For many consumers, especially in younger demographics, social media is their primary source of communication, entertainment and research. As a result of this high level of engagement and reliance social media has become an important and potentially powerful tool in the overall marketing and branding toolkit. Social media is essentially a tactic or channel to engage both customers and consumers-at-large through various digital platforms, including primary platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and others such as Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube and more.
There are several key benefits to a company that establishes a social media presence:
• Ability to engage and establish two-way conversations with consumers
• Quick way to send and receive important news
• Direct access to customer input and feedback
• Opportunity to provide improved customer service
• Additional marketing channel for product offers and new product launches
To create an effective social media program that will maximize the impact and benefits on the brand, there are a few essential elements and strategies to follow.
Know your audience. As with other marketing tactics and programs, knowing your audience is a critical first step to creating an effective and impactful campaign. The social audience should be reflective of your overall target audience with minor sub-targeting or characteristics based on the channel. Psychographic targeting or interest based targeting is also very important as relevant message topics drive engagement. In addition to your specific targeting criteria, understanding the demographics of the various social platforms is also crucial. While each platform will have a range of associated demographics, there will be a “sweet” spot for each one. For instance, if you are targeting adults 55+ Snapchat will not be the most efficient platform. Know your audience, but know the right audience for your brand because creating a really cool social program with the wrong target may generate a loyal following but will not help your brand move forward.
Find your voice. Creating and maintaining a strong and defined brand voice is crucial for establishing an identifiable position and tangible asset for long-term success and differentiation. Social media should extend and build on the overall brand voice and positioning with only minor adaptation to reflect the channel. Consumers should be able to instantly recognize the brand in both offline and online communications. If your overall brand is serious, professional and a bit stoic, your social media program should not include humorous blogs and cat videos. Being consistent with your brand voice makes you an authoritative source for your area of expertise and will build a loyal audience with positive business impact.
Consistency. Consistency is about more than just your brand voice. Consistency extends to the type and frequency of content posted. Although there is no hard and fast rule for how much to post, posting too much can alienate an audience as they feel they are being spammed, but too infrequently and it feels disengaged and outdated.
In general, you will need a minimum of a few posts a month, but it can go all the way to multiple times a day. Each brand, product, and audience will have an ideal range of engagement. Test and learn your optimal posting level by monitoring the performance of your social channels at varying levels of engagement. Once you identify your ideal posting strategy, consistently deliver.
Originality. You know your audience, found your voice and you are consistently posting to your accounts. Now, to really generate a following create original and engaging content. Posting the same content over and over or posting content that consumers can easily find on numerous other social sites will cause them to disengage and eventually unfollow you. Occasionally reposting content from other social sites or using contests and offers is fine, but consistently generating interesting and original content is the key to long-term engagement. Be original, be as bold as your brand voice will allow and engage your audience beyond contests, offers, and prizes.
Be human and sympathetic. To build long lasting relationships ensure content is personable and conversational. Any perception that a robot posts the content, or a semblance of a person posing as a robot, will instantly turn people away from your platforms. Followers like to engage with a brand’s social media platforms and have a two-way conversation. Build long-lasting relationships by responding to messages promptly, and use every opportunity to address and engage customers who post about their experiences with your brand and products.
Whenever a negative review or comment about your brand gets posted, don’t delete it. Instead take the opportunity to be empathetic with your customer and respond directly to them to try to address the situation. Negative comments and reviews provide an excellent opportunity to enhance your brand reputation by showcasing your customer service and allowing for a brand response to the situation.
Incentive. Strategically using incentives in an overall social media plan can help build your program more rapidly than through organic growth alone. Incentives not only grow your audience but can also drive interaction and engagement. Be creative when using incentives and include both online and offline offers, social specific and brand specific offers and offers that drive audience growth as well as product growth. However, while the selective and strategic use of incentives can augment and enhance your programs, overuse can be equally destructive and inefficient. Restraint is important to avoid creating a base of followers that only respond to incentives.
Take action. Many brands commit significant resources in both time and money to develop social media strategies yet don’t launch a program. Given the importance of social media in establishing brand legitimacy and building customer relationships, not being active can be more damaging than implementing a less than ideal strategy. Without a social media presence, customers and potential customers will find the information they are seeking from other resources, often from competitors. Social media is a key touchpoint and reference point for customers and without an online social presence, your brand will be at a severe disadvantage. Take action now. Get your program launched even if it doesn’t seem ideal, test and learn as you go.
If you are looking for a little strategic support or you need a fully integrated partner to implement and execute your social program, Glint is here to help. Glint is an expert in developing and executing effective and engaging social media programs and campaigns for brands.