Social media branding: the key to increasing the number of potential customers

The choice of platforms (and possibilities) in the social media area is growing day by day, allowing content of any kind to become “viral” (that is to spread exponentially) in a few hours.

Social media branding: la chiave per incrementare il numero dei prospect

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An example? The impact on the social networks of the Pokémon Go game set in virtual reality: the entire video gaming industry was taken aback, while the popularity achieved thanks to this initiative was enormous, assuming global proportions in just a few hours. 48 hours.

Social media is a channel where companies can communicate directly with consumers, but their full use is not yet part of the classic marketing culture

In reality, on social media it is all a question of algorithms, as well as answers from the public, so it is difficult to make precise planning (let alone predictions); moreover, the number of platforms, the relative peculiarities and the changes that their logic constantly undergo, make it very difficult to refine techniques, approaches and strategies.

An increasingly widespread phenomenon

Some studies have shown that, as early as 2016, more than half of the companies had already established their active presence on social media – and many others expected to do so at the latest within a year; today the data confirm that 80% of companies (both B2B and B2C, both large and small and medium) share content on the most popular social platforms, with a strong preference for Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter.

In fact, a good social media branding strategy can improve a company’s reputation, as well as enabling it to more directly and realistically understand the impact its products and services have on the market and on customers; on the other hand, excluding social media marketing from communication priorities is a very questionable choice, which risks favoring its competitors.

Of course, no one is convinced that exploiting the potential of social media is an easy thing: not only are the platforms (as well as somehow interconnected) and each presents virtues and flaws, but a possible error can have potentially serious consequences – because it takes time and patience to create a good reputation, while it takes very little to destroy it. Furthermore, it is necessary to find the right “feeling” with the public, to interpret their tastes and trends, to be original and interesting, and never “self-referential”.

Businesses and social communication

For many companies, the presence on social media is reduced to a page and the periodic publication of posts regarding the brand or its market sector; even if these are useful and necessary activities, the risk on the one hand is that of replicating in a more or less extensive and articulated way the contents of the company website (including contact forms), on the other, of resuming a series of various news with a view to “broadcasting” (or editorial calendar) rather than real interaction with the public.

Undoubtedly you can advertise events and webinars, articles of specialized publications that talk about the brand, authoritative opinions, market research and so on … but the “content curation” is not everything. Propose (or revive) interesting news and events, appointments and quotes is useful to circulate all these things including employees and collaborators as well as among followers; however, creating a “community” is another thing.

As we said in another post, the automation of advertising and the proposal of content content (content curation) in the social media is something necessary but not sufficient: the active participation of employees, experts in the subject and (must) of enthusiasts to a certain theme, makes the difference between something vaguely “aseptic” and a virtual meeting place where there are real people – complete with comments, jokes, questions, answers and (why not?) even some discussion (possibly moderate and always constructive).

Of course there are companies for which the thing is not only feasible but even easy to implement (we think of a factory of motorcycles sports, which perhaps participates in the most followed by the public championships and that sells their cars to fans), others in which it is a little less; on the other hand, every reality is a case in itself and marketing must be thought out and implemented accordingly.

Building the brand on social media

Beyond any consideration, it is always absolutely true that companies make branding (or promote their brand) on social media in order to attract the largest number of followers and transform as much as possible into customers – and maybe in “ambassador”, or credible testimonials; the important thing, however, is to “think” one’s presence on social networks according to the specific characteristics of this channel of interaction with the public, respecting the peculiar mechanisms of involvement and participation – also working with imagination and distancing itself from traditional parameters and to the style of classic marketing communication.

An illuminating example in this sense was provided a few years ago by PwC, a consulting firm specialized in auditing. This B2B enterprise, thanks to the #BallotBriefcase campaign on Snapchat, has not only won the Shorty Award for the originality of the initiative, but has managed above all to involve tens of thousands of people (among which, obviously, there were also many useful business contacts); in practice, PwC has highlighted its connection with the Academy Awards (better known as the Oscar Awards) – a bond that has been going on for 82 years under the banner of the counting of votes that decree the assignment of the famous statuettes.

Thanks to this campaign, it was possible to follow the journey made through the United States from the case containing the names of the winners, up to its arrival at the venue hosting the famous Award ceremony – something that aroused interest, curiosity and even enthusiasm from many people who follow the event on social media. After all, the idea was simple: to give an “online” media resonance to the (apparently secondary) work of the accounting officers in charge of guaranteeing the correctness of the voting operations that allow to assign a prize linked to the world of cinema and the star system that gravitates around, somehow capturing some of the popularity that sets it apart.

