4 Important Ways to Make Social Media Work for Your Brand

The world’s best brands know that social media has massive potential to help increase reach, share brand messaging and attract qualified leads.

 In fact, according to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites. And according to Social Media Examiner, 97% of brands are currently participating in social media.

Here are four important ways to make social media work the best for your company and brand.

Choose Social Channels Based on Your Brand's Demographic

We Are Social, a global digital media agency, has been compiling social media statistics and demographics for the past several years. Its most recent survey reported that Canada has the highest social media network penetration in the World. 82% of Canadians use a social network by comparison to 75% of Americans.

This research also illustrates who makes up the user bases for five major social networks. Understanding these consumer usage trends is important so you can invest in the most relevant outlet for your brand.

In general, B2B companies have a unique opportunity to succeed on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not just for HR professionals and job seekers, it's a robust networking platform that is great for sales professionals and B2B brands.

Meanwhile, Facebook demographics are shifting. The early adopters (young people) are moving away from Facebook, and the older demographic is becoming more active.

Twitter is a great way to reach the media and other thought leaders. If reaching key media outlets is a part of your overall communications goals, then building your Twitter presence is a worthwhile effort.

Pinterest continues to be a great way to reach women and drive them to your website, but you must have visual, useful content in order to reap the greatest rewards.

Instagram is the favorite social channel for Millennials, or the youngest demographic of consumers. As the newest channel, brands are still experimenting with how to make the best use of this photo-sharing outlet.

Be Sure to Carefully Manage Your Social Media Team

Social media content must always be on-message and reflective of your company's culture. Think of social media content as you would a press release, ad or any other public-facing representation of the brand and company.

Consider having your human resource team lead the way towards better utilization of social media in the workplace. Many companies have a clear written policy on social media use in the company. Make sure there is an official social media use policy included in your employee handbooks. This should include when social networking is allowed and who may represent the company, as well as disciplinary action for wrongful use of social media (such as stalking, bad mouthing the company).
There should only be a select few people managing the corporate social media accounts at one time. The core should be based on the executive team with guidance from communications, HR and marketing.

Train Social Media Managers to Handle Negative Comments

Because social media is a public forum, it's important to expect consumers to respond with negative comments from time to time.

It is critical to deal with complaints and comments promptly and professionally. Social networks can be a platform for customers and employees to provide feedback. Make sure this is being monitored to avoid a PR nightmare.

For example, Air Canada is a brand that is constantly dealing with negative consumer feedback on Twitter and other social channels, particularly in conjunction with their new Rouge brand. The company has been accused of removing negative comments from their Facebook page and not responding at all to negative Tweets.

If your brand is on social media, it's critical to respond to as many consumer comments as you possibly can. If time won't allow complete and thoughtful response, it's better not to be on social media at all.

Involve Social Media Managers in Comprehensive Planning Discussions

The best way to be consistent in your social media marketing is to have a strategy in place. This will include, among other elements, guidance about how and when your company will use social media.

It's important to establish a smart strategy together as a team. When planning, consider developing guidelines for how to respond to negative comments, a frequently asked questions document for internal reference, build a repository of brand-related images staff can use on social channels, and finally create a social media posting schedule for each individual channel.

When done right, social media has proven to be one of the most effective, and inexpensive, marketing tools available to brands today. In 2014, Canada's WestJet airline experienced a boost to their brand via the "Christmas Miracle" campaign. The brand was viewed as authentic in a meaningful way by supporting a community in the Dominican Republic that makes this true spirit of giving spot a winner. You can view it here or read about the campaign.

Social media is an important and powerful marketing channel for brands today, but it's important to take the time up front to think about these four things to ensure long-term social media success for your company.

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