Good social media management has always been about mastering the art of conversation.
After the last year and a half that we have been through, it’s no surprise that people are on social media now more than ever. Social media is how we’ve accessed the latest news in urgent times. It’s how we were able to stay connected to each other as we isolated from each other. It’s how we processed, discussed, and learned. So yeah, we’re all extremely logged on.
The last couple years have seen huge changes in how people engage with brands on the platforms, and these changes will continue to make an impact throughout the 2020s. So, what does that mean for social media managers going forward?
Good social media management has always been about mastering the art of conversation. It’s about listening to your audience’s needs and responding to them in a unique way, while always finding the next conversation to start. But audience needs have clearly changed.
What Audiences Want
Now, more than ever, audiences choose to support brands that they feel would support them. Audiences want connection and authenticity, and they want their brands to care about the causes they do. According to a recent study conducted by Sprout Social, 72% of consumers want brands to be positive contributors to society, 64% want brands to connect with consumers, and 66% want to be able to trust brands. That’s a lot to ask of a brand, which means there’s a lot of opportunity for marketing.
Consumers are increasingly cognizant of the power their purchase has and likely to buy products from brands that make them feel good about their choices. That could take the form of an eco-friendly brand, a designer from an underrepresented community, or a product in which the proceeds go to a certain cause.
Beyond the purchase though, consumers are equally aware of the power their “Follow” or their “Like” has. Audiences are savvy with their social media use and how their actions online communicate what brands, aesthetics, and politics they “buy into,” even if they’re not buying anything at all.
Authenticity Is Key
An important part of developing a social media voice is assuring your audience that your brand cares about them and the things they’re passionate. For that, authenticity is key. Consumers can smell pandering a mile away, and your audience needs something real to connect with if they are going to champion your brand.
Authenticity is rooted in honesty and the personal. