The power of social media: increasing your digital engagement

Since the dawn of the internet, this technology has been used to connect people together, removing physical barriers from the equation. Suddenly, people could find like-minded folks online and communicate with each other on forums and chatrooms. Websites like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook grew more popular, there were more options for someone to go online, create and share content, and interact with other content.

March 18, 2021 |

20 minutes

Photo of a person gabbing a phone to illustrate social media engagement.

1

How social media builds brand identity?

Brands aren’t just about their products anymore. A large majority of millennials believe that businesses have the potential to solve society’s economic, social and environmental challenges (three-quarters of millennials and Gen Z workers according to Deloitte). Meanwhile, Kantar Consulting’s Purpose 2020 Report found purpose-driven brands have increased their valuation by 175% over the past 12 years.

Going beyond your product, your brand should encompass a sense of purpose and a lifestyle that enables your consumers to live and breathe your ethos. We’re seeing more and more brands (like Nike and Patagonia) voice their opinions on everything from environmental issues to politics.

In the age of purpose marketing, storytelling will become an extremely important skill. Instead of creating the same old sales pitch, consider creating a sub-brand publication on Medium or a branded podcast that will influence, not only your audience’s purchasing choices but also their lifestyle choices.

To learn how to develop your identity, check out our guide on how to use PR to build a brand identity, with insights from experts in the industry.

SUMMARY

Purpose is incredibly important in the decision making process of a potential consumer. Social media allows you to communicate your purpose to your audience. This guide can explain more about purpose driven PR campaigns.

2

How social media engages the community

Now that you’ve formulated your brand identity you can begin to interact with your audience online. This online personality so to speak will help you to overcome one of the biggest challenges of social media, which is keeping people engaged.

There is so much content being produced for social media, and people have a short attention span so standing out is difficult. To do this, you should focus your efforts on developing long term consumers, an online community if you will. A small following of die hard fans is much better for your online presence than a fleeting large number of followers. This is because they are far more engaged, making your brand look more attractive to new potential customers and revealing qualities about your target audience.

So what are the steps to creating an online community? Noted community manager Kirsten Wagenaar states that an online community should be a “group that comes together on a regular basis with shared interests and ambitions to obtain shared goals.” Essentially, the group has to be motivated and have a large enough interest in what the community collectively stands for.

Wagenaar stipulates that community building is much different than a simple social media strategy. Social media strategies focus on targeted research and raising awareness across digital channels, but community building is about “connecting people around an organization, and building a relationship with users for the long-term.” She emphasized that building the right community with stable and active users can “last for twenty plus years” instead of acquiring large user numbers that are fleeting.

SUMMARY

Social media can be leveraged to grow and engage with your community. It’s better for customer retention to focus on the needs of the community.

Infographic that illustrates the power of social media in four points.

How to create an online community?

Now, that has been established, you collect a core group of people who will define and create a culture for the community, generally a group of fifteen to twenty core users. The membership will grow over time organically as other like minded people are attracted to the group.

After the users have defined the platform’s culture and identity, you must identify the tooling, or social media platforms you are going to use to attract users to the community. Then you are ready to go live. Remember to put in place some rules and guidelines to maintain a respectable online etiquette. Think outside the box, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are great places to start but look for other places to interact with community members, Slack, or Whatsapp group for example. As long as you’re being genuine and authentic.

Once you have an idea of what the community is going to be about, ask questions, surveys, etc, and track what people want to achieve with the concept. The aim of this is to establish the purpose and discover the goal of the community. For example, to create a platform for discussion, or to share experiences.

Now, that has been established, you collect a core group of people who will define and create a culture for the community, generally a group of fifteen to twenty core users. The membership will grow over time organically as other like minded people are attracted to the group.

After the users have defined the platform’s culture and identity, you must identify the tooling, or social media platforms you are going to use to attract users to the community. Then you are ready to go live. Remember to put in place some rules and guidelines to maintain a respectable online etiquette. Think outside the box, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are great places to start but look for other places to interact with community members, Slack, or Whatsapp group for example. As long as you’re being genuine and authentic.

SUMMARY

Create an online community by researching the needs of your audience and the channels they use to interact with one another. A community grows from having these opportunities to interact.

Getting feedback from your community

Ben Robinson, content marketer for inSide offers some insights into developing a strategy that can help with this process of growing a community. His strategy is to acquire as much feedback as possible from their customers and their prospects which will be used to continually improve their platform, business and overall consumer experience.

