Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing for eCommerce Businesses

Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing for eCommerce Businesses

One of the most common answers I hear to the question of “how do I grow sales for my eCommerce business” is: social media. But what does that mean? Everyone’s “doing social media,” but are they doing it correctly, and more importantly, does it work for your business?

By “doing social media,” people generally mean: using social media platforms to achieve an objective in your business. For most businesses that objective will be either raising brand awareness or achieving sales. However, there are other objectives such as community engagement, providing customer service, and to humanize your brand.

In recent years, the volume of businesses using Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms has risen greatly. However, a lot of businesses are only on these networks because it’s the “in thing.” It’s really important to evaluate if social media is an appropriate marketing channel for your business, so consider these Pros and Cons.

Pros of Social Media for eCommerce Businesses

There must be a reason why so many people are doing it, right?

  • People look online before purchasing products. In fact, 67% of consumers look at online reviews before making a purchase. This means, if you’re selling a product and can get good consumer buzz in social media, it’s likely that potential customers will see that info. Therefore, social can be great for brand awareness and customer acquisition.
  • Social media is big business, and growing. Over 71% of businesses are planning to increase their social media budget for 2017. Establishing yourself now will help you to get an edge before your competitors do.
  • Data, lots of it. Over 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years. Listening to and analyzing social media can provide you with insights into your industry, customers demographics and how demand is evolving.
  • Build relationships. Social media offers you the opportunity to build a relationship with your customers to increase customer lifetime value and acquire more potential customers. Additionally, these relationships help you to work on product development, when you get feedback from your customers (which you can also do via social media!).
  • Social media influencers are a thing. Connecting your brand with top influencers in your industry can do great things for your business; you get to “borrow” their audience every time they mention your brand. A 2015 study found that marketers get $9.60 in earned media for every $1 spent in influence marketing – a very good investment.

Cons of Social Media for eCommerce Businesses

However, there can be problems with using social media…

  • Difficult to quantify. For enterprise businesses, this may be easier, but for small businesses it may be difficult to effectively quantify what kind of return on investment you’re achieving with social media. Particularly when you goal is community engagement or other, less tangible, objectives.
  • Time-consuming. Coming up with ideas, creating the relevant imagery, and posting to different social media platforms can be a difficult task. While tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer can streamline the process, it can still be a time-consuming activity.
  • Difficult to do well. There are tens of thousands of business currently trying to grow sales using social media and frankly, a large portion of them aren’t achieving their objectives. As such, becoming proficient with effective social media usage often requires a time and resource investment initially.

One last consideration: it’s important to understand if your customers are actually active users of social media, and if so, what platforms. A fashion brand oriented towards younger consumers may have best success on Instagram, while a gardening line aimed at homeowners may see more engagement on Facebook.

Hopefully, these pros and cons have created some food for thought in your decision to use social media. I’d love to hear if they’ve helped you form your opinion about how to use social media in your own eCommerce business.

About the Author: Daniel runs marketing for Shoprocket.co in London, a service which enables any website, blog or Facebook Page to add Ecommerce in minutes. Follow Shoprocket on Twitter @shop_rocket.

Why Businesses Should Care About Facebook Featured Photos

facebook featured photos

If you’ve been paying attention to your personal Facebook account in recent weeks, you’ve probably noticed a new feature: Facebook featured photos. Although this addition is currently available for personal profiles only, it’s worthwhile for businesses to pay attention to it, as there’s always a chance it might migrate over to business pages one day.

Before we look at this feature in more detail, here’s a reminder of why it’s important for businesses that value social media to pay attention to Facebook. Not only did it have 1.59 billion monthly active users by the end of 2015 (with 1.44 billion using mobile devices) but its audience is global, with 83.6% of users outside the US and Canada.

Photos are among the most popular content, representing 54% of all posts. That’s why it’s unsurprising that Facebook has introduced this new feature.

