Table of Content
Building a brand on social
If you’ve read our blog on how to perfect your visual identity then you’ll know how to put clothes on your brand. But now that your brand is no longer naked, you want to show it off. There’s no use being all dressed up with nowhere to go, you want to prove that you’re the life of the party. But social media is daunting, right? So we’ve put together another blog to help figure out this whole social media identity thing.
What does it mean to build a brand on social?
Social media is huge. 3.8 billion people, according to a 2020 survey. With all the zeros that’s 3,800,000,000. That can be pretty intimidating…or it can be an opportunity. Social media, as huge as it is, has the ability to boost your brand and get you results you’ve only dreamed of, as long as you nail your brand building.
We categorise ourselves every day by the brands that we consume. Everyone in the Western hemisphere seems to have done at least a couple of ‘quizzes’ on ‘What your choice of beer at a party says about you’ or ‘Pick a meal deal and we’ll tell you about your soulmate’. The reason these quizzes gain traction is because of the reinforced social and cultural imprinting of different brands. If I asked you to draw someone who is really into craft beer and vinyl records, chances are you’ll come up with a typical hipster with long hair and tattoos. By contrast if I asked what a ‘Fiat 500 girl’ looked like you’d draw a blonde 20-something year old who loves the colour pink and small dogs.
The point here is that you actually want your brand to be that recognisable. You want there to be a collective cultural imprint about your brand and its customer base. Social media is possibly the most effective way to build your brand in this way, in part due to its 3,800,000,000 users.
Get your start-up noticed
There are some keys to building that cultural imprint. You need to be unique, catch people’s attention, and then keep getting noticed. You do this by using your personal distinctive brand assets. Those could be features that we talked about in our blog on visual identity, for example, your logo. Fortunately start-ups are in the ideal position to do this if they have that challenger brand mindset.
At the very beginning, you want to build your initial audience. These should be people who are familiar with your brand, and you should try and grow that to a decently competitive amount for your industry. However, there is a key nuance in audience growth that many brands ignore. Brands see social as a way to communicate with their current followers, but this does not build brands. You want to reach all potential buyers in your category, not just focus on your heavy buyers, i.e. your most loyal customers. This may seem counterintuitive but the people who are most likely to follow you on social media are people who are already buying, and likely to continue buying. They aren’t new.
Imagine you’re at a party. Your heavy buyers are like your closest friends. Of course they’re going to come and speak to you, maybe offer you a drink. But there’s no use being stuck in your close friend circle. You’re spending your time and money making the same jokes and hoping they’ll laugh. Instead you need to meet as many people as possible and make some new friends. You need to go out and talk to new people.
Engagement is a tricky metric. Many brands invest heavily in it as an idea, but in reality it bears very little correlation to actual brand growth. For one, most people on social media apps in the Facebook group, for example, do not actually engage with posts. As a result Facebook themselves do not advise you to consider engagement as a useful metric for brand building.
Furthermore, even the engagement you do get tells you very little about the actual important psychological details such as brand awareness, recall, and most importantly, intent to purchase. Posts that receive engagement can be interesting to a consumer but not make them any more aware of the brand or make them more likely to buy from them.
Micro-targeting is a way of marketing that is more specific to digital and social advertising. Essentially, micro-targeting is when you break down your target audience and send them personalised adverts. It can be very useful, but not for brand building.
What micro-targeting is great at is producing short-term sales rises. But whilst these spikes are useful, they are spikes, not long-term brand growth. Micro-targeting will not help get your brand into the collective cultural milieu. Instead it will divide your brand image into digestible chunks for different audiences. You don’t want your brand to be too chunky, or else it won’t be recognisable.
That’s enough on the typical mistakes brands make when looking at brand building on social. Some key things to bear in mind when growing or building your brand on social media are as follows.
Much like with your visual identity, consistency is key. In this context, however, that applies primarily to posting frequency. This will vary based on your industry but definitely do try and keep your content in the social consciousness of your audience. Social media has shortened people’s attention spans; the rise of TikTok and Twitter are perfect examples of this, so keep yourself relevant by staying in the public eye. At least one post a week is a good starting point.
