Effective Social Media Strategies for Brands

The GistSocial media strategies. Brands must deeply understand their audience to craft effective social media strategies that foster meaningful connections.Platform choice. Selecting the right social media platforms is crucial for brands to effectively reach their target audience across different generations.Customer service. Proactive, transparent customer service on social platforms can turn customers into brand advocates and drive loyalty.Social media presents a valuable opportunity for brands to strengthen customer relationships and loyalty. By thoughtfully engaging audiences across platforms, brands can foster meaningful connections that drive growth. With its real-time engagement and intimate reach, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn serve as ideal forums for not just marketing a brand, but truly connecting with its audience. This article will explore social media strategies to wow customers, turn them into advocates and build mutually beneficial relationships.Know Your Audience Social media allows a brand to get to know its customers on a personal level — and on their preferred channel. According to a 2023 Statista report, as of 2022, the United States is home to over 302 million social media users at a social networking penetration rate of over 91%. On average in 2023, people spent 151 minutes per day on social media. As such, social media stands to be the most appropriate place to build relationships with customers. Unless a brand’s product or service is something that everyone uses (i.e., toilet paper), its audience is a specific group of people, usually narrowed down by their demographics, location, age, hobbies, sports, political views, education, vocation, or some other characteristic that differentiates them from others. Although it may seem obvious, to create an exceptional customer experience, brands must have a deep understanding of the audience they are selling to. A great example of a failure to do so is that of Bud Light. As everyone who hasn’t been living in a cave knows, in April 2023, Bud Light began a PR campaign in which the brand hired Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, as their spokesperson to promote a Bud Light contest during the NCAA basketball tournament. This move was part of Bud Light’s focus on gaining a younger crowd and being more inclusive — something that most brands can identify with.  For Bud Light, the move went against the mindset and beliefs of its core audience. The move literally cost them millions of dollars ($395 million according to CNN), as former Bud Light fans posted hateful rants on social media, celebrities posted videos of themselves destroying cases of Bud Light, and prejudicial memes made their way across social media. The repercussions from their so-called “woke” media campaign are still reverberating across the United States and sales are still down by approximately 30% compared to last year. The Bud Light debacle is a strong example of what happens when a brand fails to know or understand its target audience. Although its “heart” was in the right place, it failed to consider whether the campaign was appropriate for its core audience. This single piece of knowledge is crucial when leveraging social media to build customer relationships. It starts with research to gain insights into a brand’s customer demographics, interests, values and social media habits. Developing representative personas that capture the key attributes, motivations, and behaviors of priority customer segments provides a useful lens. For example, a small business could determine through surveys that millennial parents represent their core social media audience. These personas are on Facebook and Instagram daily, enjoy parenting and cooking content, and primarily seek deals, product ideas and community connections.Oli Goulden, founder of influencer beauty brand incubator FounderSix, told CMSWire that the unique power of social media marketing for brands is that social media integrates a sense of human touch, and that leads to a human connection between the brand and consumer. “It becomes a two-way dialogue rather than most other marketing channels like billboards or print ads, which are one-way or ‘broadcast.’ Brands can become a friend, a motivator, a leader to their customers and bring positivity to their everyday lives.” By intimately knowing its audience, a brand can create relevant social strategies with personalized experiences that resonate deeply. The goal is to align with customer values and create content that adds value for them. This level of audience insight establishes the foundation for building strong, lasting relationships through social media.Related Article: Why Metrics Beyond ‘Likes’ Matter in Social Media StrategyChoose the Right Social Platforms Besides knowing its core audience and the values it espouses, brands need to determine the social platforms that their customers prefer. The preferences for social media platforms often vary across different generations, largely due to the changing tastes and needs of users. Younger consumers tend to prefer social media such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. There is a bit of crossover with millennials as they can typically be found on Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram. Similar to Gen X, which tends to prefer Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram, Boomers can often be found on Facebook, WhatsApp and X. Finally, the so-called Silent Generation, those born before 1945, tend to stick to Facebook. Aside from generational differences, a brand may be marketing to a mix of generations, so there is no way to narrow