This essential information allows them to compose the right content for their audience. So, if they have a prospect who has turned them down, he will go back to them and ask why? The information he gains from that can be used to in turn to make their platform better, but to also provide the content his audience is looking for.

SUMMARY

Your community is a valuable source of feedback for improving your product or service. Demonstrating that you listen will also be valued by your community.

Identifying pain points

Pain point marketing is critical for Robinson and using empathy to understand the customers and users. If you can get in touch with the pain points or problems that your customers have, you can then “sit down and solve these problems, x,y,z, and how your product can solve that”.

Following the trend of empathy, and realizing the pain points or problems customers and users may have, the way you distribute your content can also be modified. Robinson suggested that it is important to not sit on top of a “mountain of content,” it can be repurposed. What they did was “chop up a podcast” and repurposed into smaller bits and shared it on social media channels. They took their content and made it more accessible and easier to digest for their users.

By listening to and talking with their customers and prospects, Robinson and inSided were able to actively facilitate the engagement on their platforms, and they maximized their output by using content that they already had.

SUMMARY

Focus on fixing the problems identified by your users and how you can use your content to maximise engagement.

3

The role of influencers

As well as using the power of community, you should also be aware of the power of the individual. Or at least certain individuals with large online followings. These people are known as influencers. Using influencers in your marketing strategy can put your business on the radar of hundreds if not thousands of people. However for this to work it has to still be engaging, relevant and relatable. By following these steps you can develop your own influencer marketing campaign.

Know Your Goals​

As with any effective influencer marketing campaign, start by laying out your goals. Ask yourself why you need your influencer. How would they contribute to your brand? You should also think about what kind of reach your influencer would have. Are they an Instagram user? A blogger? Do you want someone to generate content across multiple platforms, depending on your target audience? Are you interested in someone with a niche segment?

Defining your goals will help you achieve maximum ROI as you begin developing your campaign strategy, as well as provide clarity so that the work you embark on will be intentional. You want to set goals that are specific, measurable, and realistic for your brand. A few goals you may want to consider:

  • Brand Awareness: Getting more people to notice and recognize your brand.
  • Engagement: Getting more people to visit your website and engage with your content
  • Sales: Getting more people to purchase your products/services.
  • Audience Building: Getting more people to follow your brand.
  • Loyalty: Getting people to stay connected with your brand.
SUMMARY

Executing a marketing strategy requires you to understand the position of your brand and develop realistic goals that are relevant to what you want to achieve. 

Know Your Audience

Before you begin picking your influencers, you need to know who you want to reach. The number one reason why so many startups never get off of the ground is that there is no market need, so in order for audiences to resonate with your brand, it has to provide something that they need in the first place.

Assess your potential buyers and all the reasons why someone would choose your product. You want to include demographic and psychographic segmentation, which categorizes audiences into factors that relate to their personalities. The reason for this is that your brand will be directly marketed to the people who might be interested in it. But this will also make it more likely that your influencer themselves is part of your target audience.

The more you can define your target audience, the easier it is to find influencers who appeal to those audiences and the platforms they use. You may also want to consider the audiences of the influencers you want to work with. What platforms do they live on? How do influencers engage with them? Are they into beauty? Tech? Food? Why do they follow that influencer? What kinds of people do they attract?

If you already have an idea of potential influencers, check their followers and see what kinds of people are commenting and liking their content consistently. influencers may engage their audiences with Instagram or Facebook lives, see who shows up! What kinds of people do they attract? And, most importantly, does their audience align with yours?

SUMMARY

You need to make sure you market your brand to the relevant people. This can’t be done unless you have defined and researched your target audience and their qualities.

Know Your Strategy

You’re almost ready, you know your goals, you know the audience, it’s time to think about your actual strategy for approaching influencers. Influencers are humans too, and you want to approach working with them professionally but not be so dispassionate that you come across as a robot.

Outreach should be personal, thoughtful, and just as beneficial to the influencer as it is to you! It may be time-consuming to customize your approach to the influencer, but it will forge a stronger connection that will be well suited to everyone's needs.

There are many ways to connect with influencers, but you’ll want to decide if you want to inspire an influencer to share your content, pay them to promote your brand, or to create a strategy that blends the two. Here are a few strategies you can consider:

  • Social Media Mentions: Getting a social media personality or brand to mention your company/product.
  • Affiliates: Providing a unique code that gives influencers a percentage of each sale they drive
  • Discount Codes: Providing a unique discount code for your product or service that they can promote to their audience
  • Brand Ambassadors: Forming relationships with loyal brand customers, where they mention your brand in exchange for exclusive offers, free products, or brand features.
  • Gifting: Giving free products in the hope that they would review or promote your brand

You can mix any of these, depending on what you want to accomplish. Once they’ve agreed to learn more about your brand, you should also provide them with resources that will help them get to know your brand, so that they’re comfortable speaking to your message.

