The role of social media in branding
How important is an effective social media strategy to the success of a brand?
We chatted to social media consultant Lottie Sharland and asked her why she thinks social media is imperative and to explain how it can be used most effectively.
Consumers are changing
Start by thinking of a brand as an imagined personality. It’s an image created by an agency and developed through advertising and marketing, which is shown on television, in magazines and on the radio. Traditionally as consumers this personality has always been slightly out of our grasp, it’s spoken to us but the conversation has always been one sided. Brands spend huge amounts of money creating campaigns they think will appeal to their target audience, they then spend even more making sure these campaigns are shown in places and on things their audience will see; those that do the most research, employ the best agencies and spend the most money usually win. It’s a proven strategy; there’s a reason a 30 second TV ad during the Super Bowl will cost you around 5 million dollars. However, consumers are changing, trust in corporations is falling and people are no longer willing to accept everything they see, read or are told. Habits are also changing, when the Super Bowl ads come on where do people look? Not at the TV, but at their phones.
When you buy a product from a brand you follow on Instagram you feel like you’re buying from a friend. And who wouldn’t want to support their friends?
Authenticity, trust and truth
In a world that’s constantly changing, getting more expensive and politically unstable consumers want authenticity, trust and truth from brands. And this is why social media is so important. Rather than a traditional, one-way TV ad type conversation social media opens the back door to a brand. Through sharing images such as team lunches, inspiration and behind the scenes shots that would never make it onto a billboard, social media brings a brand’s personality to life. It allows a consumer to feel closer to it and even interact with it; leave a comment on the food and drink brand Innocent’s Instagram posts and they’ll not just reply but probably ask you a question back. Social media allows brands to really get to know their audience, and in tern, their audience feel like they really get to really know them. An Instagram profile puts a brand in the same sphere as individuals, making that brand seem more alive and personified than ever before. When you buy a product from a brand you follow on Instagram you feel like you’re buying from a friend. And who wouldn’t want to support their friends?
But use it wisely
However, brands need to be savvy with their social media use, while a good profile has many benefits, a bad one is just as detrimental. Your Instagram gallery is only as valuable as it’s first 6 images, followers are fickle and if you’re not sharing consistently good, engaging content they’ll stop following you. Those managing a business account need to understand the long-term goals of the company and how social media can be used to help achieve these. Think about what kind of content you want to be sharing and what can be achieved by sharing it. You want to seem real and authentic, but everything you post needs to be on brand and convey an image that supports and strengthens your brand personality.
My advice for 2018?
Content is king, spend time creating engaging, valuable, on brand content to share on social media. You don’t need the most expensive technology to make Boomerang videos or photograph things that inspire you, but invest the time to make sure these are well done and stay on brand.
Stay authentic. While you can pre-plan posting schedules and create content you should also be ready to be reactive too, post ad hoc Instagram stories and take snaps of the team having fun. Be aware of what you’re sharing but don’t take it too seriously.
Stay ahead and use the advertising features. As bigger brands really leverage social media the benchmark is growing for what can be done on the platforms. Watch what these bigger brands are doing and get ideas, you might not have their budgets but investing a small amount in well planned advertising often pays off.
Don’t ignore your followers. Just like friends your followers need some love, always reply to comments, make sure you like and comment on any post that mentions you and frequently look through your follower list and like and comment on their posts. By doing so you’re building an online community of people that, off line, are likely to recognise and associate with your brand and therefore ultimately purchase from you.
A big thank you to Lottie Sharland for contributing to our series of interviews with industry experts.