By Jag Panesar, Director at Saltaire-based digital agency, Xpand.
Since social media took the commercial atmosphere by storm, it’s never been so easy for consumers to uncover the truth about a brand.
Some call it digital evolution; I call it the changing face of brand values.
No longer is it good enough for firms only to have their values, mission and purpose hidden in the depth of content on their website. No, the cautious eye of the 2020 consumer now sees beyond the talent of the copywriter and takes to social media in search of authenticity.
And, when I say social media, I am not just talking about company pages. I am talking employee and director profiles, public forums, and even local community groups.
I hate to be blunt, but if what they find does not add up, a brand will instantly lose all credibility with what could have been a strong lead.
The good thing is many marketers recognise this and now support brands with the conversion of brand values to create impactful social media content.
Where did it begin?
Do you remember when social media first became a thing almost 20 years ago? Those responsible for marketing had a definite fear they would lose control over their brand integrity, partly because consumers suddenly had the option to speak freely and openly about their experiences.
Of course, their initial worry was that this would then undermine the intended value and personality of a brand, but they soon came to realise the benefits of having more ways to show consumers who they are and what they stand for.
So, how did social media allow brand values to shine through?
There are many ways brands can use social media to help consumers paint a picture of who they are and what they stand for, but here are just a few we’ve identified to be powerful forces.
- Behind the scenes style posts
With the power to post quickly and at any point of the day, brands are taking to social media to share what life is like for employees at the company, and giving sneak peeks of how products are made, or services are offered.
Giving this extra insight to consumers presents an opportunity for them to get to know what your brand stands for.
- Charitable activities
Over the last ten years, we’ve seen more and more brands take part in fundraising activities and even complete projects on a pro-bono basis. With so many people suffering, there is a precedent that brands who are doing well should be giving back.
Again, with the power to share things with consumers almost instantly, brands have been able to communicate their values through charitable activities shared on social media.
- Engaging in conversation
Social media is just that; a media which allows you to be social. That’s why consumers expect a brand to not only post, but also engage. Through conversation, over the year’s brands have been able to form relationships with their target audience and demonstrate their values.
- Use of emojis
Emojis, aren’t they pretty? Well, they do more than just add colour to a post. Brand values have become prevalent via the use of emojis due to the additional personification they add to content.
At the end of the day, what all consumers want is to be able to relate to a brand and what they stand for. With emojis, they get a feel for your brand’s personality, which is a reflection of how you treat both them and the rest of the world.
Where did it all go wrong?
Like anything, social media does have the power to instantly break a brand if not used correctly. Plus, aside from this extreme, little errors can influence a consumer’s perception of your brand over time.
Here’s a few ways brand values come across in a negative light.
- Political debate
Unfortunately, our world has never been so torn by political opinions and that’s only worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to air concerns on popular platforms such as Twitter especially means that brands or employees are often brought into a political debate on the back of one comment or opinion.
Most brands make a conscious effort to avoid political bias completely, but when they don’t, it can have a major effect on their values.
- The Selfie
Ah, the selfie! It is nice to see the people behind the brand, don’t get me wrong, but brand feeds full of the same person pouting and posting meaningless content can paint the wrong picture. Consumers expect to see that a brand values their employees, acts as a team, and cares more about the customer experience than how they look when they wake up.
One or two selfies are fine, but don’t make your page look like a dating profile.
- Trending hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to increase reach if used correctly, but brands are often viewed in a negative light when jumping on the back of trending hashtags that don’t align to their existing mission or values.
When choosing which trends to be a part of, ensure that your team, company and previous posts are reflective of the topic at hand.
- The impact of changing consumer values
Consumer values are changing, FACT. As a nation, we’ve become more aware of issues in the environment and the world, and consumer values have changed because of this. Now, more than ever, they expect a brand’s corporate social responsibility to be prevalent on social media.
- Employee chit chat
As an employer, you can’t tell your employees what to write and where, but you can educate them about your firm’s values and mission, and set an expectation that they’d bear these in mind when engaging in conversation on social media.
Often, brands have lost credibility due to posts or conversations employees have had on social media, with Twitter being the biggest source of exposure.
As the millennial generation is now moving into the age of senior management and we deal with a global pandemic, the way in which social media is embraced and engaged with by companies and consumers alike is expected to change, again.
But, to this day I see numerous examples of companies which shy away from social media out of fear. To those companies I would say, what message does that give about your values, your brand and how you handle unhappy customers?