The Value of Social Media for your Brand
“Please think about your legacy, because you’re writing it every day.” – Gary Vaynerchuck
Social media offers a great way to show off your expertise, your brand’s unique personality, a glimpse of who you are, your staff’s story and your personal entrepreneurial journey. There are various tricks to getting more engagement, more likes and more followers to help promote your brand and increase your reach. There is no shortage to ‘social media gurus’ out there offering classes, workshops and consulting to increase your audience by the 1000’s. Many of these offer legitimate, proven and trusted methods, but just as there are black hat strategies in SEO (as opposed to white hat strategies), there are many underhanded methods that can cause your brand lasting damage.
For relevant engagement, targeted likes, and consistent growth, there are no shortcuts or overnight successes on social media, in most cases. But many social media brands are choosing to take some shortcuts that initially inflate their numbers, but later fall flat and could potentially cause penalties, or even the loss of their profile. And some are putting a great deal of time and effort, as well as a sacrifice of privacy and modesty, to create a viral audience, yet neglecting to consider the consequences to their brand, emotional health or personal life.
Any public forum, (website, blog, social media, print ads, press releases, videos) should be used with great caution and with mindful and thoughtful intention. As they say, ‘online is forever’ because there is no true delete when it comes to anything we put out there on the internet.
“It’s a lot easier to control the conversation than it is to change it. But in the world of online–it’s ten times harder.” – Inc.com
So what are some missteps some can make on social media that may negatively impact you and your brand for years to come?
I. Buying Likes & Follows.
Social media ‘influencers’ are on the rise because of the rare but appealing lucrative payout that is possible for those who have hundreds of thousands of followers. In their hopes to achieve a large audience, their real goal is to attract local and national brands to reimburse them for sponsored posts that advertise products to the influencer’s audience. Sometimes the reimbursement comes with free product and services (more often) or cash payment.
“An Instagram user with 100,000 followers can command $5,000 for a post made in partnership with a company or brand.” – Forbes
With the onset of influencers and their social success, business owners may wonder if they borrowed the influencers’ unique strategies, will it work for promoting their brand as well? Lured in by watching the success and the glossy, photoshopped life of various influencers, some budding entrepreneurs have reached desperate means to attain the Instagram life and bought likes and follows for a nominal monthly fee. First of all, when you buy Instagram likes, you’re violating Instagram’s strict Terms of Service and could get you suspended. Second, people can easily notice that your accelerated rise in audience is fake.
“Say you come across a profile with 1 million followers that get less than 2,000 likes per photo. It shouldn’t be hard to tell that they have a lot of fake followers.” – SproutSocial
Other ways to tell they have paid followers and likes: (1) fake followers with little or no posts, no pictures of themselves and no recent updates, (2) a small like-to-follower ratio, (3) spammy comments that don’t make sense, and (4) thousands of followers but just a dozen or so posts. So why are brands lured into buying followers?
“It can be quite cheap, with many services charging around $3 USD for every 100 followers. But you get what you pay for. In most cases that’s bots and zombie accounts (inactive accounts that have been taken over by bots).” – Hootsuite
When you pay for followers, you truly do get what you pay for – a number on your profile that is artificially inflated, not genuine and by poor quality accounts that do not engage with your content. And in most cases, once you stop paying, your numbers will begin to decline. So next time you find an account with ten posts and 17,000 followers, you know why.
II. Overexposing yourself for Likes.
Unfortunately some have felt pressured to go to extremes to gain popularity (likes & follows) on social media. Overexposure of themselves (selfies & more selfies), their emotional state, mental health, their family, home and children, which may risk not only their privacy but they are sacrificing a part of themselves that can never be put back in the bottle. Are those abundance of likes on a revealing post evidence of praise, admiration, confirmation or are they evidence of social media rubbernecking? People are naturally curious and entranced by the voyeurism of certain social media posts, but that does not necessarily equate to respect for your brand.
Millennials are termed as the ‘oversharing generation‘ because they are more open about private matters whether social, mental or emotional health issues, more focused on self-care and less concerned with privacy than previous generations. Yet more and more many millennial-owned brand owners share rather personal details about themselves, their insecurities, and what they perceive to be their personal/emotional failings.
Here is some motherly advice: “You are young, you have your whole life ahead of you and you have no idea how the information you put out there today (which has no expiration date) may make you feel or impact your professional or personal life in the years to come.”
