As we begin the new year, many social media managers will be looking to refine and update their process, in order to tap into the latest trends and tools, and ensure that they’re maximizing their online marketing efforts.
To help with this, over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a selection of updated guides to help you break your strategy down, and re-align it with the latest tools, tips and systematic advancements.
Yes, that includes AI tools like ChatGPT, and where they might fit into your process.
But before all that, we need to start at the beginning – what is it that you want to communicate with your brand’s social media presence, and how are you building towards this mission with every post and every update?
Establishing a defined goal is key to an effective strategy, which is where this first post in our ‘Planning for 2023’ series comes in.
Here’s one method of breaking down your products and services into a more defined brand purpose, which can then guide your strategic approach moving forward.
Defining Your Brand ‘Why’
Now, this might sound a bit academic, or even cliché to some degree. But it really is important to understand why your brand exists, what purpose it aims to facilitate, and how it makes your customers’ lives better.
Once you know this, you can build your content strategy around that core goal, ensuring that everything you post has a purpose, and you’re not just randomly sharing the latest memes or quotes, in the hopes of hooking a few random customers in amongst the thrall.
That can work, in some ways, but building a deliberate, focused strategy means that your every update becomes another brick in the foundation of your brand, which then enables you to continually connect with people that are aligned with that mission. And those people are your target customers, the ones that will keep coming back, time and time again.
If you can get it right.
Here’s one method for breaking down your brand purpose, and building a strategy around a focus goal.
Back in 1996, Harvard University researchers James Collins and Jeremy Porras authored a series of papers on building your company’s vision, which were based on various interviews with marketing leaders, as well as their own experiences in working with major brands, including Nike and Disney. Their aim was to establish a core framework for branding, which would go beyond the basic market pitches, and dig deeper into purpose, and the role that each business plays in consumers’ lives.
As per Collins and Porras:
“Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remains fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.”
In other words, while trends and mediums may change, the brands that have best endured throughout the years, and established stronger connections with their customers, have a defined focus in place.
For example, here are the core purpose statements of some of the world’s biggest brands (from Collins and Porras’ ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’ report):
- Nike - To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors
- 3M - To solve unsolved problems innovatively
- Wal-Mart - To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people
- Walt Disney - To make people happy
You won’t necessarily read these in their marketing collateral – Nike, of course, has its ‘Just Do It’ catch cry, which is what most people would likely assume is their core statement. But these purpose points – these ‘north star’ type statements - are the result of honing in on why each business exists, not what they sell.
And once you know what each of their focal goals are, you can then recognize such in all of their marketing and outreach, whenever you see it.
So how you can you establish the same type of singular purpose statement for your brand?
One way of doing this is what Collins and Porras called ‘The Five Whys’.
You start with a statement, either ‘We make X products’ or ‘We provide X services’, then you ask ‘Why is that important?’ and you provide an answer to this question.
Then, in response to that answer, you probe a little deeper, by asking again, ‘why is that important?’
For example, a sporting goods retailer might follow a sequence like this:
We sell sporting goods
‘Why is that important?’ (1)
Because we enable people to participate in sports
‘Why is that important?’ (2)
Because participating in sports is healthy and improves quality of life in various ways
‘Why is that important?’ (3)
Because quality of life is everything, it enables us to be fit, happy, and to live longer
‘Why is that important?’ (4)
Because we all want to live long, happy, healthy lives.
The theory is that after around five ‘whys’ you’ll be much closer to defining the true purpose of your brand - which, in this case, might end up being something like:
‘To facilitate happier, healthier lives in all that we do’
That then becomes the guiding principle for everything that you share, everything that you communicate, aligning all of your outreach with this focus.
As per Collins and Porras:
“The five whys can help companies in any industry frame their work in a more meaningful way. An asphalt and gravel company might begin by saying, We make gravel and asphalt products. After a few whys, it could conclude that making asphalt and gravel is important because the quality of the infrastructure plays a vital role in people’s safety and experience; because driving on a pitted road is annoying and dangerous; because 747s cannot land safely on runways with poor workmanship or inferior concrete; because buildings with substandard weaken with time and crumble in earthquakes. From such introspection may emerge this purpose: To make people’s lives better by improving the quality of man-made structures.’
It’s not about the products that you sell, it’s why your business even exists, and that can play a key role in defining your approach, and ensuring that all of your staff are on the same page.
Which is another important consideration - not only does this help to build your brand externally, but internally as well.
As explained by Influence & Co CEO John Hall:
“When people have a clear understanding of what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, they’re more likely to take emotional ownership of the work.”
Your mission statement provides that understanding, and with various studies showing that Gen Z employees, in particular, are seeking more purpose in their career, and alignment with their own goals and passions, this one exercise could play a critical role in establishing your overall brand vision, in all that you do.
It may take some discussion, and debate to define your brand’s true purpose and mission statement. But ideally, through processes like this, you can move closer to establishing a clear goal that you’re striving for, which can help to guide your social media marketing process at each step.
Which, again, will eventually mean that every post, every update, every Reel, every TikTok, every tweet – all of your social updates are guided by this singular purpose.
If something doesn’t align with your brand goal, then leave it out.
This is how you build your brand identity online.