To stay golden means to be true to yourself. Telling a brand story successfully via social media requires just that, and with a bit of ‘brand focus’ you can get to the essence of your story. You will then be able to hone in on the channels that matter to your brand audiences by delivering information that is at least one of three things: unique, interesting, or useful. Also, please don't forget the details.
One question we get asked a lot is "How do I get more followers and grow my social media presence?" What the real question should always be is: How do you tell your story, attract the right attention, and create an audience who cares? My answer? Brand focus. Find that thing that fundamentally defines your brand. Don't worry it's there... When you find it—dig in.
In a time when technology inundates us daily with constant new trends and innovation, it's so easy to lose focus and get lured into chasing after every bright, shiny ball that pops up in our feeds (clickbait). The best storytellers for a brand are the people who work inside of it and shape it every day. Unfortunately, most of the time those people are too busy with every day tasks to post to Instagram or tweet. Even the most hardworking of squads on your social and digital strategy does not necessarily guarantee success, especially if there is not a focused, strategic framework behind it.
Imagine having a stranger pick out your outfit, drag you to a party where you don't know a single person, and then speak for you. A brand with a poorly-focused social presence is a lot like that. Like most establishments where shirt and shoes are required, a well-thought out, consistent and quality message from your brand is required. We are talking strategy at the highest level, back it way up folks, and focus before you even think about getting into your posting schedules, content creation and data collecting.
A focused brand story strategy can answer these questions:
- What is our core-defined positioning that needs to be inherent through all messaging?
- What exactly do we do, and what are our ideal consumers doing right now? Not last year, or even last week.
- What is our purpose? What do we care about? And no, your answer can't be "to make money," everyone wants to do that.
- How can we keep it simple? Being concise is not easy, but most times short and to-the-point delivers a big impact. Take it back to the basics of your brand.
- Are we being genuine? Consumers can spot a phony a mile away.
Years ago Bill Gates declared that "Content is king" and it has been imbedded in my brain. Best practices for social tactics will say "You need XXX words for SEO, post XX many times a day with XX many hashtags, and send out your emails at XX:XX." These metrics are largely figured out by tracking audience behavior. But, what good is audience insight if you have the wrong audience, or if they are responding to the wrong message? None of your disciplined tactics will matter if you don't nail this one important point: Good content. Period. I'm going to tell you what that means and then we will talk about audience.
When developing good content, remember that every post should be these three things:
- Interesting: Who cares? No really, who is going to care? Why should they care? Would you care? If you can answer this "who cares" question, you can make interesting content that will engage your audience.
- Unique: Let's get real. Be honest, genuine, and transparent. There is no better you than you. You are building something that you and they (consumers) can believe in. I mean— let's face it, authenticity is hard to argue against. If you are working on building relationships and trust, don't be afraid to speak genuinely, and that will lead you to unique content every time.
- Useful: This is where you are really investing in the long-haul relationship with a consumer. "Utility marketing" may be a buzzword, but I believe in it 100%. The world of social media is where relationships are built. Intercepting the consumer at the moment of a non-commercial need, giving them something useful, building a trusted environment with the consumer, and remaining with them until they are ready to make a purchase are all elements that create an unshakeable link with your audience. Start building this content by being educational, informative, helpful and involved. Know what you are good at and share it ; whether it is a best-use tip or a 1,500 word blog, be useful.
Defining your audience should not come down to a hunch or a guess, no matter how good your instincts are. All you would ever need to know about your audience now lives online. The use of big data and online user experience studies makes it so much easier for brands to get real-time insight into what consumers are doing digitally, and to then focus on what’s important. This insight will also tell you what social channels you should be investing in. Being able to take a long view at audience behaviors and patterns is invaluable. The software and processes you use to manage the data will be up to your team, but it must be tracked, managed and organized.
As a creative manager, I have learned this very important point the hard way. What will finish out the story in the strongest and most consistent way are the details. Just like a perfect tie with a great suit, or that just-right lipstick color, the wrong detail can wreck a great story. Details I tend to obsess over are tone, emotion, color, style, and images. Make sure your brand guide defines those details for you, and have a great gate keeper to assure they are being guarded. You probably see hundreds of images a day, and consume thousands of words in a week online or through social media. Think back to last week— what was one thing that stood out to you, good or bad? What was the impression you were left with because of it? Details matter.
This is where you see it all come together. Strategy, great content, data, audience and the details. This is where the magic happens. When you nail all of these things, others start to feel part of your brand. You get to really connect with them, and in return they will support you and do a lot of work for you. Why? Because they like and maybe even (gasp) love you, and people naturally want to tell people about something they like.
Getting your audience to feel like they are part of the brand and having them choose you over the competition will always be the goal of what we do— no matter what channel or platform we do this on. A clearly defined brand story with content that communicates that story will position you to successfully own your social media presence and really connect with your best audience. Don't forget the famous words "Stay gold Ponyboy...stay gold," from the novel The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.