Why brands should use social media to socialise, not advertise

There is no doubt about it: social media has completely revolutionised the way we communicate with each other. How we keep in touch with our loved ones, meet new people and communicate with brands is completely different to how it was 10, or even five, years ago.

For example, did you know that 78% of people who complain to a brand on Twitter expect a response within an hour? On top of this, 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand if they reply to their tweets.

This means that brands have to keep up with these trends and continually evolve the ways in which they connect with customers. So, how can they use social media to do this?

Socialising

According to data from The Independent, the top five reasons people use social media in the UK are:

  • To find out what their friends are up to.
  • To send messages directly to friends.
  • To keep in touch with relatives.
  • To post photos and videos.
  • To see what friends are watching/listening to.

Social media is predominantly used to socialise. It’s rare for a consumer, especially a younger consumer, to respond to blatant advertising on a brand’s social media account. You need to use social media for its intended purpose: socialising.

Creating your brand’s identity

To be able to socialise on Twitter, you need to craft an identity that complements your brand. Make the decision early on whether your brand would benefit from being chatty and tongue-in-cheek, or serious and informative, for example.

There have been many examples of brands using social media to establish their brand identity by being cheeky and playful, such as Tesco dissing Drake, or Sainsbury’s brilliant use of puns. For obvious reasons, it’s a lot easier for such well-established brands to reference popular culture or poke fun at certain tweets, so be careful using this tactic if you’re a fairly young company. If you do decide to go down this route, don’t fall into the trap of looking like you’re trying too hard or just blatantly insulting potential customers.

Law firms, financial advisers and manufacturers, for instance, are less well-placed to newsjack or jump on popular trends when it comes to social media. If you fall into this category, you could instead choose to make your social channels a resource hub for customers. Establish yourself as an industry expert and use social media to engage with those who approach you for advice.

Learning to engage

For your social network to grow and survive, you need to learn how to engage with your audience. It’s a fine art, and there are a few rules that can help ensure that you don’t make things worse for yourself:

  • Don’t continuously push your products or services

There is a balance to be upheld between keeping your products at the forefront of your customers’ minds, and not bombarding them with your message. The “rule of thirds” is the best way to approach this on social media. This means spending a third of your time asking relevant questions, a third offering interesting information and a third selling your product.

  • Be exciting

Boring content can kill your social media presence. You need to make the effort to be consistently interesting, sharing content you know your audience will find useful and be able to engage with.

  • Don’t be offensive or negative

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times brands ignore this important rule. People get sick of negativity pretty quickly, and it’s important to never, ever badmouth your clients, customers or competitors. Even if you think something is funny and risqué, many others won’t.

  • Don’t be afraid to start a conversation

If something is happening in the media that is relevant to your brand, ask questions. See what people think about it and how it makes them feel. Get the conversation going.

There’s a variety of social media platforms, and you should differentiate your message to fit with each one. For example, with Twitter’s limited character count, it’s best to leave complex announcements and issues to another social platform, or to move onto Direct Messages if appropriate.

Getting personal

Adding a personal edge to your content will help encourage engagement and therefore build your brand – potential customers want to get a real sense of who you are and where better to do this than social media?

Engaging with your employees’ personal social media accounts, posting pictures of fundraising or networking events and acknowledging your staff when they have done something brilliant are all great ways to show the inner workings of your business. You’ll find that your audience will react much more positively to individual touches rather than a robotic, faceless approach.

Take advantage

Social media is opening more doors for SMEs and start-ups than ever before. Their potential reach is now magnified and they can target their audiences with a higher degree of sophistication.

Remember that social media is not an advertising platform; it’s a two-way conversation. When done well, it can work wonders for your brand and customer loyalty. So, take the plunge – start using social media to socialise today.

Lonn Landis is a studio manager at the PR and creative agency Peppermint Soda. Find out more about how to utilise social media within your marketing efforts with their latest guide.

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