Social media offers endless opportunities to connect with customers, but many brands have resisted building a more robust online presence. So why the resistance?
If you aren’t leveraging social media to its full potential, you’re in good company; many Fortune 500 companies have yet to do more than dip their toes in the social media swimming pool. And who can blame them? In recent years that pool has become increasingly overcrowded, even hostile; there’s blood in the water, and no lifeguard on duty. One careless post could inadvertently trigger a boycott. Then there’s the innate resistance to change. Business likes predictable, calculated risks, and the glut of apps and platforms that abort as quickly as they launch don’t always feel like a safe bet.
Full disclosure: for my part, social media has always felt like a necessary evil I’ve adopted to stay in touch with family and reconnect with old friends. Its addictive qualities have prevented me from joining anything beyond Facebook and LinkedIn. I suspect there are many like me who resent keeping pace with the breathless pursuit of every tech-fad, app, or social media platform we’re told is a “game-changer”, all while navigating the pitfalls of a shifting cultural and digital terrain.
So it’s easy for me to see why so many of us have been slow to adopt a more engaged online presence. But like it or not, social media confers genuinely awesome benefits on those willing to make better use of its platforms.
Here are a few tips – and potential rewards – to help make your decision to take the full plunge a little less daunting.
1 - If you haven’t taken the first step, start NOW!
Out of sight is out of mind. And even the biggest billboard can’t tear the world’s eyes away from the few inches of screen most of us hold in the palms of our hands. According to Foundationinc.co 98% of Fortune 500 companies have a LinkedIn profile, so while you may not be mixing it up with customers at the social media ball, your competitors almost certainly are.
Fortunately, establishing your brand online is a small investment that can pay off big time. It costs just a few minutes to simply create an account, thereby making your brand visible, searchable, and more importantly – credible. Sure, you’re a little late to the party, but now your customers know you exist and you can start wooing them away from the competition!
You don’t have to come dressed to the nines, but do make an effort to project legitimacy and professionalism. Use a high-res photo of your company’s logo for your avatar or profile picture, and include your contact information, mission statement, slogan, and a link to your website. If you’re feeling really bold, consider treating your big debut as a chance to tease an upcoming product release, re-brand, or special offer, and prompt customers to leave comments, questions, or answers. (Just remember to follow up on anything you post!)
2 - Tailor your message to its medium.
In any medium what works in one space might not work in another. As a general rule of thumb: keep it brief! Adjust your messaging for the hyper-shortened attention we’re anxious to direct toward binge-watching our favorite show. Play to the TLDR crowd by keeping your posts snappy and concise. If readers have to click “Read more” to finish your post, chances are it’s too long. Snackable content is shareable content, and more likely to reward you with a sweet hit of viral goodness. (Memes are perfect examples of shareable content – employing short phrases in the context of commonly understood visuals).
Twitter builds brevity into its platform by limiting users’ posts to 280 characters. However, with that brevity comes pitfalls for the incautious, especially when referencing hot-button issues. Twitter’s format is better suited to inspiring one-liners or pithy aphorisms than it is to providing 2a forum for nuanced debate. Even a well-intentioned post can spiral into an epic flame-war [as these companies have learned.] If you’re going to use this kind of platform to weigh-in on a current event, consider posting an image of a longer, more robust statement that makes your company’s position as clear as possible.
Video advertising is all too commonly mismatched to its medium. Here’s an extreme example: a thirty-second ad playing in a movie theater blasted into the eyeballs of its captive audience isn’t likely to lose anyone’s attention. But when that same ad plays before a YouTube video, most viewers will click “Skip Ad'' after a few seconds. Social media grants your audience more control over their content, so take a cue from savvier brands like Pet Smart, Varo or Captain Morgan , and custom-fit your ads accordingly, using fifteen or even ten second formats that viewers can’t ignore.
3 - Sharpen your cultural savvy.
