A CMO study indicates that marketers plan to double their spending on social media over the next few years. Yet studies also indicate that they are not equipped to manage all the challenges that social media presents. With new tools and platforms emerging constantly, businesses can easily fall into the trap of viewing social media through a tactical lens rather than a strategic one.
Search “social media marketing tips” on Google and you come away with over 56,000,000 articles to choose from. Yet despite all the tips and advice, there is no one-size-fits-all social media branding strategy. You need a process that leads to individual solutions.
Wherever you are with your social media branding strategy, this process will fix and build an authentic and strong brand image on social media to amplify your media strategy efforts.
1. Define your one thing
The social media presences of many companies suffer from a lack of focus. Too often, companies allow the platform to define the content rather than choosing the platforms that best serve the brand. Companies do this because they think they must have a presence on every major social media platform to be relevant.
So, what is a brand?
As Jeff Bezos says, a brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.
Every decision related to your brand matters, especially in an age where information is so easily accessible and opinions form very quickly.
Volvo, for example, focused for years on safety and building the safest cars on the road. A decision that continues to affect how people think about the brand. Take their new ads, such as the one below:
You can better communicate your niche through the following steps:
- Clarify the values you want to define your brand.
- Research exactly what your target audience finds intriguing and unique about your brand. Do they come to you for price, quality, convenience, novelty, etc.?
- Establish your core brand message around the core values that encourage your target market to buy from you.
- Examine social media demographic information and use a listening strategy to discover the best platforms to engage with your ideal customers.
- Make use of an automated social media update program such as Blog2Social. This will ensure that all updates on your chosen platforms are made simultaneously. This also helps convey a solid, singular brand message.
2. Listen to your target audience
To be successful, your social media branding strategy must be built around reaching the right audience at the right time with content that is insightful and valuable to them. To achieve this, you will need to improve your listening skills before your communication skills.
Listening to what your audience says on social media is often referred to as social listening. Hootsuite defines it as:
“The process of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, products, and any other ideas or themes that are relevant to your business. The next step is analyzing that information for actionable insights. Those actions can range from engaging a happy customer to shifting your overall brand positioning strategy.”
In other words, you want to understand the context and larger trends around what people say on social media about your industry and brand. But going through each message and assessing it is impossible. A better way is to assess a collection of social media messages to become aware of trends and issues.
Lululemon, for example, was forced to withdraw women’s pants from its shelves because they were too transparent. People took to social media to discuss the issue. But the brand did not address the issue on social media or on its website.
This, in turn, affected the fitness retailer’s stock price because it ignored the issue.
Why should you use social media listening to fix your brand strategy?
By using it to:
- Track brand health
- Create content your audience craves
- Generate ideas for marketing campaigns
- Improve your customer experience
- Drive strategic product decisions
How do you engage in social listening?
Step 1 – Use tools to set up a social listening system.
Step 2 – Listen when anyone talks about your brand.
Step 3 – Listentoo conversations about your competitors.
Step 4 – Respond to comments (either negative or positive) and join in on relevant conversations as quickly as you can.
Step 5 – Take notes on patterns and other observations about what people say and how they react to your brand.
Step 6 – Act on the information and insights.
3. Analyze your audience
The best way to get to know your audience is by talking to them. This gives you the opportunity to dig into who they are, what challenges they face, and what they look to you for.
Once you know what they value, you can work on how your brand can emulate that value in their lives.
Quite often, it is easy to go with values that are popular. For example, values such as sustainability and equality. But this is where you need to ask deeper questions and proceed with caution.
Hitching your brand message to popular ideas can work against you. Consider for example, Pepsi’s attempt at aligning itself with popular ideas of justice and equality. Its protest-inspired ad alienated the brand from the very audience it was trying to connect with.
To understand the behaviors of your ideal customers, you need to analyze your audience. Then use segmentation in your social media strategy.
When most people think of social media segmentation they think of paid targeting options. But, there are organic targeting options as well.
Organic targeting on Facebook allows you to target your messages at an audience based on gender, relationship status, age, location, interests, and more.
LinkedIn offers similar options; you can target your audience based on industry, company size, function, and more.
Paid targeting enables companies to be seen by social media users who are already active users and more likely to engage with your offer and campaign. As a result, companies can increase their reach, expand their audience size, and achieve more quality conversions.
Other ways to take advantage of your audience interests and needs are:
- Creating a group or joining existing groups.
