There’s a pronounced tendency in the marketing world for businesses to assume that every activity carried out on social networking sites needs to directly promote or add value to their brand. While it’s true that businesses using social media need to focus on building a base of followers and potential customers, the idea that this can only be done through constant and direct promotion may be misguided.
Branding exercises carried out in traditional media, such as television, magazines and newspapers, have always been limited to the creation and deployment of advertisements with an understandably narrow focus. This focus is on creating as many customers or making as many sales as possible in the relatively small space or time allotted to them. This makes perfect sense in mediums where your time with a viewer or reader is limited: such adverts are essentially ‘elevator pitches’ to the consumer and have to be treated as such. However, the temptation is to carry these attitudes over into branding exercises conducted through social media, and this can be very damaging in the long run.
Social media is fundamentally different to traditional media in two key respects; first and foremost, when your business engages in branding through social media, it is creating a permanent space for itself. Facebook pages or Twitter accounts are more than adverts- they’re vastly detailed spaces where potential customers hope to find rich, qualitative information about your business and the kind of people involved in it. Secondly, social media, by its very nature, encourages interaction with viewers, most of whom would rather speak to a human being than a corporation.
What should you do?
So what should you do differently when branding your business through social media? The answer is simple: engage with your customers as a person, not just an advertiser. Consumers are happy to accept adverts on television or in magazines being broad pitches for a product or service because their time with these adverts is limited. If you ask people to follow you on social media, they’ll lose interest in constant advertising over a relatively short period of time. While you should always have one eye on promoting your products or services, it’s important to take time out to chat to your followers, respond to their questions and maybe even make a few jokes. A sense of fun and a personable attitude goes a long way towards endearing yourself to a potential client-base.
The key thing to remember is that people viewing adverts in traditional media want to know what your business does and how it can benefit them; people visiting your Facebook page or reading your tweets want to see the human face (or faces) behind the company.