Understanding the Use of Social Media in Branding

Understanding the Use of Social Media in Branding

Posted by: Rahul Vyas | Posted on: May 9th, 2014

While it is indisputable that social media plays an important role in branding, disputes do arise about the actual role of social media in brand marketing and how social media should be utilized to build, enhance, or reinforce a brand.

Under-utilization or improper utilization of social media channels can have a backlash on a brand, either in the form of aggrieved customer outbursts going public and viral, or in the form of wasteful expenditure devoid of any meaningful return on investment. And of course, there is a third case scenario – where you lose your competitive edge by failing to market your brand through social media as well as your competitors are able to market themselves.

Purposes for which you can use Social Media for Branding

We often find businesses engaging in social media interactions without entirely being sure of the purposes for which they are undertaking branding exercises. Social media engagement is sometimes thought of as a substitute for the work of the customer relationship department – but it is not so. While you might use social media for influencing customers, direct engagement with customers on social media can often backfire – it is better to divert issues to the customer service department.

Over time, however, Social Media has Successfully Served a few Branding Purposes More Than Others. These include:

  •  Generating leads and engaging potential customers
    •    Creating brand awareness and telling the story of the brand
    •    Reinforcing brand awareness and the brand’s value proposition
    •    Identifying and building lists of existent and potential customers
    •    Managing consumer ratings and reviews by fair means
    •    Using social media for word-of-mouth campaigns

Key Characteristics of Social Media Messages for Branding

For branding purposes, it is essential that the messages put forth by a brand on social media must engage readers, and move them to do something. In social media terms this “something” may involve “likes” as on Facebook, or “retweets” as on Twitter, or sharing across other social media platforms. Some of these social media signals can be artificially generated to suggest others to take action – but the flow of action has to come from social media users, and is useless if artificially controlled beyond a minimal initial suggestion.

To work properly for branding purposes, social media messages sent out by businesses should have one or more of the following key characteristics:

  •  They Must Be Brief – people do not have much time, and also the messages are made brief by the nature of the social media platforms themselves
    •    They Must Draw Attention – this is obvious because no one is going to spend time unless it the message is catchy
    •    They should subtly urge the reader to react or give his or her own opinion on the matter
    •    They Should Be Positive Mostly – as people love to read and share good news. On a note of caution, here there must be a balance – businesses need to keep in mind that negative headlines are more attention grabbing, but positive messages get more shares
    •    They must be useful, and somehow the information should provide knowledge the possession of which makes people feel smarter
    •    They Must Be Brand and Time Relevant – people are interested in news
    •    They must tell good stories, possibly involving drama and human values
    •    They must engage and help people to save money, for instance, by way of coupons, discounts, etc.

How do Social Media users React with a Brand?

It is essential for brand presence on social media to be carefully monitored. The reason is that for each social media user directly engaging with company channels on social media, there are thousands who prefer to observe things, but do not choose to participate.

According to a social media report in 2012 by Nielsen and NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, 60 percent of consumers researching products learn about specific brands and businesses through social networking sites. Active social media users check online product reviews and a large percentage of them create their own reviews. So, consumer generated product ratings have a big role to play in the development of a brand.

A big part of reviews generated on social media by social media users are usually negative, as “trying to protect others from a bad product or service” seems to be a driving force behind review creators. So, social media engagement in this area is required for protecting brands.

However, on the other side – a great number of social media users become advocates for a brand when they find a good service or product and research shows that more than 50% of social media users actively follow one brand or another. Here the driving force seems to be to provide recognition for good service, though many follow brands to learn of discounts.

So, all things taken into count, keeping aside a few that cannot be controlled, social media management and social media engagement is a part of branding that you can no more avoid if you are in business. Even if you, do not create company profiles for your business on social media – someone out there will be talking about you, and you either need to assuage negative talk or bolster what you find positive. That is, if brand reputation and goodwill matters to you as much as over-the-counter sales.

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