Advertising and promoting your products on social media requires an entirely new mindset from advertising on other platforms. If you’re used to advertising in print media, on radio or on TV, be forewarned: social media is a much different animal. For one, advertisers are no longer in control, consumers are. And secondly, advertising is much more of a two-way street, with brands evolving as part of a continual feedback mechanism. So how exactly can you let go of your brand message on social media?
#1: Be authentic
There’s nothing like a lack of authenticity to turn off consumers. People are just too smart these days. In other words, a slick advertising message from a restaurant proclaiming that it has “the best food in town” is not going to go over very well if people check the place out on Yelp and find that customers are leaving bad reviews. So always be authentic in anything that you say or promise. And that extends to the type of visual imagery that you use, too.
#2: Listen to social media chatter
Brands have to become good listeners if they want to succeed on social media. It’s no longer a case of pushing out a message and expecting consumers to accept it without a little feedback and conversation. On Twitter, for example, you are just one angry tweet away from a potential PR disaster. And people actually expect a response when they fire off a tweet or upload a photo with a certain hashtag. At the very least, you need to be monitoring the hashtags that people are using to define your brand.
#3: Celebrate brand champions
In the old days of analog advertising, brands hired celebrities to pitch their products. Now, they use social media influencers. And these influencers can be quite important in guiding and shaping your image. The best influencers, of course, are those that actively love and use your products (see point #1 above about authenticity). There are many different names for these people – brand ambassadors, evangelists, brand champions – but they are all equally important. They are the ones who can help to amplify your message. They give you a certain amount of control, but also enable creative individuals to play with and interact with your brand.
#4: Search out niche communities of like-minded users
On social media, everyone has a place they like to hang out. It’s the job of brands to discover these communities of like-minded individuals, and find ways to nurture them. Again, this marks a departure from the status quo. The old days of analog were all about mass markets, the current days of digital are all about niche. Brands that do a good job of nurturing niche communities of users include Red Bull and Go Pro – they are both hip, young brands that play well to the young social media generation and are excellent at finding niches where they are hanging out online.
The big takeaway lesson here is that brand managers need to feel comfortable about losing control. Advertising and branding is no longer a one-way street, and brands need to be very receptive to the comments, suggestions and requests of their users.