In today’s fast-paced digital world, maintaining a clear and consistent voice in the crowded field of social media can be challenging. A solid social media presence keeps people informed about the latest news concerning your brand while also advertising your products or services. Additionally, it helps you engage with customers by responding to feedback and answering questions.
Perhaps the most pivotal element of our interconnected online world is how easily messages are spread, analyzed, and potentially misconstrued. Dealing with online backlash or criticism is a position that no brand wants to be in. Thankfully, there are methods for addressing these issues that can ultimately create a healthier and more effective dialogue between your brand and your audience.
Being aware of the personal values of your customers is critical in building a lasting following, though effective communication strategies are equally important. Using correct context, tone, and even timing can help you avoid controversies that could potentially harm your brand. By examining the latest engagement trends that lead to success on social media, you can learn how to grow an active and empathetic audience.
Identify & Understand Your Audience
The first step towards building an effective and engaging social media strategy involves taking the time to identify your intended audience and its unique perspectives. Investigate what your audience looks for in a brand. Are quality and excellent customer service all they need, or are things like shared values more important?
While demographics vary from business to business and platform to platform, social media users tend to skew younger. Studies have also shown that people who are regularly active in online communities gravitate towards progressive concepts like diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
Monitor your social media channels to gauge how your existing audience esteems these values. If they respond positively to other like-minded brands and prominent individuals, it may be wise to consider adopting a brand voice that appeals to similar perspectives.
Build Your Strategy
Determining what your priorities are when it comes to social media is essential. Do you favor a utilitarian approach, where the account’s main purpose is announcing company news and addressing direct feedback from users and followers? Or do you prefer giving a more human face to your brand, where it feels like real people are actively running your social media? Either way, find what works best for you and stick with it.
This step in the process also requires you to take a good look at the makeup of your marketing and social media teams. Try to find a strategy that plays to the unique strengths of your staff, and be sure to seek continuous input from them. Those with experience in digital communication and internet trends can help optimize your brand’s online presence.
Once you’ve devised a social media strategy that reflects the values of your intended audience, it’s time to start engaging in a way that builds trust and goodwill with your customers. You want to come across as open to the same values as your audience without pandering directly to them in a way that comes across as insincere. Follow these guidelines to find the proper balance you’ll need to succeed:
1) The New Brand Loyalty
The old concept of brand loyalty is rapidly being redefined by the digital landscape. Consumers no longer feel like they must stick with a company or its products simply out of loyalty. Instead, you should make an effort to sell your brand’s values. People are more inclined to support a company that they feel shares their beliefs. Expressing interest in these values is an easy way to cultivate brand loyalty.
2) Genuine Messaging
Authenticity can be a difficult concept to pin down for a branded social media page. You’ll have to experiment to find the right balance between your main priority of serving as the mouthpiece of your brand and the secondary goal of building an engaged following. It’s important for your messaging to come across as sincere, and the easiest way to accomplish that is to actually mean what you say.
Before launching a social media campaign centered around values like diversity, consult with different voices within your marketing team. Find out what sort of message appears authentic, and what seems like a forced attempt to cash in on social trends. A discerning audience of social media users will be able to parse this out fairly quickly, so be sure that you’ve done your due diligence before you post.
3) Embrace Positivity
Use your social media channels to tell a story. Connecting with your audience on an emotional level involves leaning into the human element that drives us as individuals and community members. Focus on the people that make your brand stand out, whether that’s your employees or your most dedicated customers.
If you’ve recently made strides towards a more inclusive atmosphere, such as by redesigning your stores or manufacturing centers to be more accessible through universal design, post about it. Humanizing your brand shows that you care about more than turning a profit and appeals to the empathetic nature of your audience.
4) Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The simplest way to market any product, brand, or service is to do nothing at all and let the results speak for themselves. This is an age-old marketing strategy, but the same principles can be applied to digital communication and social media. If your audience sees that your online presence is reflected in your real-world actions, they will be more inclined to believe in and support you.
Don’t let your posts about diversity, wellness, and inclusion just be posts. Rather than resort to the same industry-standard platitudes every Pride Month or Black History Month, demonstrate that your brand is taking an active role in the community. Start conversations, spearhead initiatives, and raise awareness on the issues that matter to you and your customers.
5) Avoid Overcommitting
Social media is a virtually endless source of new content. Whether it’s from other brands, active power users, or infrequent commenters, it’s easy to find yourself bogged down by the sheer number of posts, replies, comments, and other forms of engagement. You might be tempted to try to respond to as much of this feedback as you can, but it’s important not to promise more than you can deliver.
When it comes to a values-based approach to social media, overcommitting can include things as simple as publicly liking or commenting on posts about popular social causes that your company cannot fully commit to. This can lead to false expectations from your customers that, when left unfulfilled, may damage your company’s reputation.
While embracing similar values to that of your primary audience is a highly effective engagement strategy, there is an inverse effect to this approach that can cause harmful pushback. Social media controversies are a serious issue for your brand, and while you should avoid conflicts like this at all costs, there are a few easy steps you can take to mitigate the harm:
1) Acknowledge the Problem
If your social media channels are being flooded with negative feedback and hostility, take the time to address the issue at hand. This is the first step toward easing tensions and moving on from the situation. In your acknowledgment, be sure to speak plainly about the issues your company is facing and how you plan on addressing them. However, try not to overcommit in this initial step.
Of course, not all social media backlash is the same. Use your own discretion when deciding if acknowledging a specific controversy would be good for your company’s long-term image. While some issues are best faced swiftly and publicly, a more measured, behind-the-scenes approach can also be useful in reducing further damage to your brand.
2) Start Positive Initiatives
When facing an overwhelming degree of negativity online, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a way to turn it into something positive. For example, if your brand is criticized for a perceived lack of diversity, incorporate that feedback into a plan to hire more diverse staff. Putting your words into action is a signal of positivity and goodwill to your customers.
3) Show Humanity
Once again, the easiest way for your audience to see your brand in a positive light is to be as genuine as possible. If you are in a situation in which your company must apologize, do so with humility and grace. Show that your brand is more than a logo by approaching your critics as human beings. A public display of dignity is a simple way to garner an empathetic response and move on from controversy.
4) Ignore the Trolls
One potential downside of engaging directly with your audience through social media is that it opens your brand up to the darker side of online anonymity. A good social media team should be able to tell the difference between genuine, good-faith criticism from an active audience and mean-spirited, hostile negativity. As the face of your brand, it’s crucial that you not allow the trolls to take over your message.
In today’s saturated digital marketplace, it’s more important than ever to find ways to make your brand stand out. Social media is a major innovation in direct-to-consumer marketing that makes it easy to interact with your audience and build positive sentiment towards your brand. However, it can also be a tricky landscape to navigate if you don’t use the proper methods.
By building a digital brand that emphasizes genuine connection and shared values with your audience, you can establish lasting trust and loyalty that extends beyond the digital space. Creating goodwill with your customers might lead to increased traffic and sales – but more importantly, it can lead to a stable, positive, and engaged base over time.
If you need help establishing or refreshing your online presence, particularly on social media, HighClick can help! Give us a call today at 252.814.2150 or contact us here. We’ll make it our mission to help #elevateyourbrand!
Hazel Bennett is a freelance writer and blogger. She has a degree in communications and lives in Northeastern Ohio. Hazel loves writing about numerous topics and showcasing her expertise with words.