- Making a list like you would for an email campaign. Both Facebook and Twitter allow this.
- Publishing at different times of the day.
Depending on the nature of your business, you could even maintain multiple accounts on social media networks. For example, JetBlue has the following accounts on Twitter
4. Create a plan that is owned by the organization
Generic social media strategies (spamming ads, haphazardly increasing post frequency, etc.) don’t work to bring in customers. At best, they’ll have diminishing returns that drop off a cliff. While there are many reasons why social media campaigns fail, one of the biggest reasons for failure is the lack of top-to-bottom buy-in from all employees in a company.
Whether it is a company of one or several thousand, when the entire company shares the same vision for success, it can achieve amazing social media results and engagement.
For example, Steve Jobs helped Apple and the world catch the vision that has transformed people’s lives the world over. The first iPhone launch speech is an example of that.
Are you are still sitting on the fence about this? Then consider some math to see the potential of involving the people behind the brand on social media.
Let’s say you are a midsize company with 100 employees and 5,000 followers on major social media platforms. Let’s also assume that each employee has 200 followers of their own. So, in total, you have 25,000 unique followers.
By asking your employees to share messages, you can boost your audience from 5,000 to 25,000 in theory. But is there more to this than theory?
Research shows word-of-mouth messages from family and friends are more relevant and trustworthy than social media messages from corporate accounts. In fact, content from employees:
- Gets eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
- Is reshared 25 times more.
- Leads developed through employee social marketing are seven times more likely to close than other forms of leads.
Therefore, we can say that when employees share messages via social media, brands not only expand their social media reach but get better results.
Here are a few steps to create a unique plan that is owned by the organization.
- Ensure that someone is leading the project and willing to coordinate, motivate others, and filter all content and social media.
- Educate via an event like a company social media summit that brings most if not all your staff together. Why? Because most employees do not understand the power and potential of social media.
- Pull together a plan of how each employee can contribute and make a difference to the social media marketing and branding strategy.
- Share the customer personas you need to engage with.
- Provide resources and encouragement for staff as opposed to rules and regulations
- Create a repository of content and ideas for company accounts and pages.
- Inform employees on a regular basis of the outcomes of their social media efforts. This could take the form of a newsletter and cover areas such as:
- Mentions of well-received articles and employees who wrote them
- Increase in the number of visitors due to social media and or content efforts
- Sales or leads gained because of social media efforts
- Customer testimonials or comments on social media posts and content
- Examples of how specific pieces of content helped prospects or led to a sale
- Opportunities for employees to have their questions and feedback answered
- Provide ongoing social media training via in-person workshops or video training.
5. Define your objectives
Choosing the right social media objectives can mean the difference between wasting time and resources or making a real impact on your business. A common mistake businesses make is assuming that social media marketing operates in a space all by itself. Some businesses operate as if investing significant amounts in social media marketing will solve their business problems once posts go viral. Trouble is, it usually won’t.
Your social media marketing and branding strategy should be aimed at achieving certain objectives. If they are not, then you are on social media for the sake of being on social media.
A huge benefit to social media is that sharing good, relevant content with your audience – and having them share it as well – can generate a following with current customers and prospects. So, you must define your objectives on social media, or you will waste valuable time and resources mismatching your company’s needs and the audience you attract.
If, say, your objective is to increase sales and conversions, then you need to consider how your social media efforts tie into your sales and conversion efforts.
Setting meaningful objectives that align with what customers want is a powerful part of any social media branding strategy and the technology used. Also, they help secure executive buy-in and budget for your strategy.
Social media objectives will also determine the voice, the content and channels you use, and the time, money, and effort you spend on those channels. Most importantly, they help determine if your efforts are paying off and determine your social media ROI.
For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, your objectives could be as follows:
- Expose the brand to 10,000 new people over the next three months
- Improve brand reputation by reducing negative brand mentions by 3 percent and increasing positive brand mentions by 5 percent over the next three months
- See increased engagement with brand social media channels by 4 percent over the next three months
- Increase the reach of thought leadership content by 5 percent over the next three months
6. Select the right success metrics
Some companies define objectives on social media without quantifying the metrics. However, well-defined metrics allow brands to defend their efforts, track progress, and optimize their efforts for ongoing success. With so many platforms offering their own analytics and metrics, it can seem very difficult to select the right ones that will paint a true picture of the effect of your brand’s social media efforts.