down the specific social platforms where they may be found. An example of this would be an audience made up of people who are fans of the Chicago Bulls. Fans may range from teenagers all the way to senior citizens, so this demographic would not fall into a specific generational segment. This type of audience would require brands to take a multifaceted approach to social media advertising and marketing. In this situation, brands should conduct surveys or use analytics tools to understand the demographic breakdown of their audience and which social platform they prefer.Each platform has its unique strengths. X, for example, is excellent for real-time updates and engagement, while Instagram and Pinterest are more visually appealing, and are ideal for showcasing team photos, behind-the-scenes content, and merchandise. As such, brands must consider the type of content they want to produce and choose platforms that play to those strengths. Additionally, brands must tailor their message to the platform they are working with. A Facebook post might be more detailed, while an X post would be more concise and direct.Related Article: Is Social Media the Answer for Your Brand’s Future?Craft Your Brand Voice A brand’s voice must connect with its customers, and it must be organic, genuine and sincere. The brand voice shows the personality of the brand and is connected to the brand’s vision and promise. It impacts a brand’s customers, employees and brand perception, so it is a vital part of every aspect of the brand, including its goals, values and strategy. Additionally, it must be consistent across channels as well as social media platforms.Deciding upon the brand’s voice takes a considerable amount of time, study and effort. Here are some tips for brands to craft an effective brand voice that resonates with their target audience on social media:Analyze how your audience talks to one another on social platforms and aim to sound relatable yet professional. Mirror their conversational tone and style.Define the personality traits you want to convey — friendliness, expertise, humor, etc. Stay true to this identity across campaigns and platforms.Have guidelines for tone and vocabulary so multiple employees can represent the brand voice consistently. Know when to adopt an informal versus more formal tone based on context and objectives.Use visuals, multimedia content, and unique formatting to make your brand voice more distinctive.Share behind-the-scenes perspectives to humanize your brand and make it more approachable.Convey what your brand cares about through storytelling and advocacy on social issues. Align with audience values.Collaborate with influencers who can authentically represent your brand voice to their engaged followers.Continuously monitor audience responses and refine your voice based on feedback and cultural shifts.Most importantly, ensure your brand voice sounds natural and speaks to what makes your audience tick. Build connections through shared interests and personalities.  The goal is for the brand’s social media voice to feel like an extension of the brand’s culture, tone, and values as they are expressed on its website, mobile app, and brick-and-mortar store, i.e., not a manufactured persona. View allEncourage Engagement  The importance of fostering genuine and organic engagement on social media is well-known to most businesses today. One of the foundational aspects of achieving this is to maintain an authentic voice and tone across all of a brand’s channels. By crafting a consistent brand voice that truly reflects the company’s values and ethos, businesses can resonate more deeply with their audience. This voice, whether humorous, professional, or casual should steer clear of jargon or overtly promotional language, aiming instead for conversations that genuinely connect.Content plays a pivotal role in this endeavor. By prioritizing content that offers tangible value to the audience — be it through education, information or entertainment — businesses can elevate their standing in the digital realm. This doesn’t always mean direct promotion. Sometimes, offering insights into behind-the-scenes processes, sharing employee stories, or providing broader industry knowledge can be just as impactful.Amanda Richardson, sales and marketing specialist at the UK-based marketing agency Outsource Your Marketing, told CMSWire that when it comes to leveraging social media for building customer relationships, it’s essential to understand that it’s a tool for listening and responding, rather than selling. “To effectively foster strong customer relationships on social media, there are three key principles to keep in mind:”Show the Human Side: Customers want to know there are real people behind the brand, not just automated responses. Interacting with your audience genuinely is crucial to building trust.Value Customer Input: Make it clear that your brand values what customers have to say. Engage in conversations, respond to comments and take their feedback seriously.Offer Value: Give your social media followers a reason to stay connected. Whether it’s through promotions, feedback opportunities, informative content, or helpful tips, ensure that being a follower of your social media account offers real value.Active engagement is the cornerstone of social media. Taking the time to respond to comments, messages and mentions not only humanizes a brand but also instills a sense of value in followers. Such interactions can be further enriched through questions, polls, or stimulating discussions. Incorporating user-generated content, such as customer testimonials or product photos, can also enhance authenticity. By showcasing this content, brands not only build trust but also cultivate a sense of community.Transparency in all dealings is paramount. Owning up to mistakes, sharing company trajectories, and being open about both challenges and successes can make followers feel that they’re genuinely part of a brand’s journey. Storytelling, with its innate human appeal, can be a potent tool in this context. Narratives about a brand’s origins, the challenges it has faced, or even customer success stories can captivate an audience’s attention.Diversifying content types is also beneficial. By interspersing videos, infographics, articles and images, businesses can cater to the varied preferences of their audience. