Social media is a must-have for any business. But to make social media work for your brand you need to have a solid strategy that focuses on customer engagement. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small local startup or an established brand with a broad reach, social media can make the difference between becoming a household name and getting forgotten.
We spoke to four companies that used their robust social media presence to grow their brands and engage with their audience. Check out their insights and tips below.
1. On Being : Create connections
On Being is an award-winning radio show, podcast, and website. The company considers social media an extension of its online communities and conversations, so a hard focus on brand awareness and marketing goals isn’t what drives its social media message.
“Yes, we’re a media project,” Executive Editor Trent Gilliss said, “but we’re in the business of creating connections and fostering relationships, not just propagating content to amass more users or page views.”
…we’re in the business of creating connections and fostering relationships, not just propagating content to amass more users or page views
When it comes to creating content, Gilliss said the focus is on staying authentic and remaining fully engaged in important conversations. This requires On Being to produce outstanding content that is tailored for each social media platform it uses. And its approach works. The column “The Disease of Being Busy,” for example, was tweeted about and shared on Facebook by people from all over the world within days of being posted.
For companies starting to build a social media presence, Gilliss recommends focusing on relationships rather than marketing.
“Have the intention of forming reciprocal relationships — ones in which you can share your work and your product with people but also one in which you learn from people in those communities. Practice generous listening and interaction as a human being rather than a representative of a brand.
2. SafeWise : Fostering relationships
SafeWise is a home security comparison website committed to helping people improve the security of their homes and communities. As a trusted resource for information, SafeWise uses social media to build authority through relationships with other online influencers in the home security industry.
“The majority of our engagement is with other brands we’ve developed relationships with,” Paige Sjoblom, SafeWise community manager, explained.
Identifying and maintaining those relationships with influencers helps SafeWise stay on top of hot topics and trends, which it then passes on to its readers. And determining how and why its audience consumes that information is a big part of what makes the company’s social media presence successful.
According to Sjoblom, SafeWise consumers are most active on Facebook, so the company posts the majority of its content there for greater engagement. Sjoblom also recommends figuring out what types of content are most popular and relatable to your specific audience.
“We get good engagement with our Safest Cities campaign,” Sjoblom said, “because people like to talk about their city.”
Understanding how to master the social media landscape also takes more know-how than people realize. Sjoblom advises anyone who’s new to managing social media to learn from others who are doing it right.
“You may have grown up with social media, but that doesn’t mean you know how to promote a brand on it,” she said. “The best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the social media manager community by listening to podcasts and diving into content by Jon Loomer or Buffer.”
3. BarkBox : Don’t be boring
This boutique pet supply company provides a monthly box full of unique dog toys and treats. BarkBox is just three years old but has seen incredible growth. Their online presence is pervasive — the company has an army of brand ambassadors known as the “Bark Pack,” made up of over 500 Internet dogs that have anywhere from 10,000 to three million followers each.
With her canine companions piping up in the background, Stacie Grissom, editor-in-chief of “BarkPost,” shared their keys to success.
“Don’t be boring. Make sure you have an audience. Figure out what your voice is,” she said. “Figuring out who you’re talking to will go a long way.”
Figuring out who you’re talking to will go a long way
BarkBox’s social media strategy is targeted at “crazy dog people.” To find similar others, their content goes beyond the usual how-to’s and animal cruelty sob stories.
“We started taking the angle of a more fun and celebratory style of dog stuff,” Grissom said. “We have videos like “Dog Toy or Sex Toy?” It’s things you normally just joke about, but no one is really writing it in the dog world.”
Rather than pushing products, BarkBox has increased their online influence by having fun and celebrating their love of dogs with their audience.
“Don’t keep hitting people up to buy stuff. Give them something relevant first,” Grissom said. “Being a person online is really important. Don’t be a robot, and have fun!”
4. Even Stevens : It’s in the research
This sandwich shop with a cause donates a sandwich for every sandwich they sell. They are community-oriented, and they use social media to help spread their message. Even Stevens launched their online campaign before they even opened their first store.
“We started both accounts (Facebook and Instagram) about six months before we opened,” Sara Day, Director of Community Engagement, said. “We wanted to build up a base. It’s kind of fun to watch a brand be creative and see their process over time. When we started, we would post sandwiches we were creating or nonprofits we were visiting.”
Being a charitable business, Even Stevens wanted to make sure their social media presence could stand up to scrutiny.
“We definitely researched [other charitable businesses] to see what criticisms they got,” Day said. “We know that people will nitpick us more the bigger we get and we’re totally open to that and welcome it.”
Looking to other brands for social media inspiration is a key strategy Day recommends to any company starting to build their social media brand.
“Follow like-minded brands,” she said. “Even if it’s not the same industry, if they’re like-minded you can learn from them. Think about who would notice your brand … people who might be an end user of your product.”
Big or small, your business needs a savvy social media campaign. Learning from the success of others is the best way to improve your own efforts in all you do.