The emergence of social media as an effective branding and sales tool is a relatively new one in comparison to mainstays in traditional advertising such as print ads and billboards. Because of this, along with the constantly changing landscape of digital, older brands that have been deeply entrenched in conventional marketing plans for years and sometimes decades, often have difficulty wrapping their heads around how to begin crafting a powerful online strategy. Here are a few valuable steps that will make diving into digital more fluent.
Develop a Social Media Platform Strategy
Just because a new social media platform pops up in the news doesn't mean a brand immediately needs to jump on the bandwagon. Instead, brands should identify which platforms their target audiences frequent most. For example, Pinterest has a predominantly female user base, and therefore, if a brand is trying to attract a male consumer, then a different platform should probably be prioritized.
Do due diligence and carefully research each social platform you are interested in so you can clearly see which are priorities for your brand and why. Then lay out a game plan as to how you are going to proceed with populating each with content, including frequency of posts, content topics, and how you will handle community management (i.e. customer service questions, and complaints). Figure out how much of your budget is going towards paid media if that's available, how much is going towards influencer campaigns, and whether or not you need to hire an agency or an in-house person to focus on managing all of your platforms and continuing to evolve the strategy. In social, a good strategy is an ever-evolving one.
Create Captivating Content with High Share Value
With so much competition out there, it's important for brands to create attention grabbing content that users will be excited to share. Content with high share value is more likely to create a viral effect, exposing brands to wider audiences. Users tend to share content that is less promotional and more personal. Therefore, brands need to look for content inspiration beyond the products. They're selling, and mix in content that is inspiring, beautiful, and useful. Sharing photos on platforms is one of the most common ways for users to communicate their interests and ideas, making it crucial for brands to participate in an effective way that portrays their brand identity. Users are more likely to engage with posts that showcase striking imagery. As an example, Twitter recently incorporated images into users' timelines, and as a result, Tweets with images included now receive 18 percent more clicks.
Also, YouTube has one of the fastest growing user bases and reaches more U.S.-based adults, ages 18-34, than any cable network. It's a great story-telling platform for brands, and one that should be utilized to reach big audiences. Instagram is another rapidly-growing platform that has embraced video content by allowing their users to create 15-second videos.
Optimize for Mobile
These days, people are glued to their devices, making it extremely important for brands to optimize their social efforts for mobile. This includes ensuring that all content looks great and is easy to share on small screen devices such as iPads and smart phones. The number of people accessing social platforms via mobile devices continues to increase rapidly. Since Q1 2011, the number of people who access the internet via a mobile phone has increased by 60.3 percent to 818.4 million across the 31 GWI markets.
Get Influencers and Users Involved
Influencers and bloggers tend to have a lot of social clout. Brands should partner with the ones who are on-brand for them, and create interesting content and initiatives, utilizing the influencers' large audiences to create buzz, virality, and awareness. For example, an influencer's involvement can be extremely helpful in the case of a brand hosting a contest or giveaway around a key sales period.
Hosting contests and giveaways (possibly promoted by a key influencer) is a great way for brands to increase exposure by incentivizing users to "like," follow, and/or share information about the brand for a chance to win a prize. Choose a reward that will resonate with your target audience to ensure optimal engagement.
Perhaps most important of all is the willingness to take the time to explore the world of digital and all that it has to offer. Keep up with the new and exciting platforms that are constantly being released, along with the new features that established outlets like Facebook and Twitter keep rolling out. Be open to taking risks and chances on innovative initiatives. Think outside of the box, while always remaining true to your brand story. The digital space has a lot to offer your brand if you take the time to get to know it.