Extending Your Brand with Social Marketing

Written by James GunterMay 4, 2011

If you fell asleep in 2005 and just woke up, I have some news for you: social media has taken over the world. People connect with each other all over the world in real-time and in ways that were never possible before. Social media has become a huge factor in political campaigns, political revolutions, dating, and marketing. In fact, most consumers today are willing to voluntarily follow a commercial brand through social networks—an act that may seem completely bizarre to you, Rumpelstiltskin. If you want further proof of social media’s meteoric popularity, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFZ0z5Fm-Ng (sorry for not embedding it but the video producer, Socialnomics09,  apparently disabled the ability for users to embed it).

But the truth of the matter is this, not only is social media becoming a huge playing in company growth and new customer acquisition, it has changed the way we market altogether. Instead of broadcasting a scattershot of advertising, hoping to pick up a few percentage points, today’s social media marketing campaigns are about customer engagement on a personal level. Brands are no longer big, impersonal entities. In order to thrive in today’s marketplace, your brand has to develop a personality and create relationships with its customers. Those brands that can adapt to this new model are thriving, and those who can’t are not.

So how do you extend your brand strategy into the social media space? Here are a few core principles that will get you started thinking down the right paths, so you can create a social media strategy that will be beneficial to your unique brand.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Although everybody is jumping on the social media bandwagon right now, a number of companies and brands are under the impression that all you have to do is simply create a Facebook page, start tweeting, and slap a “like” button on your website and your profits will increase overnight. Sadly, these brands and companies realize that a social media campaign actually takes work to maintain and become successful.

There is not one right way to engage in social media. Each campaign will depend on your brand, your company image, what you are selling, and who your audience is. As such, prescribed methods like, “Retweet every original tweet 3 times over a 24 hour period,” are stupid and a waste of time and effort. To create a truly successful social media brand engagement strategy you need to customize your messaging and strategy according to what you need to achieve and who you want to reach.

Define Your Audience

The first step in creating your social media campaign is to define your audience. Any good first-year marketing student will tell you that you need to know who you are trying to reach before you try and advertise to them, or you could end up wasting a lot of a time and money on ineffective campaigns. You probably already have a good idea of who your ideal customer is, so what you need to ask yourself is:

  • Does your ideal customer regularly use social media?
  • How do they use it?

Your answers to these questions can tell you a lot about how much money you should invest in your social media campaign. When you know how engaged your ideal customer is with social media and how they use it, you’ll better be able to target their specific needs.

Dial Into the Right Channels

Along with understanding who your audience is and how they use social media, you need to find out where they hang out online. Facebook is certainly the largest and most popular social network in the world, but it may not provide you with the best ROI, depending on your brand and audience. For instance, if you sell shoes targeted at teenagers, Facebook is probably great. On the other hand, if you run a software company that is trying to target C++ programmers, maybe a LinkedIn strategy that targets specific user groups and discussion boards is where you want to invest more of your time and effort.

Just as you would never advertise adult diapers during Saturday morning cartoons, don’t waste your time and effort plugging away at social media channels that are not optimal for capturing your ideal audience.

Engage

Understanding who your audience is, how it interacts with social media, and where it’s members hang out is the foundation. Next comes the important part: engagement. The old way of marketing revolved around broadcast strategies—newspapers, television, billboards, and more. These mediums are great for sending out a mass message to a large group of people; however, they are horrible at targeting specific audiences and engaging individual customers with your brand. Through social media, you have the chance to engage with your customer base directly, in a way that makes them feel personally involved with your brand—creating stronger emotional ties to your brand and deepening their loyalty.

Your social-media-involved customers want two things from you: information and interaction. Your customers will follow you if you can provide them with useful information they can’t get anywhere else. This means, not only do they want insider information on what your company is doing and where it is going, but they also want deals, discounts, rebates, and rewards for being engaged with your brand through social media.

Next, they want interaction with your brand. They need to feel like your brand has a personality and that it is actively seeking customer feedback and relationships. This means you need to give your customers ways to feel involved. It could be through simple things, like posting surveys and open-ended questions that you can respond to. It could also be more complicated, like starting a customer-service user group where you can publicly take and answer questions about your products. Above all, to extend your brand and create lasting relationships with loyal customers, you have to be more than a brand; you have to be a human.

Building Your Character

What a lot of this comes down to is creating a social persona for your company, based on who you are trying to interact with and the image you are trying to portray. Think of your ideal customer then create a persona of who that customer will trust the most and will be most likely to engage with. Now your brand needs to take on those personality traits through your social media interaction. If your audience is made of moms looking to save money, become their coupon clipper. If your audience is CEOs looking for better management techniques, become their trainer. If your audience is college-age young adults with learning disabilities, become their tutor.

Extending your brand through social media is more than simply creating a Facebook page and sending a few tweets. It is an involved process that requires analysis and the execution of an entirely new way of marketing. 

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