How to Add Featured Photos to Your Facebook Profile

Here’s how you add featured photos to your personal profile:

  1. Visit your Facebook profile and look for the “add featured photos” link just below your profile photograph. It’s in the same box that allows you to add a short intro to your profile.
  2. Click it and you will get the option to add up to five photos from among the photos you have already uploaded.
  3. Select the ones you want and save and they will appear on your profile, with two larger photos at the top and three smaller ones at the bottom.

If you’re not happy with your choice of photos, just upload new ones to expand your selection. And if you add a Facebook featured photo, then change your mind, you can remove it like this:

  1. Hover over the featured photos block and click the pen icon that appears in the top right.
  2. Hover over the photo you want to remove and click or top the X that appears in the top right hand corner.
  3. Save, or click the image icon to add a new photo, then save.

Facebook featured photos are public, so it’s important to choose your photos carefully. It’s also a good idea to include a description or some kind of context for the photos to raise interest and perhaps stimulate some conversation.

Benefits of Facebook Featured Photos

As mentioned earlier, this feature is currently only available for personal profiles, but many people use their personal profiles to connect with clients either directly, or through participation in Facebook groups, so you won’t want to ignore the marketing potential of using featured photos on Facebook.

These photos can help people understand your personality and business. On your individual Facebook profile, you could choose to feature photos showing:

  • Your business location
  • Your branding
  • Your interests
  • A current deal or offer (it remains to be seen whether Facebook will allow this or will continue to steer people down to the “pay to play” route)

In other words, you can use featured photos to showcase whatever you think is most important to your business. It’s a way to pique people’s interest before they begin to interact with you and help them decide whether they want to connect or do business with you.

Other New Facebook Features

While you’re at it, consider updating the intro section that has replaced the old “about” section. Hover over the box till you see the pencil icon and enter your own text. This is another way to put your photos into context.

Aside from the intro and featured photos, Facebook has added another new feature that business page owners should pay attention to: the ability to use a seven second introductory video instead of your static profile photo. With video being such a huge part of content marketing, this would be another excellent business feature.

Facebook already offers the business benefit of exposure to a huge and engaged global audience. Today, these new features extend your reach from your personal profile, but in the future, these or similar profile could increase the benefits you can gain from your business page. Are you using Facebook featured photos yet? What has your experience been?

Stay informed about the latest in social media with our email updates: fresh content, delivered weekly. Subscribe now!

starting with facebook

5 Things You Should Know About Facebook

starting with facebook

We use social media sites every day, but how much do we really understand about how to use them effectively in marketing? To help you, Crackerjack Marketing is creating a series of posts to guide you, and naturally, we’re starting with Facebook.

1. User Numbers are Huge

If you’re serious about social media, you can’t ignore Facebook. With 1.5 billion users as of the third quarter of 2015, its user base is higher than the population of many small countries. That also applies to the number of monthly active Facebook users on mobile devices, most recently estimated at 1.3 billion.

Those numbers are the first reason why Facebook has to be part of your strategy, but there’s more. In the US alone, 62% of the population and 72% of adult internet users use the site. (Source: Pew Internet).

2. It’s a Global Network

Its popularity spans gender (though it’s more popular among women) and age bands. Although there are many other social networks for teens, the site has more teens using it daily than any other. Outside the US, Facebook has high concentrations of users in India and Brazil. In fact, 86% of its users are outside the US, making it a useful site for reaching international users with social content.

Most of your customers are probably on Facebook, which offers multiple ways to reach them, including groups and business pages: there are now more than 40 million of those on the site.

3. It’s Conversational

Many people wonder whether it makes more sense to have a Facebook page, a personal profile or a group. Here’s the skinny: you need a personal profile to set up a page or a group but after that you can choose whichever makes most sense for the interaction you want with your customers.

  • An open group is public, which enables most people to find you.
  • A closed group is great for creating that sense of exclusivity.
  • A secret group ensures that everything is private and nobody can find the group.

Groups are great for discussion, but you can also have useful conversations via a Facebook page. A business page that shares the same social media branding as your other sites will enhance your image across the web. Beware of digital sharecropping, though. Facebook pages can be excellent ways to share content that you find interesting and to deliver customer service.

