The most effective (and feared) social media strategy

The Most Effective Social Media Strategies

Today, the job of your social media marketing team isn’t just to rack up followers, but to engage customers to form real, loyal, sustainable relationships. And the way to do it isn’t through clever taglines, coupons, or broadcasting content one-way, but through focusing your team on finding ways to create dialogue and relationships among and with your customers. This includes sharing the creative process and making them the most vivid brand personalities on your page.

Social Media Brand Strategy

You may be familiar with the Dove campaign for Real Beauty [editor’s note: Dove is the author’s client]. Most of the press written about the campaign has focused either on its enormous success, and some on the inevitable controversy that comes when people—and especially the cosmetics and self-care industry—discuss beauty and body image and the supersized role they play in women’s lives.

No one talks about what was truly revolutionary in the campaign. It reaches back to its very beginning, when the company first launched ads featuring “normal-looking” women rather than typical model types, and invited customers to speak out on their social forums (which my company LiveWorld built, managed, and moderated) about their own experiences of “real beauty.” Women did, enthusiastically, post stories that celebrated inner beauty without being constrained by Madison Avenue’s ideals. They also shared challenging issues and were comforted to read similar stories from thousands of others.

The campaign turned the entire cosmetics industry on its head. That industry’s advertising stock and trade had always focused on pushing images of unattainable beauty on customers. Never before had such a campaign been driven from the customer’s POV rather than the brand’s. That’s what made the Dove campaign the gold-standard for successful social media marketing, and I believe it explains the resulting gain in market share in countries around the world.

Beyond sharing their personal experience, customers couldn’t stop talking about what was now their favorite brand and products. Dove, in fact, was super sensitive about the product talk, wanting to keep the campaign message-focused and not compromised by commercialism. But the customers wouldn’t have it. Having been given a space to be understood and to connect and converse with other like-minded women, they were determined to reward the brand that empowered them with word-of-mouth recommendations and purchases. Our moderators let the conversation build organically while encouraging deeper levels of conversation.

This is the aspect of social media that is most difficult for marketers and companies to accept: The need to give up control, to share the brand development and the messaging around it with the customer. This empowers customers to connect, converse, and build relationships with each other first and then the brand—and it’s where the greatest advantage lies.

Today Dove is no longer just a beauty product, or even the company that celebrates natural beauty. The brand has become a lightning rod for debate on sensitive issues affecting customers, and in turn the industry that serves them. And more important, it is a safe place for women to engage and share their experiences with other women.

“Engagement” is what’s required not just for customers to interact with your content, but to truly advocate for you as a result of their connections with each other and to do so across the social web—on Instagram, on product review sites, on their Facebook, their Twitter, their email and their blogs. The Internet is a big place, actually infinite, and if you want customers loyal enough to help you cover it with brand-positive dialogue, your marketing (and indeed, your entire company, but let’s start in our own backyard) needs to enlist them as trusted partners. You need to inspire them to imagine alongside you, building the brand through their own experiences and dialogue, so they’re not just engaged but involved.

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