Next, make sure that you keep in mind that you are aiming to build your brand. It's easy to get bogged down in social media, trying to perfect each and every post, follow, and reply. Instead, spend that time and energy on reaching out to as many potential customers as possible. Budget constraints may become an issue here, but try to reach at least three quarters of your target audience.
Perhaps the most important of all of these metrics is the media you choose to engage potential customers on. Think about your average customer profile, are they the aforementioned Fiat 500 girl who likely uses Instagram and TikTok and thinks that Facebook is a thing of the past. Or are they a middle-aged father of two who uses Twitter and Facebook on their morning commute to keep abreast of the news. Once you have this profile down, focus your energy on these channels.
It's also important to understand what each social media platform is for. Here is a general rundown of the primary channels and their use:
Facebook: Varied. Can be used for photos, statuses, lives, and links to other webpages.
Instagram: Visual first. Primarily for photos. Reels and stories can be useful for posting videos. Does not allow links in comments.
Twitter: Similar to Facebook. Primarily pithy, word-based posts. Links can be used.
LinkedIn: More professional-orientated. Some brands are changing the way the platform is used however, i.e. Thursday. Great place to show yourself as a thought leader.
TikTok: Newest of the bunch. Short, snappy videos. Can be used for lives. More comedic business posts, i.e. Ryanair and Duolingo.
Also have a think about content creators. Brand partnerships and influencer marketing have really risen to the fore in the past few years.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the whole brand building process is the content that your brand actually puts out. Your brand output is inherently contextual and there is no cover-all social strategy for every brand. However there are some key tips and tricks to build your brand.
It is essential to keep in mind that your brand’s growth should be measured in years, not in months. This applies to monitoring engagement, as well as it does to planning overall social strategy.
Posts can be broken down into three categories. Type A posts should be planned and uploaded weekly, Type B posts should be posted monthly, and Type C posts should be posted around every six months or so.
These posts are your bread and butter. They should be engaging, and keep your brand at the forefront of your audience's mind. It is here that you have to balance your continuous posting with original content. You’ll have to be creative. They keep the anticipation rising for the next big post or announcement that your brand is going to make.
In terms of form, it’s best for these posts to have visual imagery that reinforces the visual identity that you’ve worked so hard to craft. These are for casual viewing, they should catch the eye, and work best when they don’t require too much effort or attention to consume.
Type B posts are slightly longer and have more substance behind them. They, too, want to catch your audience’s attention, but they keep it for about twice as long. Stories on Instagram are the perfect format for these. Often, you’ll use these as snippets of a Type C post and they are often bold and declarative. Use subtitles in these videos and show off your brand assets. With a mixture of Type A and Type B posts, you’ll be sure to catch the eye of your audience.
These are the most important posts when building your brand. They should crop up a couple of times a year and have the largest budget. This is where your brand gets to cash in on the attention you’ve been garnering over the previous few months. They should be emotive, interesting, and most importantly, widespread.
Type C posts are best done as videos. You want to get that attention and videos are the best format for this. They should be the longest form of post you make at perhaps a minute or so and unlike Type B, they do not belong on Instagram stories. Instead, they should be their own post and do the most work to spread your brand into the collective consciousness. This is where you can consider brand collaborations or influencer marketing. If done correctly, they’ll be the post that your audience remembers and makes you stand out from the crowd.
There are many myths about brand building on social. Some businesses see social media as a money-sucking pit with no measurable results, however in the past few years tools have been created which measure tangible return on investment. Others see it as a way to drive short term spikes, and nothing more.
Take time to build your brand. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Measure your content returns in months, not weeks. Plan in advance and don’t get bogged down in the details of each new follower. Make sure you understand your audience and how to interact with them on different platforms. Finally, if you’re looking to learn more about brand growth, spend some time with the literature. Take a look at Byron Sharp’s book ‘How Brands Grow’ for some more key rules to grow your brand, and Kevin Simler’s ‘Ads Don’t Work That Way’ to dispel some typical marketing myths. For challenger brands, ‘Eating the Big Fish’ by Adam Morgan is a no-brainer to stick on your reading list.
At Small World, we specialise in helping start-ups and scale-ups grow their brands whilst using the best challenger brand marketing techniques. We align you with our industry-specialist partners based on your needs, to ensure you have everything you need, nothing you don’t.