There’s a lot of noise in the digital advertising space. We’re getting paid ads, videos, memes, friends’ posts, subscriptions, strangers’ rants, news items, and hundreds of pieces of content thrown at us daily online. It’s overwhelming and hard to pay attention. How is a brand supposed to keep up?
In the age where there’s too much choice, it means that brands must work to reach their audience in a more meaningful way if they want to make a lasting impression with their target market. How can brands do this? By going back to the roots of human needs and the reason we’re all online in the first place: to feel connected.
Connecting with your audience emotionally will be the game changer for brands moving forward. While many companies get this and are making strides when it comes to connecting with their audience, other big brands are still stuck in the traditional age of marketing – advertising, blasting customers, and hoping the throngs of customers will come. What really makes companies stand out in an overpopulated digital market is marketing that aims to talk with your audience vs. talking at your audience.
With vs. at
When I think of my favorite brands, the ones I have a real emotional connection with, a few come to mind. I spent a year travelling through South East Asia and Europe and when I landed, I couldn’t wait to get my Canadian hands on a Tim Horton’s steeped tea.
While en route to Canada, I tweeted my excitement, and Tim Horton’s quickly replied: “Aww…Samie! Where have you been for such a long time? We’re waiting for you! ;)” Cue my brand loyalty skyrocketing. While I always enjoyed the tea, I now put up with long lines in-store, sing the praises of why I love their tea to all my friends, and was among the first to try their new app. I became the ideal, loyal customer and early adopter.
A few months later, my girlfriend and I posted a selfie drinking our favorite vanilla matcha from David’s Tea (can you tell I like tea?), and sure enough the brand replied: “#Selftea game too strong!” The tweet left us in giggles as we drank our tea, feeling as if we just interacted with another friend online, rather than a brand. It enhanced our experience together, and therefore enhanced our feelings towards David’s Tea.
The thing is, it doesn’t take much to create these interactions online for your audience. All you need is a kickass social media manager and a willingness to relax on the corporate-ness of your brand voice. That’s it. You need one human dedicated to replying to loyal customers, slowly building relationships and making everyone feel like they’re part of the brand plus you need to push the boundaries of brand voice.
The value of interaction
Big brands need to relax. It’s easy to feel like brand personas need to be protected, with posts going through approval after approval before going live. Other than making announcements, big brands often utilize social media as a customer support platform, rather than an engagement platform. But, what if we instead let our brands become human online?
“Customers who engage with companies over social media are more loyal, and spent up to 40% more with those companies than other customers,” according to a study by Bain & Company. Think of the companies leading the way, and look at their activity on social media. The Nike Run Club is a great example of how Nike reaches their audience by interacting with them, not talking at them.
Running shoes are a saturated market, but most people turn to Nike even though they don’t run because Nike is makes shoes personal. I know that if I buy a pair of Nikes, I’m part of something. I have a pair of Nikes, by the way, and I do not run. But, I like feeling like I’m a part of a social club dedicated to fitness every time I wear my shoes.
This social connectedness is how brands are going to differentiate themselves from their competition. I preach this ideology over and over again, but it continues to ring true: People want to buy from a brand they trust and feel good about. Social media is a quick win to build that trust and relationship.
Challenge your brand to run free:
I challenge companies to connect with their audience on a social level. Work through your brand voice and persona, and brainstorm what your brand is going to sound like as an online personality (rather than, well… a brand). Make sure you have the right talent behind the keyboard. Having the right social media manager is make-or-break. You want to trust the people you have working your social media channels, because in order to succeed, they need the freedom to make judgement calls.
Relax on the approval loop
To make your brand human, it can’t be calculated, planned, and go through 10 executive approvals. It can’t be structured, or else it’s not going to resonate with your audience. People want real. They want to talk to brands like they talk to their friends. So, let go and trust the talent you’ve hired to give life to your brand and social channels. Once you hire the right person, sit back and see where they lead your brand.
Know your audience
Then, really make sure you have your target market defined. You can’t be all things to all people (marketing segmentation 101!), so hash out who you are truly trying to connect with. Talk to those customers! Understand your different customer personas by segment, and have the brand voice and rules of engagement defined from there.
Hire the right talent for the job
This process should be simple, given you have the right talent hired in step one. Your social media manager will do their quick research shooting off a reply to someone, quickly taking a peek to see who the customer is and how they like to talk, so your brand can reply in the appropriate way.
Let your brand be a real voice, not just an announcement system. Let your customers truly connect.
What are some of your favorite brands to interact with on social media? Share your experiences!