“Social Media can provide a conversational extension to a B2B company’s nurturing programs. Social Media gives us the opportunity to humanize our communications and make our companies more approachable.”
Ardath Albee, CEO of marketinginteractions.com
Is social media good for branding your business? While most business owners will answer this with a “yes”, there is a good chance they don’t know the reasons why or how to do so correctly. Social media is a very valuable tool in branding and communications but to get the full benefit, you need to know how to use it effectively and properly.
It’s not enough just to make a Facebook or Twitter account or to create a LinkedIn profile and hope people will connect with you. If you’re using social media for branding, there is a process that needs to take place and within that process, communication will be a valuable step.
Through my experience in my own social media and that of building other brands, I have learned that personal connection and communication will build a brand faster than any other social media techniques you attempt. So all of your branding efforts need to be centered around these founding principals. Now how you do this will vary according to your niche, your audience and what your brand is about. If you want to be known as a friendly, connected brand that answers questions and attends to customer service needs via social media, then your branding should be focused with that in mind. Your colors and designs should be inviting, your layout should be easy to follow and the tone you use in your posts should invite others to respond and reply.
Visuals and text all come together within your content marketing and this should be consistent across your website, blog and social media accounts. Let’s explore how branding works in both your visuals and your communications to help you understand how this all affects your branding.
Branding with Your Visuals
When people see your logo or avatar online, do they instantly know it’s your company? Your visual ID is key to successful online branding. Your visuals (including your logo) should show your personality. It should be unique and stand out but also tell the viewer something about who and what your brand is. Are you serious? Are you fun? Are you approachable?
There is more to it other than making sure your social media accounts match- although that is a good start. Nearly every social site today allows customization so you want to be sure your banners, headers, backgrounds, cover photos and avatar photos all match or correspond in some way. This way when people see you on one site, they instantly know who you are. This will increase brand recognition and trust.
But you cannot stop there. It’s not enough just to match. Sure, you’ll look lovely on the outside but what more is there?
The word “brand” comes from the Old Norse brandr and it means “to burn”. Do your visuals burn an impression into the minds of those who visit your social media? Branding creates consistency, trust, credibility and familiarity. Visuals play a huge role in this. When you see a Pepsi, you’d know it was Pepsi even without any lettering or without anyone telling you what it was. Branding is much more than just a picture- it strikes something deep within us, creating an emotional response. It tells a story or paints a picture.
Too often, brands struggle with their visuals because they are not telling the right story. They target the wrong audience with poor visual branding and wonder why they don’t succeed. What story is your brand telling? Do your visuals represent this? Is it consistent across your social media platforms?
Branding through Communication
Branding is also about customer experiences. Think for a moment about a recent customer experience you have had as a consumer. Was it pleasant? If you had issues, were your issues resolved to your satisfaction?
Have you ever noticed that once a person has a negative experience with a brand, they tend to avoid that brand at all costs, whether the company was completely at fault or not? Here is an example:
My friend Suzy avoids Yahoo! at all costs. A few years ago, she had a Yahoo! email account that was hacked. She contacted the company and not only did they do nothing to help her, they also denied closing her hacked account that continued to send malicious mail to everyone on her contacts list. She was told company policy was that accounts could not be closed until they had been dormant for a certain period of time (which wasn’t going to happen to a hacked account being used for harm). The Yahoo! customer service rep she encountered could have done a better job of assisting her with the problem and she might have a completely different view on the company now but because of her experience, she distrusts Yahoo! The company brand, logo and name all conjure up negative feelings for her.
What would you feel if you were Suzy? Brand environmentalism means putting your brand in the best possible light whenever possible. This doesn’t mean burying or ignoring problems. Because problems will happen and when you don’t resolve them effectively, the Suzys of the world will do more damage to your brand when they speak out about their experiences. Proper communication can resolve these types of issues.
But there is more to branding through communication than just resolving issues. You need to leverage every opportunity to tell a compelling brand story. You need to remain consistent, truthful and positive in every communication you have with clients, customers and the general public. Social media is at the forefront of this communication. Before you tweet, think “Is this message accurately presenting my brand?”
Before you share that funny image on Facebook ask, “Is this consistent with the message I want my brand to convey?”
Let’s take a look at some steps to help you apply this branding knowledge to your own social media marketing campaign.
So all this may sound great but how do you make it work for your brand? Practical application is the most important step because if you can’t actually do it for yourself, what point is there to having the knowledge?
Here are some quick tips to applying this knowledge to your own brand:
- If you have not already, consult a professional about your visual branding and graphics. It’s not enough to just have a pretty logo. You need branding that speaks out about who and what you are. You need visuals that tell a story and incite the proper response with your target market. If your images aren’t currently doing that, it might be time to revisit your graphical branding.
- Create a social media marketing strategy with your target market in mind. Remember consistency in communication is essential to a successful strategy. If you’re unsure how to create a proper social strategy, there are multiple avenues to help. You could take an online course, hire a professional to help you create one that you can then manage yourself or hire a social media manager to handle it for you.
- Remember brand environmentalism with every post you make and share on social media. Someone is always watching, and you can never truly delete anything. True branding is about making your company’s story your customer’s story. What can you do to create this feeling in your target market? How can you involve your customers in your company? This is a continual process- not a one time experience.
Social media is not a sounding board for your advertising or a launch pad for your new product or service. Instead, it is a communication device. It’s a way to reach your customers right where they are – in their offices, in their homes, in the palms of their hands! People carry social media with them everywhere today. It’s personal. If they connect with your brand, don’t ruin that precious opportunity for a connection by spamming them with ads. Instead, reach out and connect with their world and their lives.
Then your brand will have a forever place in their minds and in their hearts.
Lisa Mason is a social media marketing manager, consultant and content developer. She helps brands maximize their earning potential and connect with their target market online. Her goal is to help you stop wasting your time on social media and finally feel social media satisfied!