As marketers, we strive to communicate with consumers in the ways that they prefer. In fact, marketing is becoming increasingly consumer-driven. For example, with the rise of social media marketing, brands can communicate directly with their customers to develop products that sell, and consumers essentially become product “co-creators.” Today, 80% of online content is user-generated, and content will increasingly come from a customer’s peers. Marketers need advocates buzzing about their products as people increasingly receive information about brands from their social connections.
The big question is: How does a company acquire brand evangelists? Here, we’ll discuss how much an authentic, humanized brand voice matters in your quest to get people raving about you to all of their friends – not to mention form long-lasting brand-customer relationships built on a solid foundation of trust. Here are 11 key tips to help improve the way your brand communicates with consumers.
1) Be Authentic
People don’t want brands talking at them as if they’re dollar signs – they want authentic communication. Maintain an authentic tone when posting and interacting with consumers – one that doesn’t seem forced. Always speak like a human being. Communicate directly with fans and followers and be flexible and spontaneous. Instead of solely tracking and analyzing, you can spend time planning and perfecting your brand voice.
Patagonia is a brand that does a fantastic job at remaining authentic. For starters, they don't traditionally advertise. The company works to provide meaning rather than superficial promises. They "advertise" by building human bonds, providing reliability and utility, and behaving like trustworthy people would – and that's a big deal to customers. Their focus is truly on people, emphasizing that the best brands are people that just happen to be associated with the product.
2) Have a Conversation
Remember that voice and tone matter; they humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations naturally. Take the time to have genuine, real-time dialogue with customers and prospects to better position your brand in a world of evolving and increasingly niche markets. Define and uphold a strong social media marketing voice and others will start doing your marketing for you.
This is a great example of how Oreo engages its customers in playful conversation on Twitter that syncs with the rest of the brand’s strategy. Consumers are delighted when a company takes the time to speak with them one-on-one – not to mention in a fun way. Three words: expanding brand loyalty.
3) Create Buyer Personas
Creating buyer personas, or fictional, generalized characters that build a picture of your ideal and largest markets, helps you better understand your core customer groups. In order to organize your research, you can start by conducting interviews and surveys, then organize and format your persona research, finalize specific buyer personas, and lastly, use your buyer personas for segmentation, content mapping, and lead nurturing. When you truly know your ideal customer, you will create more compelling content that they’ll respond positively to.
Walt Disney World knows exactly whom they're speaking to, when and where. This is a good example of attracting your ideal customers where they typically hang out. The highest percent of Facebook users is between ages 34-54, and the majority of those users are women. Who is more likely to book and plan the family vacation? Mothers! Walt Disney World knows this, and that’s why they focus their efforts on Facebook.
4) Show Your Personality
Cultivate a voice that delights your customers. Delighted customers talk positively about your brand, essentially driving new content creation. This content then reaches other customers and prospects, delivering your message naturally. Put a face on your brand and let a real personality shine through. Cater to your buyer personas and post the kind of content they enjoy. Let readers know that your brand is professional, of course, but also fun and relatable. People often prefer a connection over information.
Old Spice is known for their funny ads and brand personality. Especially in recent years, the company has taken many creative risks and, in turn, made a lasting impression. Here's an example of an unmistakeably Old Spice ad.
5) Provide Relevant Content
Great content is only great as long as it resonates with your target audience. Take the time to really understand your readers. Research their challenges and publish content that speaks directly to them, where and when they prefer. In doing this, you’ll enhance your reach.
Lowe's on Pinterest makes perfect sense. The products should be shared on Pinterest because that's where Lowes' ideal customers want to browse for ideas of what to buy. This shows that the company really understands its audience and wants to cater to their interests.
6) Be Helpful
Create a presence in social communities by helping people. Spend time crafting genuinely helpful replies rather than just dropping links all over the place. Building those relationships will carry your business forward at a rapid pace. It is critical that you are helping people rather than focusing only on driving traffic and metrics.