4. Images and Videos are the Best Content

When it comes to content, two formats that work well are photos and video. Recent data suggests that some 250 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook, and that number is rising by more than 200,000 every minute. Photos are always being shared and are among the most contagious content, especially if they help users and avoid the traps of being overly self-promotional or obscure.

Grammarly is a good example of how to do it right. The company focused on Facebook from the start and posted images with grammatical tips and in-jokes. At the time of writing Grammarly’s Facebook page had 5.8 million fans.

Turning to video, statistics from the top performing social brands show that videos get shared four times as much as other content and get more likes and comments too. A good tip is to upload your video directly to Facebook (even if you plan to post it on YouTube, too). Data from Search Engine Journal shows that native video reaches double the number of people with twice as many likes, three times as many shares and seven times as many comments as uploaded YouTube videos.

5. Sorry, You Have to Pay to Play

Video and images aside, the glory days of great engagement have gone for many brands. With Facebook needing to earn some money, engagement figures are down for many brands unless you pay. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot to get good results, but if you’re not prepared to spend, then focusing on excellent visual content can help make Facebook work for you.

What is your experience of Facebook? Contact the Crackerjack Marketing team for help with your Facebook marketing strategy.

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Digital Sharecropping

Why You Should Avoid Digital Sharecropping

 

Digital Sharecropping

Using social media is now a fact of life, but there’s one key mistake business owners have to avoid. If you have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or whatever social media is best for your business, that’s fantastic, but you must avoid the perils of digital sharecropping. What is it? It’s where you put your eggs in a social media basket and have no web presence of your own.

A lot of small business owners who are starting out ask whether, instead of a website, they can set up a Facebook page. I always tell them no. The thing is, you may spend hours creating the perfect Facebook profile, tricking out your timeline, and making sure that it reflects your branding and personality, but it doesn’t actually belong to you.

No-one ever reads the fine print, but take it from me – any time Facebook, Twitter or any social media site thinks you have contravened their terms of service, they can shut you down. And they do – and that’s definitely not good for your brand.

Getting Banned on Social Media

It’s also worth knowing that you don’t have to do anything to be shut down; they just have to think you have. Here are a couple of examples.

A few months ago, I tried to log into my own Twitter account to find that it had been limited because they thought the account had exhibited spamming behavior. That meant I could read my Twitter stream but couldn’t interact with it – no tweets, retweets, mentions or DMs.

I checked to see if someone had hacked the account (they hadn’t) or if I had sent any unexplained tweets or DMs (I hadn’t). I thought maybe the cause was one of my IFTTT sharing recipes, so I switched them off for a while.

I contacted Twitter and asked them to look at it again. When they did, they said that on reflection my account was OK and had just got caught up in one of their spam sweeps. No real harm done, in my case, as it was sorted out in just over a day. But if you were providing customer service on Twitter, then a one-day lockout could be a disaster.

This happens on Facebook too, and the shut down targets aren’t always because of questionable content. This Arizona couple got banned because Facebook took exception to their last name – Avatar.

Most social media sites ban first and ask questions later, leaving you to prove you’re not violating their TOS. And that’s the danger of digital sharecropping. If you’re building a presence on someone else’s virtual patch, then if you’re banned or shut down, even if it’s not your fault, you lose everything you have been working for. As Copyblogger points out, landlords are fickle.

A Better Social Media Strategy

So what’s the answer? The answer is to see social media for what it is: a necessary tool in your overall marketing strategy but not the place where you expend most of your energy. As we’ve said before, Facebook is not your website.

Instead, spend some time putting your own content on your own site. Sure, things happen to websites too, but if you’re all paid up with your domain name and hosting, then generally your piece of cyberspace belongs to you. And that’s a better foundation for your online business presence.

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twitter moments

Why Twitter’s New Moments Feature Matters to Brands

twitter moments
Did you notice something different over on Twitter recently? Twitter unrolled its new, and, quite possibly, most important feature called “Moments.” Moments takes what everyone is talking about and puts it into a tidy place for the user to find. Now we don’t have to jump in and get lost, mid-conversation. This is a great way to check out and interact with what’s going on on Twitter, before you dip your toes fully into the stream.

