One of the most important aspects of marketing is branding. People connect to brands, not to companies, and a company’s brand speaks to its mission, its purpose, and its personality. Thus, when using social media as a marketing tool, companies must focus on branding as a central concern throughout the entire process.
Because social media has become so expansive, it is more important than ever to carve out a specific space using a distinctive brand. Importantly, brand must remain consistent across all platforms. Discrepancies in brand can lose customers and even raise ethical concerns about a company.
The following tips can help companies define and refine their brand through social media:
Choose the right platform(s).
Not all social media outlets are appropriate for every company. Some networks are fairly universal, such as Facebook, which is used by about 75 percent of adults in the United States. For this reason, virtually every company should have a Facebook presence. Twitter, likewise, has a large user base, but it is more demanding as a platform than Facebook and requires a greater commitment of resources.
When looking at other networks, it is important to consider demographics. For example, Tumblr is popular with teens and people in their 20s. While a clothing manufacturer may want a Tumblr account, a textile manufacturing firm likely would not. Instead, LinkedIn, which allows for B2B networking, would likely be more appropriate for finding new customers. Pinterest’s primary audience is women and Google+’s largest demographic is men in the tech industry. Brands that rely very heavily on imagines should consider Instagram, but they should also take note of the fact that the network consists mostly of young adults.
Invest in engaging visual branding.
When people think of brands, visuals are often the first things that come to mind. Visuals are also a great way to create cohesion among various social media accounts, as well as among other marketing channels. With good visual branding, people will immediately recognize a company as soon as they land on the page. Perhaps the most important aspect of visual branding is the logo or avatar, which should be universal across all social media platforms. Importantly, the avatar may not necessarily be the same as the company’s general logo if the thumbnail picture does not clearly show branding. At times, it is necessary to create a simplified avatar that is reminiscent of the logo.
Visual branding does not stop with the logo, however. Companies should also think about a signature color pallet, which generally refers back to the logo. Looking at Coca-Cola’s social media presence, virtually every post includes the distinctive red of the logo. We often do not realize how closely color is tied to brand, but by thinking about McDonald’s, 7-11, BP, or Volkswagen, it is easy to see how their distinctive color choices have become an integral part of brand identity. Using the colors linked to the logo is a quick way to brand any social media account.
Engage with influencers.
Publishing content that is engaging and relevant to a brand is the best way to build a loyal following. However, doing so takes a great deal of time. To speed the process, companies can leverage influencers—people who already have a considerable following on social media and can reach more people than the company could by itself.
Marketers can connect to influencers in a variety of ways. Some companies choose to simply include an influencer’s name in content pieces so that the brand appears when people search for the influencer. However, a better strategy is actually tagging influencers when sharing content that references them. This way, the influencer sees the tag and can respond or share the brand’s message with his or her own network.
To help build good relationships, it’s a good idea to e-mail the influencers after publishing the content to let them know that a company has mentioned their work or opinion. By building a direct relationship, the influencer is more likely to share the brand’s voice with his or her own network.
Of course, developing a good rapport takes time, and companies should not expect a share overnight. However, this method is certainly quicker than building a large following from scratch.
Develop a distinctive voice.
The interaction afforded by social media is a great way for companies to display the distinctive personality of their brands. Conveying personality involves creating a unique and unified voice. A company’s posts across all social media networks should share the same voice, and this is a lengthy process. In the beginning, inconsistency is common. As the brand evolves, the voice must become more distinctive and consistent.
A brand’s voice depends on a number of different factors. The first factor to consider is culture. Certainly, the culture of Vans will be very different than that of Macy’s, and the difference should be apparent in the voice portrayed by the two companies. Using hashtags is a great way to encapsulate the cultural message of a company and tie it in with the voice and the brand.
When developing a voice, it is also important to consider audience. A small startup with a relatively relaxed culture may want to develop a more authoritative voice if working in the B2B realm than if selling to millennials.