There are very stringent HIPAA Privacy Rules that establish national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. So if there is legislation that is vigorously enforced to protect our privacy, why would anyone feel the need to share very personal, private and sometimes incriminating information about themselves in such a public and permanent forum? Is a business social media account the place to express such private or personal matters?
Instead of women broadcasting their weaknesses and health issues, would it not be better to show strength, encourage empowerment and set an example of accomplishment for other young women? Inspire and motivate, make them laugh, encourage and set goals they can aspire to. I would love to see young women be proud of their character, their intelligence and their talents, rather than just another pretty face.
III. Over-inflating your Success, Personally or Professionally
Although the business owner is a valuable part of a brand’s story, is there a risk to overshadow your brand and professionalism with a high saturation of selfies? If you’re a model or celebrity, then you are the product, yet even in that exception, be careful not to exhaust your audience with endless photos of yourself. Show them you are more than a pretty face, cute outfits and your latest health & beauty regimen. And if you’re not a model, fashion or lifestyle blogger, or celebrity, then follow the 80-20 rule where 80% of your content is filling your customer needs, answering their questions or inspiring them to action, and the remaining 20% of content relating to your brand’s story. Our goal is to produce content that fills our customer’s need and not just marketing our brand.
“The Dove Self Esteem project found that two-thirds of women felt prettier online than in real life and 60% of university age students admitting it negatively affects their confidence and a study by Anxiety UK found that over half of the 298 people polled, over half felt that social media changed their behaviour negatively.” – Grazia
Our goal is as a brand should never be to make anyone fell “less than”, so do all you can to inspire, encourage and set an example that everyone in any situation has a reason to be proud of who they are. Making someone feel good about themselves can be a very powerful thing with a lasting positive impression.
If you have achieved success in your business, by all means share your journey with your audience, your small beginnings, obstacles overcome, your lessons learned and the processes you used to reach your goals. Yet we do not want to come across as materialistic or arrogant, as caution should be taken that our personality on social media can impact the brand for the positive or the negative. For example, a recent article featured certain “wolves of Instagram”, young people who promoted a luxurious, decadent lifestyle, who were in reality were unemployed, in debt and in some cases, criminals.
“A 21-year-old from a south London housing estate, began broadcasting on social media how much money he was making as a stock-market whizzkid. His thousands of young followers were desperate to do the same.” The article went on to show that not only did he not have money but was in jail “after ploughing his car into a friend to whom he owed money, a claim he disputes.” [Read Article]
Remember the recent by wise adage, “don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” We’ve heard a lot about fake news or outright lies on the social media these past few years, so we’d never want our brand to participate in spreading or promoting a disingenuous, fraudulent or simulated lifestyle.
IV. Airing out your Frustrations or Volatile Opinions Online.
Why an occasional humorous story about a lesson learned, a trial overcome, or an inspiring tale of success can add to the personality of your brand, it’s recommended for entrepreneurs who hope to promote their brand, to keep it light, keep it educational and keep it motivational. Show respect for yourself and for the other person by keeping any issue, disagreement or other scandal between the two of you. Remember once it’s out there, it can’t ever be taken back.
“Online is forever.” – Inc.com.
Business or brand accounts are not a place to vent your problems, especially physical, emotional or financial ones, or air any differences you have with others. It’s also never a place for a brand to discuss political or controversial topics that may offend or alienate a percentage of your audience. Find a way to engage with your audience that doesn’t leave a bad taste in their mouth, or further agitate any situation that already may be brewing. If you feel the urge to post something when you are emotional, upset or inebriated, instead take a walk, take a nap or call a good friend before you post. Hopefully in time, you’ll see the wisdom of keeping it out of the public forum.
“As twenty-somethings, our jobs, education, and safety are some of the most important things in our lives and should be treated as such. While it may be tempting to want to post anything and everything you do or think, before you hit ‘post,’ just sit for a second and think how that post could affect you. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.” – GenTwenty.com
V. Promoting a Disingenuous Life.
Unfortunately, there is a sector of social media, prominently on Instagram of young people that promote a Norman Rockwell version of life, with picturesque homes and outdoor spaces, perfectly manicured children shown laughing and playing, and professionally prepared foods that look right out of a cookbook.
“Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” – Annette Funicello
Unfortunately, most of us with a measure of experience in life realize how incredibly unreal these influencers portray everyday life. We understand the reality of wearing too many hats, with constant pressures from this world pulling us in eighteen different directions and not always looking, feeling or portraying ourselves perfectly. Yet could we be emulating a version of lifestyle, beauty, fitness that may unattainable to most and could be causing long-term damage to our impressionable youth?
“A recent study of 1500 adolescents concluded that almost every major social media platform had a negative impact on the subjects’ psychological wellbeing, ranging from anxiety to self-esteem. Why? Social media applications act as the catalyst for destructive behaviors like comparison, cyberbullying, and approval-seeking.” – PsychCentral
When promoting your brand, your product and yourself as the business owner, be genuine, be inspiring and use a strategy that leaves a digital footprint you’ll be proud of in years to come. Use your social media presence, especially if you have a significant following to encourage others and showcase the many shades, sizes, versions and varieties of beauty in our lives.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
VI. Obsessing over Vanity Metrics
“As far as the numbers go, vanity metrics look great on paper. But the sheen on these numbers fades when you try to use them to explain important business outcomes like ROI or customer lifetime value (CLTV); they become hollow digits that contribute little substance to proving your marketing is making money.” – Content Marketing Institute
Unfortunately, some become obsessed at checking their likes, follows and comments on a frequent and unhealthy basis, but as studies show there is a definite correlation between looking for likes on social media to the human need for approval from our peers. But check your vanity at the door when it comes to social media, because the whole point of being there is to promote your brand and increase conversion rates, its not just about likes, follows and comments. While they can help get your content seen by a greater audience, they do very little to bringing customers in the door.
“A case in point, the number of likes earned from a Facebook post rarely correlates to the number of products sold on a store shelf. Some would argue that there is no correlation at all. Indeed, it is possible to make more sales from a post with only one like than from a post with 10,000 likes. The number of engagements is usually irrelevant to the number of sales. There is no clear correlation or causation between the metric and the goal.” – Content Marketing Institute
Don’t get sucked into the mind-game that your self-esteem and social success has anything to do with the amount of likes and follows your account has. You might just be overemphasizing the importance social media has on your business, as well as your own personal success. Depending what industry you’re in, your dream to become ‘popular’ on social media may never be realized, but that doesn’t mean social media will not result in increased traffic to your site and increased leads and sales. I had one social media manager tell me she only wanted to deal with clients that were in the food, fashion, and home décor industries. Why? Because they are the easiest to photograph, promote and achieve vanity metrics.
It takes a real professional to increase ROI through social media, with the plethora of businesses in various industries that don’t look “pretty” on Instagram. If a model can’t wear your product or your service isn’t photogenic, then it takes real ingenuity and creativity to engage with your specific audience.
VII. Social Media is a continually evolving Strategy.
It’s important that you have a strategy in mind when it comes to your social media presence, for the subject matter, the theme, the tone, the frequency and most importantly for the audience you are trying to reach. While social media is one way to increase brand awareness, it is definitely not the end all be all for your company’s success. If you are company is a B2C, you will have greater reach and higher engagement, because your product or service is for a larger audience. But that does not mean a B2B should not have social presence, even if you’re audience is smaller and more defined, modest success is still success. Just budget carefully the time and money you should invest in social media against the anticipated return on investment, not just vanity metrics.
Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned social media veteran, it’s never too late to sit down and write (or rewrite) a strategy of how you want to approach the various social media channels. It’s also okay to reinvent yourself and revise your approach, especially as the various channels are changing their policies, functionality and protocols quite frequently. So take time to write topics that you will regularly discuss on your feed, subject matter that will appeal to your target audience and how you will promote a centralized theme for your feed.
While you want your social presence to have a theme, avoid redundancy of subject matter, setting and format. Showcase your customers with case studies, testimonials and completed projects. Feature your staff and show appreciation for what they bring to the table. Show appreciation for your clients and customers, by telling their story, their feedback, and their loyalty to your brand. Show off our mind, your skills, your experience, your sense of humor and your customer service. Above all, be genuine, make your audience feel good, understand your boundaries between engaging content and personal privacy, avoid artificially inflating your numbers, don’t overemphasize social media’s place in your life or your brand’s success, and learn to understand social media metrics so you understand social media’s ROI.
If you need further ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a FREE Internet Marketing Analysis.