It is hard to believe there are only a number of weeks remaining in 2012. Harder still to understand how in the months since 1st January 2012 the business world has had to adapt and react so rapidly to the ever-evolving social media whirlwind.
The increasing sophistication of the applications themselves was expected but the new ways in which they have be utilized by brands and how it has impacted on the very nature of brand and customer behaviour has surpassed even the most optimistic forecasts.
That said, even social media brand champions don’t have time to be complacent with new trends in social customer behavior and applications already emerging for 2013.
In an attempt to stay somewhat ahead of the curve, brands needed to recognize the shift in consumer behavior on social media sites and be proactive in adapting their own online activity accordingly. Here are some social media trend tips that will increasingly affect brands in 2013.
1. Image Heavy Content
From image specific social networks like Pinterest, to image uploads on the likes of Facebook, pictures are sparking engagement by audiences of all ages and demographics.
Although relatively new to the market Pinterest is now the 3rd largest social network, followed by image-centric Instagram. Brands need to respond to online audience behaviour. Engage your customers by making brand congruent image-content a focal element of your strategy.
Free People clothing capitalized on their customer’s interaction on Instagram to create an engaging social campaign that transferred into offline sales. The brand attached individualized hashtag cards to its jeans. On the cards, customers were encouraged to take a picture of themselves in the jeans, post the photo on Instagram, and tag it with a specific hashtag.
The brand ended up with significantly increased brand engagement as hundreds of great customers photos appeared not only on their own feed but on their follower’s feeds too. The brand selected some of the images to appear on their website, turning its customers into models and engaging with its community in a creatively impactful way, all of which converted into increased sales.
2. More Authentic Voice
By their very nature social network profiles, even those of brands, should reflect the social element of the communication tool. Brands who respond to customers with a tone that reflects that of an actual person, and not an automated system, not only initiates a much better response with customers but can actually enrich the brand experience. Use of humour by brands in their posts has shown to elevate the level of engagement with customers too. A cautionary note though, humour should be used judiciously and congruently with what your brand stands for and is associated with.
3. Evolving Platforms
You might feel that your brand has got a handle on some of the more prominent social networks, and then they evolve, requiring a shift in social content element of your brand strategy.
The last few months has seen significant changes for Brands who utilize Facebook as a tool for brand development and customer interaction. When brands post on their page, it may only reach a limited amount of the people that Like that page. Facebook have now launched Promoted Posts which help increase the people you reach, for a fee.
Brands can now promote their posts so it gets better placement in its Facebook fans’ news feeds. They can also target posts based on specific location or language, and will be able to keep track of how many people saw the post. Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your Page than would normally see it.
While this feature is a benefit to those who have a budget to support frequent sponsored posts, it also requires brands to change their posting activity in a way that encourages increased engagement from the customers that view the posts. Running competition apps encourages customers to engage and share brand content; increasing the visibility of brand posts without having to pay for attention.
Mobile strategy will not be merely an additional option for brands but should be fully integrated into the communication strategy. As more touch points emerge between brands and their customers, your brand strategy needs to be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and tools that enhance the customer brand experience.
4. Quality Not Quantity
When it comes to online fans, brands are starting to realize that it is not the quantity of fans that counts, but rather identifying who are the quality fans that truly engage with the brand’s online activity.
Brands need to start understanding who, what, when, where, how and why your community engages with the brand page. Which fans are engaging with the brand’s online activity? What content gets the most interaction? And what communities are the fans sharing posts with?
Use insights and analytics to help you understand your actively engaged fans and followers so you can develop the best social marketing strategy for your brand and customers. Identifying, recognizing and rewarding your engaged fans and followers can be far more beneficial in developing brand loyalty and turning online engagement into offline sales.
The quality and use of the content created by brands online will also need to be reexamined. Brands need to stop marketing at their customers and instead increase the dialogue with their fans.
Increase brand affinity by listening to and learning from your customers. There will also be a higher demand for integrating the entire marketing process. The analysis gleaned from fan interaction online should be used to educate sales and customer care departments.
Its time to amplify your brands impact through a fully integrated brand strategy which seamlessly encompasses on and offline – marketing, sales, analysis of customer behaviour through both social media and traditional channels so you can drive your business forward successfully.
Maximize the ROI of your efforts by listening and responding to your most engaged customers and applying what you learn to generate growing sales in the year ahead.
• Are you learning from your social media analytics?
• Are you adapting to the changing online behaviour of your customers?
• Have you adapted your brand strategy to include the rapidly evolving world of social media?