Branding as a practice has been around for a while. But Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others only burst onto the scene a few short years ago. In that time, social media branding has exploded, and it’s changed the face of brand communications as we know it. Let’s take a look at some of the key ways that social media has affected the way brands communicate with their audience.
1. Instant reaction
Before social media, you could run a PR campaign or book a TV ad, but it would take a while for public reaction to trickle through. If you had misjudged your message, you’d have to make a judgement on whether to make a change – and then spend time and money doing it. Today, on social media, you can gauge people’s reactions to your communications instantly – then hone them accordingly, for free. It means you have a low-risk way to try out new campaigns before you expand them across all marketing media.
2. Two-way conversations
Tied in with this last point is the amazing potential that social media has as a research tool. Rather than getting a focus group to meet in a physical location, you can tap into your online audience and find out what makes them tick. By cultivating a two-way relationship with fans and followers, you can build up brand loyalty as people feel their opinions and feedback are truly valued.
3. Targeted campaigns
Brands have always had a target demographic, whether that’s middle class males in their forties, or sport-loving teens. Many brands, such as supermarkets, communicate with more than one ‘type’ of customer, and target their messages accordingly.
In the past, targeted brand communications might have been focused on coverage or ads in the newspapers and magazines read by the desired demographic. Today, with social media branding, it’s possible to drill down to reach exactly the consumers who are likely to listen to your message, creating ads especially for people of a particular sex and age group with very specific interests. It’s also possible to get data on which type of customer has reacted best to your communications – so you can hone your communications to be even more effective.
4. Blended approach
Of course, there is still a place for old-style brand communications. Focus groups, print advertising and other real-world interactions are still important. But social media has definitely changed the game. The best marketing communications seamlessly integrate online and offline campaigns, so that the social media ‘voice’ is just one facet of a rounded brand personality.
5. Increased innovation
Because social media branding is still a new field, there’s no rulebook to refer to. Marketers have to be innovative in their approach, inventing new ways to reach their customers, and creating original campaigns that do something new. That can only be a good thing: it’s injected a freshness into brand communications and forced brands to react to their customers’ opinions, instead of falling back on an old, tried-and-tested marketing formula.