Companies use social media for everything from customer service to content marketing, but top companies know that social media should be more than simply another outlet for day-to-day communications. Understanding how to leverage social media to reach your target audience and shape your company identity is the key to effective brand management.
How can companies leverage social media for brand management?
- Start with specific goals.
You have to have a destination in mind to know how to chart the course. Investing the time and resources it takes to maintain a strong social media presence is worthless if you have no explicit outcome in mind. Is your goal to increase your customer base, build a large engagement of followers or receive press? Not all companies will engage social media with the same goals, and strategies will vary based on the desired results. Spending some time considering the desired outcome will help you avoid shooting blindly at targets, hoping something hits.
- Know your corporate culture and the brand you want to create.
Are you cutting-edge and sassy? Are you buttoned-down and formal? Somewhere in between? Before you can create a cohesive social media presence, it's essential you know exactly what face you want to put on the organization.
For instance, the fast food chain, Wendy's, received a lot of attention for starting "beefs" with anyone it could on social media. After Wendy's tweeted that its beef is never frozen, a Twitter battle ensued with sassy comebacks, reflecting the spirited brand image the company wants to reflect. A company whose goal is to build trust and loyalty might go for a more formal tone in its social media.
- Choose the right networks.
While it's tempting to jump into all the new and shiny platforms, trying to maintain too many social media outlets can be counterproductive. Find the right platforms that align with your brand's image and goals (see #1 and #2). Once you ascertain your company's image, choosing the platforms that align with that brand will be easier. Facebook, the most popular platform worldwide, is often the first choice for companies. Twitter offers something very different than Instagram. Avoid the trap of trying to run too many. Understand what each platform offers and see where your social strategy fits in best.
- Define and maintain a consistent brand voice.
Once you've identified your audience, it's important to be authentic in a way that effectively represents your brand and company culture.
Honesty is the number one trait consumers want from brands on social media -- but friendliness, helpfulness and humor win a lot of followers too, according to SproutSocial.
- Structure the company to support social media.
Create an organizational structure that supports social media with a cohesive strategy and corporate governance across all departments. Southwest Airlines Chef Communications Office Linda Rutherford said their social media strategy used to have a "Wild West" feel in the early days -- no real strategy and every department creating its own social media presence. Once a strategy was determined and an organizational structure and dedicated budget were in place, Southwest's social media brand transformed into a solid presence with a consistent voice.
Social media can play a huge role in an organization's brand. Carefully considering a few key factors and keeping the customer at the forefront of decision-making will guide companies to manage their brand more effectively.
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