How to build incredible engagement: From LADbible to LinkedIn and beyond

At 24, Tim Hyde is a global engagement wunderkind and works with some of the world’s coolest brands. He explains how he creates a distinct content style, why engagement isn’t always an upward curve and what people get wrong when they newsjack

By Mark Rowland,

Tim Hyde’s first job, straight out of school, was as a writer at LADbible — its 11th member of staff. When he left 11 months later, his ideas had helped to grow its likes on Facebook from one million to almost 10 million and had boosted website traffic to 5.5 million visits a day. He was just 18 years old.

He moved on to Social Chain, where he continued to develop innovative ideas for social engagement. He took on live streaming in a big way and ended up creating nine out of the 10 most engaged branded live streams of all time. One in particular broke records at the time, receiving 2.4 million comments in just two hours. He was promoted to head of campaigns at the age of 21.

After a stint at Agency TK, he now works as an interim engagement manager for several brands, big and small.

He’s also in demand as a public speaker on the subject of engagement, delivering talks around the world (including for CIPR). He has worked with Apple Music, Amazon, P&G, Comedy Central, Adidas and Spotify to help each brand increase their audience engagement.

“Social’s job is to curate an audience that you consistently go back to, reward, engage with and get feedback from,’ he says. “There are So many ways you can continue to engage with them. You can’t win them round and expect them to stay loyal; you’ve got to keep their interest in the brand by trying new things.”

There is no exact science to his achievements, he says — it’s about juggling a lot of factors and building a bedrock of goodwill to create the best conditions for optimum engagement, as well as understanding the algorithms of each platform. Here, he shares some insights from his biggest achievements throughout his short but brilliant career.

The value of content

At LADbible, the majority of growth and leads were generated through video content. We sourced, created and curated the best content for that specific audience. We spent a lot of time understanding the tone of voice that resonated with that audience.

We really doubled down on content first. A lot of businesses at the time, from both a brand and publisher perspective, were trying to put out a lot of link posts because Facebook drove so much traffic. That wasn’t our approach.

We kind of massaged the algorithm and rewarded the audience a bit more with the content on the platform. We kept them on Facebook, so that when we did put out something to drive traffic to the website, we had already built up favour with the algorithm. As a result, we were able to drive a lot more traffic and generate more growth on the platform.

Out of everything, the content is the most important thing. If you’re adding value to your audience, the content is going to be successful no matter the platform. A lot of people over-complicate social. Go for impact early with a bit of content and strong copy that suits the platform: so LinkedIn slightly longer, Twitter slightly shorter. Then think about whether it’s a mobile-first optimisation.

These little tweaks put you in a position to be successful, but at the end of the day, if you’ve got a great, heartfelt story, Someone’s going to watch that on mobile or on desktop. Or if it’s something extremely funny, people are going to watch and share that on whatever platform they see it on.

A lot of it comes down to building a brand, so a coherent approach makes a big difference. If you look at Tasty, for example, everyone knows what a Tasty-style video looks like.

Developing those frameworks for a page and a brand is really, really powerful. It didn’t work well just because food works well on social media. It’s because the team had developed a specific content style, had great distribution and understood what resonated with people.

Game on

As a kind of one-size-fits-all rule for social media, when a platform rolls out new technologies or features, you get massively championed in the algorithm when you use them from the off.

The platform can then use you as a business case for its advertisers. For example, LinkedIn Live will be massively championed in the algorithm right now, because in six months’ time, LinkedIn wants to be able to say to the advertisers ‘LinkedIn Live is x% more engaged than this other thing’.

At the time, Facebook was massively pushing Facebook Live, so it was really championed by the algorithm. We decided to do a couple of streams on our viral pages, where we tested some cool content opportunities. They worked really well, and we were able to package that up, refine it, understand what sort of gamifying mechanics we could use to make them more interesting and share them across a big network of pages.

We did a lot of streams for Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, BoohooMAN and Superdry. The record-breaking stream was for a shoe publication called Sole Supplier. We basically pumped up a balloon every time somebody posted ‘Yeezy’ in the comment section. The last person to comment ‘Yeezy’ when the balloon burst won the pair of shoes inside the balloon. That was the gamification metric that brought us significant amounts of engagement.

Be patient and consistent

My longest-standing clients are a husband and wife based in Seattle, who launched a bike business called PNW Components. It started out as a $250,000-a-year business, but in Q] this year, we did $1m in revenue. It’s just the husband and wife and me. It’s all done through Facebook advertising and Amazon, which is very cool for a lean business.

Theyre great people, they have a phenomenal product and a great tone of voice, and they’ve slowly been able to scale up their activity. ’’ve grown with them. They’re some of the best people I’ve been able to work with. Although they’re one of my smallest clients on all fronts, I’m super proud of that work, because it’s real business growth. It’s a great case study for why you should invest in social media marketing and performance marketing.

There isn’t a social media bible that you can read and suddenly know everything about social media. I very much believe in the aggregation of marginal gains. That aligns best with social media, because it’s all about these little ‘1%’ things: the right copy, the right content, the right posting time, the right amplification strategy. All of those things together put you in a position to generate great engagement. It won’t work with just one.

People often think that engagement will be a consistent curve upwards, where you’re getting more engagement all the time. It’s actually massive peaks and troughs. Everybody thinks that each post is going to be more and more engaging, but you have to create some consistency before you’ll land a viral post or actually generate some traction.

Timely – but not too timely

When you’re building a content plan, time relevance is always important. Speaking about the 2018 World Cup now isn’t going to resonate, but the women’s World Cup might.

When it comes to newsjacking, people think ‘whoever gets there first wins’ If you see that there has been an accident or a tragedy, you don’t really care where that news comes from— it’s just where you see it first. That’s fine as a strategy, but everyone is playing the same game.

The publishers that are winning at the moment aren’t just trying to be first — they’re isolating what’s interesting about the story and what people are talking about. Then they put their own take on it.

Changing algorithms do give you a first mover advantage. For example, PDF-style slideshows are working well on LinkedIn at the moment because they’re championed in the algorithm. But that will not be the difference between success and failure — it’s about the value you’re adding for your audience.


A version of this article was first published in Influence magazine, Q3 2019.

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