Posting on social media is like stepping up to the world’s biggest microphone, amplifying your brand’s voice to play to an audience of billions! Your target demographic may not have changed but your brand reach just globalized. And make no mistake: that’s a GOOD thing! You have the chance to dramatically expand your customer base while discovering new opportunities to meet their needs.
Assuming of course, you don’t fall afoul of Digital Permanence…
…which means, if it happens on the internet, it stays on the internet. Forever. Yes, even though you deleted that innocent faux pas, some necromancing sleuth with an ax to grind may resurrect your post in the future, dooming it (and you) to walk the earth in eternal shame. So even if your post is entirely well-intended, treat it like one of those angry emails you wished you’d slept on before sending.
This doesn’t mean you have to overthink it either. Luckily, it’s amazing what a little internet research can do – assuming you check the right sources (don’t be the social media equivalent of that one uncle who forwards conspiracy theory emails from dubious sources). In most cases, a simple Google search will reveal whether a certain phrase, word, or sentiment could imply an unintended meaning.
If you think a particular word might have some unforeseen connotations, consider a word search via Urban Dictionary (and brace yourself from some NSFW answers).
(don’t be this guy)
Again, don’t fret too much over this; just keep your cultural radar up and remember that you’re speaking to a diverse array of potential customers. Take any feedback as a chance to build your awareness of their needs, and use these opportunities to improve your products, services, and communications. These insights will broaden your brand appeal and sharpen your competitive edge, as the Common Sense Advisory found after evaluating the impact on businesses that invested more time and money in translation.
Among their conclusions were that:
Businesses that expanded their translation budgets were 1.5 times more likely than their Fortune 500 peers to report an increase in total revenue.
The companies that translated information in order to communicate with and retain their partners were 2.67 times more likely to experience revenue increases. They were also 2.6 times more likely to generate improved profits.
4 - Take advantage of the metrics
Most social media platforms provide extensive metrics that track user engagement with your profile to help gauge the impact of your communications. Once you’ve established an online presence, you can and should take full advantage of these features to measure your brand’s relationship with customers, and get precise insights like:
How many clicks or shares did your most recent post get? What time do your followers tend to be online? What was the average amount of time users spent watching your video before clicking away? Did the number of your followers spike or dip suddenly during a specific time period of time, and if so, what activity may have influenced this?
Just a few decades ago, this kind of data was much harder to come by – involving costly surveys, consultation fees, or sheer guesswork. It was less accurate and took far longer to process and implement. But even the basic reporting features available on a platform like Facebook places a goldmine of data at your fingertips free of charge.
5 - Interact to refine your brand.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that social media is exactly that – social. Brands that stand out recognize that social platforms aren’t simply avenues via which to funnel messaging to a faceless crowd, instead they embrace them as two-way streets of connection and interaction, providing a constant exchange of information between brand and customer.
It’s important to set a cadence for this exchange that aligns with that of your brand promise. If your product or service schedules regular releases or updates, you’ll want to post timely announcements for release dates, special offers, or support. In the meantime, you can gauge public reaction to your posts, and pivot if it allows you to better deliver on customer expectations of your brand promise. A great example was seen in the Sonic The Hedgehog Movie Debacle, whose design fate was decided upon public objection turned into feedback.
While it’s true to say your brand is constantly evolving, it might be better to imagine it as “fine tuning.” Your online presence will be measured against your competitors’, so you’ll want to monitor their communications and differentiate yourself from them when necessary. In the arena of social media, that could involve anything as simple as a Retweet in support of a worthy cause, to a full-blown campaign including polls, user-generated content, and direct engagement with other brands.
There you have it–5 great tips for creating a strong online brand presence. And–while I have done my best to stick to that number–if I could give you one last piece of advice it would be this: don’t be afraid to call in the experts. Many business owners are already juggling a host of ever-changing priorities and, if learning the ins-and-outs of social media feels overwhelming, agencies like VMG Studios are here to help. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you hone in your social media strategy, click the image below to schedule an introductory planning session.
Interested in building a strong Online Brand Presence and need experts to help your company? Look no further! Contact us today and we will make sure that your brand receives the awareness it deserves!