New social media platforms & options seem to pop up nearly every month, and for every new platform attracting thousands of users, there needs to be a marketing plan tailor-made to achieve these segments. But the trouble is, every platform has different requirements & strategies that work to achieve your customers – Instagram’s focus is on photos & videos, Twitter limits you to 140 characters. There could be a lot of different elements to juggle once your social media deck gets stacked up.
This is great, because it allows for a broader reach across several channels. But a formidable challenge could quickly present itself: how does a company keep the consistency of its brand in the face of all those different platforms?
While there’re many ways to look at this question, I want to look at four tips in particular that could help a brand stay true to its voice.
1. Keep Your Look Consistent
This first tip is the easiest. Aside from your content – which is dictated by the constraints of every platform – what you have the most control over when constructing your social media presence is the design. This is a major advantage, because for many social media platforms, this comes down to a banner & profile picture that, although not identical, could be very similar in dimension across platforms.
If a company is a bit green, it may assume that the best thing to do would be to use every platform to showcase different side of the company – maybe a different product for every banner or profile picture. But this is a big mistake. It is hard enough to stay recognizable & coherent across platforms, and the way to take back some of that brand unity is to have a set of simple images that you unite the brand around.
What I mean, ultimately, is your FB profile picture should be the same as all your other profile pictures, to the best of the ability. The same goes for your banner. You want your presence to be so familiar that customers know who you’re the minute they see you, no matter what platform they find you on.
Design elements are about the only factor your company has significant control over in its social media presence – this needs to be leveraged for maximum visibility & consistency.
2. Know Yourself
Okay, onto the hard stuff. Having a well-defined brand can be very difficult, but it is also one of the most necessary ways to stay coherent across social media channels.
What is your brand’s voice? Is it playful & quirky, like the mattress company Casper & its famous subway ads? Or is it calm & authoritative, like IBM & its Watson-powered ad campaign?
This is legwork that could be figured out way before a social media presence is launched – having it out of the way will make it much easier to create copy & content for social media platforms that all speaks with the same voice.
It will also keep the brand from trying to jump unsuccessfully on certain trends that aren’t natural for its brand fit.
For instance, in 2015, Sea World decided to respond to a trend of social accountability & transparency by initiating an #AskSeaWorld plan. It completely backfired, with people jumping on the company for its alleged mistreatment of its animals, which had been called into question by the documentary ‘Blackfish’.
It may not be suitable for your company to jump on every bandwagon, and having your brand voice well-defined can help guide you through those potentially perilous waters.
3. Know Your Audience
Part of SeaWorld’s mistake was also that they did not know their audience – they invited the backlash by not having a realistic idea of how their audiences would respond to their campaign. There is an even more recent example of this gaffe. I am of course talking about United, who drew outrage by beating & dragging a passenger off the plane. Bad enough, but the company dug an even deeper hole by responding. The CEO referred to the assault as the need to “re-accommodate customers”, drawing immediate ire & plummeting their stock.
United’s big mistake was thinking that it can use a corporate euphemism like “re-accommodate” on a platform like Twitter, whose users tend to favor colloquialism & personability. This does not mean that you change your brand voice for every platform, but rather that you give consideration to who is engaging with each platform before crafting your brand’s message. It is a delicate interplay that needs to be given sensitive attention.
If you know your audiences for each platform, you will be able to create content that reaches every customer segment while remaining fundamentally coherent to the brand identity.
4. Use a Dashboard
As a final, practical tip, many companies have found it useful to use one of the many social media dashboards out there to help co-ordinate their overall social media plan across platforms. This really helps keep the brand coherent, because it supports a central hub from which all content proceeds. Dashboards like Hootsuite & Sprout Social help keep your brand presence centralized.
Not only is this good for brand coherence, but it could also help for just generally having a better-organized social media plan. Most of these dashboards include a myriad of tools that facilitate collaboration & scheduling, which helps make managing many social media channels less like a haphazard juggling contest.