By Ivan Serrano
The question on the minds of Publicity Hounds and marketers minds is, “How do we keep up with all the changes in social media?”
Facebook, in particular, is notorious for making changes, without warning, that cause previously successful social media tactics to tank.
Regardless, this is part of the social media game. Social networks are going to do what makes the best business sense for them. You must be willing to accept this reality when you create your account.
That said, social media can be an incredibly effective way to promote your brand. The key is to make sure your brand delivers real value before trying to promote it.
Do the Work First
If your brand is basing its business model on a social media marketing tactic or even a social network per se, you are already skating on thin ice. Brands that don’t demonstrate solid expertise or offer great products are putting the cart before the horse.
Focusing on building an online or social media brand without first building a foundation for that brand looks like smoke with no fire.
A brand isn’t something you build with social media posts. It’s something you build because you’ve got a great product that delivers experiences that customers love. Make sure you’ve got something customers want.
Post What People Like to See
Images get more attention than text.
Scroll through your Facebook feed for a minute and then write down what you clicked on. If you didn’t click on anything, write down what you remember. Chances are, it was a post that had an image associated with it. Or, it was a post by someone with whom you have a strong personal relationship.
Those are the two things people want from their social media experiences: images and strong personal relationships. Of the two, images are easier, and, with the right content, can lead to stronger online relationships.
It’s Not About You
How many times has someone asked you to like their Facebook page? If you’re online even a little bit, you’ll get at least one such request every day.
The people and brands who take this approach, basically begging for likes, simply don’t get it. It isn’t about them and what they want. Building a brand is about delivering value to your audience.
The best way to deliver value is to provide memorable experiences that are more about value for the receiver than the provider. Here are some ways Facebook can be used to build a brand.
If you have special expertise, sharing that expertise is a great way to build brand presence. If that expertise translates well into short video clips or static images, this may be your best brand-building strategy. DIY Home Decorating is a case in point.
With almost 3.5 million likes, this page is definitely a go-to source for many do-it-yourselfers. It uses its Facebook page to direct traffic to its website where it earns revenue from sponsored links.
Brands are increasingly using Facebook as a platform for customer service. While about 20 percent of brands just use their Facebook pages for “push” style posts, the remaining 80 percent vary widely in the degree of engagement they promote with their audiences.
Socialbakers, a firm that measures a variety of social network activities, found in a 2014 study that brands that responded to at least 65 percent of questions from customers had audiences that were 3.4 times as engaged as brands that didn’t answer questions to that degree.
If audience engagement is one of your brand’s metrics, be open to answering questions on Facebook.
Make People Laugh
Humor is a great way to increase brand awareness without selling anything.
When you follow the 80/20 rule of social media—only 20 percent or less of social media posts should be sales oriented and 80 percent or more should be value-added and experiential—factoring humor into the mix seems like an obvious choice.
The Dollar Shave Club used humor on social media, including Facebook, to launch itself from an obscure startup to competing head-to-head with Gillette and Bic in the shaving space.
Whether you are using video, cartoons, GIFs or other media to present humor, it’s a safe be that most folks will take a minute or two out of their day for a quick laugh.
Another popular visual element on Facebook is the inspirational quote. Regularly post inspirational quotes that resonate with your audience and your audience will look forward to them.
Don’t necessarily look to famous people or dead authors for your inspirational quotes. While these are great sources of material, and regardless of their universal appeal, much of what goes on in today’s world would seem foreign to the thinkers of yore.
Gold’s Gym does a great job of finding quotes that resonate with its audience. It’s Facebook post featuring a quote by Jean Paul, “No rest is worth anything except the rest that is earned,” was one of its most popular. Here’s another:
In addition to answering questions, this another great way engage with your audience. Whether you use a multiple choice vote, a fill in the blank, or ask an open-ended question, you’ll be surprised at the number of responses this method will generate.
Skittles asked a simple question: “What do you call the moment when you open a pack of Skittles?” This one post garnered over 5,000 responses. Can you really ask for more from a social media post?
Don’t Forget the Relationship
Regardless of how superficial Facebook may seem at times, people are really looking for relationships they can count on. To build an effective following on Facebook, a brand must walk a thin line between personal and professional personas. Doing this consistently by sharing content that involves and entertains them will, over time, build a solid and sustainable Facebook community.
The beauty of these techniques is that they are based on principles of social interaction, and are substantially independent of the technologies that Facebook may or may not change. While there no guarantees with social media, building communities based on proven social dynamics is the best way to avoid the ups-and-downs of this rapidly changing landscape.
Ivan Serrano is a social media, business and finance journalist who lives in the Bay Area of California. Follow him on Google+.