What EXACTLY is this “Moments”?

Essentially, Moments makes trending stories have a longer life. It yanks it from the rapids of the Twitter river and sticks some stuff into a calm little pond, where it waits patiently to be fished out. With the click of that neat little lightning bolt icon, a list of important highlights, along with live tweets, awaits. You’ll never have to wonder what’s happening on Twitter, ever again!

How does Moments work?

It’s quite simple, really. Well, no, it isn’t, but we’ll make it simple. We mentioned the lightning bolt icon already. You click it, which then brings you into the Moment app. What you see on that neat, magazine-like screen is a list of new and emerging stories that are popular in your network. If what’s going on doesn’t strike your fancy, you can click on “Sports” or “Entertainment” and catch up on what’s been going on over there.

How will it affect my own Twitter stream?

It’s supposed to affect your Twitter stream! Moments and your stream are new besties. They don’t go anywhere without the other. Moments tells Stream everything, and vice versa. Together, they are supposed to make a more robust, enriching, newsworthy experience. As Moments grows and learns how the user, well, uses Twitter, the content in Moments will be more individualized, tailoring itself to your own, personal likes.

How can Moments benefit brands?

Twitter is a cultural zeitgeist. As a brand on Twitter, you need to be aware – no, ahead – of the trends. Currently, we can stay on top of trends by staying really active on Twitter, checking out trending hashtags and using Twitter lists. Twitter’s new Moments feature now gives you another way to keep your finger on the pulse of the Twitter sphere.

As a brand, it’s not enough to settle for not being left behind the conversation, you want to be the leader. Imagine if your content was selected to be part of the curated collection!

At the moment, “Moments” (see what I did just there?) are only curated by a couple of Twitter partners but Twitter will be opening Moments up to more users in the future which, in turn, could present huge opportunities for creative thinking brands to set trends!

Twitter created a game-changer with Moments. Unlike some other features that Twitter has played around with in the past, this one is going to last a lot longer than…a moment.

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5 Tips for Brands Using Periscope

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Getting acquainted with Periscope and learning what it does was an important first step. Now, however, you have to figure out how to use this innovative new social media tool for your brand. Don’t worry. We have you covered with five tips brands can use to make the most of Periscope:

1. Promote

Promote your broadcast before, during, and after your event. The more you promote, the more people will actually view your broadcast, and even better, share it. Use all of your social media accounts to let your audience know what you have planned. Shout it from the rooftops while you’re live too, even if this means assigning someone else to promote or schedule posts/tweets in advance. And once your broadcast has ended, it would be a mistake to fall silent. Your broadcast will remain available for 24 hours, so make sure your audience members know they haven’t missed out, even if they couldn’t tune in when you were live.

2. Vary Content

There’s nothing worse than all promo, all the time. While you do want to promote your awesome products and services some of the time, you don’t want to turn your audience off by trying to sell your brand at every turn. Fortunately, Periscope lends itself to such varied content as educational videos, tutorials, FAQs, announcements, interviews, focus groups, and surveys as well. You can even use it to provide VIP access, customer support, and product demonstrations.

3. Engage

Just because it’s a different type of social media doesn’t mean all of the best practices you’ve learned fly out the window. Your attention-grabbing broadcast is a great start, but you still need to bring it home by engaging your audience. Post questions on Twitter to get your audience not only thinking about your content but also talking about it. Get involved in discussions about your broadcast and take the time to respond to comments.

4. Share Reviews

Without question, great reviews can work wonders for your brand. According to a study by Dimensional Research, a whopping 90 percent of purchase decisions are influenced by online reviews. Now, combine that with the appeal of not just video, but live video. Use Periscope to ask your customers for feedback and use it again to share live video reviews—good reviews, of course. You can’t lose!

5. Build Trust

Consumers are much more likely to buy from and return to brands they trust. Use Periscope to provide a new level of transparency by allowing your customers to see your face (or your employees’ faces) and listen to your voice as you answer questions about your brand and products. And as much as possible, keep it unscripted so that your message comes across as natural and genuine while showing off a bit of your personality.

