The Role of Social Media in Brand Building

An interview with Martin Bishop, LiveWorld’s VP of Client
Services.

As Vice President of Client Services, Martin Bishop oversees
day-to-day activities of LiveWorld’s clients’ social media
programs. Martin works with clients to develop social media
strategies that meet their business objectives and leverage the
opportunities that social media provides for brand engagement and
1:1 dialogue. Prior to joining LiveWorld, Martin was director of
brand strategy for Landor Associates. He worked on strategic
branding programs for a broad range of clients including Charles
Schwab, Chevron, FedEx, Hershey’s, and Walmart.

Why is social media so compelling for brand
marketers?

The first thing to point out is that, whatever the medium, the
fundamentals of brand-building are the same. Marketers must deliver
on a brand’s promise and create strong and consistent brand
experiences.

Social media is important for branding both because of its size
and its unique characteristics. In terms of size, it’s so big and
pervasive that, just on the basis alone, marketers cannot ignore
it. There are now more than 3 billion active social media users
worldwide. And, because of its size, it has become a major
advertising channel with an estimated $51 billion spent in 2018, or
10% of companies marketing budgets, forecasted to increase to
almost 20% of the next 5 years.. (Data
Source
)

social media budgets

Social media budgets will double over the next five years.

What’s also compelling to marketers is that social media gives
brands unique opportunities to develop personal relationships with
their customers through 1-to-1 interactions. That represents
something of a holy grail for marketers who have always recognized
the power of talking to consumers directly but have not had a
realistic way to do this.  Increasingly 1-to-1 interactions are
being delivered at scale and in real time through chatbots on
messaging apps.

What are the brand benefits of having conversations with
consumers?

Brands that use social media and messaging seek to create an
emotional connection with their audience, which can help humanize
the brand, increase trust and nurture customer relationships.
Brands that do this well create more enthusiastic followers that
result in brand loyalist and advocates

How should companies express brand values in social
media?

A brand that has strong, expressed brand values and that really
stands for something will find it easier to resonate and connect
with consumers. Think of a brand like Patagonia. Its Twitter

page
not only leverages the brand’s natural association with
the outdoors, but also with its brand purpose: “We’re in
business to save our home planet,” which translates into content
that reinforces this commitment.  A good example of this is
captured in a recent
tweet
that talks about regenerative organic practices.

brand relevant social media tweet

A more controversial example is Nike which chose to feature
Colin Kaepernick in its recent marketing programming and thus align
itself with his protests against the treatment of minorities. In
cases like this, brands have to be brave in taking a stand that may
alienate many people. Although apparently it has worked out for
Nike. It’s estimated that Nike’s brand value has gone up

$6 billion
since this campaign launched.

What should brands deliver to express and fulfill their
values?

As a brand manager you may feel like your brand just doesn’t
have strong values that compare to Patagonia or Nike.  However,
there are plenty of brands with a less strident brand promise that
have nevertheless tapped into their values to help fuel their
social media programs.

The key is a thorough exploration of what values your brand has
that have some social media legs. These values don’t have to be
so high-purpose as Patagonia or Nike. Unilever’s Axe products,
for example, explored the other end of the spectrum with its “Axe
Effect” campaign that delved deep into the politically incorrect
and found a receptive young, male audience.

How do you communicate your brand values?

The key word here is authenticity. It is important that whatever
you do is authentic. Social media denizens will definitely call you
out if you overreach or try to assume values that are not credible.
After that it’s about translating brand value into content that
resonates in social media taking into account the expectations of
the channel and the demographics of your audience.

What’s the main branding challenge of social
media?

You are not in control! In traditional media channels the brand
controls the message and pushes it out. Social media is an
interactive medium and therefore, it’s a two-way street.

Walmart social media video adBe prepared for
positive marketing messages to turn into open season for people to
complain about poor service, company policies and whatever else
takes their fancy.  Walmart recently posted a
video
featuring cute couple Kristen Bell and Dax
Shepard introducing their new line of plant-based baby products. Of
the 850+ comments and counting the vast majority are complaints
about long lines, rude staff, unanswered customer support phone
calls, the firing of disabled greeters, products not available,
dead and dying fish, stolen or undelivered online orders, etc.,
–these comments crowd out the relatively few positive comments
about the new product.

Other companies can find their reputations assailed by damaging
reviews. Brands that participate in social media have to be
prepared and invest time and resources to monitor and react to what
people are saying about them. Companies that have a poor brand
reputation even more so.

How do marketing teams take full advantage of social
media to build their brand?

Marketers cannot afford to operate in a silo if they are going
to be active in social media. To manage both the benefits and
challenges of social media, marketers must team up with other
teams, in particular, customer
service
and corporate affairs, in order to respond to
customers as well as initiate new conversations.

As marketing teams mature in their use of social media,
resources should be re-allocated to content development, influencer
marketing and community management. Brand protection through

content moderation and engagement
will be a chief
concern. Customer care / service is another prime area for social
media as more customers use social channels and messaging to
contact brands and expect timely replies. PR and communication
teams need a crisis management plan that includes social channels
in prep for the when, not if, things blow up in an instant and can
explode exponentially.

Social media should not be an afterthought. Treat it as a
strategic part of your marketing plan. Reorganize your team so that
it’s integral to your marketing structure and agency
partnership.

Many progressive brands have integrated customer care and
marketing since social media straddles both areas and is core to
delivering a seamless customer experience.

Can all brands leverage social media?

Some brands seem to be a natural fit for social media. I’m
thinking of brands like GoPro that have a lot of fun photos and
videos that they can post on Instagram of people filming themselves
skiing, climbing or engaged in other adventure activities that
people like to watch.

I do think that most brands can find a way to participate
effectively. The trick is to find the intersection between brand
relevance (how the brand and its products fit into people’s
lives), and channel relevance (something that engages their social
media audience).

If your brand is not as exciting or entertaining like GoPro,
think instead of whether it can be interesting, useful, or
community-building. LiveWorld is an agency to many pharma brands
which have found relevant ways to participate in social media even
though they have to take into account strict rules that guide what
they can and can’t do.

For example, HUMIRA has a “Complete
Answers” Facebook page
which provides a place for HUMIRA
patients to ask questions about treatment-related resources. Other
pharma brands create branded and unbranded communities on Facebook
Groups providing support and information about disease states,
medical conditions or general wellness. Zoetis has built a Facebook
community called Catisphere dedicated to
the audience’s mutual love of cats and commitment to their
wellness.

Zoetis Catisphere Facebook page

Interested in reading more perspectives from LiveWorld
employees? Check out “Five
Questions with LiveWorld’s Creative Director, Jena
Grove.

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The Role of Social Media in Brand Building
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The Role of Social Media in Brand Building