Marissa Emanuel, HubSpot: “Buyer Personas are Everything on Social Media”

In our latest eBook about Social Media Content “The Art of Social Media Content Creation” we’ve included an interview with Marissa Emanuele, Social Media Marketing Managerin at HubSpot. Read the whole interview below and find out how Marissa is using Social Media to engage with potential customers, how Hubspot uses Social Media through the inbound marketing funnel and what role it plays in their overall strategy.

Could you be so kind as to tell us a bit more about your work experience and what your current role at HubSpot is?

Marissa Emanuele: I’ve been doing social for over five years now. I started out at Likeable Media, a social media marketing agency in New York, and focused on some major tech clients there. After leaving there I moved over to the brand side, so I worked at a company called Education First, which is an international travel company. After that I moved to the startup world for a brief period of time, and worked at a transportation startup doing social and marketing. Then I moved over to Hubspot to manage all social channels, the content strategy, and pretty much everything. I’ve been here for about a year and a half.

1.Everyone is on social media nowadays. Getting the message across is becoming more and more difficult. If you could advise social media managers on some content strategies that have worked for you, what would they be?

Marissa Emanuele: The one big thing that jumped out at me was: as social media in general is getting more and more cluttered and the space is not nearly as wide open as it used to be, I think it’s getting more and more important to be creating and sharing content that really provides value to your audience first and foremost. Instead of asking for value from your audience or asking them to take an action, the best thing that you can do is give them content that they care about and that will help them in some way, or at the very least be entertaining to them. That way you don’t add to that noise that is filling pretty much every social channel now. As everyone heard, it gets harder and harder to break through that clutter, and the best way to do that is not to be super self-promotional, and to instead focus on providing value to your audience. There are always ways to bring your benefits and the value proposition of your company into these messages that shouldn’t just banging on the table and telling people how great you are, because you’re not going to get much traction there.

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2. When you think about great social media content and innovative approaches, is there any particular brand that comes to mind?

Marissa Emanuele: This is funny! I was just looking at this question this morning and asked some of my colleagues because I had a lot of examples that are US-centric, so I was trying to find stuff that’s more global-focused. It’s tough to answer this question more than it was a couple of years ago because what brands are doing now is that they are really doubling down on one or two channels where they get a lot of traction. And so, there are far fewer brands that are just doing a great job across all channels like there were in the past. In 2012, you could say that Coca-Cola is doing amazing, but it’s not like that anymore. You have brands who are doing a really strong job on Instagram, or are innovating on Snapchat, or are doing really amazing things on Facebook. There are fewer brands that are successful across all channels.

The one global brand that’s successful and this is a bit of an obvious example, is BuzzFeed. They are doing a great job at innovating in this space and the content they create really does set the tone and a new standard. Take for example the Tasty videos. Everybody is trying to replicate that. There are very few brands that have this global success when it comes to everyone paying attention to the content that they’re putting out. It’s a little bit of an obvious example, but they really are starting to set the tone for how brands are using these platforms.

3. Should businesses be on all channels or try to focus on 1-2 big ones?

Marissa Emanuele: I think especially for small businesses, they should focus on one or two social platforms. It all comes down to knowing your audience and figuring out where your audience spends their time. If your audience is on Snapchat, you should be spending a ton of resources on Snapchat. If they’re not there, don’t bother! There are some things that are given. You have to have a Facebook page, because that’s like the search engine of social media. When people are looking for your brand, they’re going to go on Facebook. So you want to be there. That being said, you shouldn’t put all your energy into Facebook. Especially for small businesses with limited resources, find the channel where your audience spends the most time and double down there.

4. We all see this hype around social media marketing, new platforms have emerged (Snapchat), others have added countless new features (Instagram) but life has taught us that after a hype there’s also a decline or a need to switch to something else. In your opinion, what would you see as the next step for social media? What should social media managers expect to see in the future? And what types of content shouldn’t Social Media Managers miss in their strategy? (VR, wearables, on-demand content?)

Marissa Emanuele: The key here is not just chasing down a new channel, but trying to understand the content trend from underneath that channel. For example, it’s not just about Snapchat or Instagram Stories, it’s about this idea of ephemeral content. Content that is in a moment, light, and disappears quickly. So it’s less about mastering Snapchat and more about recognizing: “OK, this is a content trend that’s here to stay – ephemeral content is going to continue to be an important element of social networks, so as a social media manager, I need to learn how to do that well, whether that means to get behind the camera myself.”

It’s the same thing with live. It’s not just about Facebook Live or Periscope or Instagram, it’s about the concept of live content. So instead of trying to be everywhere, just learn how to do that skill and learn how to make that type of content work for your audience. You don’t have to learn the ins and outs of Instagram Live vs. Twitter vs. Periscope vs. Facebook Live. It’s more about learning the principles that could be applied to all of them. Those things are changing, as we’re moving away from just posting a text and an image. We’re really moving into a world where, as marketers, we need to be on board with this new type of content.

In terms of paid social media, it’s harder if you’re not investing any money into paid advertising. You’re not going to see much traction on platforms like Facebook. That being said, you can still get some traction on Twitter or Instagram. Some channels are becoming increasingly difficult to make any movement on without paying. I think it’s about finding that channel that works for you organically. Facebook is obviously the big guy for a reason, everybody is on there, so you can also make your dollar go a long way. You can get a really small budget and go very-very targeted and get good results from not that much money. It’s worth making the investment, for sure, as long as you’re smart about it.

5. HubSpot has taught us so much about Buyer Personas and the Buyer’s Journey. Could you tell us how these can be applied to social media content?