Periscope isn’t just the latest hot thing. It’s a valuable tool for reaching your target audience, getting its attention, and boosting engagement. Use the above tips to incorporate Periscope into your brand’s marketing plans.

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5 Reasons Your Brand Should Be on Periscope

periscope

No brand can afford to rest on its laurels, thinking last year’s, last week’s or yesterday’s marketing is enough to keep its audience interested and engaged. You have to continually market, finding new ways to gain exposure and get the right people paying attention. One exciting new way to do that is with Periscope.

What is Periscope?

In February 2015, Twitter made a bold move by purchasing a live video streaming mobile app called Periscope. Twitter launched the app in late March, and it’s been hot, hot, hot ever since. It’s still a fairly new tool, which lends quite a bit to its hotness, and it’s an excellent way to gain more exposure for your brand. Fresh out of the gate, Periscope had a cool million users just 10 days post launch. By August, it boasted 10 million active users. And guess what else? It’s still growing.

Here’s why you need it for your brand:

1. You Can Reach Your Audience Live

Periscope allows you to use your mobile device to do something fabulous—broadcast live. This means you can allow your audience to join your broadcast, tuning in to your live streaming video and audio from virtually anywhere. And with Periscope, you aren’t limited to just seconds in which to get your message across. You can not only say everything you need to say, but also give your audience a much better experience.

2. Your Audience Can View It Now and Later

Your audience can view your broadcast message the moment you make it and up to 24 hours later, replaying it and commenting as often as desired. It’s real-time marketing at its best. And as if that’s not enough, you also get access to all kinds of useful data, providing insight into such things as how many viewers watched your broadcast and for how long.

3. Amazing Communication Options

You’ve probably heard a great deal about FaceTime, and maybe you’ve even used it to communicate one-on-one with your friends and family members. Periscope allows you to communicate directly with a potentially huge audience. It’s taken an intimate type of communication and transformed it so you can communicate with everyone.

4. It’s Social

Social media is a critical part of any marketing plan. With nearly 80 percent of Internet users considering social media content when making purchasing decisions, your brand needs to be where your audience gets social. Periscope provides yet another social avenue for reaching your audience and not only makes social sharing through Twitter simple and easy but also helps stimulate discussions and encourage feedback. It even includes location and notification features.

5. Access to More of Your Target Audience

You know the deal. If a large percentage of your audience is on a particular social media platform, you want to be there too. If your audience goes looking and only finds your competition, don’t expect that to help your bottom line. In fact, Periscope could even provide access to a demographic you haven’t reached before. Keep in mind, too, that Periscope is a new, innovative tool. Those who aren’t there now will likely use it later as more and more people learn what it can do and how to use it.

As a brand, you have to keep up with marketing trends in order to effectively reach your audience. By doing so, you demonstrate that you care about communicating with your audience while dramatically increasing your exposure. Periscope is a fantastic way to do just that.

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instagram ideas for brands

Instagram Content Ideas for Brands

instagram ideas for brands

Visual content is king, and Instagram is its court. More than any other social media platform, Instagram provides your audience with a way to visually connect with your brand, taking a virtual look inside your business. Of course, any social media platform is only as good as the content you post on it. To put Instagram to work for your business, post images that are not only creative, beautiful, inspirational, or fun but also accurate representations of your brand and the subject matter you find important. Above all, aim for fun and interesting, taking care to avoid obvious marketing.