SUMMARY
Understand the relationship you want with an influencer from the get go, and be clear about what it is you want from their collaboration.

Know Your Influencers​

With your strategy in mind, you can begin your search! The most important thing is to establish trust between you and the influencer, as well as between the influencer and their audience. In order to know if an influencer is right for you, you have to know if they’re relevant to your products or services. Do they have the authority to speak to your brand? How are their technical skills, in terms of content and social skills? You don’t want to find an influencer with only a large following; you want someone who has engagement from their followers as well.

Quality– over– quantity is key here, which sounds ironic because we want quantitative results, but as we’ve seen from Instagrammer @Arii, who had a hard time selling 36 shirts to her following of over 2.6 million, the wide-reach isn’t enough to forge relationships between your brand and consumers. That said, micro-influencers–people with a following between 1k-10k– may be a good place to start because they can access a wide range of people and are small enough to engage their followers and cultivate loyalty. In fact, engagement was 85% higher in influencers with just 1k followers versus those with 100k. 

You also want to be wary of the bots and fraudulent accounts when searching for your influencers. Some influencers purposely buy followers to fool marketers into working with them. Hype Auditor helps you see which influencers have fake followers! Bottom line: It’s about creating relationships, from the pitch to the content. Influencer marketing is a crucial part of getting your brand out there! A positive relationship with influencers and the right message will move consumers to take action.

SUMMARY

Quality over quantity. Your influencers must also be aligned with your brand’s and by extension your target audience’s values. 

Metrics for Influencer Marketing

Here are some key metrics you can use to assess the performance of your influencer marketing strategy.

  • Engagement Rate: likes, comments, shares, etc. You can also track the speed at which a post is engaged with, to see if an influencer is using bots.
  • Quality Control: ensures that an influencer isn’t ‘baiting’ their followers with #likeforlike posts. To track this, tools like HypeAuditor can ensure that your potential influencer isn’t using bots or paying for fake engagement.
  • Cognitive Computing: assesses the tone, interests, and passions of an influencer to see if they align with the message of your brand.

Influencer Marketing: What do the experts say?

At PRLab we hosted an event to which we invited professionals working in the influencer marketing industry. Sophie van der Shaft is the co-founder of &.agency, where she primarily develops and executes influencer and social media marketing strategies for major brands, while Daan Sip is the founder of Social1nfluencers, the first in the Netherlands to help YouTube influencers grow their business and connect them to brands.

When asked about shifts in influencer marketing, as well as implementing an influencer marketing campaign with smaller budgets, an emphasis on relationship building came up. It was important for the panelists that brands who can’t afford to work with top-tier celebrities prioritize building a relationship with people who align with the brand’s message. This would build trust between the brand and its target audience, especially in our current climate, when consumers want to know that there is a reason why influencers and brands are working together.

Long-term relationship building between brands and influencers is more important for establishing relevant connections than short-term partnerships; The relationship, then, isn’t a gimmick for a quick sale, but a tangible partnership that consumers can recognize.

Another popular topic was metrics and ROI, especially in terms of using it to show the value of your campaign to influencers. It was mentioned that knowing the CPM, which is the cost per mille (or cost per 1,000 impressions) is useful because it allows you to see how much it would cost per 1,000 views of your ad, as well as allow you to tailor the content to what would be most beneficial to the influencer and the brand.

A CPM Calculator can help you track this. But you also have to consider the platform you’re using; for example, YouTube is more qualitative, so it would be more expensive than an Instagram post, while Instagram stories are more engaging. With this tool, you can see what’s more beneficial for your campaign. 

Quality over quantity. Your influencers must also be aligned with your brand’s and by extension your target audience’s values. Ultimately, the most important rule we learned is that, if your influencer marketing strategy is true to the purpose and mission of your brand, you’ll be able to connect with your audience in a meaningful, yet pointed way. 

SUMMARY

Consumers themselves recognize value in long term relationships with consumers. It demonstrates trust and authenticity, important qualities for any brand. Understand the relevant metrics for measuring an influencer campaign. You can read more about PR metrics here.

Understanding Dark Social

As data and privacy concerns have grown, we have seen a decrease in the content being shared publicly. People are no longer as zealous as they once were to share every detail on social media, and according to Buzzsumo’s 2018 Content Trends Report, social sharing has been cut in half since 2015.

Where have all the cat videos gone? Not to worry, RadiumOne found that, while social sharing has gone down, dark social shares have increased from 69% in 2014 to 84% in 2018 globally. You may be asking yourself, what is a dark social share? Well dark social includes all interactions that are difficult for marketers to track such as shares via messaging apps, Facebook groups, Slack channels, Meetup pages, chatbots and even customer service tools like Intercom. Essentially, the content being shared privately ‘in the dark’.

Smart marketers are leveraging the rise of dark social to identify, join and create groups about their niche. Others are going one step further by engaging in direct conversations with people, successfully moving from personalized to a more individualized marketing approach.

The fact that dark social is more personalized means that going viral organically is more of a possibility. Consider the examples of Facebook and Linkedin groups. Rather than sharing content with everyone from your grandma to your creepy neighbor, with ‘groups’ you can actually direct content at a specific audience which you know will be more likely to engage with it.

SUMMARY

Dark social is media that is not shared publicly but in private groups and conversations, leading to more individualized marketing approaches.

Get creative with new content distribution channels​

We spoke to Kirsty Sharman the founder of AerialScoop, a company that helps drive business growth with data. She points out that dark social shares are not just your typical Facebooks, Twitters and Linkedins. There is a wealth of new potential content distribution platforms on the rise with the growth of messaging apps. You can now find closed communities that are already talking about your topic or field on platforms such as Slack, tgram.io, botlist, Whatsapp and Meetup. 

There are even databases and lists where you can easily search for groups related to your niche. The ‘Slack list directory’ or ‘Join Whatsapp groups’ for example are great resources you can use. However, as Sharman pointed out, be mindful that you can’t simply post content in a group and expect it to go viral. You need to be actively contributing to your groups rather than simply pushing your own content. 

In the run-up to the World Cup, Sharman’s team was actively engaging in football-related groups. By the time the games started, they had already gained the perfect audience to share content about a footballer client of theirs. This allowed them to halve their media budget based on the organic growth they saw from dark social.

SUMMARY

Dark social is media that is not shared publicly but in private groups and conversations, leading to more individualized marketing approaches.

Let’s get personal​

Over the years email marketing has evolved to become more personalized and thereby more effective. With the data, we were able to collect we can now send emails that start with “Are you hungry John? How would you like a discount off your favorite Hawaiian pizza from Dre’s Pizzeria?”. Dark social is doing the same thing. Instead of the general social media blasts we hope will catch people’s attention, you can instead send personalized messages to people who’ve opted into your direct messaging, messenger, or Slack groups.

It’s not just about messaging apps

Again, there’s a tendency to look solely at the big-name messaging apps like Whatsapp and Messenger but, if you dig further, there are a lot of channels you can use to have direct conversations with people. While Intercom is commonly seen as a customer service tool, Sharman pointed out that the company Viral Loops’ is actually using it to share content and start conversations with their customers, allowing them to advertise more of their products to a group which is already engaged with them.

Scale, scale, scale!​

Sharman predicts that scaling conversations will be our next challenge. Once you get all of the basics down, it’s time to start considering how you can grow through this new dark social network you’re creating. Companies like Mobile Monkey and Many Chat are now making it easier for you to send messages and create content lists of potential customers on Facebook.

Rethinking CTAs

In the past, we spent a lot of time trying to get people through the funnel with calls to “Click here”. Now instead of getting people to click and fill out a form or continue through the content funnel, Sharman believes we’ll see a shift with marketers calling on leads to “start a conversation”. You can now very easily add a button directing people to a Whatsapp conversation in which you can engage them in a much more personalized way. This approach has the potential to cut down the time it takes to engage a lead by bringing the relationship even further at an earlier stage.
SUMMARY

Social media is moving towards more individualized strategies. Simple changes like making a brief exchange of messages possible is one example of how you can personalize your interactions with consumers.

4

Conclusion

Hopefully you now have an understanding of the power of social media, and all the advantages it has for your brand. It is an effective tool at communicating your brand identity by actually creating opportunities for your audience to engage not only with you, but with each other! This creates more value for your brand, and positions your business as a meeting point for your community.

You should also have a better idea on the various ways you can get creative with content channels, and to not underestimate the power of the influencer. At the end of the day, as long as you are communicating with your audience in a genuine, authentic manner that they can relate to, you will begin to grow your online presence and cement your brand in the minds of your consumers.

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