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‘Show innovation at every stage’: a conversation with Specsavers’ social media head

The Drum Social is a weekly column from The Drum’s social media executive Amy Houston covering the latest social media trends, strategies and insights. Follow Amy @AmyCLHouston and join in the conversation #TheDrumSocial

The Drum’s social media executive Amy Houston sat down with Specsavers’s head of social Lisa Hale to get the lowdown on the optical retail chain's social strategy, the platforms it is loving and some insight into what the future looks like.

At the end of last week, I jump on a Zoom call with Specsavers’s head of social Lisa Hale to get the lowdown on what it’s been up to the past year. Honestly, I love speaking with other people who work in social. It’s still an industry that is slightly misunderstood at times, in my opinion. “My mum thinks I just sit on Instagram all day,” I joke with Hale. She understands completely.

Specsavers has really come into its own on social this past year by using a mixture of reactive tactics, informative posts, nods to popular memes and trending topics, which, combined, have made its social feeds engaging, witty and unique.

There have been many stand-out moments online for the retailer, and its Euros billboard certainly caught the eye of many. It was a piece of planned reactive that was tested first on social before being executed in real life. “You know an activation has been done really well when the media start talking about it without you having to sell it,” Hale comments.

Being reactive on social media is fun and tends to be the aspect that gets picked up by the press but, as Hale tells me, “it’s just a small part” of what it does overall.

Every morning the entire team meets as part of an editorial board to look at insights, what’s trending and how they can react to those things. They also have core teams via communications agency Tangerine, which monitors these topics seven days a week.

There have been so many changes in how we communicate with each other this past year, and social teams have played a massive role in this – from nurturing online communities to finding innovative ways to sell products and navigating the ever-changing platforms.

Specsavers has been loving and testing out TikTok as one of its new platforms for communication, which has resulted in some wins and some flops, as Hale puts it. Being honest about what’s right for your brand is so important when working in social, and jumping on any and every bandwagon is never going to work. Try things out, be creative, and if it doesn’t work out then find a platform that does. “It’s about not being scared to get it wrong,” Hale says.

The very nature of social media means that sometimes it can be hard to predict what’s around the corner. It’s a medium that is always progressing. One of the key things in the next year will be brands continuing to use “social media to communicate purpose,” Hale adds. “That also means communicating much more complex, and sometimes more emotive, messages, which is really tough to deliver in a typical ad format.”

With more purpose-driven communication on social media, it will be interesting to see how teams adapt to new ways of monitoring what success looks like. “There’s actually been some really interesting work happening on that front,” Hale adds. “I think they’re called attention scientists, Lumen in the UK and TVision in the US, they recently ran studies where they track participants’ head and eye movements over digital and TV formats.”

With older platforms including Facebook and Twitter’s algorithms changing so frequently, and organic social reach pretty much non-existent, having more human-focused KPIs could be an interesting route for social teams. Or is it a bit too invasive, like something straight from a Black Mirror episode? We will see.

Tech developments aside, great campaigns on social media deserve recognition and Hale is chairing The Drum Awards for Social Media this year. We end our conversation with some top tips for people looking to enter work. “It’s really important to show innovation at every stage,” she informs me. “The awards are about people in the industry, looking at ways to drive it forward and try new things.”

This year’s awards is now closed for judging, but you will be able to view the winning work at our virtual ceremony on November 11. You can also check out previous The Drum Social articles here.