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Bryna Corcoran, Director Global Brand Social Media at HubSpot, and Kate Rutkowski, Director Brand and Culture at Instacart, joined us on Marketer 411 to discuss their latest thoughts on social media marketing. Below are some of our favorite takeaways: 

  • Pause before you initiate any social media strategy. Understand whether your brand leans towards timely or timeless content, art or science-driven approaches, or “homers or base hits.” 
  • Bring data and research into the convo. By analyzing competitors’ strategies, identifying gaps, and showcasing where the brand falls behind or excels, you can effectively communicate and gain buy-in from leadership. 
  • Patience is key. Leadership should allow at least 3-6 months to analyze content performance and identify successful strategies. 
  • If your posts are too polished, they won’t get engagement. Try keeping ads separate from organic. Lo-fi, iPhone shots, and candid content works. 

Keep reading to get a deeper look on how to get leadership’s investment in social media, the benefit of a 3-6 test window, and how to differentiate between Influencers, Creators, and User Generated Content. 

Getting Buy-in from Leadership for Social Media Marketing 

Kate Rutkowski (Instacart):

If you’re redesigning your social presence for your brand, there are several decisions you need to make. You must consider whether you want your content to be timely or timeless, whether your approach is more art vs. science, and whether you’ll swing for homers or build with base hits.

It’s crucial to think through these factors before you begin, and it’s essential to confirm alignment from leadership early on, especially if they aren’t as fluent in the social space. From there you can dive into content strategy, but you need to have this foundational conversation with leadership first.

Bryna Corcoran (HubSpot):

For me, what has worked, particularly for brands lacking relevance on social media, is to bring data and research into the conversation and to look at competitors.

I often present our leadership examples, where the industry is heading, and where we are lagging. It’s useful to showcase if our rivals are not standing out well in the social space to know how we can stand out.

Communicating Social Metrics that Matter to The Business

Bryna Corcoran:

Unlike traditional billboard ads, social media enables brands to gauge what people are saying and measure brand sentiment. Brand engagement is the next level down from brand awareness.

When people share our content with their network, it tells us that the content was relevant or struck an emotional chord with them, and they want their friends to know about it. This is a critical metric that often gets overlooked, and tracking it as month-over-month performance is where it comes into play.

Activating a Content Strategy 

Kate Rutkowski:

Once you have your content plan in place, take a brick-by-brick approach and be patient with yourself (especially if you’re working within an organization that’s more performance-driven).

Don’t compare yourself to your muses, especially those who operate within a different set of parameters (i.e., brands with a larger appetite for risk). Algorithms are unpredictable, and it’s a waste of time chasing after them. Instead, focus on the areas where you know you can excel. Look at what you’re already doing well and try to expand on that.  

For example, Instacart is known for surprising and delighting its customers. Ask yourself what people are talking about and look for ways to create a space for your brand within that moment.

Creator content can be incredibly powerful, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Seek out creators who align with your brand values and work with them to create engaging content. This approach can help you reach a wider audience and provide more significant impact than you can achieve alone.  

Finally, remember that even the best-laid plans can change. Be prepared to pivot and adjust your strategy as needed. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how small they may seem.

After all, it was a small act of kindness that landed Instacart on the Today Show when we arranged a surprise delivery to 8-year old twins, turning the grocery order of their dreams into reality. 

Advocating The Power of a Six-month Window 

Bryna Corcoran:

Social media marketers often post on social media hoping the algorithm immediately picks it up, but you typically don’t see big changes in numbers right away.

However, after publishing 20 or more pieces of content over a 3-6 month period, you can start to see which direction your content should go based on what people are engaging with the most. This lets you know what content to stop creating and confirms whether you’re on the right track. 

An added benefit of having a longer testing window is that good content is hard and time consuming to make. Finding the right tone, word, context, and approach takes time. And you know that saying the wrong things can have major consequences.

That said, a lot of effort and work goes into the simplest of posts. So, do your best to repurpose the posts that worked in different channels, places, and formats. It’s not easy to turn around and make new content right away, and the average person isn’t following your content cadence as closely as you are. You can use posts that are working in new ways.

