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Making your brand a social animal

As social media rapidly becomes a vital part of the modern B2B marketing mix, managing a structured and consistent presence on each of the main social media channels (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+) is now imperative for any marketer striving to push their brand engagement forward. And, despite the fact that social media is just a fragment of a customer’s experience with a brand, it is still THE vehicle for building those oh so desirable one-to-one engagements.

To give you some perspective on what is being powered by the universe of 2,484,915, 152 Internet users, let’s look at some of the latest numbers:

  • 7,095,476,818 Total world population
  • 2,484,915, 152 Internet users
  • 1,856,680,860 Active social network users
  • 6,572,950,124 Mobile Subscribers
  • 1,184M Active users on Facebook
  • 300M Active users on Google+
  • 259M Active users on LinkedIn
  • 232M Active users on Twitter

Astonishing numbers, right? Even though the numbers are getting bigger and bigger, social media has in fact made the world smaller, allowing potential customers to interact with your brand through the click of a button. The results? Global reach, global awareness of your brand.

We’ve talked before about the fact that marketing has changed from monologue to dialogue, and as Social media is unleashing a world of opportunities it is evident that brands can no longer use a ‘one-way-traffic’ approach to communications, where they communicate only what they want, how and when they want. Now more than ever, brand’s engagement with target audiences is real-time, shifting from speaking “at” customers to speaking “with” customers.

Engaging conversations

We’re all familiar with some of those successful social media stories – e.g. the ‘Oprah effect’, the Barack Obama presidential campaign, Stephen Fry’s contribution to the growth of Twitter in the UK or (at a business level) the SAP platform for developers that, through a series of strategically planned and implemented activities, generated in a single year an increase from 50,000 members to 100,000 members. Not to mention the Forrester Research twitter strategy that generated over 37,000 followers by simply providing a rich mix of tweets promoting events and content, and retweeting other relevant content. Whilst in some of those cases either their celebrity status or the amount of resources available contributed heavily to the success of their brands, all successfully maximised the capabilities of their social media channels to the extent that they were able to bypass other routes that would have taken longer to generate results.

By effectively leveraging the benefits of social media, your brand can build a legion of followers that are accessible through a click of a button, highly engaged and opted-in. But, how can you effectively use social media for your brand? Here are five golden rules for success:

1. Choose your social platform(s) carefully

Just because most companies are on Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t mean it is right for you. Make sure your brand is present on platforms that allow you direct engagement with your target audience. Select the best platform to get your point across and, most importantly, one that is in line with your brand objectives. LinkedIn and Twitter are perhaps best known for being THE platforms for building relationships with other business owners. Other more visual platforms like Instagram and Flyckr will probably be best for conveying your brand personality and lighter-touch engagement.

2. Define realistic goals

Have a clear vision of what you want/need to achieve e.g. build relationships, increase followers and/or obtain more leads. Revisit your objectives and your social progress regularly as this will help you define what it’s going to take to get your brand to higher ground. Create goals that are realistic as they will be the benchmark of where your social media branding is and where you eventually want it to be.

3. Be as active as your audience demands

Although this one is fairly obvious, in order to have on-going engagement and increase your followers, it is crucial to be very active on the primary platforms that you choose. However, posting on a daily basis will only get you so far. Make sure you’re answering your followers’ questions and engaging with those who you’re following as well. There are plenty of things you should be telling your audience, but beyond that you must show them what they want to know and learn; after all it’s about them and their needs and not about your brand. As long as you remember and respect this simple rule, you will see that your audience will be more likely to share and like your content.

4. Build relationships

Unless you ‘expose’ your brand, people cannot possibly know about your social media presence. Leveraging LinkedIn groups, Google+ groups, engaging through Twitter with key influencers, bloggers and journalists are just some of the ways to maximise engagement and increase your brand visibility.

5. Keep testing and refining

Most social channels provide tools for monitoring your brand activity. Make the most of them. Monitoring and measuring which types of posts created the highest number of likes, comments, engagement or what time(s) of day sees the most views, what type of content marketing obtains the best results – all this will give you valuable insight and direction for the future. Use that information to your advantage; don’t draw conclusions based on unfounded results. The insight you gather from those tools will allow you to enhance your social media branding strategy.

So, as millions of people across all demographic groups and industries spend considerable time on social media sites, the marketers’ mission to find creative ways of helping brands build long-lasting relationships with customers will grow in importance. Those that succeed in this task will be aware that the brand is the most powerful asset of their marketing AND business.

However, before you embark and/or continue to evolve your social media presence, make sure your brand is ready for it. Is your brand’s story defined and consistent? Is the value of the brand to the audience clear? Start exploring your brand now.