At a time where people feel more isolated than ever before, they are turning to social media to feel a sense of connection and community that has been largely absent in the real world. If you’ve logged in to Twitter at any point in the last year then you know that connection takes on many forms: sometimes it’s just to share something witty, sometimes it’s to weigh in on a hot take, and sometimes it’s to dunk on some tasteless dolt who thinks “Hotel California” is a timeless classic (that was me dunking and I’ve since apologized). People need to feel a part of something again and social media affords brands an incredible opportunity to cultivate a sense of community around their product or service.
So how does a brand create a sense of community on social media and subtly sell their product or service without alienating their prospective audience? It’s both incredibly difficult but also surprisingly simple (I think that’s called a paradox?) if you adhere to the following practices.
Speak With Your Audience, Not At Them
With the possible exception of the Super Bowl (sorry NFL lawyers, “The Big Game”), people do not consciously consume content they recognize as a sales pitch. As a brand on social media, you’re inherently there to sell a product or service, but cultivating a sense of community around your brand allows you to be a part of the conversation rather than sound like a used car salesman who really needs to move that ‘94 Corolla off the lot. This is the easy part because it’s really just as simple as posting and writing content in a voice that makes your brand sound like an actual human being.
A great rule of thumb here is to put yourself in the position of your target audience. If you were them, what kind of content or voice from your brand would resonate with you? How does your audience speak on social media and what’s important to them? It’s called social media for a reason so pretend you’re at a party and trying to make new friends–nobody is going to enjoy talking to a stranger who tries to sell them life insurance but they will appreciate discussions about shared interests and a genuine curiosity about what matters to them. It’s not an overt advertisement of your brand but making people feel heard on social media will make the difference when they have to choose between the product they’ve never engaged with online and the product that made them feel like they were both heard and a part of a community.
At Nuera, we have a strict policy about reciprocating engagements for our clients on social media. If a person actively takes the time to post a comment or otherwise share with your brand on social media then leaving a prompt, accurate, and sociable response shows them that your brand values their time and effort. A Harvard study showed that each time a person receives a like, comment, or share on social media, their brain releases small amounts of dopamine. As a brand, social media provides the perfect forum to generate these subliminal infusions of joy with both existing and prospective customers simply by doing the work and reciprocating engagements. What’s more, these people frequently return to your social media pages to engage with your content which will make other members of your community feel inclined to engage as well.
Go The Extra Mile
My mother-in-law is under the mistaken impression that social media management consists solely of posting content and then sitting back and watching the engagements roll in. She’s a very bright woman but unfortunately, she is wildly incorrect in this case. Posting well-designed, on-voice content is merely the first step towards being successful as a brand on social media. If you actually put in the time to do the following things, you’ll find that your social media numbers will not only rise, but you’ll build an invaluable sense of community and loyalty towards your brand that translates into bottom-line wins.
- Outbound engagement matters. There are conversations happening about your brand and industry on social media every day but you have to know where to find them. We use social listening software to find these conversations and we’ll frequently join the discussion despite our client having never been tagged. This commitment to being a part of an ongoing dialogue engenders brand loyalty in a way your competitors almost certainly are not doing.
- Find your superstars. Most accounts will have people that routinely comment and engage with your content. Go out of your way to make them feel not only heard but appreciated. They will continue to evangelize your brand on social media and other people will see these interactions and know that you value your customers.
- Take things from social media to the real world when you can. I can personally attest to how impactful this practice is because not only do we do it for our clients at Nuera, but I also personally experienced it with Chips Ahoy. A few years ago I tweeted something about being sick and just wanting a root beer float. I didn’t tag Chips Ahoy (or any brand for that matter) but they sent me a direct message within minutes to wish me a speedy recovery and to ask for my address. I was admittedly kind of confused but two weeks later I received a beautiful, elaborate package of their new root beer float cookies. Their diligence in looking for relevant conversations on social media and their ability to follow through made me a Chips Ahoy fan for life (we call ourselves Chippers in the community…ok not really).
Cultivating a sense of community around your brand makes all the difference on social media. These practices may seem small but at a time where people crave connection and community more than ever, they do add up to make a big impact. Brands have a tremendous opportunity to be the leaders of an ongoing conversation on topics relevant to their product or service and once they correctly engage in those conversations with their community, the sky is truly the limit.
About the Author
As Digital Director, Jack is responsible for developing and executing engaging digital and social media campaigns. With experience at two successful startups and in the advertising industry, Jack’s background makes him uniquely qualified to tell our clients’ stories.