Kate Rutkowski:

When discussing trial periods with Leadership, advocate strongly for as much time as you can get. These strategies don’t bake overnight! Be adamant that you need a 3-6 month window to test, learn and optimize before jumping to any conclusions re: effectiveness.

Differentiating Influencers, Creators, and User Generated Content 

Kate Rutkowski:

Influencers, Creators, and User Generated Content (UGC) are three different things—they each use different strategies, lines of work, and approaches.

When it comes to influencers, you choose them for their influence and have them post on their channels because of their reach and the loyalty/engagement of their audience. It’s important to understand their audience demographic and whether it aligns with your brand. 
For creators, you can commission content from those who are skilled at their craft, regardless of their following. Paying creators for their skills helps you get quality content for your brand.

Lastly, we have UGC—content that is truly user-generated. Maybe it’s a hashtag challenge where people create their own version of a trend or answer a prompt. True UGC virality is nearly impossible to seed, but it can be unbelievably amazing when it hits! 

Bryna Corcoran:

I’ve seen brand teams rely on celebrities and TV commercials in the past and now I’m starting to see performance marketing teams collaborating with creators to design ads. When it comes to influencer content, I think it has to be a top-of-funnel brand awareness play mostly.

The ownership of relationships within companies can be confusing. The space is still unexplored, and brands are still trying to navigate it. In the next 5-10 years, however, social teams will take on multiple roles and run all these workstreams.

Getting People to Care about B2B Social Channels 

Bryna Corcoran:

I’ve been at HubSpot for nine months now, and if you scroll down on our Instagram page, our vibe shift is apparent.

Social teams can get pigeonholed into being seen as a distribution channel. And the shift we’ve begun to make at HubSpot is making content with social media in mind.

In the past, we would put out polished posts, but we’ve started to lean into what our audience cares about and the trials and tribulations they’re going through.

So, we’ve started speaking to them in a way that shows we understand what they’re up against, in our own unique HubSpot way of knowing what makes them tick. Ads will always do what they’re supposed to do, but social media is about community.

Meet the Experts

Kate Rutkowski – Director Brand & Culture at Instacart 

Kate is the Head of Brand & Culture at Instacart, leading their non-traditional brand work including brand partnerships, content integration, stunts/activations, and overseeing social media and influencer marketing. She has been with Instacart for 2 years, and in her time, she’s led multiple content integrations, including a co-promotional campaign with Apple TV’s Lessons In Chemistry, created a branded GIF library that now gets ~1.5M views per day, and recently sent TikTok creator @GirlBossTown to the Super Bowl. Before Instacart, Kate spent 6 years at Wieden & Kennedy, working on Nike and KFC, where she worked on the Emmy-winning split-screen commercial “You Can’t Stop Sport”, landed KFC a moment on final Jeopardy, and launched a chicken sandwich into space. Kate is excited to live in a world where the best ideas can be inspired by and built for culture as it’s unfolding in real-time on social media.  

Bryna Corcoran – Director Global Brand Social Media at HubSpot 

Bryna Corcoran is a digital marketing innovator renowned for elevating brands to social media relevance. Her specialty is placing social media at the heart of day-to-day brand building, crafting content that ignites emotional connections and reshapes brand perception. Currently, she leads HubSpot’s social media reinvention. Her vision? To weave a powerful blend of cultural relevance—often used in B2C industries—to drive engagement, with demonstrable value that resonates with B2B audiences. Her team’s goal is to propel HubSpot towards social media leadership within an often dry B2B social media landscape. Prior to HubSpot, Bryna spearheaded award-winning, in-house social media teams at innovative companies like Lyft and Stitch Fix, and disruptive tech players like Dolby and HP. Her agency experience further bolsters her expertise, having guided iconic brands like Nestle, Barbie/Mattel, and Hyundai to social media prominence. 

The Marketer 411 virtual events are hosted by Jennie Stark, the VP of the MTM Program at 24 Seven. These events are designed for Marketing Managers to bring value, direction, and inspiration to their teams from insightful conversations with top marketing leaders. Each 411 contains insights on different disciplines, such as what brands are focused on, leading teams, measuring success, and more. 

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