Marissa Emanuele: I think Buyer Personas on social media are everything. That’s where you need to start. Before you do anything, before you do your first post, you need to understand who your Buyer Persona is. Who are you trying to reach? Where do they spend their time? What do they care about? You need to answer those questions before doing anything. You won’t have any luck if you’re just pushing out content without considering those three elements.

As for the Buyer’s Journey, you really need to think about where your social audience is when they’re interacting with your content. Most of the time, social media is at the Awareness stage, you’re really just trying to get into people’s brain space. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, with not being too self-promotional. You really need to keep that in mind. There are principles that you would consider when you’re thinking about blogging or creating content. There’s this principle of answering questions that your audience has. What are the problems that your Buyer Persona has at this stage in the Buyer’s Journey? How can we answer these questions and help solve those problems without being too salesy?

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6. You at HubSpot are using multiple social media channels and you not only provide but also live the inbound marketing concept. What role does social media content play in your marketing funnel?

Marissa Emanuele: Up until last year, we were very much lead generation-focused. So we were top to bottom, but we were very much focused on getting people to fill out a standard lead form. We’ve now shifted our focus a little bit. There’s the top of the funnel and social is a bit higher than the traditional top of the funnel. Instead of focusing on just leads, we’re trying to grow our audience and our reach. I think we’re doing that because we’re a brand of a certain size at this point. I don’t think that changes anything for the traditional SMB. Across the board, the answer is top of the funnel. We’re just thinking about things a little bit deeper than that, so we can consider ourselves a little higher than top of the funnel.

7. We all know the importance of all strategies being directed towards reaching business goals. What aspects should one take into account when aligning social media goals with overall marketing and sales goals?

Marissa Emanuele: As we talk about the Buyer’s Journey, this ties into it. If you’re in a place where you have great brand awareness, but your struggle is in the middle of the funnel, maybe you should focus your social efforts more on the middle of the funnel and on educating people on your brand. It’s just important to align your social content with what your end goal is. Whether that goal is leads, whether it’s some sort of more qualified leads, I think that’s the best way to do it. There are also some people who do a lot of social selling, where they use social media as a sales tool to really directly sell to their audience. The very general answer is making sure that, as a social media manager, you can look at your goal and say “this directly contributes to this business goal.” That’s how you are going to prove your value in the long term.

We’ve been talking about social ROI for years and years and years. To some degree, depending on what your goal is, you can explain your ROI, but we are in a point where we’re no longer looking at a lead-gen goal anymore. We’re looking at this larger business goal where we’re now making a shift towards global brand awareness, and that’s where my energy has shifted, to meet that business goal.

8. If you were to think of three pieces of advice/ best practices for social media managers out there, what would those be?

Marissa Emanuele: Really know your audience, know what they care about, who else they’re reading on the internet, who else they care about beyond your brand. Find a brand that can be your raw model and that you can look up to.

Going back to the goals conversation, I would say set goals that tie back to business objectives, even if you aren’t able to say “My work contributes to the MRR” or something like that. At least you’ll be able to say “My Snapchat campaign grew our awareness by x%.” Make sure you can draw everything that you’re doing back to a goal.

The last one would be to create content that people care about. Step outside of your own perspective. We often fall into the trap of saying “I care about this content so my audience will, too.” It’s not about you! You’re a marketer and a person who cares a lot about your brand. Of course it’s interesting to you, you work there. Put yourself in your Persona’s shoes and really think about what is interesting, helpful and valuable to them. Every social media channel is saturated with marketers trying to reach their audiences, and it’s also saturated with a lot of crazy new stuff. The landscape is changing drastically. The best thing that we can do is focus on creating content that is interesting, entertaining and helpful to people, because at the end of the day, that will still put us in a really good place as long as we focus on those things.

9. If you search for “social media KPIs,” you will find hundreds of articles. What are the KPIs that we should monitor?

Marissa Emanuele: It ties back to whatever your business goals are. If you’re trying to grow your audience, look at growth numbers. If you have a good size audience, but want to increase engagement, focus on engagement numbers. That being said, you’ll always have to look at engagement numbers, because those are directly correlated to your reach and to your audience growth. Everything is tied into that, so the best thing you can do so that you don’t get metrics fatigue is to pick two or three things that you track on a regular basis, have a record on those, say “This is what we’re optimizing for, commit to that.” Otherwise, you end up chasing squirrels. You set expectations with people higher up “This quarter we’re focusing on audience growth, next quarter we’re focusing on engagement.” That way you can always draw back to that, and you can always prove the value of what you’re doing really easily.

The answer is: pick the KPIs that are important to you, focus on those and tune up the other stuff. We go through ebbs and flows whenever one KPI goes up and another one goes down if you’re chasing down each and every one of them. You’re not going to keep the same KPIs forever. You have to adjust based on what your business goals are. Say you’re focusing on growth for a while, and then you’ve achieved really good growth, and you decide you really need to focus on engagement with those people. You’ve got to be prepared to shift that goal, but focus back on something and not be chasing squirrels!

About Marissa Emanuele

Marissa is a social media manager at HubSpot, living & geeking out over new social tools in Boston, Massachusetts. Follow @hithisismarissa on Twitter for more. HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.

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About the Author

Florian Hieß

Florian Hieß is Head of Digital Marketing at Swat.io, a Social Media Management solution that’s helping companies to improve their customer support & content management on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Swat.io is currently used by companies such as 3Österreich, Hitradio Ö3, ÖBB, Focus Online and Burda Intermedia.

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