Finally, it should be added that about 80% of PwC’s employees are young people (digital natives) and it is probably from this type of people that the initiative has started to associate a work of a traditional (as well as extremely serious) type, and maybe even a bit ‘boring) to a context of direct interaction as that of social, where one thing to be successful must be very “cool”, “trendy” and fun.

The need for consistency in interactions with the audience

But there is something that, next to a vague sense of artificiality, is perhaps worse than the self-referentiality of the marketing message conveyed through social media: it is a discontinuous, occasional, irregular presence – it’s a bit like someone arrives, reads a proclamation that everyone should listen to and then disappear.

Social interaction feeds on the everyday, even if at times it can even be trivial; therefore it is necessary to propose contents and to make one’s own voice heard regularly (even if regularly, if necessary, respond to those who wish to dialogue with the brand). Not only that: everything must be consistent from the point of view of the concept in general, as well as significant as regards the content – and each element must reflect the image and the characteristic values ​​of the brand.

In practice, novelties, stimuli and ideas are needed that keep the brand image alive and amplify its resonance among the public – bearing in mind that images and audiovisual documents have a greater impact than texts and are more frequently shared.
In confirmation of this, a survey by Socialbakers has shown that the images published on Twitter are twice as effective as text posts, so much so that the relationship between the two is 7 to 1 for the benefit of the contents graphics.

Publish content paying close attention

The bad news spread far more quickly than the good news and the tree that falls with respect to the proverbial growing forest makes more noise; unfortunately this rule also applies to social media and only bad publicity can ruin the long work done to get attention and credibility from the public – especially if the communication channel is effective, fast and pervasive as online social networks.

The global network incorporates geographical areas, cultures and languages, putting everyone in relationship with everyone; then you have to keep in mind the local peculiarities, since something that can be fun for someone, to others can be irritating or offensive.

In practice, before posting something, you have to pay attention to what, how and when (this is one of the reasons why the approach along the lines of the editorial calendar can be limiting) you do it; in other words, in order to communicate with social media, we must have a strong and continuous link with reality and with the present – otherwise we risk going off the subject or making the figure of one who comes from another planet.

In summary, the world of the Internet (and above all that of social media) is a dynamic reality in continuous evolution – not only technological, but above all of ideas. Being there means assimilating the rhythms, understanding the language, interpreting their feelings and respecting their (many) differences.

 

Automation: the note (apparently) out of place in Social Media Marketing

Many advanced companies have resources dedicated to monitoring and active use of social media; their work is facilitated by software tools for social listening, able to aggregate, filter and sort conversations based on predefined criteria, so as to facilitate the task of responding (manually) to the most significant posts.

Automazione: la nota (apparentemente) stonata nel Social Media Marketing

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These platforms are essential to be able to know the opinions that people (as well as customers) express about the brand, in a context of complex and multiple interactions – potentially thousands, within the various social media.

A suggestion: before putting aside the idea of automating our presence on social media, let’s try to consider how email marketing techniques have evolved

The support of the tools that facilitate the reading of social networks and allow to summarize the sentiment that characterizes its audience, is certainly a good starting point; however, marketers should do more to stimulate public engagement and foster business growth through social media too.

In this context automation, although it is considered a sort of “out of tune” in that it risks distorting the relationships between people and businesses, can help – especially if we consider the consumption of time and resources that it is necessary to manage in a traditional way the dialogue between the company and those who use social media as a channel of interaction with the brand.

Automation and personalized one-to-one marketing

To generate a higher level of involvement, social media marketers should respond to specific actions through the (more or less large-scale) proposal of ad hoc content. Such actions (from the public) can be considered as a kind of activator: in practice it is necessary to identify activities such as the post of comments on a certain person or company, the use of particular hashtags, or the fact that it is published on social media mean something about certain topics or topics; once these events occur, you need to have specific material to propose to the people who triggered the mechanism.
The digital content that we can send automatically in response to a series of situations that can be highlighted in an equally automatic way, can be movies or text documents, but also discount codes, promotions, points to be earned to get gifts or even tickets for events sports or music ready to buy.

