How Social Branding Boosts Consumer Engagement #smlondon

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Social branding is only for established companies, right? The ones that already have a sizeable following and the know-how to create memorable activation campaigns. Whilst it’s true that bigger businesses command larger audiences, there’s no reason why your London startup can’t, at least, emulate some of this success. A business is only as good as its brand and creating one that resonates with the consumer is an achievable goal for any innovative enterprise.

Since social media is now endemic in web-based business, companies of all shapes and sizes finally have an incredible platform to bolster customer engagement. Eighty-one percent of SMEs use social media for marketing purposes, with 91% hoping to gain further awareness of their brand. Of course, access to a global database of consumers can work one of two ways. Whilst the marketplace suddenly becomes much more expansive, the fight for recognition also becomes a lot more fierce. In short, to stand out, you need to implement a marketing strategy – preferably a good one. Every new business has a USP and it is this innovation that should come across in all your social media activity.

Remembering the social element of social media:

Ironically, in a company’s bid to drive consumer engagement on social media, the social nature of the platform often gets overlooked. However, it’s the authentic relationship between a business and its customers that turns occasional visitors into brand advocates. It’s easy to churn out generic content, waiting for consumers to stop by and take the bait. But, in order to keep them on the hook, you need to appeal to something more than just their original interest. Internet users have the attention span of a goldfish and an even more infamous lack of patience. Keeping them engaged takes more than just regular social updates; it takes genuine connection and enthusiasm.

Most companies operate from behind a mask. They are a faceless organisation with no vested interest in their customers (besides the money in their pockets). Whilst cash may be what ultimately drives your business forward, flaunting this won’t drive active traffic to your site. For consumers to part with their earnings, they need to truly believe they are giving it to the right organisation.

So how exactly do you become the right organisation? Simple – you create a brand that is relatable, likeable and, above all, willing to prove this to its customers. On social media, this might come in the form of an informative reply to a Facebook message or a retweet of a consumer’s experience with your product. No matter your approach, the key is to build a brand that prides itself on consumer connectivity.

Creating a brand that answers back:

Great branding relies on transparency. A business that consistently looks for opportunities to strike up a conversation with its audience will quickly validate its authenticity. Whilst quality content may spark discussion, if you are unwilling to continue the process, you will end up creating an immediate stumbling block for yourself. Social branding never works if there is no B2C interaction. Consumers will only go so far out of their way to access your brand. At a certain point, they will give up and pursue a company that offers them a more intimate service.

The key is to always offer content that your audience will be comfortable engaging with. You don’t have to be controversial or avant-garde to cultivate conversation, just connected and up-to-date with your customers’ likes and needs. Two thirds of consumers say they are more likely to engage with a company that offers regular custom content. For this reason, shareable, engageable content that can be easily identified with your brand will always trump self-indulgent advertisements. The best testimonies come from those who have dealt with your brand before and have a platform to share their views with others.

Strategies for making the consumer a part of your brand:

Brand narratives:

Consumers are more likely to engage with a brand they can relate to. Even if you’re selling bespoke Himalayan furniture, something about your story must resonate with your audience. A convincing brand narrative, which is well-defined in all your social media activity, will make your company more accessible. For example, any effective London-based branding company will focus on defining the core values of your business and use these to leverage more meaningful engagement.

Once you understand why your customers have connected with your company, you’ll be in a much stronger position to attract new clientele. An intuitive brand narrative links all your content back to one, powerful message, providing continuity throughout all your posts, blogs and videos.

Brand activation:

With your brand narrative in place, you can begin to think more about the ways in which you push your content through social media. Brand activation strategies aren’t a new concept, but the rapid expansion of social networking has given them an entirely new dimension. With brand activation, you can use social marketing to actively engage the consumer. Some companies design tailored competitions, others encourage their customers to share their experiences. In the long run, it doesn’t matter which route you take, as long as it is the right fit for your audience.

Say the majority of your social media shares come from Instagram. This is probably because your company appeals to a younger demographic and is mostly visual-orientated. Rather than looking for ways to boost your audience in other areas, you can use brand activation to ensure this sector is engaging with your products.

Widening your customer pool is fine, but it won’t necessarily result in any more conversions. If you’re attracting the most interest from millennials, it’s millennials you should be focusing on. The only thing left to do is to turn that interest into actual sales. How do you do this? Through brand activation. Find out which products are selling best, offer an engagement campaign that gives your audience a chance to interact with these products, then ask them to share their experience on social media. Before you know it you’ll have a whole demographic using and recommending your brand, resulting in a huge return on your original investment.

Author: Joseph Hedges has spent over 30 years working in the design and branding industry. He currently heads the team at London-based branding company, Garden, functioning as both Creative Director and CEO. His multidisciplinary background enables him to join the dots of consumer experience and offer a three-dimensional experience to all his customers. An award-winning brand specialist, Joseph lectures at industry events and was a guest expert on Channel 4’s Super Shoppers.

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