There are three types of success metrics that any brand needs to monitor. They are:
- Business metrics – These are the metrics aligned with the brand’s business objectives. Examples of these are brand affinity, market share, customer lifetime value, net promoter score, brand awareness, etc.
- Performance metrics – These are key performance indicators (KPIs) or the numbers that signal how your social media efforts are tracking against the goals established through the business metrics. Examples of these are sales, mentions, reach, audience growth, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), etc.
- Optimization metrics – These numbers that often take the form of ratios or rates provide insights that answer the question “How can we better achieve the social media marketing goals?” Examples of these are growth rate, cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), cost per acquisition (CPA), engagement per post, conversion rate, engagement rate, etc.
7. Create value for your audience
Value in a product is not enough to keep an audience engaged on social media. Almost 80 percent of customers say a brand’s social media posts impact their buying decision.
Take BarkBox, for example. Their content is geared toward a passionate group of dog owners who feel the content speaks to them personally. BarkBox chose to focus on Instagram and YouTube, as these platforms are filled with photos and videos of dogs.
Check out the “Congratulations! You are a dog person” video below.
When companies neglect to listen and be involved in a community, people sense they are being sold to rather than “communicated with” and quickly lose interest. Sometimes brands don’t invest in a consistent flow of valuable content for their social media presence because they believe product quality will speak for itself. In the modern business landscape, this is suicide.
Here are some simple ways to create value for your audience on social media:
- Authenticity goes a long way – if you show what is behind the curtain, your audience on social media will view you as transparent and trustworthy.
- Save your best rewards, add-ons, and upsells for your best customers, and do not base your acquisition analysis on who responds to free giveaways.
- Provide inspiration through funny memes or short, insightful blogs.
- Do the unexpected. You wouldn’t expect a small BBQ chicken shop in the outer suburbs of Melbourne to get much attention, but with a couple of unusual videos on Facebook, owner Wally Khawli saved the business from going under.
- Tell stories that matter to your audience.
- React in real-time to news – jack pop culture and popular events when appropriate.
- Play to your audience’s emotions. Find out what they care about and tailor your messages appropriately.
- Start your social media comment threads with thoughtful questions that engender spirited conversation.
- Involve and engage your audience with your brand by asking for their input on topics or asking questions.
- Let your customers decide to promote your products and services as solutions – do not use social media to oversell your latest promotion.
8. Show you’re human
Want to make real connections with your audience while also increasing engagement with your posts? If so, authenticity and showing people that you are human cannot be overstated. According to one survey, 63 percent of respondents buy from an authentic brand over competitors that hide their true selves.
Why struggle to show your true selves and instead put off your target audience?
Lessons can be learned from the Twitter account @BrandsSayingBae, which quickly gained 25,000 followers and sparked a conversation around businesses attempting to sound relatable and the effectiveness of doing so.
Such activity creates an “uncanny valley” effect. According to robotics professor Masahiro Mori, the uncanny valley is an emotional effect. He says people tend to be repulsed by things that are closely humanlike but don’t quite achieve that state. In other words, brands attempting to be cool and friendly on social media became unsettling and repulsive to their audience.
In their attempt to be their audience’s “bae,” they instead became the equivalent of a leper or leering stalker, repelling their target audience.
However, these situations can be turned around. Social media gives your brand the opportunity to show your audience who you are, not just what’s available for sale.
So how do you develop a brand voice and strategy that adds a human element and personality to your social media pages?
- By asking thoughtful questions and being timely in your responses to show your audience that you care about them and topics that are of interest to them.
- By sharing content around topics or themes that are of interest to your audience. For example, Ben and Jerry’s, the ice cream manufacturer, blend creativity and humor into some of their Instagram posts. Take the one below for example which was published in time for a solar eclipse that could be viewed in most of the United States.
- Present your milestones and events in a social manner. For example, sock manufacturer Bombas, which was founded around a humanitarian cause, regularly celebrates new initiatives and milestones like they do with this
- Celebrate holidays that matter to your audience; for example, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
- Celebrate trends that matter to your audience. For example, Coca-Cola joined the conversation on National Taco Day with this tweet:
— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) October 4, 2017
9. Create a channel plan
Many brands assume that social media marketing involves posting their content anywhere and everywhere. In other words, there is little that distinguishes their Twitter account from their LinkedIn account.
