Joel Davis, Founder of Mighty Social, discusses the growing need for digital marketers to develop and sustain a social brand persona as traditional marketing strategies continue to erode.
There is no doubt about it, social noise is increasing. The big social media platforms, from Instagram and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, are getting louder as they become overly saturated with content and each vies for consumers’ limited attention.
Although these social media giants have become a staple for digital marketing and advertising, it is increasingly difficult to reach an audience on these platforms with organic social, due to customers being bombarded with content.
It is only in the last two years that over-saturation on social media platforms has become a real challenge. The algorithms of platforms change daily, so it is almost impossible to post something and have it reach a target audience organically.
Yet conversely, within the current social media marketing ecosystem, targeting a specific community and gaining interaction organically has never been more important. It is more valuable to have 100 loyal customers than 1,000 scrollers who are essentially strangers to a brand.
Of course this is all well and good in theory, but for digital marketers to truly make an impact requires continually refining consumers’ online experiences to meet their changing needs. To do this means developing smarter, personally relevant ads that genuinely embody trust and empathy and mesh this with relevant long-form content.
This is where building intimacy at scale comes into play and, in a perverse way, this has become even more relevant during this current health crisis.
Developing and enhancing a strong social media persona and ramping up social customer care have always been key, but during this pandemic brands have a genuine opportunity to reach out and help their customers feel better.
While COVID-19 is not a marketing opportunity to capitalise on, this is a time for understanding the unique role a brand plays in people’s lives and how this may have changed given the circumstances.
Successful brand engagement occurs where brands drive broad reach using a public feed, and rely on private channels to focus on one-to-one engagement to deepen their relationships with their customers.
Now more than ever there is the added need to define how a brand can help, add value, and be useful during this crisis. It’s about looking for opportunities to do the right thing, where it makes sense for each specific business.
Around the world an increasing number of people are asked to self-isolate, and the behaviour changes that are likely to impact their needs is where brands can come forward.
Mobile phone operators in Italy are offering their customers unlimited data, Google is rolling out free access to their advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities, and airlines are offering flexibility for travel plans with no fees for cancellations or changes.
Not surprisingly there has been an increased shift to eCommerce, and those brands who are prepared to support their customers’ changing needs and connection points can make a notable difference to people’s lives.
The government’s action plan identified the elderly as a key “at risk” group and where, traditionally, elderly people have been less inclined to buy online, they are now a group who would most benefit from using home deliveries. Retailers who ensure customer support is structured to help these people will make this crisis that much easier for them to live through.
Empathy, understanding, and even a good dose of appropriate humour go a long way. Keeping people’s spirits up is key, and we are starting to see artists, such as John Legend and Chris Martin, holding mini online concerts, and I am sure more will follow.
Those brands who completely ignore the issue risk being perceived as impersonal, cold, robotic, and out of touch. If it is not relevant for a brand to step up and offer support in some way, then an uplifting message still conveys a brand personality that cares – and it should care. The era where marketing was a cold, heartless, uncaring vehicle for brands to showcase their wares is well and truly over. The current COVID-19 situation is global, open-ended, and has the potential to affect every brand, business, and individual.
In effect, this is a perfect period for social to demonstrate what it is best at, connecting people, brands, and services with a flexible, timely, always-on approach.
Of course there are a number of other important facets to continually ensure a brand’s social persona remains relevant. Here are four of our top suggestions:
Stop the scroll
Stop your target consumer in their tracks. You want to prevent them scrolling right past you. This will mean paying careful attention to every detail in your digital persona. Consistent, strong branding is still as important as ever but your social persona goes beyond branding in typography, logos, and colours.
Beyond the connection
Making the emotional connection is the first step; maintaining it is the rest of the campaign! Every interaction is part of your brand personality. Each review, every check-in, the private message replies – your entire presence down to the last detail says something about your business, and therefore your brand.
Real people, not bots, will need to manage the more nuanced conversations. These digital brand ambassadors should have a clear purpose for engaging one-to-one on private channels. They need to be genuinely empathetic if they are to build long-lasting trust, let alone a sense of intimacy.
Keep them curious
Organic social is only one half of the solution. Social advertising and influencer marketing will amplify an organic campaign and will be all the more impactful if the campaign surprises and exceeds expectations. Settling for the status quo will result in tired, flat campaigns, potentially relegating your brand to oblivion. This is about continually reinventing and rejuvenating a campaign, and pushing the creative boundaries.
In this new era of digital marketing, authenticity beats familiarity. Consumers are no longer tied to established brands and will reward organisations that allow them to experiment. According to Accenture’s research 55 per cent of consumers are attracted to buy from brands that innovate and constantly launch new products.
Designing a paid media campaign is a creative process in which the aim is to intrigue the audience in ways they have not seen before – to keep them curious. This should be viewed as an infinite and limitless process to build a responsive social persona people want to get to know.
An audience is much more than a standard demographic. Selecting a few defining characteristics and targeting people based on these is not sufficient. This is not just about asking who is your audience but rather defining who is NOT your audience, too. Challenging your own assumptions about your audience will help identify the key characteristics you want to target, and identify those people most likely to connect with your message.
Creating intimacy at scale may sound like an oxymoron but it should give digital marketers a better sense of each social persona’s unique footprint. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, and if there were it would no longer be authentic or surprising.
Those brands who get the empathy and trust equation right will be the ones best positioned to captivate their audiences and offer them what they need when they need it, almost before they realise they need it, and if ever there was a time to offer genuine customer support and assistance where possible – it is now.