What Consumers Expect From Companies on Social Media

Today we see consumers utilizing social media more than ever before, especially to discover, browse, and share new products and brands. Companies have begun to take note too, finding new, creative ways to engage with these customers on social media. Some of the best efforts have led to heartwarming moments and viral sensations, and some companies seem to have perfected their strategy. So if businesses can effectively engage with consumers online, they can generate new sales, new customers, and positive word-of-mouth around the world — right? Not so fast. Today, almost every company has at least one social media account, and even some of the largest organizations in the world have experienced social media missteps.

So, how can you replicate the memorable moments, avoid the social media stumbles, and maintain a good name for your business online? We’ve included advice for any company, big or small; here are some topics to embrace and avoid, and some tips for specific industries and social media platforms that you can use today.

What Traits Should Every Brand Utilize?

When Sprout Social conducted a thorough study of consumer preferences, they found that there were three specific traits that the vast majority of consumers wanted from brands on social media. Luckily, all three are very easy for the average business to replicate.

The three traits are honestly, friendliness, and helpfulness. That’s right; your business doesn’t need millions of followers or world-renowned products. Rather, consider a similar approach that many would take to customer service: offer friendly support to customers who seek it, and avoid any conversations that could be seen as confrontational or provocative. Customers will appreciate support that is timely and relevant to their needs, and your business will avoid looking offensive or out of touch.

One more piece of encouraging news for businesses: In that same study, the action that was most associated with prompting customer purchases was simply being responsive. So be sure to respond to your customers in relevant cases —  you might even see new customers and increased sales as a result!

Should You Try to be Funny?

Now here’s where things get tricky. While some simply aim to offer friendly, helpful service on social media, some brands look to go the extra mile. They look to create an entire brand personality online through their social media accounts.

Consider Wendy’s, the fast food company whose savvy social media led to one of the most retweeted sentiments on Twitter of all time. The brand is known for their witty, entertaining Twitter account, complete with devastating responses to competitors and naysayers. At first glance, it’s engaging, harmless, and just flat-out funny. But here’s where we advise you to proceed with caution, as what works for the international powerhouse may not work for everyone.

According to the Sprout survey, 66% of consumers find brands making fun of competitors on social to be annoying, and a whopping 88% find it annoying when it comes to making fun of consumers. With over 50% of consumers indicating that they unfollow irritating brands on social media, your style and sense of humour is extremely important. We still recommend using a sense of humour on social media — just try to ensure that it’s positive, tongue-in-cheek, and avoids personal put-downs and insults.      

Stay Away From Politics, Right?

Here’s where things get really tricky. In the past, most businesses preferred to stay out of politics to avoid the perception that they were picking sides. But more recently, we’ve seen companies buck that trend.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, politics is becoming more and more difficult to avoid, and companies have seen it come up everywhere, from the pizza place to the football field. While all of this might sound bleak and depressing, there’s a more positive perspective that other companies can, and we believe should, embrace. For example, consider Heineken’s ‘Open Your World’ campaign that recently launched. The campaign brought in two people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and gave them furniture to assemble and a questionnaire to complete. Afterwards, the participants were offered the chance to talk out their differences over a beer (Heineken, of course), or go home. All participants chose to stay and talk, and the campaign received excellent reviews.

For business owners discouraged or intimidated by the current political environment, remember that 66% of consumers believe it’s cool for brands to talk about current, timely events. As long as it’s done in a positive, inclusive manner, businesses shouldn’t feel obligated to avoid current events.    

The Medium is the Message 

Have you ever stopped to think about which social media platform would be best for the specific type of message you’re trying to send? Too often, businesses create a single campaign that they proceed to blast out across all of their every social media platforms. But it turns out that specific platforms are best suited for particular content — a concept that consumers overwhelmingly recognize, too.

For example, think of the professional nature of the communication that you see on LinkedIn, as opposed to more casual conversations that you might see on Facebook. You can also consider the visual content you expect to see on YouTube and Instagram, in comparison to the written content you might see on Reddit. You might even want to post at an ideal time of day, too, to ensure maximum engagement. These variations go beyond style and timing. According to Sprout, while 83% of consumers prefer brand personality on Facebook, that number drops to just 33% on LinkedIn. So while it’s best for marketers to try to send a consistent message to consumers, the length, format and features of that message can — and should — see variation.

Let Your Industry Inform Your Content 

Earlier, we discussed brand personality and how the social media strategies that Wendy’s executes may not be right for everyone. It turns out, the industry of your company is an extremely important consideration in developing an effective social media strategy.

In competitive, forward-facing industries like media & advertising and consumer goods, over 50% of consumers admit that they would prefer to see brand personality on social media. However, within the non-profit and healthcare sectors, just 42% and 43% of customers, respectively, would like to see brand personality on social media. What that means is that while all businesses today should utilize social media, the industry you’re in should help dictate your content and approach. While a local sandwich shop might be best served with a witty, ambitious social media presence, a national charity may instead want to focus on its philanthropy and fundraising efforts online.

Social media might seem a little intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be! If you’re looking for a good starting point, try analyzing your industry competitors and the social media accounts that they operate, as well as their content and tone. From there, try injecting your own sense of humour, company values, and unique selling points into your content, too. You’re already well on your way to creating engaging social media posts for your audience; as long as you’re respectful, friendly, and helpful towards current and potential customers, you should start seeing benefits in no time.

For more information on what social media strategy might be right for you and your business, contact one of the digital marketing experts at Techwyse by calling 866-288-6046, or contact us here.

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