Social media is in a constant state of flux as new technologies emerge and customers engage in innovative ways with their favorite brands.
It’s where your customers are, and it’s where they’re making decisions. So how should you be leveraging it?
When social media first began booming, there was a wide range of rules and taboos that silently governed how companies engaged with their customers. While some of these “rules” still stand, the most progressive companies are breaking through these guidelines in order to create real and meaningful engagement that helps them stand out from their competitors.
Here are some tips on how to break social media rules for the betterment of your brand.
Rule #1 to break – Don’t engage with your competitors
The first stereotype that you should be throwing into the wind is that you must not engage with your competitors. In fact, engaging with your competitors can help draw attention to your brand in a very positive way when done properly.
Just think of how Apple and Microsoft interacted with each other in the early 2000s with clever advertising, or how Wendy’s has become known for having a sassy Twitter presence that routinely calls out competitors and delights its customers in the process.
Calling out your competitors in playful or interesting ways can help to establish a unique brand voice and presence that leaves your customers smiling. Consider how you might engage with your competitors in ways that help demonstrate your brand personality and create engagement possibilities with your desired audiences.
Rule #2 to break – Have a consistent tone of voice
Despite what some say when it comes to consistency in communication, rigid guidelines can stifle you at some point and impede your brand development. Retaining some elasticity and readiness to experiment may be decisive factors for maintaining old and enhancing new user engagement.
Shaping a new tone of voice for the whole brand can be refreshing and even be a kind of rebranding when your old approach doesn’t work anymore.
3 Core elements to focus on
1. What you say
This is the only thing that has to remain the same, at least at its core. What you say is the message you want to transmit, it is the brand values that you aim to foster. Therefore, you need to preserve them.
There are, however, exceptions. Sometimes a complete change of what your brand says is crucial for its preservation.
Papa John’s completely changed its tone on social media as a result of organizational changes in their management. Due to a racist scandal caused by its founder and former chairman John Schnatter, the company decided to take a turn and focus more on its audience.
On Instagram, they ran a friends-giving campaign which achieved viral reach. With this and other content, their Instagram account looks more engaging when compared to before. The adoration of pizza they wanted to spread was transformed into care about their customers.
Thanksgiving Day is not the only occasion to show their love and respect to THEIR people. Papa John’s started telling the stories of both its employers and employees all around the world.
Storytelling is always a good idea, right? Stories about how the owners care about their guests and treat them as their friends are double good. Before they had a strategy of sharing their love for pizza with their audience, now they demonstrate how they adore their customers, not only pizza.
2. How you say it
How you deliver your message is what you can really experiment with. A different approach draws the attention of different people and hence, engages a new audience.
For instance, there is always a dilemma of being in trend or being classic and creating evergreen content; respecting your audience with formal language or being on the same wavelength with an informal approach.
Why not try all of the approaches so you don’t remain predictable all the time? I will cover a few directions you may move in and bring about change in your consistency.
Your vocabulary and grammar choice gives your company personality when it comes to communicating with your audience. There are always several ways to say the same thing. For instance, a bicycle company XY can communicate one message in several different ways:
- This is the bicycle everyone needs. (emphasis on the bicycle)
- This is the bicycle that you need. (emphasis on the customer)
- This is the bike you need. (using slang)
- Cycling your way – XY. (using the brand name)
These examples demonstrate that small changes make huge differences in human perception.
Personalization. Using pronouns and addressing your audience will help to shift your focus from global society to your specific customer. While being needed and desirable universally is really a target goal for many companies, there is still some room for experimenting and personalization especially when the geography of your business is diverse.
Colloquialisms and slang make your business clear and understandable to your audience. Fast-food brand Burger King uses slang on their Twitter account a lot and their followers seem to enjoy it.
3. The visuals you use
Brand visuals are also a message to your audience and are no less important than text. Why not experiment with visuals from time to time and make them unique for a certain age, gender, or geography? Here is how the National Art Museum of Ukraine did so.
