It might be tempting to see social media purely as a marketing channel but to use it effectively, you need to focus on being social. Sounds obvious but there are so many brands getting it wrong on social and seeing it as a promotional channel first and foremost. It’s an amazing tool for reaching new people, building relationships and ultimately turning those people into ‘customers’ but only if you build a sociable brand.
What is a sociable brand?
At Digital Mums we believe in the importance of building what we call a sociable brand. What does this look like in practice?
Let’s look at an example from a brand doing a great job at this.
EXAMPLE | Yorkshire Tea
Yorkshire Tea aren't just talking about tea. They have a varied and interesting feed that shares content across areas that are relevant to the brand. These are areas where they have license to take part in the conversation. For example, during the festival season they jump on conversations about the big festivals and who is playing and how much fun people are having. You might think, what does this have to do with tea? But it is relevant to their brand because many people are ultimately drinking tea at these festivals. But instead of pushing promotional content around their products they are instead having conversations and building relationships with festival-goers. These conversations and relationships put Yorkshire Tea front of mind when those audiences make their next tea purchase. Ultimately, they have built an emotional connection to the brand that isn’t really about the teabags and they have done this by having a sociable brand that isn’t just talking about tea.
Yorkshire Tea used to be seen as a pretty old-fashioned brand, drunk by old ladies in...well in Yorkshire. But they have used social media to become a relevant and modern brand with a whole new demographic of customers. Firstly, they had the right goal - to build genuine relationships with their target audience not to sell to them. Secondly, they nailed how to do this by building a sociable brand that didn’t focus on pushing product-led content. They focus on a range of content areas that make sense for them.
How do you go about building a sociable brand?
There are three stages to building a sociable brand for a business or charity.
Stage 1 | Your brand
The first thing you have to do is to understand what a brand can talk about that makes sense for them. This is called having a “right to play”.
So, in the example of Yorkshire tea, it probably doesn’t make sense for them to talk about pop gigs at Wembley because people aren’t drinking tea at gigs. Tea has no place at a gig. Festivals on the other hand, leaving your tent in the morning when you’ve had no sleep and it’s cold and raining, now that’s where tea comes into its own.
When building your sociable brand ask yourself some questions:
- Why does the brand exist?
- What is the brand passionate about?
- What areas are connected to your brand’s products/services?
If you end up with a list of your products or services or a list of their benefits then you have missed the point. Yes, your products/services can be on the list but they should be in the minority. But what might you have on the list that doesn’t relate directly to your products/services?
EXAMPLE | Digital Mums
Digital Mums has gender equality on its list. This has nothing to do with the content of our courses but it is essentially the reason the business exists - to level the playing field for women and mothers that face discrimination in the labour market.
EXAMPLE | Bikini Bella
Bikini Bella is a swimwear brand and it has body positivity on its list. This is a movement and not a product. But it makes sense for a swimwear brand to align itself with this movement.
We can’t stress how important it is that this list is authentic for your brand. If Digital Mums treated our female employees really badly and didn’t pay them maternity leave allowance or provide flexible working options we have no right having gender equality on our list. The same goes for the Bikini Bella if their swimwear only goes up to a size 12/14 and they have airbrushed models on their website.
Stage 2 | Your customer
Go back to your personas and think about what they are interested in. What would add value to them and what are they already talking about? Try and stick to the topics that make sense for your brand here.
Stage 3 | Your sociable brand
Look at the list from stage 2 and remove anything that doesn’t make sense for your brand - where you have no "right to play".
EXAMPLE | Digital Mums
If you look at Digital Mums we are targeting women and mothers (and occasionally dads). Our audiences would have a lot on their list that relates to parenting but we don’t talk about breastfeeding tips or which buggies to buy. That’s because we are a career-focused training company and these topics are nothing to do with our brand. We don’t have a “right to play” here.
EXAMPLE | Stretch It Yoga
For Stretch It yoga studio it’s useful for them to think about what their customers are chatting about in their venue before they start the class that makes sense for their brand. Things here might include mindfulness, vegan and healthy recipes, the best place to get yoga workout clothes etc. They should remove anything from their persona list that doesn’t fit their brand and keep anything that does even if it’s not directly about their yoga classes.
Once you have two clear lists, finally draw a quick Venn diagram and look for anything that appears on both your lists. This is what should make up your sociable brand.
On our social media courses, we build sociable brands using a pie chart, which is also really useful for steering you in the right direction as to how much to focus on one area or another. It helps your brand:
- Stay consistent and professional
- Build authenticity and trust
- Steer your content strategy
- Guide your hashtag strategy
- Develop an influencer strategy
The right tone of voice
The final piece of the sociable brand puzzle is to ensure you craft the right tone of voice. Having a consistent tone of voice in the tweets and posts of a business is very important so that audiences get a consistent impression of who the business is.
There are many types of tone your content could take.
The below are all quite serious and professional and great for brands that want to command respect.
Below are more approachable and friendly and are great for brands that want to engage in a fun way.
The following are great for brands that don’t want to be prescriptive but rather open and collaborative.
The below are all slightly anti-establishment and are great for brands that want to appeal to the younger generation.
- laid back
You can also blend these, for example, a local accountancy firm might adopt an authoritative and knowledgeable tone of voice but make it friendly and a bit fun in order to be approachable for local businesses and the self-employed.
How do you decide what tone of voice a brand should have?
The tone of voice must reflect the business image, mission and its personality but it’s also important to consider your audience.
Questions to ask yourself?
- What does my brand stand for? If my brand was a person how would it speak?
- What do I want my target audience to feel? Calmed and reassured? Excited and energetic?
- How do my customers currently chat to each other and to brands?
- How old are my customers and what are their motivations for buying from my brand?
Take the NHS. As a brand they would want their audiences to feel reassured. Their tone of voice is calm, professional, authoritative but also approachable.
Take Nike. As a brand they want their audience to be motivated and energised. Their tone of voice is energetic, to the point, assertive.
Some businesses want to sound impersonal, distant and corporate so they would avoid any matey tone in the conversation. A management consultancy for the public sector would want to seem as serious and safe as possible so public servants would feel happy handing over £1m for a contract.
A charity that was trying to raise awareness of water poverty in Africa might choose to share content that has an authoritative and knowledgeable tone but to avoid being seen as preachy might choose to add to this a more laid back and matey conversational style.
You should also decide whether it’s appropriate to use emojis and gifs which also hugely impact your tone of voice.
The final thing to note is that it’s important to be consistent with your tone of voice. If you were serious and authoritative for weeks on end then suddenly became cheeky and fun, using loads of emojis and gifs your audiences would get confused.
Building an authentic sociable brand is one of the most important elements for social media success. If you build the right sociable brand you can build relationships and that is ultimately what social media marketing is all about.
For more useful social media stuff check out our free social media taster lessons, courses and podcasts here or why not sign up to find out more about our next Foundation in Social Media Marketing course here.