Need some help figuring out what to post to reach your audience? Here are 10 Instagram content ideas you can use:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Photos: It may be the everyday grind to you, but your customers want to see what goes on behind the scenes. Show off a little here, giving your audience an insider’s look into how you do things.
  • Photos of Your Business Location: Your audience wants to see where you make the magic that consists of your products and service. Show off the best or most creative images of your business.
  • Photos of the Surrounding Community: The community you do business in can add quite a bit to your brand’s unique flavor. Show off parts of the community that mean something to you, beautiful spaces, and anything that is unique to your area.
  • Images of Events: People love photos of company events, parties, seminars, and the like. Just be sure you share the photos of people smiling and laughing. If it looks like a snooze fest, it’s not a good choice for social media.
  • Photos That Feature Key (and Photogenic) Employees: We all like to put a face to a name. Post attractive photos of your employees that demonstrate their winning personalities and show off their great smiles. Don’t be afraid to post images of them hard at work too. Your audience will enjoy seeing them in the act of producing your company’s products and services.
  • Fun Scenes From the Breakroom, Holiday Parties, and Interesting Employee Cubicles: Let your audience see you and your employees having a great time. These sorts of photos help your customers see you and your employees as real people, and they encourage a connection with your brand.
  • Photographs of Various Parts of the Manufacturing Process or Your Service in Action: Don’t we all want to know how things work? This is your chance to give your audience an insider’s look and help them feel more connected to your brand.
  • Images of Your Product in Use: Post photos of customers using your products. This can work as a visual recommendation, encouraging your audience to give them a try. Likewise, such photos may give your customers ideas on other ways to use your products.
  • Photos of Contest/Giveaway Prizes: A picture is worth a thousand words. When you post photos of contest/giveaway prizes, you generate excitement, stimulate your followers to enter for the chance to win, and encourage sharing.
  • Reposts of Fan-Generated Content: Fan-generated content can be an important part of your social marketing campaign, influencing your prospects’ purchasing decisions, driving engagement, and serving as a complement to your other marketing efforts.

Anyone can create an Instagram account. It takes effort to build a presence that increases exposure, engagement, and even sales. Use the above tips to not only reach your customers and contacts but also to connect with them.

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which social network

How to Decide Which Social Network is Right for Your Business

which social network

There are already more social networks than we know what to do with. In addition to those trying to fix social networking, like Ello, there are networks for almost every niche. So how do you pick the ones your business should spend time on.

Let’s be clear: it’s almost impossible to do several social networks well on your own. If you’re a small business without an individual or team dedicated to social media, you’ll find it hard to handle all the social media marketing tasks for every network. Unless you’re planning to hire a marketing agency you have to pick a place to start, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or another network.

Here are some of the questions to ask to help you make the decision.

1. What does the research tell you?

A good starting point is the demographics of each social media site. If you have a breakdown of the age, gender, education, income and interests for the different sites, you can pick the site or sites where the profile best matches your own customer personas. (Google Analytics includes demographic data in its reporting, so it’s easy to check for similarities.) You can probably guess that if you’re marketing to business, LinkedIn is a good place to start, and if you are trying to attract teens, then Snapchat is a better bet for your marketing focus. Check out research reports like this one from Pew Internet and this recent roundup from Sprout Social to help you decide.

2. Where are your customers?

After doing the research, see if it matches where your customers are. You’re probably already collecting data to help with this. Use analytics software to see where people were before they came to your site or blog, and to check out their path through your site.

Pay particular attention to the social media reports which show which social sites bring the most visitors to you and which social sites most of your visitors use to share your content. Sometimes the data might surprise you. For example, I discovered that people were sharing my content on Stumbleupon even though I didn’t have a button for it.

Add to your knowledge store by using a social media analytics tool to get detailed information on where your customers are. A dashboard aggregator like SumAll or Cyfe will help you to view this data across multiple platforms.

Between them, these should help you narrow down some social media starting points, but there’s another aspect to consider.

3. Where are your competitors?

You already know who your key competitors are, but do you know what they’re doing on social media? If you’re targeting the same customer base, then it’s helpful to know which social media sites they favor, who they are talking to (and who’s talking to them), what kind of engagement they are getting and how you can improve on that with your own social media strategy. Check out Swellpath’s guide to social media competitive analysis to help with this.

4. What kind of content do you have available?

If you already have content, then you could use that to determine where you’re going to make a social media splash. If you’re already creating appealing graphics, then Instagram could be good for you. And if you’re selling products to a mostly female demographic, putting product images on Pinterest is a good strategy. The research you did in steps 1 and 2 will help you match demographics, online presence and content for the best outcome.

