Devising your Brand Strategy on Social Media
Devising your brand strategy on social media is a fundamental part of building profitable, sustainable and meaningful relationships with your audience.
Your brand gives your product or service a meaning in the world. It’s a lot more than just a logo or a slogan; your brand may represent a set of values, a promise, a personality, an idea, a set of beliefs, a story or a long-term vision.
Branding is all perceptions. But your brand isn’t defined by what you think or say about it; It’s defined by what others think or say about it. As marketers, we work tirelessly trying to reinforce, define and redefine the meaning of our brand so that we can position it desirably in our audience’s cognition.
But why is it so important to form a coherent brand strategy on social media? There are many reasons for this, but I’m keen to focus on a couple.
- At face value, social media facilitates four out of the five elements of the marketing communications mix (advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion); rendering it a hybrid marketing tool.
- Social media is one big conversation. It’s where people go to talk about your brand.
Previously, marketers have been accustomed to controlling the conversation with one-way monologue through archaic methods of above-the-line advertising.
When social media arrived, we witnessed the death of monologue and the birth of dialogue.
For the first time, social media enabled two-way conversation instantaneously between brands and people. It also provided people with a platform to communicate with each other about their experience with brands, thus shaping perceptions with user generated content.
In this regard, social media has empowered marketers yet disempowered them at the same time. They have been empowered by the dynamic functionality of social media, yet disempowered because they have little or no control over the conversation.
Therefore, today’s brands have been forced to assume the role of a passive moderator on social media. Instead of trying to control the conversation, marketers now use a combination of strategies to help guide conversation and shape perceptions of their brand.
In this post, I’ve put together a list of basic considerations that I believe to be important when developing or revisiting your brand strategy on social media.
Choosing the right channels act as the building blocks of your brand strategy on social media, irrespective of what industry you’re in.
There are many channels available at your disposal, but it’s all about being selective. It can be tempting to dive into all of them, but it’s important to remember who your target audience is.
Remind yourself of the nature of your business and the demographics of your target audience — this will naturally guide you towards the channels that are best suited to your business.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or reviewing your channel strategy, it’s good to familiarise yourself with the demographic data of each social media platform to help you make the decision.
It’s important to remain flexible and remember that as social media platforms evolve, so does the audience that they attract. Therefore, revisiting your channel strategy from time to time is a wise idea.
Less is more
You often read or hear people make the vague statement that you should ‘post regularly’ on social media. But how often is regular? I’ve recently come to believe that perhaps this is misleading advice.
Despite there being no official guidelines as to how often you should post on social media, posting too frequently can irritate, or worse alienate your audience (not to mention clog up everyone’s news feed). On the other hand, not posting enough makes your brand appear to be inactive or less relevant.
Incidentally, there is in fact no right or wrong answer as to how often you should post on social media. However, there are some surface metrics that you can monitor to provide an indication of the impact it’s having on your audience. Some of these include follower drop-off, engagement levels, and reach.
Personally, when it comes to post frequency, I believe that less is more. Brands should endeavour to prioritise quality over quantity when sharing content on social media, rather than create superfluous content for the sake of it. One piece of high-quality content often has greater effect than three pieces of mediocre content.
Take two of the world’s biggest brands — Audi & Coca-Cola. They are prime examples of brands that are effectively utilising the ‘less is more’ posting strategy. It’s not unusual to see up to one or two week periods of inactivity on their pages. But when they do post, it’s usually worth seeing.
Have a persona
Giving your brand a personality is a vital component of building your brand strategy on social media. It’s the intangible element of branding that helps us put together a complete picture of a brand and how it fits into the world around us.
Brand personality, as a theoretical framework, has been pushed into the spotlight of academia ever since Jennifer Aaker published her 1997 article entitled ‘Dimensions of Brand Personality’ in the Journal of Marketing Research.
Although some might argue that Aaker’s model for personality constructs is outdated in context of today’s brands, it still serves as a useful framework for rudimentary understanding.
Brands can be one-dimensional, but they can also be multifaceted. Your brand can possess a combination of these personality traits, or they can possess only one or two. It makes no difference. What matters is the relative coherence of what your audience thinks, says and believes about the personality of your brand.
Visual branding is a highly important facet of your brand strategy on social media.
Due to the intangible nature of the web, visual content sits at the peripheral forefront of your brand communications online. It’s no revelation that using rich multimedia such as images, videos, and animated GIFs have become a standard practice for branded content on social media.
But without the hallmarks of your brand etched into your visual content, you lose out on the opportunity to reinforce brand awareness. Where possible, you should seek to subtly incorporate brand colours, symbols or other elements to familiarise your audience with your brand.
Besides the content that you post, it’s also important to consider the static visuals on your social media pages. Using a designated set of colour palettes for page visuals helps your audience to instantly identify with your brand, no matter what channel they’re using.
Build a network
Building a strong network is a fundamental part of any brand strategy on social media.
Various social media tools such as Tweepi and ManageFlitter allow you to target a hotbed of potential customers that your competitors have already done the hard work to acquire. Read our article on how to get Twitter followers for an example of how to utilise this strategy.
Besides targeting a relevant audience for customer acquisition, brands should also seek to use social media to network with other brands or industry influencers.
Building strategic partnerships with others in your industry is highly advantageous, especially if you can strike an agreement that facilitates reciprocal gains for both parties.
At the very least, offering your endorsement or perspective via a simple retweet, favourite, like, share or comment can act as the building blocks of online relationships with other brands.
Better still, offering to write a guest blog for someone else’s site, or inviting someone to write a guest blog for your site is a great way of nurturing lucrative relationships, whilst opening the door to further collaboration.
Form a narrative
By now, you’ve probably heard about the importance of ‘storytelling’ on social media. It’s arguably a phrase that is subject to interpretation, but I think it was meant to mean more or less the same thing.
Telling a story is synonymous with creating a narrative. Your narrative is based around your key messaging. Your key messaging is there to reinforce how your brand came to be, what makes it unique, and why it’s relevant to your audience.
As discussed previously, your brand may represent a set of values, a promise, a personality, an idea, a set of beliefs, a story or a long-term vision. In a nutshell, it is these ideals, collectively, that form the basis of your brand narrative.
Once you’ve created a cohesive brand narrative, the onus is on you to echo the same story to your audience at every single touchpoint.
Out of all the ways to implement your brand strategy on social media, there’s only one golden rule: consistency.
Being consistent doesn’t mean that you can’t be unexpected. However, it does mean that you should aim to keep your message coherent, regardless of which channel you are using.
During every single exchange with your audience, ask yourself: ‘does this fit with the brand’s narrative?’ Assuming that you’re already familiar with the brand narrative, then the answer to this question should be intuitive. You want to avoid confusing your audience at all costs.