Not so very long ago the only way to make a purchase was on the high street or via a catalogue. And then boom! Along came the World Wide Web. I remember spending hours at the time connecting to the internet via dial up to upload my days work. Little did any of us know back then what the internet would become or for that matter how powerful. Back then the high street giants dominated and the cautious buying public didn’t give much thought to the smaller brands. It was, and still is, all about confidence and trust which is easy to create when you have a bricks and mortar shop, but so much harder when the shop is a virtual one. Back then branding was all about your logo and social media was in its infancy. But now branding is the buzzword. It’s a set of techniques, that when done well, creates relevancy for your business and encourages people to justify spending their hard earned cash with you. And when done badly, it can be very costly, not only to your pocket but your credibility, too. Creating a strategy on how to communicate your brand on social media is absolutely crucial in today’s ever more competitive marketplace.
When you walk into a small boutique for the first time you instinctively know within seconds if this is the place for you. And, you either engage with the staff and your surroundings or quickly have a look around to be polite before leaving never to return. Well, at least you were polite. With a website you just bounce off the page back to your search results, not having even clicked through to a second page. You don’t have to even think about being polite, you just leave. So what if your site is that shop, the one where you have some fabulous things to showcase, but you just aren’t getting the engagement. This is where branding comes in and if you have a higher than average bounce rate, perhaps it’s time to rethink things.
One important way to engage with your customers, and to keep them coming back to you again and again, is by using social media. I know it can be time consuming and I know it takes a level of commitment, but social media is great for connecting with new people and keeping older customers engaged. But why is engagement so important? Firstly, this is the nearest a customer will get to having that in shop experience. They will be able to decide if they like you or not. Secondly, Google wants you to engage with your customers. Part of its algorithm even looks at just how engaged your customers are, particularly with Twitter and Facebook.
In terms of branding, and how you communicate your brand on social media, this is not as hard as you would think. Every post, comment you make, like or reply should always have your brand in mind.
Before even setting up your accounts think about your brand:
1. What is your tone of voice?
2. Are there words that you would use in real life but your brand doesn’t?
3. What colours reflect your brand?
Everything about your social media channels should reflect your brand. It’s no good waking up one morning and thinking: Today I go on Instagram and post pictures of my boyfriend/girlfriend or beloved pet. That’s the quickest way to disengage your customer. They want to know you but they want to know the ‘brand’ you and not the ‘real’ you.
The first thing to think about when you embark on a social media strategy is: what are your goals? Think beyond just likes, comments and retweets (though these are important) and start thinking about converting your followers into customers. As you create these goals have in the back of your mind who your customer actually is. Perhaps even sit down and create 2 or 3 virtual customers and then think about what they would like to see in your feed. Make your goals attainable, you don’t have to sign up to all the social media channels all at once. Start with one or two accounts, get those going and then move onto another. As an example, a goal for Instagram could be: “We will share a picture 3 times a week that communicate the company ethos and would like a minimum of 30 likes and 5 comments per post.”
If you already have social media accounts, it’s also a good idea at this point to take a step back and take stock of the.
Are you achieving what you would like to achieve?
Are your followers matching up with your ideal virtual customers that you created? Who are your followers and how do your channels compare to those of your competitors?
Are there things your competitors do that you like and could do better?
What do you dislike about their feeds to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes?
TIP: It’s a great idea to visit this task throughout the year to make sure you are still on track.
Once you have all this information to hand what next? Well, you now know who your customer is, so it’s just a case of deciding which social media channels they frequent. Whilst in an ideal world it would be great to be seen everywhere, there is little point putting time and energy on a channel that is likely to give you little return. Remember: it’s better to use a few accounts well than stretch yourself too thin, trying to maintain a presence on too many platforms.
Now you have decided on the best platforms for your brand, it’s time to allocate a task for each channel. Write down a short description or even just a sentence that sums up your specific goal. For instance, Facebook will be used to share ideas and content that relates to our industry. Think about your brand as a whole and use each channel to highlight the individual strengths of your business. You could use one to show your brands humorous side, if relevant, or the ethical side. The choices are endless but please ensure that when you put the channels together as a whole, that although they highlight individual strengths, they come together to reflect your brand in its entirety.
If at this point you are a little stumped for inspiration, and you’re not quite sure what kind of content and information will get you the most engagement, take a look at your competitors and see what they are taking about.
Which posts have the most engagement from their followers?
Take a look at their follower’s accounts too, what sort of content are they sharing and how do they phrase their messages. Strive to mimic your ideal customer’s style whilst reflecting your brand and learn their habits.
What do they share, when do they share it and why?
Use this information for creating a social media strategy that works for your brand and above all else, remember to have fun. After all, the clue is in the title, it’s all about being social, engaging with your audience and long term, as part of your overall branding strategy to convert them into loyal customers.
Written by Rachel Edmonds
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