There’s no doubt about it: If you want a successful brand, you need to incorporate social media into your branding strategy. Customer interactions are increasingly taking place online rather than in person or over the phone, and your audience expects to find a strong social media presence for their favorite brands.
Just how important is social media?
Here’s what the landscape looks like as of January 2014, and the statistics just keep growing:
- 74 percent of the world’s Internet users are active on social networks
- 44 percent of users in Western Europe are active on social networks
- Mobile is increasingly used for social, and Western Europe’s mobile penetration stands at 128 percent—or 1.28 devices for every person
- Social penetration is 78 percent in the UK
Source: US Census Bureau, ITU, CIA
In the early days, brands were successful on social media if they had a lot of fans or followers. The bigger the numbers, the better your brand was perceived. But now that social has exploded into a vast sea of noise, effective social branding has moved out of the numbers game. It’s not the size of your customer base on social media – it’s what you do with it that counts.
Top 4 of today’s most important rules for social media branding success.
Rule 1: Be Consistent
As with any other element of your branding strategy, consistency is vital for social media success. Each of your social channels and platforms should clearly belong to your brand – but remember that consistency extends to much more than your logo and signature colours. With social media, you also need to develop consistent brand messaging, and a consistent tone and voice. Your company can’t be formal and serious on Facebook, yet irreverent and fun on Twitter.
Being consistent on social media requires your brand to develop and adhere to a style that is followed without fail. If you have more than one employee participating in your social media campaigns, especially if they work on different platforms, make sure they’re on the same page when it comes to your brand messaging, promise, values, voice and your brand tone.
Etsy is a strong example of a brand that maintains social media consistency. The online community marketplace with an emphasis on hand-crafted and vintage items has a branded presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, that makes use of the Etsy brand’s simple, memorable logo and distinctive orange brand colouring, paired with plenty of stunning product photos. Etsy frequently and consistently cross-posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and makes full use of Pinterest with dozens of organized boards arranged into product categories.
Rule 2: Be Active
Simply being on social media will not help your brand. In order to drive social branding, you need to have an active presence on the platforms you use, and interact with your audience frequently. In fact, having an inactive social media page can turn potential customers off, because your brand will be perceived as not interested in hearing from your audience.
For this reason, it’s important to choose the right platforms for your social branding strategy. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that the more social networks they join, the stronger their social marketing will be – but creating accounts on dozens of social platforms and ignoring most of them is actually detrimental to your brand.
Instead, look for the networks where most of your target audience is, and focus on building a strong presence on those networks. Facebook and Twitter might be totally suitable for some brands and a lot less relevant for others. Your chosen social platform is driven by what is most appropriate for your core target audience and where they interact most. LinkedIn is very effective for professional and B2B brands. If your brand has a strong visual component, Pinterest is an excellent platform.
Once you’ve chosen the right platforms, get active. Post frequently – but don’t make all your content about marketing. The goal of social media is not to sell, but to build relationships. Your social media posts should entertain, inform, inspire, or interest your audience.
Taco Bell has a highly active social media presence that gets results. With a brand platform dedicated to fun and delight, and frequently posted content that focuses on customers, the restaurant chain’s Facebook page has more than 10 million fans, and 1.37 million follow them on Twitter.
Rule 3: Be Engaging
An important part of Taco Bell’s social media success, and many other brands that understand how social works, is engaging the audience. The best brands on social media don’t broadcast – they have conversations. They post content that invites audiences to participate, and encourages them to share with friends for even more visibility. From simple questions to elaborate contests, these brands make followers feel like part of the brand experience.
In 2012, Domino’s UK ran a Twitter campaign called “Tweet for Treats” that engaged audiences in a very direct way. For a time period of two hours, they invited followers to tweet with the hashtag #letsdolunch, and stated they’d knock a minimum of £0.01 off the price of their pizzas for every tweet sent that day for lunch. The campaign knocked the pizza price from £15.99 to £7.74. Anyone who followed Domino’s UK on Twitter or liked their Facebook page could order pizzas at the final discounted price through the Tweet for Treat Facebook Tab between 12:00 – 15:00 GMT on their Facebook page. The campaign gained the brand lots of interaction and hundreds of new followers, and helped them sell a lot of pizzas.
Rule 4: Be Social
Another highly effective strategy for social branding is to make it social – in the name of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Practicing good CSR boosts brand perceptions and brand awareness, and social media is an ideal channel for spreading the word about your brand’s social consciousness.
Brewing company Molson Coors Canada uses social media to leverage CSR and increase reach for their responsible drinking initiatives. The company’s social media team focuses not only on selling beer, but also connecting with communities for their programs that include responsible drinking education, the TaxiGuy program that provides cab rides for people who’ve had one too many, and covering the costs of public transportation for drinkers on New Year’s Eve.
Your brand can’t afford to ignore social media. Effective social branding doesn’t have to be complicated – when you maintain consistency. Focus on the best platforms for reaching your audience in terms of what is relevant to them, keep an active brand presence, and engage audiences with informative, interesting, entertaining, or interactive content that meets their needs.
When done strategically and consistently social media can amplify your brand visibility and boost your bottom line.
What do you think?
• How many social channels is your brand on? Are any of your pages inactive?
• Which social networks are most likely to attract your target audience?
• Is your brand displayed consistently across all of your social platforms?
• Are you using a consistent brand tone and voice for social media?
• Does your social presence reinforce your brand messaging and values?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!