Social activity is fluid and nuanced – your social media plan should be, too. Harness social behavior by knowing the difference between brand advocacy and brand outreach
Ask a marketer why they’re on Facebook, and chances are, you’ll hear some variation of, “I need to be where my customers are.” That’s fair and not incorrect. Social media marketers do need to be responsive to the splintering of interest that’s manifested through the myriad of social channels that have emerged. But, the Web is a big place. For every share that happens on Facebook, two more are happening across the web.
Everyone knows that the social Web is more than just a set of destinations. But the flow of brand dollars to individual social channels tells a different story. Billions have been spent building and maintaining brand pages, buying sponsored tweets and the like. That’s fine if you’re trying to build brand advocacy by getting your most rabid fans to pass your message along, but it’s not the most effective way to reach new customers.
To reach the largest possible pool of potential new customers, brands should look across the entirety of sharing and social activity that occurs web-wide and catch people while they’re in the awareness and consideration phase. These are the folks that have specific brand attributes in mind, but haven’t yet settled on anything in particular. They haven’t said, “I’m eating at Wendy’s today.” Instead, they’ve shared content related to eating on the go, value-dining options, hamburger recipes, or any number of other topics adjacent to the brand. And they’re the audience of receptive folks you can tap with brand outreach by keeping the following points in mind.
Your brand isn’t one-dimensional – it’s comprised of many different aspirational values and attributes – and the ways people arrive at it are not one-dimensional. Your biggest fans are not talking about you all the time. But that doesn’t mean they’re not sharing and considering the benefits you offer that lead them to your brand. So take a close look at how specific content engages users: how and where it gets shared and what kind of response and engagement that drives between the user and their social connections. People share different content in different ways and with different motivations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, etc. – and don’t forget that a large amount of all sharing still occurs through the private channel of email.
How and what people share isn’t one-size-fits-all. So how my friend shares content and how I share content are vastly different, as are the channels we decide to use depending on type of content. People’s sharing behavior is nuanced and fluid, and it differs depending on the topic they’re sharing around. If I’m considering lunch options, I’m more likely to do that in a public forum like Facebook or Twitter. If I’m considering insurance plans, I might choose to share about that in a different fashion. Advertisers should recognize that and build their media plans accordingly.
Throughout the customer life-cycle, different actions are appropriate by the brand with regard to its customers. In the research & consideration phase, content created or sponsored by brands is educational or aspirational. Once a consumer is in-market, the experience should be about specific offers that induce purchase. Brands can drive clicks to specific sites, offer opportunities to sign-up for newsletters as well as deliver coupons. Post-purchase, the communication should shift to the customer’s product experience, offering support and ongoing engagement opportunities through social channels like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
The kind of advocacy you see brands seeking on Facebook is distinct from the much larger volume of activity around people sharing thoughts and ideas that aren’t brand-specific. So understand what people are sharing in and around your brand attributes, engage them sooner with brand outreach and be there with your customers as they move from one stage of the customer life-cycle to the next.
Jennifer Hyman is SVP of Marketing at ShareThis, the company that connects audiences to publishers and advertisers through sharing.