Social media allows you to engage with your audience using multiple platforms, helping to increase the reach and message of your business. With so many consumers online, social media marketing is an integral part of your brand strategy that shouldn’t be ignored.
A central challenge for most online marketers is the rate of competition. Staying relevant and getting noticed in a crowded global marketplace can be difficult.
However: with a structured social media strategy in place tailored to your business, you’ll have strong foundations on which to build a flourishing brand strategy that can grow with changing trends and consumer habits.
What are the Key Elements?
As of January 2022, more than 4.62 billion people around the globe now use social media (the equivalent of 58.2% of the world’s population). With so many attentive users, social media offers the ideal place to showcase your service or product.
Greater demand equates to increased competition. For this reason, optimizing your brand strategy is a must. While branding is a fairly complex topic, it can be boiled down to three key elements: establishing a social media platform, forming a brand identity, and content produced for socials as well as the ecommerce website itself.
Effective use of these key elements can help differentiate your brand from competitors, enabling you to build a strong and consistent brand reputation that customers will be able to form positive associations with.
Social Media Platforms
The average social media user has five accounts on different platforms - but you don’t necessarily have to use all of them. Stretching yourself too thinly can dilute your brand message, leading to poor quality content. Instead, use your time and resources wisely.
When choosing your platforms, age is a key demographic element. Consumers in the 20-34 age bracket are just as likely to purchase from IKEA as they are to use Instagram—an image-based platform ideal for showcasing affordable homewares with a youthful design element.
Other demographic factors (as defined in your market research) are likely to include elements such as location or occupation. This data, in turn, can help you to identify the needs of your target market, specifically common pain points relating to matters such as efficiency and user experience.
In this respect, resolving pain points relates as much to the product or service itself as it does to the social media platform you use - which should be equally accessible and appealing to your customer base.
Brand identity is much like an individual’s personal identity, in that it’s as much about the image you want to convey to the world as much as it is about the values that are central to your company.
Similarly, your brand identity (or persona) should match up with the key demographic elements of your target audience depending on things such as interests and personal tastes.
It might be that your audience enjoys products and services with more of a homespun, informal feel. Alternatively, as seen on Gucci’s Facebook page, the overall look might be more luxurious.
Every aspect of your brand design—from your hashtags right down to the colors you use—will be informed by the brand message and mission statement, so place both at the center when establishing your brand identity.
Also consider key brand identity elements such as tone of voice, color schemes and typography. Keeping these consistent and on-message helps to secure brand loyalty, making your brand instantly recognisable to loyal customers while drawing in new prospects.
To design a content strategy, you also need to consider how some forms of content (such as visual) tend to be more popular than others, so when deciding on the type of content you want to produce, aim for a mix of trends and suitability.
Different formats might include image-based posts, written content, interactive content or recommendations from existing consumers or brand collaborations, as with this example from Pantone:
Given that Pantone’s audience is typically creative young adults in their twenties and thirties, this nostalgic Spongebob collaboration makes perfect sense by combining humor with an impactful color palette inspired by the characters from the cartoon.
The content you use can take many forms - but again, it all depends on what is most relevant and useful for your business in addition to what appeals most to your target audience. More recently, user-generated or interactive content adds an additional layer to the range of available formats, allowing brands to personalize their products and services while strengthening customer relationships.
How to Position your Brand
Effective brand positioning is where a brand is seen as valuable, favorable and credible to the consumer in a way that makes it unique or different from competitors (their USP or “unique selling point”). Brands can achieve this through focussing on and excelling in a specific area, whether this is customer service, convenience, price, quality or differentiating themselves from rival competitors.
Social media positioning makes use of multichannel messaging using the platforms favored most by their target audience. This example from Tiktok for non-profit Save the Music doubles as an example of generational advertising, since both the platform and the project itself tend to be used by younger audiences.
Brand positioning relates to seven components: attributes (the features of your product or service), benefits to the customer, personality (brand characteristics), authority (the reputation of your brand built on established history), and customer identity.
Brand positioning can also be based around a combination of different qualities that make up “brand essence”: the reputation of a product or service in the minds of customers. In some cases, brands can become so well-established that their name replaces the product itself, for instance Hoover, or Coke.
Using email to promote products or services is a practice that has been in existence for some time. It can be used to respond to customer questions, confirm orders or as advertising in addition to providing customers with newsletters containing exclusive deals for subscribers, helping to boost brand loyalty.
Often viewed as a separate entity to social media campaigns, the two can be integrated to help boost visibility. This is often achieved by including social media buttons (either in the header or footer), as with this example below from eCard company Blue Mountain:
When planned and executed well, email marketing can be an effective way to connect with customers on a regular basis, helping to build brand loyalty with existing customers while enticing new ones to stay. However, it's important to have the right tools in place to ensure that your email campaigns are hitting the mark. This is where email tracking tools come in - they can help you keep track of important metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, allowing you to refine your strategy and achieve better results
Taking a holistic approach to digital marketing through integrating different methods in this way ensures that one elevates the other, maximizing their effectiveness more than when used in isolation. In addition to reinforcing existing customer relationships, this can help drive brand awareness, helping to draw in new customers and followers.
Social media can help to increase brand credibility and helps to strengthen customer relationships. It also offers a boost to visibility via shares, likes and SERP rankings, as the more active a business is on social media, the more likely they are to trend.
Posting on social media also impacts conversion rates. As seen in the graph below, platforms with a broader audience base tend to have the highest rates of conversion, while for newer platforms primarily used by younger audiences, the figures are lower.
Posting too often can be counterproductive and unappealing to customers. A more strategic approach allows businesses to reach their target audience effectively. In terms of frequency, the most common publishing cadence for most businesses is 3-4 times per week.
The timing of your posts, can also vary depending on certain factors such as platform. Overall, the best time to post to Facebook is thought to be Thursday through to Saturday, towards the earlier half of the day. However, this also varies according to industry: audiences in higher education tend to respond better before 3pm.
Through understanding your audience demographics in relation to your brand identity, you will be better able to establish a cohesive brand strategy across the most relevant social media platforms for your business.
Creating a social media brand strategy is as much about keeping up with the latest trends as it is about deciding what works best for your business.
Successful social media branding offers customers a mix of reliability and innovation - continuing to keep up with new trends and technologies while staying true to the mission and values that originally popularized them. Through maintaining this balance of originality and consistency, you will have a social media branding strategy that attracts new customers while helping to build brand loyalty and boost reputation.
Jimmy Rodriguez is the VP of eCommerce of Shift4Shop, a completely free, enterprise-grade ecommerce solution. He's dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimized shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance.