What Value Do Brands Add To Social Media?

In 2014, we were talking about the necessity of brands being on social media. “We need to be part of the conversation online! We need a social voice!” were sentences that I’m sure were bandying their way around a number of executive boardrooms.

In 2015, brands realised that in order to appeal to their (human) consumers, they needed to come across as human themselves. We moved away from copy-and-paste responses and added a personal touch across communication on social media, signing off with names or initials to show that there are people behind the screens.

Now, however, it’s 2017 and we’re seeing brands mourning when celebrities die. They show solidarity to movements. They stake a political claim.

For some brands, this makes sense. For others the link is more tenuous. For the most, it’s non-existent (see above).

But in all cases, we need to be asking — what value does this add for my followers?

Your followers are your consumers, and they are savvy. They know you’re in the social media realm to market to them. They know that what you are posting is always, even if not overtly, an advertisement. You may not be writing “buy this now!” but what you’re asking your consumer to do is spend some of their attention span thinking about you.

So why waste that opportunity by posting something like this?

(Put into context — Dorothy Perkins tweeted that the day after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union 52% — 48%, so there was a high chance the majority of their consumers were not, in fact, feeling it that Friday…)

Consumers are flooded with online advertisements. It’s estimated your average consumer views between 500 and 5,000 advertisements in a single day (although the exact number remains fiercely debated).

With organic social, you may get one opportunity to make an impression on an existing or prospective customer with what you post online. You have less than 8 seconds to stop their thumb scrolling past you and onto the next brand.

So make the most of that time.

The best brands and individuals on social media are the ones that add value to their followers. They enrich the user’s experience of the platform by adding insight and information that your reader otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

A great example of this is news outlets on Twitter, a platform where they perform exceptionally well. When a story breaks, live updates are posted on Twitter not just by the reporters, but by people who are there. It boils down to value — news companies bring something valuable to the party.

So, how can you ensure that you’re adding value to your consumer with what you post on social media?

Each time you go to post, ask yourself three questions:

1. What’s the purpose of this post?

2. Who cares about this post?

3. Why will they care?

Let’s take the Dorothy Perkins example used earlier.

What’s the purpose of this post?

I would assume this was a scheduled post, intended to piggy back on the almost-guaranteed trend of #FridayFeeling.

But it was a white noise post — words for words’ sake. Often disguised as a ‘brand awareness’ post, or a ‘presence’ post, the white noise posts are pointless both for the person writing it and the person reading it. There are no links, no calls to action, nothing to make me want to engage with the post. The purpose, it seems, was to fill an empty schedule slot.

Which makes it difficult to answer Question 2…

Who cares about this post?

At the time, this tweet actually got some attention — mainly because of its catastrophic timing. But let’s assume it was posted when it was originally intended, some benign Friday. Who cares about it? Who sees it as they are scrolling and pauses for this type of post?

Or perhaps more pertinently, who wants a clothing brand asking them how they feel? (Answers on a postcard please…)

Which means it’s impossible for us to answer Question 3…

Why will they care

— because they most probably won’t.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all text-only posts are white noise, or a waste of time. You can use text-only post to build on your brand’s persona to great effect. But the posts must have a purpose and therefore value for your consumer — even if that value is just “it will make them laugh”.

As someone who manages social media content, I have certainly been guilty of the ‘low value’ post. Or perhaps even the ‘no value’ post.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your own brand that you forget that whilst you may think this cake gif is brilliant for #NationalCinnamonBunDay, your followers don’t care. They’re just wondering what on earth a comedian is doing tweeting about pastries.

So look at your social media pages and have a think. Be your own analyst, get 50 weeks deep in your own content and ask yourself ‘what value is this bringing my followers? Who cares about this content? Why do they care?’

And make social media a more enriching place to be.

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on Medium.com

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