Your Brand Is Not the Hero, Your Customer Is
Breaking news: social media isn’t about you
Even though it's your social media account, the content you publish there shouldn't be entirely about you. It doesn't mean that your brand cannot talk about itself. What it actually means is that the content you post should be about your audience (even if you post that selfie).
It should always look for ways to connect and empathize with your followers. Nobody likes a self-bragging brand that constantly rubs in everyone's faces about its awesomeness.
Being able to understand (empathize) with your audience will help you connect and engage with them. Brands that know how to do it are extremely successful on social media.
I’ll give you an example:
Airbnb — to me, Airbnb is a perfect example of how the brand connects with its audience on Instagram.
Airbnb’s Instagram account is a testimony of all the awesome hosts they have. The pictures are taken by the guests (user-generated content) — which perfectly fits into their “live like locals” marketing strategy. It is also highly engaging and makes sure to position the audience (people who tag Airbnb in their photos) as heroes. It is a great way to show appreciation to the hosts — people who rent out their homes to travelers.
Through their captions, Airbnb endeavours to connect with its followers in an inviting and friendly tone that establishes trust, friendship, and warmth.
How Do You Empathize With Your Audience?
Empathy and connection with your audience will lead to engagement — something that every marketer is constantly looking forward to achieving. If a person decided to follow your account, you already have one component to improved engagement — connection. You need to find ways to empathize with your audience.
Here are some ideas.
Tell a great story
In order to tell a great story, you need to know who you are talking to. Define who your audience is. Your story should feel personal and impact the desired group of people. I have shared some tips on coming up with customer personas.
You should very clearly define what your customers will want. If you fail to do so, the customer will feel the gap between you and your brand. Therefore, they will not feel the necessity to connect.
Let’s look at the example below.
A healthy food store keeps failing to engage with their audience. The content that they are sharing is sophisticated, for upper-class buyers who know the products and the benefits they bring. They blast daily promotional content on their social media, which gets low engagement.
How do you improve it?
Well, the first thing I’d do is look at the general audience. Who are they?
Maybe the majority of the followers aren’t sophisticated shoppers, who are aware of differences between brown rice and quinoa. Maybe they are ordinary people, who want to establish a healthier way of living, but who have never tasted or even heard of quinoa.
That's why the content that pushes quinoa to them isn't exactly what they are looking for. They'd rather be interested in learning about what quinoa is, and how to make a simple dish that would be healthy and also delicious.
It is also likely that the followers may not be confident in trying quinoa: will I like it? Will I be disappointed if I don’t like it? Does it mean that I will never become healthier? — might be some of the major questions and doubts in their heads.
That’s why, first and foremost, have a look at who your audience is. I always ask:
- Who is the follower? — A person who wants to eat healthier.
- What is their problem? — They don't know where to start and think that they won't be successful in sticking to a healthy diet plan.
- How can I help this person? — I can teach them and show where to start and help them stick to a healthy eating plan.
Answering these questions will help you better identify who the audience is. What problem do they face? How can I (as a brand) help them with my product?
In the above-mentioned example, the best is to start educating through content. Maybe sharing the benefits of eating quinoa compared to white rice, for instance. Teach them how to prepare quinoa and make it a delicious substitute for fries or rice. You should show that it’s not a crazy unpronounceable food, but something that they might, in fact, enjoy eating.
Social media is a place for socializing. Brands should engage with their audiences and the best way to do so is to ask questions. It’s a great way to figure out what your audience is interested in.
Instagram Stories are the best for it! They are highly engaging and you’ll have instant results, which will help you plan your next strategic move. The strategy is important (don’t do random questions that serve no purpose or aren’t even related to what you’re offering).
I follow multiple travel service providers on Instagram. From time to time, they ask to choose between different destinations, or different foods, or anything else. It’s engaging!
Here is an example from Singapore Airlines, where they ask whether you prefer to travel with check-in luggage or hand-carry.
This is a great way to feel the sentiment the audience has. They are definitely one of the two (meaning the question will appeal to both groups) and they would engage, providing Singapore Airlines with some insights. The company can use them in their next marketing campaign, for example.
Airlines or travel agencies often ask to choose between two locations, for example — Seoul or Tokyo? They can subsequently offer special deals to the destinations. It is a great way to understand what the consumer would prefer and cater to the needs.
It does not only mean that an airline would drop the rate for the winning destination. Maybe they'd entice people to book their trip by providing a customized (personalized “customer-only”) travel guide — where to stay, where to eat, where to go, etc.
Many people are spontaneous in purchasing and similar forms of engagement can entice them to make their decision quicker.
Be an active listener
There is nothing worse than a brand that doesn't listen. Your consumers are very vocal nowadays. They express their happiness, satisfaction, grievances, and disappointment on social media. All you have to do is hear it and address it.
I use Mention to monitor the web and hear my audiences. From my experience, many people wouldn’t tag a brand on social media when they express their opinion. It is surprising, I know. Mention helps you find all mentions of your brand (on social media, forums, blog posts, etc.), even when you're not tagged.
Active listening to what your customers are saying is very helpful. They are, in the end, the best to provide feedback about your product or service. You should hear and act accordingly.
I am personally very disappointed with brands that don't engage. I run an amateur foodie account on Instagram. I tag restaurants that I visit, often giving huge thumbs up to them. Frequently, they aren't bothered to even double-tap on my post.
This is very saddening. I seldom come back or engage with such brands again.
In fact, your audience can be very helpful in providing suggestions on how to improve your product — maybe it is packaging that can be changed, or the delivery, maybe anything else. Or on the contrary, maybe everything is perfect and you don't need to think about changing anything. Use the digital space to gather their feedback.
You will never know if you don't listen actively to what your customers say.
There you have it! Three ways to emphasize with your audiences and make them engage with your brand.
Don't make your social media solely about you — make it about them.