JetBlue responds quickly to customer service questions on Twitter. They don’t take any days off (just like their airlines) and are there to help at any time. If your brand is going to go on Twitter for customer service, it’s important to be committed. They are going where their customers are and being there to help them, not to help themselves by constantly pushing press releases. JetBlue is promoting their brand by having great customer service. It’s a win-win: customers get service on Twitter, while JetBlue publicly displays their quick and responsive service.
7) Focus on Quality Engagement Over Quantity
Quality of the engagement with a message must be factored in – more so than the quantity of engagements. Thoughtful comments and replies or posts that answer your audience’s common questions give your brand an edge while building trust. And, speaking directly to your customers gives you a much better idea of how to market to them than merely analyzing data. Traffic is nice, but truly engaging with the reader means more. A glorified RSS feed is actually a waste of time.
Here, Southwest Airlines took advantage of an opportunity to engage with a customer directly on Twitter and, in turn, really made a positive impact on his view of the company. Little yet meaningful interactions have the power to create loyal customers and even brand evangelists.
8) Be Open
Transparency and openness can be a huge asset as you are generating your social media marketing voice. This type of marketing is unique. Few companies share the intimate details of their journey, and doing so can help you stand out from your competition. Writing with openness and transparency also helps you communicate with confidence; nothing is off the table to discuss.
With the “Our Food. Your Questions.” digital platform, consumers were encouraged to ask their toughest questions. In exchange, McDonald’s Canada promised to step up and provide clear and concise answers. It was the open, honest kind of approach that can silence the harshest of critics, turn a fence-sitter into a fan or, if it backfires, risk alienating consumers unsatisfied with the answers.
9) Post About Things Other Than Your Own Brand
Make sure your posts aren't all just about your company or industry – although those are important, too. When you venture outside of your usual topics once in a while, it makes people feel comfortable being themselves because you're being yourself, too. Share great posts by other industry leaders and touch upon relevant news. It’s always beneficial to keep content interesting so as not to lose people’s interest. Keep your audience coming back for more.
Here's an example of how Whole Foods touches upon topics on Twitter that aren't directly tied to their offerings but correlate with their audience's interests and concerns. This shows that you care about more than just touting your products and services, and it helps keep your content interesting and relevant.
10) Throw in Content for Pure Consumer Enjoyment
Post things that you think your audience would just plain enjoy sometimes, with no link to your blog, lead-capture form, or transaction attached. This will make people more than like your posts – they’ll look forward to them. This also enhances trust because readers will see that you aren’t just on a mission to promote; you’re there to delight and serve your audience. If you come across a funny YouTube video that would speak to your buyer personas, share it! Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese does a good job at keeping their followers entertained. Here's a great example of just plain fun – no link, no promotion, just great branding. Keeping customers delighted is key, especially when it's delivered genuinely.
11) Leverage Consumer-Generated Content
IBM’s Global CEO Study found that 88% of CEOs said "getting closer to customers" was the top priority for their business over the next five years. This can be done, largely, by leveraging user-generated content. Brands should work to improve their products and messaging as consumers continue to influence and take co-ownership of their favorite brands. Share consumers’ content and tweak your offerings in order to give your audience exactly what they like to see and experience.
Starbucks engaged fans and created some beautiful content when they launched a stunning White Cup Contest where fans were proposed to paint Starbucks’ white cups and submit their photos to social media using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. As a result, the brand received wonderful visual content for its Facebook and Pinterest pages, and increased their social media reach.
With the rise of collaborative marketing, marketers must shift from marketing "at" consumers to marketing "with" consumers. We have reached a point where companies that simply view social as a mass communication channel for blasting out messages to a mass audience are penalized. Barriers between companies and their consumers will continue to fall in this collaborative age. These 11 important tactics will help your brand face its consumers genuinely and effectively.
Want to learn more about how to attract and, ultimately, delight your ideal customers? Check out this comprehensive free guide!
Originally published Jun 19, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017