Social Media – The Importance of Creating Your Community

As we count down the last few weeks of the year, many of us are likely fine-tuning budgets, specifically our brand spend, for next year. As you consider your media mix, you’ll see a growing trend of organizations investing a bigger piece of the budget pie to social media efforts. Why?  

Because it works.

Savvy use of tools like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram can not only influence your brand’s perception, but also purchase decisions, especially in millennials and GenXers.  According to social media technology provider, HootSuite, 75 percent of Instagram users take action after looking at a sponsored post and 60 percent of users discover new products on the platform.

Social media has become an essential part of every marketing strategy.  Gone are the days when only consumer product companies leveraged social media to engage customers.  Now companies of all sizes and across all categories, including B2B, are finding ways to connect with customers through social media. Take LinkedIn for example, the top business social networking site used by more than 450 million professionals. Along with personal bios/resumes and company descriptions, there are any number of consultative and thought leadership pieces posted. Professionals are using the platform to raise the profile of their own professional brands along with organizational brands.

Strategic Role of Social Media

A strong brand for your company isn’t possible without the organization having and communicating clarity in its purpose, value and unique point of differentiation.  This holds true in social media, but with an added twist.   Unlike traditional paid media where the brand message is neat, direct and controlled, engaging directly with customers through social media can be unpredictable, albeit rewarding. This makes it especially important that the social media experience mirrors your desired brand.   

Advocacy and Authenticity

Although the “baby steps” of getting customers to “like” your brand, or re-tweet your compelling thought leadership pieces and news releases are important, engaging with your audience goes far beyond that. The overall goal of your social media efforts needs to be focused on engaging a devoted following of brand advocates to help you build authenticity and trust in the brand.  True customer advocates, or brand fans, are passionate and care deeply about the brand.  They are valued and respected for their belief in the brand, without compensation, making them trusted and truly authentic.  Paid influencers also shape brand perceptions and purchase decisions by lending their own brand image, voice and following to promote companies, products and events.  Both organic and paid influencers help brands by connecting and interacting with other like-minded brand users.

The Value of Shared Brand Experiences

Brands that authentically interact, support customer conversations and establish trust are able to build a community based on shared brand experiences.  Your ability to foster this community of shared experiences is what can help you build, nurture and create value through social media.  

  1. Make it easy and natural for customers to interact with the brand, from awareness to purchase – Remember, your customers “follow” you for a reason, make sure you stay true to that. Is the experience consistent and simple? Simplicity is key on social media as you have a limited time to engage.
  2. Make your social community a brand priority – Nothing can scuttle your brand like a poor review or someone who takes you to task online.  Respond to positive and negative posts in a timely, respectful manner.
  3. Know your advocates and share information – It might be worth taking a look at any of the many stories about Southwest Airlines, one of today’s social media champions. According to a 2017 article, the airline has 40 customer service experts who take turns around the clock monitoring its various social channels with the goal of listening to, and when appropriate, responding to their customers.
  4. Provide value in the process to encourage interaction and involvement – Engaging with your brand community means recognizing the value of their time and offering something they will find beneficial. For example, cosmetics companies often offer “make-up hacks,” and tips, so that users get some benefit from engaging. For your business, it may be sharing best practices or other relevant info. Just remember value, not product hawking is what your following will appreciate.  
  5. Develop best practices for connecting with brand advocates and influencers – Just as your brand is unique, your manner of engaging with your advocates and influencers should be should be.  As you monitor your company’s social media communities, responses and trends, you’ll become more adept at the best ways to interact with them.

Creating and nurturing your social media following and communities is one of the best ways to understand what customers are thinking … because they’re telling you directly.

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