I have been looking into social media and how it can be used to promote brands. Social media is a widely used tool in this modern age for communication between brand and audience, both its intended target market, and sometimes even generate a secondary market, just by being in a place which is accessible to everyone – the internet.
Before I go into the information I’ve found on what makes a good social media branding strategy however, I want to define my understanding of social media advertising, specifically in the cases of Facebook and twitter – the two networks I am looking to use as promotional platforms for Mind The Windows. When I discuss this social media brand promotion, I am not referring to the paid advertisements that pop up throughout the feed in a banner ad style. Although these banner style ads are advertisements, I don’t think they are limited only to social media, because the promotional style which is used for these are able to be translated across to different locations without the social networking aspect. Therefore I would classify those instead as just advertisements, which in turn can fall within the overall strategy, however will not be the focus of this post.
When I refer to social media brand promotion I am discussing the way in which accounts can be utilised to form a connection with an audience in order to promote the brand in a relational manner. When looking at the specific networks I will be using, this involves the use of a twitter account a Facebook page. According to the GM of Oracle’s Social Cloud marketing platform, the best way to approach social media brand promotion is to aim for the following three things:
- Customer Satisfaction
- Generating New Business
- Brand Loyalty
(Bear in The Hub, 2014)
Customers are looking to engage with the brands in every step, whether it be through the information available about the product before purchase, asking questions, or sharing the happy moment when a product has been purchased. “They’re getting a lot more information to enable them to connect deeply, it’s your job to do something purposeful with it and think how you interact with social to impact your customer” (Bear in The Hub, 2014)
This can, of course, translate to a situation where the product is not a tangible item, or in my case, a paid item. The aim is still to engage with the audience in a way that is interesting and makes them want to continue to engage. As Jimmy Wales puts it, “The end goal might be a sale or something similar, but in reality it’s community and engagement that get people interested” (Wales in Weber, 2009).
One of the key things I have taken from reading through the book Marketing to the Social Web by Larry Weber, is the difference in approach to online marketing as compared to more traditional approaches, such as page spread ads in print, television ads, and radio ads. Within these traditional mediums, you often find that the marketing is set up to be a one way street. The discussion about the product involved a monologue from the marketers, because they were the ones controlling the message. If people didn’t like it, all they could do was change the channel, flip a page, drive on by. These traditional approaches of advertising are led with thinking of how can we stop these things from happening, how can we engage the audience in a way that keeps them fixated for the duration of the advertisement, despite the fact that people try to avoid advertisements – both online and offline. The answer is simple, be authentic and engage with the audience, make them a part of the marketing process instead of reciting that monologue. Turn the promotion into a two way street and allow for a conversation. Focus on fostering a community of people who care about your product, who are interested in what you have to say as a brand, as well as things which relate to your brand, and use that to your advantage. To execute this way of thinking, social media is the perfect medium.
When starting to meet my expectations with the readings I had been exploring, I first took an auto-ethnographic approach, analysing my own expectations of brands I follow on social networks, and how they fulfilled those expectations. When I look to monitor brands on social media, I personally head straight to Twitter. I find that this constant feed of information without the hassle of algorithms to determine which posts I see is convenient, as branded content or pages on my other social network of choice – Facebook, can often be pushed away from the feed even if I am interested. Out of the 112 accounts I follow on Twitter, 9 of the users are people I would consider to be branded personalities – musicians, actors, artists etc. – and 26 brand accounts, 8 of which are sub brands of the major brand, which more often than not I also follow. Of these 26 brands, I have been a team member of 6 at one point or another, I follow 12 of them because I feel an attachment to the community, and 14 of them for information. Ideally, I think that the perfect brand can balance the sense of community with information, of which 3 of the brands I follow for the sake of community attachment achieve.
After analysing these things from my own experience, I sought to find out if my assumptions as a consumer were valid. According to Weber, “The real job of the marketer in the social web is to aggregate customers. You aggregate customers two ways: (1) by providing compelling content on your web site and creating retail environments that customers want to visit, and (2) by going out and participating in the public arena” (2009, p.15). In my opinion, compelling content results in information which creates interest for the audience, while brands which participate in the public arena with this content should be aiming to create connection between audience and brand, resulting in a sense of belonging to that brand. As a result, marketing for the social web has a very different set of rules when compared to marketing for other aspects, as the audience is allowed the chance to interact with and help shape the brand, cultivating brands who promote their ideals, with a community centred focus (Weber 2009).
To look further into this, I have explored a few different brands and how they promote themselves on social media. Since I’d already looked at Femsplain as an article based platform, I thought I’d continue to study their social media voice.
When you visit any article on their website, they have made it clear they are available on a range of social networks by including links to each in their top navigational bar, introducing the ways to connect after someone has invested their time beyond just the main page.
I find it interesting that Femsplain balances 5 different social media networks. One social network can be a lot of work to maintain, especially for a small team. In general, the facebook, instagram, twitter and tumblr networks all publish the same content to their various content. Utilising imagery to appeal to the increasingly visual society, they post the the supporting imagery for their articles, as well as pull quotes which have been turned into large visual signs pointing towards their respective articles. In terms of actual text with the posts, they tend to highlight either the article title, author, or another interesting quote (depending on the supporting imagery being used as a pointer towards the website). Their YouTube channel however, acts as a microsite of sorts, offering additional information which alternates between content for the main Femsplain website, and content which is used to point towards it,with a few video series on topics that interest the audience, such as “Sex with Swoozy”, “Breaking Down Feminism”, and “Let Me Femsplain”. Their networks are set up effectively to keep their audience informed, while the main website itself allows for a community to foster around shared experiences.
Taco Bell utilised Twitter to create brand loyalty, by interacting with users – having conversations with those who followed the brand, as well as other large brands or influencers to create brand awareness. Their cheeky, light hearted colloquial tone drew a large variety of followers, who continued to interact with the brand, replying, retweeting and following for more because of their humanistic brand which seemed to distance itself from the corporate lifestyle which tends to be portrayed. Their focus on qualitative content over quantitative content paid off. (Elliot 2014)
One of the examples which I found useful was the way in which Elliot examined Emerson Salon’s social media approach. The company was short on money after spending most of it on salon design, so they developed a strategy utilising Social Media in order to create awareness and bring in customers. Utilising a Blog, Twitter and Facebook page, they shared articles driving traffic back to their websites, offered discounts, and asked for feedback from everyone. The utilised clear calls to action to encourage their audience to look at their product. (Elliot 2014)
Elliot, J 2014 5 Outstanding Social Media Campaigns, Hallam, viewed 10 November 2015, <https://www.hallaminternet.com/2014/5-social-media-campaigns/>
Weber, L 2009, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey