media update’s Nikita Geldenhuys caught up with him ahead of the Brand Winning Social Media Content Briefings event, where Bedford will be a speaker. Catch the conference on Thursday, 23 March 2017 in Cape Town and Friday, 24 March in Johannesburg.

As a director for both [email protected] and Ogilvy PR, Bedford is responsible for the strategic outputs of social media for brands, amongst other responsibilities.

He explains the place of social media in marketing strategies – and how to pull this off like a pro.

How important do you think it is for brands to see social media marketing as an integral part of their overall marketing strategy – rather than an isolated channel?

Integrated thinking is critical to any marketing strategy and, to be honest, no discipline should be seen in isolation to the broader communication mix.

Today, very few brands probably don’t have social media as part of their strategies and plans. In my experience, we have managed to place the most unlikely of brands on social media, whether it’s full-scale social media or even active listening and conversation analysis, which informs broader strategies.

There is a place for social media in some form for all brands. However, in saying that, if brands are not managing their social media strategies effectively or investing the right amount of time and money into it, it could do more harm than good.

My suggestion: have a plan, and stick to it.

What are some of the challenges that local brands and agencies face when incorporating social media into their larger marketing strategy?

I think the greatest challenge is that there is still a perception that social media is either cheap or free. It is, undoubtedly, more cost effective than some other forms of communication. However, buy-in at the top is critical and the same amount of time and effort needs to be placed on social media.

I have seen a dramatic change with our clients. Where you couldn’t even mention the word Facebook or Twitter [initially], we are in a position where these channels form an integral part of their broader strategies.

Do you think social media will grow to become a more prominent marketing tool for brands or have we reached a plateau?

Firstly, we must be clear that when we talk about social media, we are not only referring to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social Media Marketing is so much more.

So, to answer your question, we have by no means reached a plateau. It depends who you speak to, but some would say the journey has only just begun – which is very much what I believe.

Which social media technologies and innovations would you like to see local brands implement, or use more often?

I believe there are three important areas brands must acknowledge and embrace: mobile, accessibility, and responsiveness. Everything we do must be easy for consumers and stakeholders to engage with brands.

There are going to be countless innovations and technology platforms that will be introduced, however, if we don’t tick all the boxes on the above, [these innovations and platforms] may not offer the business impact required.

Brands must get the basics right. This speaks to customer centricity. I guess the question begs: is this a social media conversation or a business conversation? After all, social media is only a channel and one access point to a brand. Social media cannot be seen in isolation to brands’ broader business and communications strategies.

Your current role requires you to combine a range of expertise, from business strategy to creative control. Take us through your career journey, from directing a social media team to your current role as a director.

Fifteen years ago, I started working in marketing and communications. As you can imagine, social media was not even on the map. However, what I can say is that the basic foundations [from] 15 years ago, remain today. Of course, things have shifted, which has made everything as exciting as they are today.

As a senior brand manager all those years ago, I realised that digital communication was something I needed to embrace, so I joined a digital agency – which is where I gained most of my digital experience.

This was daunting, as I had never worked in an agency before and what I knew about digital communication then was, well, not a lot. From there, I joined Ogilvy PR as a business director for the social media practice. Working for a big agency was daunting but, in a very short space of time, I managed to find my way.

The social media practice grew rapidly and, before I knew it, four years have passed and I am now responsible for new business across both PR and social media – with still a very firm hand on all things social.

Connect with Bedford on LinkedIn.

If you’re looking for more information on social media for brands, try our article, How brands should prepare for the future of social media – Romy Fleishman’s advice.