Although the possible advantages of this approach are undoubtedly many, it is precisely the use of automation which is for many a critical element: to respond automatically, in real time and on a large scale to a series of possible events through the ‘sending specific content for each type of user and activity, it is necessary a solution of Social Media Marketing Automation (better if integrated with or already included in a platform for marketing automation). In practice we need software capable of “listening” and intercepting certain situations or actions, and automatically responding to people who have performed them.

A further brake (perhaps the most difficult to remove) to the adoption of automation in the context of interactions through social media, is linked to the fact that those who deal with the image of the company on social networks, often engages to create and grow relationships thanks to their presence within a given virtual community made up of people.

The point is not that we need to replace the human presence with a more or less intelligent mechanism, but simply send as much as possible personalized and contextual stimuli where it makes sense – thanks to the fact that this same mechanism is able to automatically identify the situation in where this proposal may meet an interest or be relevant and relevant.

The parallel with email marketing

To understand what it refers to, the evolution of email marketing techniques is an excellent example – given that this channel was undoubtedly the one that paved the way for personalized one-to-one marketing. On the other hand, today no marketer invests his time in manually sending individual emails; on the contrary, thanks to the information we have available on the audience, we all use automation to communicate effectively and contextualised with our interlocutors.

Safeway (a US retail food company) creates tailor-made emails for its customers based on their preferences and buying habits; this program has proved to be extremely effective, to the point of exceeding the average of its market sector in terms of open messages, read and actively used (clicks made) by the recipients – something that has also contributed to the loyalty of consumers and increase in turnover.

Automation and social media

At this point, someone might argue that automation can be fine for email campaigns, but that social media management software is not yet mature enough – yet we need to distinguish between social interaction through a chat bot (an automatism that uses artificial intelligence tools) and the simple reaction to an event.

In fact, if we consider the mechanisms that allow you to react automatically to the occurrence of a certain condition, the tools for automation of marketing on social media have evolved at least as much as those for email marketing, since they can segment users based on numerous parameters and send them the most suitable contents in real time; in particular, all this is possible thanks to the definition and implementation of a complex system of rules that provide for the assignment of scores according to the activities of the contacts and the relative frequency – regardless of the local language and their geographical distribution.

Indeed, it is possible to integrate email marketing and social media marketing to share content between the two channels and make the communication more consistent and able to engage the audience, as well as to increase conversions.

Among the companies that have successfully adopted social media marketing is Marriott (a well-known hotel chain), which uses this channel for promotional activities – for example by offering points in the framework of special loyalty programs to those who, among its customers, mention the brand.

Be more strategic

As for the perplexities related to automation and the consequent lack of that particular human touch that it inevitably determines, it is worth making some further consideration regarding the evolution of email marketing.

The automation (not just of the email that, let’s remember, was born around the concept of sales funnel, of buyer’s journey and of lead nurturing) has allowed marketers to become more and more strategic in the organization thanks to their contribution to the business growth. In fact, email automation, based on a research by Data & Marketing Association, is used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies; moreover, according to the same source, more than half of the respondents said that investments in the e-mail channel will continue to grow.

In other words, nobody denies the advantages deriving from the automation of email campaigns and nobody has the slightest intention of eliminating this channel from the so-called “marketing mix”.
Similarly, social media automation has the ability to make the contribution of those who deal with marketing communication on social networking platforms increasingly strategic for companies: automation, in fact, not only helps to respond in real time and on a large scale scale to the online activities of the followers of companies, but also allows collecting valuable information on consumers, which improves the processes and strategies of marketing communication and encourages greater involvement and stronger loyalty from potential and actual customers.

Traditional and automated communication

Exactly as for e-mails, also for the automation of interactions through social media, it is not a question of extending the terms of the problem through an “all or nothing” approach: marketers, of course, always have the possibility to communicate in a personal and immediate with the public when this is appropriate, and those who deal specifically with social media marketing, can very well intervene in the virtual community and moderate discussions, express opinions or interact directly with people. The difference between the totally manual approach and the (also) automated approach lies in the ability to invest more time and resources on strategic activities, reserving individual interpersonal communications to instances where this type of relationship makes sense in terms of corporate strategy.

Currently, only 5% of social media marketer work is automated; however, the automation of this channel, which is increasingly strategic, has both the ability to increase the involvement of the public on a large scale, and to offer to those involved in marketing precious indications to optimize and refine their efforts.

More and more companies are introducing automation as an evolution of social media marketing, discovering that this approach offers important advantages in the ability to build relationships with customers and is able to produce a positive impact on the business.