In 2018, I don’t need to convince you that your business needs a social media presence. From the smallest to the largest enterprises, it is now a customary expectation for consumers to be able to engage with a brand in ways that were once exclusive to peer-to-peer communication. That said, it’s easy to get carried away with the heft of “embodying your brand” on social media, thus losing its essence and your own in the process. So how does this happen?
Growing debates in engineering ethics firmly establish a separation between the physical individual and the virtual individual, arguing that the virtual self is an independent entity with its own development and moral code. That idea is ingrained more and more into the public understanding of individual online presence, as we develop a new sense of consciousness that is unique to the web. The same cannot be as easily said of our understanding of the virtual brand, though. In a world where the makers and influencers are increasingly prominent, it’s already difficult enough to establish a line between an individual and their brand, let alone establishing a line between the brand’s physical presence and its virtual presence.
Remember, Your Brand is Not You
There’s enough push out there for you to personalize your brand experience, and that’s all great! After all, branding is a process of humanization. Trust me, I love getting Starbucks’ birthday emails as much as the next person. But in the midst of personifying your brand, it’s incredibly easy to slip into unwanted territory when it comes to what’s expected of a service or product provider at the end of the day. What might be acceptable to you or to your team might not be the standard set for your brand. You want to build a sense of identity using a narrative for your brand – and that means taking more things into account when you’re catering to a wider audience. This includes keeping things in mind such as inclusivity (both in language and representation), and maintaining a diplomatic approach to all matters. An individual might acceptably uphold a variety of opinions, whereas a brand can very rarely survive bias in any way. Most of the time, this inadvertently occurs either due to groupthink or simply an individualistic approach to running a brand’s presence.
Keep Your Goals in Mind
Just having a social media presence might have been the standard to stand out way back when, but it’s never been more crucial to have a set of goals and expectations of your brand’s social media presence. That said, it’s easy to lose track of that one meeting you had at the beginning, and to get back into a cycle of posts simply to affirm your existence as a brand. So, keep reminding yourself, what is the purpose of this? Do you have a platform-specific sales goal? A fanbase growth goal? Whatever it may be, your approach to each action on social media should be a step in that direction. That doesn’t just make things better for you, but it averages your presence out to a put-together, firmly-run brand. So that increases your credibility as a brand.
Be the Audience
It might be an obvious statement. But this one actually requires you to negate the 1st point I made for a minute. Step out of the brand mentality, and think as a consumer. What brand stories on Instagram do you actually click through and watch? Which brands impressed you enough to earn a retweet on your personal Twitter account? Empathy is a key part of establishing that personal experience. Instead of talking at your audience (which, evidently, many brands do), talk to them. Engage in a way that would be amicable to you. This often means putting your heart into it, and letting the “strategic” element of your interactions take the side bench for a little bit.
At the end of the day, it’s a matter of balance. You want to find the sweet spot that sternly establishes your business as trustworthy, successful, and reliable whilst also affirming its identity, approachability, and a personal connection. It’s important to keep in mind that making that realization online is going to be a little different than conventional marketing.