Digital marketing, and social media in particular, is a loud, bustling and energetic place that still, in 2017, represents a brave new world for many brand managers. This is particularly true for those who cut their teeth in more traditional out-of-home advertising platforms as well as for small business owners who can’t afford employees who specialize in digital communication.
For too many brands, this has meant a lazy repurposing of existing content or, worse, a tone-deaf play at repositioning a brand to try to keep up with the latest developments in youth culture or internet slang. Rather than deal with the perceived headache, some have chosen to outsource their full-time content management to agencies while also striving to be “authentic.”
In repurposing existing content, often a brand inadvertently is demonstrating that they don’t fully get how to differentiate their message for different demographics or optimize it for separate platforms. In outsourcing your content efforts, you immediately lose the nuanced understanding of your brand that comes with having a person (or people) working side by side with your other departments and employees as part of their daily lives, not to mention the responsiveness and attention that comes with having dedicated people for these channels, as opposed to agency resources that are split with other clients.
Much of the hesitation we have seen with brands who are entering social media for the first time comes from a lack of familiarity that many higher-level decision-makers have with the platforms as part of their daily lives combined with exposure to wince-inducing stories about customer revolts or brand miscues that happen with alarming frequency. In more traditional advertising channels like broadcast or print, the advertiser has complete control of the way the message is displayed and there is no immediate way for a consumer to communicate feedback or participate in a dialogue. This has meant near-total control over the conversation and messaging regarding your brand.
Once a brand has committed to bringing that message into a social environment, however, it has relinquished control over this message, and how that company deals with its audience in real-time has far reaching implications for brand perception and loyalty. When a company makes the choice to commit to social media, they have committed to a new form of advertising that brings with it its own changes in tone and style.
The brands that have found the most success on social media have done so by adopting a very simple concept: talking like a person. Nearly every company has a documented messaging platform or brand guideline that outlines the brand’s values, voice, and tone. However, no previous means of advertising have required advertisers and marketers to so thoroughly internalize those concepts at a core level.
The good news is that to assist your brand and community managers in this task, there has long been a neglected group that equally fully understands what and who your brand is: your customers. Their input can be an invaluable tool to your company as you grow, expand, and prepare for the future. Your engagements on social media shouldn’t simply be a tool for exciting your customers about new products or promotions; instead, leverage those engagements to gain new insight into how your customers perceive your company and the value you add to their lives.
Allowing your brand managers the freedom to refine their messaging to match your audience’s mindset can allow your brand to gain a new level of loyalty from your core audience and even stumble on opportunities to gain viral attention. Who could have predicted, for instance, that wrestling GIFs would have been the key to newfound attention for Wendy’s on Twitter? And yet, that’s exactly what happened, all because brand managers were allowed the freedom to playfully roll with their interactions with the brand’s audience.
A solid understanding of your brand’s voice, values, and your customers’ mindset and expectations, makes for the simplest transition to a robust social media presence. You may not experience the heights of having some content go viral like Wendy’s, but you can rely on the steady success of having customers, fans and followers who feel engaged with the brand and are willing to give your message space on their timelines.
Social media has provided advertisers with unprecedented means of engaging with their fans and customers. However, it has also provided customers with unprecedented means of contact with the brands they interact with and easy means of tuning out messages that annoy them.
Think of engaging with customers on social media as participating in a conversation, rather than strictly as advertising. Dominating a conversation and refusing to engage with viewpoints you disagree with is an easy way to get muted or unfollowed.
The internet has been more than accommodating to brands as they have joined the conversation, but the continued efficacy of these channels in reaching your target audience is dependent on your brand’s willingness to take responsibility for holding up their end of the discussion.