide the ecosystem and framework, make it discoverable and navigable all the time, interrupt and push at the right moments.

Man with a laptop and superman cape.

Tailoring the right elements of your digital communications means that you will be able to hone in and target key moments in the consumer purchase journey. The key is answering to people’s consumer and shopper needs simultaneously and effortlessly. The important take out is to make marketing person-centric, putting them in the driver’s seat by making communications platforms flexible and targeted to fit around them.

If you’d like to find out more about the distinction between shoppers and consumers, download our whitepaper:

Shoppers vs Consumers

Responsive, but not mobile-friendly

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 and the first Android phones in 2008, smartphones have taken off in a big way with around 80% of EU and 70% of North Americans (source: Google) having a smartphone. Of these users, more than half are using their phones to access websites on a daily basis, causing mobile visitor numbers to surpass desktop visitors for many top sites.

Despite this huge and fast-evolving new market, many brands have been slow to adapt, not wishing to spend money updating their websites to address the challenges of small screens and new navigation techniques.

Those that have made the change have often chosen to create a site that is Responsive – which means the page layout changes to best fit the size of the screen upon which it is being viewed:

Ben & Jerry's - Join Our Core (Desktop)Ben & Jerry's - Join Our Core (Mobile)

Whilst making your site responsive is an excellent start, it is by no means job done. There are many other ways in which a page can be optimised for an improved user experience on mobile:

Image File Sizes – Mobile users are often browsing on a 3G or worse connection. Or, even if they do have 4G, they have a monthly data limit. Retina displays aside, most users don’t need super high-res images when they’re looking at images on a tiny mobile screen. Load the smallest size images you possibly can.

Skinny Controls, Fat Fingers – Tiny buttons and small text links don’t work well when you’re trying to tap them with your thumb, one-handed, whilst balancing a muffin and skinny cappuccino, on the bus. Ensure that buttons and links resize to make them easy to see and tap. Consider a mobile-specific navigation system but don’t assume that users know what the three-line menu icon means – many don’t. Add the word “menu” to make it completely clear.

The Amazon and Argos sites illustrate the difference, with Argos being the more finger-friendly of the two:

Amazon Argos

Gestures – Why force users to constantly pan and prod then their screens when using your website, when there are so many other ways they can interact with the page? Enable swipe gestures for moving through carousels and lists, pinches for zooming content in and out, scroll to reveal content, etc.

The Apple site uses gestures to create a minimalist clutter-free gallery, where the users swipe between images, while Currell’s still relies on tiny thumbnails and arrow icons for control:

Apple Currells

Content Order – Simply running the desktop version of the site into a single, long column for mobile often results in a boringly long page with important content languishing near the bottom where it will never be seen. Reduce and re-order the content on mobile to ensure that the most important items are near the top of the page.

United Utilities (Tablet)United Utilities (Mobile)

Test, Test, Test – Just because it works on your desktop with the window squished really small or on a mobile emulator doesn’t mean it will work the same way on the phone or tablet. Check your website on as many actual devices as possible.

And, wherever possible, design your site for mobile first. It’s much easier to take a simple, narrow design and expanded with additional content and an elaborate layout than to squeeze a desktop design on to a mobile.