Your No. 1 focus in branding — think again

Call it a consequence of operating in a new environment or the fear of missing out on the latest trend. One of the biggest pitfalls a company can fall into when developing its social media strategy is to focus on the wrong target; its competition, instead of its own biggest advocates.

The advent of social media has forever altered the marketing landscape. For the first time ever, companies and brands can engage in a direct, two-way mass communication with their fan base, wherever in the world this may be. That’s still somewhat of a new space, though, and some marketers may feel they lack a firm footing in it. Trying to emulate success stories from their rivals can often seem like an obvious way to do that.

Tempting as this may be, it’s not an optimal use of time or effort. It may provide a short-term boost on occasion, if skill and luck combine, but the tactic will eventually run out of steam. Instead, marketers need to take advantage of the very opportunities this new playing field has to offer, shift their attention away from their competitors, and focus on the people that really matter to their brand: their existing customers, their followers, and even their own staff.

To truly see the benefits of doing so, consider a few case studies.

Helping your existing customers

It’s probably no surprise that telcos and tech companies were among the first to grasp the potential of social media as a new platform for customer service. Helping your existing customers should be made as effortless as possible for them; if they spend a considerable amount of time on social that’s where they’ll look for you and of course, that’s where you should be too.

A good example in this space is UK’s BT Group. They run two dedicated Twitter accounts (@BTCare and @btbusinesscare) to help their personal and business customers with issues they may be facing with the service, to provide information and useful links on-the-go, and to direct inquiries to the relevant departments. A particularly nice touch is that, apart from signing their tweets, their customer service operators always respond by writing in the first person. It gives away the right dose of personal care and attention to the issue without taking any of the professional tone away.

Connecting with your followers

Spreading the message online is obviously important to all industries and brands, but when it comes to a life-saving cause, it can be vital. Empathy and the ability to connect to your followers’ personal lives and stories is a delicate, refined and absolutely essential skill, if you want to do this well.

The Facebook page of NHS Blood Donation (@givebloodnhs) is a good case in point. Their timeline is always busy with a steady stream (and with the right mix) of daily posts. They present the stories of the people whose lives have literally been saved by the kindness of complete strangers, they feature quotes by real donors explaining their decision to give blood, and they address all the likely obstacles that may be stopping other people from becoming donors themselves. The organization’s social strategy couldn’t possibly be more to the point for their cause, and unsurprisingly, it results in a very decent amount of engagement from its followers.

Turning the spotlight on your staff

Providing customer satisfaction and driving follower engagement are both great strategies for social media, but generating buzz around your brand doesn’t have to be strictly outward bound. Very often, a company’s best ambassadors are the very people working for it.

L’ Oréal was one of the first brands to grasp this. They encouraged their employees to use two hashtags (#LifeatLoreal and #LorealCommunity) on Instagram to share what it’s like working for the company. The campaigns’ benefits are twofold; they promote the working environment to potential employees and they act as visual reminders of the job’s perks to existing staff. Overall, they serve to improve company culture.

A new space where the old rules still apply

Because of its meteoric rise, social media management can feel like a totally new space. Despite this fact, though, it’s essential for marketers to realise that most of the old rules still apply. Topping that list is having the people most closely associated with a company’s brand as the top priority to focus on. After all, their word about the brand still carries the most weight, just like it always did.

What is your take on this? Have you come across other strategies that work wonders in your audience engagement? Can you name some other brands that do particularly well in this space? Drop us a line in the comments below to let us know.

 

L'Oréal Paris

BT Group

NHS Blood Donation