Every social media channel has a different audience and each audience tends to use the channel for different reasons. For example, Twitter users use Twitter for news and updates, whereas LinkedIn users use the channel to engage with their network and catch up on industry news and events.
As part of your social media marketing strategy, which should be informed by your content marketing strategy, it is best to evaluate each social media channel and its usefulness to your brand and the audience you want to attract.
Consider doing the following before selecting a specific channel:
- Map your existing content to the most appropriate channels for distribution.
- Understand the value proposition of each platform to your audience and why it would be a good fit for your brand. For example, your audience may prefer Snapchat for personal video conversations with friends but prefer LinkedIn for educational long-form text content.
To decide on the best channel to use and develop a plan for it, consider the following questions:
- Who uses this channel, and what are they using it for?
- Will it help us meet our objectives?
- Does it fit in with our editorial mission?
- What results do we want to achieve?
- What kinds of content will work best on this platform?
- What’s the right tone of voice for this platform?
- What’s the ideal posting frequency?
10. Get your content to a large social audience
You already know that organic social media reach is plummeting. Whether it’s organic reach on Facebook or any of the other platforms, it is getting harder to reach your audience without paying for it.
Paying to increase your reach can help. However, in the case of major social media platforms, reach is also driven by how engaging your content is to your audience. So, taking the time to share quality content and optimizing the content you share to the platform while keeping user experience in mind will help extend your reach.
Take, for example, Expedia, which has region-specific blogs such as…
The Instagram post below links to a guide on must-see Halloween destinations.
Both blogs operate in a very competitive space. It is worth noting that to grow an audience, to keep them engaged and coming back, they really leverage their social media channels.
The blogs also do a good job of providing tips, guides, and inspiration for their audience.
Notice how they marry great travel shots with curiosity-inducing copy. Copy that relates to the webpage or blog post content aid recall. Take, for example, the Instagram post below, which links to the landing page on Discover Shandong.
While you may need to pay to reach a new and existing audience, there are some critical steps you can take to get your content to a large-enough social audience.
- Focus your content promotion efforts on the right platforms
- Optimize your social media profiles
- Post evergreen content
- Experiment to find the right publishing frequency and times
- Use targeting to maximize your content reach
- Consider posting during nonpeak hours
- Promote the right types of content
- Promote the right balance of useful/promotional content
- Interact with and engage your followers
11. Use data to back your social media investments
Despite the number of metrics to gauge performance, too many don’t understand what we are getting out of social media.
A study by Simply Measured and the CMO Survey show that demonstrating ROI is the number one challenge among marketers. Only one in five CMOs can show the impact of social media in quantitative terms.
The problem is that there is no common denominator for measuring social media marketing ROI. Because of this, the effectiveness of social media has been measured haphazardly at best, and not at all in some cases.
So how do you resolve this? Here are five steps to measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts:
- Identify your KPIs (key performance indicators)
- Align your social media goals with business objectives
- Set up your analytics to track conversions
- Assign values to your KPIs, choosing from methods such as;
- Lifetime value – Use a calculator like this one to figure out how much you earn on average from a customer
- Lifetime value x conversion rate – This will help you figure out how much each potential visit is worth to you
- Average sale – How much the average purchase order is
- PPC costs – How much you need to spend on advertising to get the traffic and conversions you need
- Benchmark against your competitors
What does fixing your social media branding strategy look like in reality?
Mercedes-Benz was billed as stodgy and tired in 2010. However, it made a concerted effort to figure out who their younger audience was and where they hung out.
With the help of Razorfish, they created the Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race.
With the help of four two-person teams, they reached out to online supporters. The social media engagement generated is what drove real Mercedes-Benz vehicles forward. Four tweets were required to drive the car one mile.
- 7 percent increase in scheduled test drives
- 6 percent increase in first-time owners and leases
- 27,000-plus active participants
- The campaign reached 25 million people
Regardless of where you are with your social media branding strategy, follow the process outlined above to fix and build an authentic and strong brand image on social media. Use the framework to conduct audits to ensure you amplify your media strategy efforts to meet your business objectives.
Guest author: The founder of Sproutworth, Vinay Koshy loves helping entrepreneurs and digital marketers rapidly build authority and traffic with educational data and science-backed content. He is a Copyblogger-certified content marketer. As Content Marketing Manager for WP Curve, Vinay grew their subscriber list to over 30,000 before they were sold to GoDaddy.