Taking a Shortcut

Of course, if you want to take a shortcut and start with a single social media site, then that shortcut has to be Facebook. The Pew Internet research linked earlier shows that 71% of adults are active Facebook users. Sure, it might be difficult to advertise there, but if you want to be social and don’t mind a crowd, it’s a place where you can share videos, images, short updates, long updates, news – almost anything. No matter what you do in creating your social media strategy, you won’t escape the lure of the huge Facebook audience, so consider making that your starting point while you do your research and choose your next social media target.

Which social media site did you create a business presence on first?

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brand voice

Finding Your Brand Voice

brand voice
This is an oldie but goodie and it’s still as useful today as it was when I wrote it for Social Media Explorer. This construct is being referenced by social media smarties everywhere, including Buffer and Kevan Lee writing for Fast Company.

Are you using this in your company? Please tweet me @stephanies if you are!

Oscar winner Colin Firth could be the perfect person to ask about finding his voice – his virtuoso portrayal of a stuttering King George in The King’s Speech so cogently highlighted the frustrations of not having a clear way to communicate with a community. Some brands are equally tongue-tied, unclear about what the brand should sound like, leaving them either silent in social media or sounding haphazard and unrehearsed.

Get over your brand speech impediments by considering the following concepts, all of which play an important role in a well-rounded social media brand voice.

Character/Persona

This is the starting point for the development or furthering of your brand voice: Who does your brand sound like? In order to determine this, you may need to first determine who your customers are, so you can assume a persona for the brand that will resonate with your primary target audience. If you have multiple audiences you may need to have a more flexible brand voice, or you may determine that you need multiple social media channels to reach different audiences. Ideally you will be able to determine character attributes (see diagram) which meet the needs of the majority of your customers or users. If you’re a non-profit which raises awareness of childhood diseases, your character might be a gentle parental type. If you’re a software tools company, you might want to be a bit geeky, just right for the Star Trek crowd.

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Tone

Tone is the underlying vibe that emanates from your brand’s communications. This is where you establish your credibility; place your brand in the past, present or future; and subtly alert fans and followers whether your brand is going to be wide-open or a bit more buttoned up. Be a showoff if your character is something like a street-savvy hip hop artist, but know that humble usually goes farther in generating customer loyalty. Clinical or scientific could be good for a very specific B2B entity or professional services organization.

Language

Although your brand may be the expert in its field, coming off sounding like you’re smarter than your customers could turn people off pretty quickly. Establishing appropriate brand language will give you a foundation for the types of words, phrases and jargon to be used in social media communications. Want to sound very exclusive? Use insider language and acronyms. Want to sound hip? Stay up-to-date on the latest slang. But be careful – if you make a misstep in slang it’ll look like you’re trying too hard.

Purpose

In the end, why are you here? Your brand voice in social media can help customers understand what you want to do with and for them. Are you working to educate your user base? Do you want to delight them, and get them to visit your store or website just because they’re amused by what you’re writing? And even if you do want to sell stuff, what can you give people to help them become engaged by your brand?

Once you’ve brainstormed around these four brand voice attributes, develop a roadmap for your brand’s voice which you can share with everyone who is involved in writing for, or speaking on behalf of, your brand in social media. This roadmap can be a simple as a one-sheeter with your brand voice attributes in writing, or you can craft some examples which front-line engagers can emulate. Add buzzwords – the words which describe your brand and which you want to have used when appropriate; for example, if you’re Disney, your buzzwords are something like: kingdom, magic, magical, family, experience, fun. Then add some “dos and don’ts” guidelines for your engagers so they can get a feel for the types of language and content you expect them to create.

social-media_brand_voice_example

Your brand voice in social media will evolve over time. It would be great to think about undertaking a brand voice development exercise before you open a new Twitter account – but if you’ve already been engaging in social media and feel like your voice needs refinement, take the time to work on it now. Make subtle changes and your fans and followers probably won’t even notice that there was a change – but if you can more closely match your voice to their needs, you may attract even more customers and develop greater engagement and loyalty than you ever have before.

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