It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that social media platforms offer simply another form of broadcasting. But unlike television, print ads and radio, social media marketing is not a one-way tool of communication. It is immediate and vital, an ongoing conversation that allows you to directly connect your audience and community with your product.
When selling your product on social media, interactions happen in real time but at volume. You can reach a huge audience even as you engage with potential customers one-to-one, and you can adjust your approach on the fly, based on feedback in the moment. As a top-of-funnel marketing tool, it’s hard to beat social media for building awareness. And as a digital platform, it generates huge amounts of data – making it a snap to measure its effectiveness.
Branding strategies for social media, therefore, need to be as agile and responsive as the platform itself. Following these ten guidelines will ensure you develop a clear message and sound approach while maintaining the flexibility and precision that lets your social media marketing shine.
1. Know your audience
Resist the urge to use social media to reach the masses. Yes, you can quickly build enormous audiences on social media. But if you try to blanket your channel with mass-market messages, you’ll come across as bland and forgettable.
After all, a conversation with a hard-working college student should sound very different than a conversation with their soon-to-be-retired parents. Know who you’re aiming for, so you can choose the right voice, tone and message.
2. Educate, don’t sell
No one knows your product as well as you do, so position yourself as an invaluable source of information and expertise for your customers. This means educating them not only about your product, but also about the nature of the problem that your product solves. The key here is to provide value – NOT to sell.
Educating over selling ensures you will be seen as an authority on your product, yes, but also as a reliable source of insights for the entire industry.
3. Tell a story
Social media isn’t just for making announcements; it’s an opportunity to build a narrative. Your product has a story, and social media is the perfect platform on which to tell it. Your vision, your brand, the people who make your product, the community those products serve, and the impact you have on the world are all part of that story.
Your customers also have their own stories to contribute, so weave them into the narrative you’re building as well.
4. Be authentic
Authenticity can be hard to define, but it’s immediately recognizable. The most straightforward way to be authentic is to know your product’s brand identity and stick with it; don’t try to pretend to be something that you aren’t. If your brand is wholesome and family oriented, trying to be slick and cool might backfire on you. On the other hand, if your product is edgy and innovative, a “safe” vibe may not ring true.
Have a strong sense of what your product is, and embrace it.
5. Be surprising
People are bombarded with messages all the time. Our lives are bright and noisy, we are constantly encountering messages and ads, and we’re surrounded by distractions. Good social media marketing cuts through the noise and provides a clear, concise message that stays with your customers after they encounter it.
How? Surprise people. This might mean being funny, or moving, or exciting, or thought-provoking, or any other combination of emotions. But to stand out, whatever emotion you choose to evoke should be unexpected.
6. Be consistent
This might sound like a contradiction with Commandment #5, but it’s not. You need a level of consistency in your social media marketing to ensure that the places you choose to be surprising actually stand out. Without this, you risk ending up all over the place – resulting in a chaotic experience that will turn off your audience.
There are two elements to consistency in social media. First, maintain a consistent brand identity and voice so people learn to recognize your product amid the noise. Second, to keep your lines of communication open, you need to publish on a consistent, regular schedule.
7. Choose the right networks
Different networks have different strengths and weaknesses; they also have very different audiences. Know what fits your product.
For example: if your product photographs well and your target market is young millennials, then a strong presence on Instagram will be crucial. If your customers are craft moms who love making mood boards, then Pinterest is where you should direct your energy.
8. Use influencers
The beauty of social media marketing is that you don’t have to go it alone. Finding the right influencers can help you build trust and authority with your audience.
More than just product endorsers, social media influencers are thought leaders and experts. They might include celebrities, but they’re also just as likely to be bloggers, You Tubers or other experts who have already built their audiences. Several tools can help you find them, including BuzzSumo, FollowerWonk and Kred.
9. Engage personally
Social media is not just a soapbox to stand on. When your customers message you, respond to them! When they bring you their concerns, answer them thoroughly and with empathy! Make them feel heard and acknowledged, and engage with them on a friendly, human level.
This is your chance to speak directly to your customers and make them feel great about your brand and product. Use it!
10. Take time to listen
Social media offers us a wealth of priceless information – if you’re listening. However, the volume of information can be overwhelming, even for experienced marketers.
The trick is to look for the patterns. A single product complaint might simply reflect a customer having a bad day. But the same complaint that comes up again and again means something is going wrong, either with your product itself or with your guidance on how to use your product. The same goes for questions; to be sure, answer any question you receive. But if you keep answering the same question, invest some time and energy into exploring it further.
As much as you’re the expert on your product, your customers are experts on their needs – so be open to what they can teach you!
Above all, remember what we said at the start of this article: Social media is a conversation. These ten rules for social media marketing will help you stay communicative, collaborative and agile, enabling you to reach the audience you wish to empower.