It's been said that in order to reach customers, you can't stick with just one marketing outlet and expect them to find you. To succeed you have to strategize, see where they are, what they do, and nowadays, that means leveraging social media. Connecting brands with people can sometimes be a tricky business, though. Consumers see ads trying to catch their attention everywhere, and many brands fall unnoticed because their social interactions come off as just that: ads. To stand out, a brand has to connect, and the best way to achieve that is by building your brand persona.
What Is A Brand Persona?
When most people think of companies or brands, they think of monolithic, unfeeling organizations that only seek to earn money and can't relate to the common person. Having a brand persona is a way to humanize your brand, making it more relatable and likeable. Put simply, it's personification. If your brand were a person, what would they be like? What kind of attitude would they have? Would they be energetic? And most importantly, how would they use social media?
The idea is to communicate, not advertise. Showing your brand off, but doing it naturally, as a friend would show off products they were excited about is a good way to think about it. This also engages users with your brand, since people may not remember ads, but they do remember conversations.
To better illustrate this, we'll look at two fictional brands throughout this article (as well as some existing ones). The first, known as Ali's Comics, is a small chain of relaxed comic book shops looking to expand to new locations. The second is Ocean Design, a graphic and web design firm that specializes in corporate media.
Do Your Research
Before jumping into the nitty-gritty of things, it is important to research your audience well; how your brand interacts with their lives and what kind of people you think your audience would want to talk to or trust, are just a few things to consider. If you're not the first in your market to do this, you'll also want to learn from the successes and failures of those who have attempted such a tactic before.
Here's what the first steps may look like in action:
- Ali's Comics notices that their audience enjoys getting recommendations for new products to buy. The social media team decides they'll capitalize on this by adding a weekly "What I'm Reading Right Now" feature to their social feeds. Ali's audience is looking for a friendly, knowledgeable face, and Ali's wants to appear as one.
- Ocean Design notes a rival company that attempted a casual, laid-back approach in their marketing. This went over terribly with their serious, professional audience. Ocean decides they'll take on a serious tone in their interactions to match their audience's desires. Ocean's audience is looking for experts, and Ocean wants to appear as one.
Selecting Your Network
After having done your research, look into your network options. There are hundreds of social networks out there today, but you really don't need to be on all of them at once. Decide which network (or networks) reach your audience best, and focus most of your energy on those.
Below is an example of choosing the right networks for your audience:
- Ali's decides to focus on a twitter feed and Instagram page realizing their audience has a strong presence in these channels. They notice their audience like posts that are visual and artistic, and enjoy quick, up-to-date information they can digest on the go.
- Ocean decides to focus on Facebook, using its networking power to foster connections, collaborate with industry influencers, and filling out details to be consumed at a glance. Their Facebook page also feature multiple contact methods and funnels people to their website.
Personify Your Brand
Now you can begin populating your social media accounts with posts. As you post, remember the kind of personality you want your brand to exhibit, and post things that match that personality. Give people a reason to want to interact with your pages, and if they do interact, be ready to respond. As you or your team works, attention needs to be paid to the way people talk about the brand or about the field the brand is associated with. Let's look at the examples below.
- Ali's posts frequently about the events going on at the shops as if they were an excited comic book fan looking forward to attending the events. Their social media specialist asks questions about things like collectibles, reads audience's answers, and sometimes responds with something conversational. This keeps the audience feeling friendly and interested in the store.
- Ocean posts selections from their portfolio, explaining the design philosophies behind each one. They share articles or insights about design trends to show authority in their field. They also connect with visitors by engaging them in conversations on their site's functionality, or their graphics package. They won't necessarily jump in and blatantly sell their services, but they'll engage in professional conversation, making sure to listen as much as they talk-often more.
Looking at Real SM Brands in Action
Choose your color scheme:
Social media is quick and to the point. Finding ways to stand out and create an image is important for your fly-by visitors. It's a great idea to choose 1-3 colors that represent your brand and stick with them. Finding ways to incorporate these colors into your profile and visuals will help you establish lasting brand recognition.
A great example can be seen with Pantone, a company that creates and produces colors. They leave a lasting impression on a user via Instagram by creating images that feature the company's "color of the year."
2015 being Marsala:
Branding is all about consistency. Find two to five fonts that represent your brand well. Whenever you incorporate text in your visuals be sure to stick to your chosen Fonts. Forever21 is great at incorporating their hand-lettered fonts in their SM photos.
Slogans & Hashtags
Slogans and hashtags are catchy, and sum up exactly what you and your company are doing. If a SM photo arrived in a news feed with the slogan "JUST DO IT", the reader would immediately understand that it was referring to NIKE's brand. Many companies and individuals aim for this type of immediate recognition through hashtags and slogans.
After Red Bull came out with their three new flavors, they took their "gives you wings" slogan (which was already very well known) and turned it into "choose your wings."
This is a great hashtag and slogan, which empowers the customer to be bold and grab life by the horns. It represents and adds to the brand of Red Bull.
The previous image also sums up a campaign. Creating a competition, event, or product with it's own sub-branding is a fantastic way to expand and add to your brand persona. It's also a sure fire way to create engagement with customers.
Rode Microphones is holding their second My Rode Reel competition incorporating their microphones into short films. Along with views, recognition, and great prizes, hosting a competition ads huge engagement to their social media, as well as traffic to their website.
Embed this video for Rode -
Images & Logo
Images spark engagement. According to research from eMarketer, photos account for 75% of the content on facebook that include an image. On top of that, images are much more likely to get engagement such as: likes, comments, and shares.
Take Ace Hardware as an example. They tweet images specifically with their logo on them. The images are suitable and represent them well, while still relatable to the everyday SM user. The logo establishes their brand well with summer tools, by incorporating freshly mowed lawn and a lawn mower.
Once you get the hang of the basics you can go far beyond this into more creative ways to leverage your new brand persona. Try getting members of your team in on the action by featuring them on your sites to put real faces to the company. You can use the search functions many social media sites feature to respond to praise and criticism. You can even network with other brand personas or industry influencers, furthering personification and reach. As long as you can keep your audience engaged and interested, the only limit is your own creativity!