In fact, the institution was opened in 1899 and has nothing to do with contemporary art.
First, the Instagram account of NAMU was a gallery of answers to the question “What is happening in the museum and what is displayed?” It looked boring and predictable for someone who is not really into art.
Later, they diversified their content engaging various segments of society. The pic above shows how the museum talks to the youth of today. Trends of film photography, selfies, spray paint – the evergreen symbol of the young generation, and even arthouse motifs articulate a very clear message “We are interesting for YOU”.
The last tip is understanding that social media itself is far from unitary. Indeed, it is critical to see that there are different tones required on the different social media platforms.
As the examples below from Wendy’s show, different social media platforms have fundamentally distinct functions. LinkedIn is business-focused, and requires business, financial, and management content (albeit still with a view to marketing):
By contrast, Twitter is aimed at short, snappy content, still with a marketing focus.
Ultimately, by not varying your focus across platforms, you are forgetting about your audience. This gives a subtle, but a disastrous impression that your social media is about talking at an audience, not talking to them. This is a fundamental mistake on social media – but a surprisingly common one.
Rule #3 to break – Keep your content short
According to Hubspot, 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website. Stats such as these have long led marketers to believe that this means all of your content must be bite-sized or extremely short, otherwise, you risk losing the attention of potential customers.
This is only partly true. While your content shouldn’t ramble on endlessly without purpose, it’s perfectly okay to have long-form content on social media if deployed in a way that makes sense. Things like white papers, ebooks, or longer human-interest pieces can be extremely valuable and can actually increase your online visibility through shares and links, boost your industry authority, and provide more opportunity for engagement. Indeed, there is an inverse bell curve approach, whereby content on social media is most likely to see engagement if it is either extremely short (ca. 100 words) or extremely long (greater than 2,000 words).
Long-form content such as ebooks and guides can be an excellent way of framing your business as market experts. Furthermore, by offering ebooks for free, you can actually build brand loyalty and market recognition.
Rule #4 to break – You should post all the time
Let’s be honest. There is no standard answer or “magic formula” to the question “How often should I be posting on social media?” The number of posts that you create should be specific to your brand and decided on through an internal analysis.
Of course, there is some general information about the best times to post on main platforms which might help you at the beginning of designing your social media strategy.
There are a number of studies that attempt to quantify the optimal posting time for businesses, although they tend to focus on large studies across the entirety of the social media environment. Still, they are an authoritative source of information for understanding the latest algorithms and big companies’ strategies of outsmarting them.
For instance, Falcon.io compiled the most recent strategies for posting on social media which were covered on top digital marketing platforms. Also, the marketing platform Later analyzed 12 million Instagram posts and prepared a graphic of the best times to post on Instagram.
So should you post every day? That is completely up to you and the resources you have available. There are brands with successful social media strategies who post once a week and there are brands that post every hour. The online fashion brand Fashion Nova publishes every 30 minutes and their followers don’t mind it at all. To simplify it as much as possible, the quality of social media communication is much more important than the quantity.
Luckily, there are several ways that can help brands decide when to post on which social media channels. To get specific data for your business, there are plenty of both free and paid tools available online which will analyze your social media accounts and provide you with fruitful information.
Here is a list of tools for each social media platform to help you find the best time to post:
However, this shouldn’t be a “one and done” exercise; you should be routinely analyzing your post data and tracking your results. Social media is constantly evolving, through both consumer behavior and algorithmic updates by the platforms themselves. Posting consistently and reviewing your data on a regular basis are the keys to success.
Successful social media management isn’t about following a defined set of rules. It’s about effectively engaging with your customers, providing a consistent brand experience, and delighting your customers with superb customer service and interesting content. The most successful social media managers are aware of who their target audiences are and what they want to see. They then deliver those messages and pieces of content creatively and persistently.
If you avoid getting bogged down with what you “should” be doing on social media, you just might find ways to surprise your customers and create brand fans.
Guest author: David Gutierrez is a web design freelancer and enjoys sharing his professional experience in digital marketing, web design, and technology.