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, with their innovative content formats, offer ample opportunities for organic engagement. Collaborations, when done authentically, can further amplify reach. By carefully partnering with like-minded influencers or brands, businesses can tap into new audiences while ensuring the collaboration feels genuine.The dynamic nature of social media necessitates continuous learning and adaptation. Staying abreast of the latest trends and tools is essential, but it’s equally crucial to listen to audience feedback and be willing to iterate on strategies. When brands prioritize relationship-building over hard selling, genuine, organic engagement will follow.Provide Standout Customer Service Providing standout customer service on social media requires brands to take a proactive, transparent approach tailored to the public nature of these platforms. A 2022 McKinsey report revealed that customers spend 20 to 40% more with brands that respond to customer service requests on social media. Brands that are responsive to customer service requests are creating positive emotional experiences for their customers while building loyalty. Denise Russell, managing director for Samphire Digital, an SEO and digital marketing agency, told CMSWire that addressing complaints appropriately and having a great connection between the social media and customer service teams to allow issues to be resolved in a timely way is key. “Really listening to feedback and passing it to the appropriate departments can also help identify and resolve any issues before they escalate and start to cause real problems, or of course highlight something the company should continue doing because customers love it!”Rather than simply responding to complaints, brands should monitor their social channels closely for opportunities to assist customers in a timely, helpful manner. When issues arise, businesses must empower customer-facing employees to publicly address the problem as soon as possible, with an authentic tone that conveys concern and understanding. Resolution can be turned into a positive interaction by keeping the conversation public, offering apologies for the inconvenience, and expressing appreciation for bringing the matter to the company’s attention. To enhance social customer service, brands can highlight team members specifically dedicated to monitoring social platforms so customers know there is dedicated support. Response times can be accelerated by allowing various employees to tackle inquiries based on expertise, without getting bogged down in case transferals.Standout social customer service requires shifting the mindset from incidental complaints to continuous community engagement. Proactively solving issues quickly and transparently, with a human voice, can turn customers into brand advocates who appreciate the public recognition of their concerns. With the right approach, brands can leverage the unique nature of social platforms to provide customer service that stands out from competitors.”True Brand Ambassadors are not created by a marketing plan which lists them in activities for Q3/2024, but by impressing customers each and every day,” said Russell. “That’s really hard to achieve but if you have a fundamentally good product and service level, then paying attention to create a ‘joined up’ CRM experience across channels including social media is a really cost-effective way to make a big impact.”Measure and Refine Your Efforts In order to maximize social media’s impact on customer relationships, brands need to monitor performance and continuously optimize their strategies closely. This requires tracking key engagement metrics including follower growth, clicks, shares, comments and mentions. Social listening is equally important for qualitative data, providing customer sentiment and feedback to gain insights. Based on these analytics, brands can identify high-performing content for reuse and underperforming areas to refine. For example, a clothing retailer might notice that posts with new product previews outperform lifestyle content and adjust their mix accordingly. Testing different posting cadences, visual styles, and engagement tactics also informs the brand voice on social media. The key is being proactive about analyzing data, listening to customers, and implementing changes rather than sticking rigidly to initial plans. Agile social media strategies that iterate based on evidence transform customer engagement into lasting relationships.Final Thoughts Social media stands out as a powerful tool for businesses to cultivate and reinforce customer relationships. Leveraging social media to build authentic customer relationships requires in-depth audience understanding, strategic platform selection, genuine brand voice, active engagement, and continuous optimization. By providing value through relevant content and experiences, brands can earn trust and loyalty, and strengthen relationships with their customers.


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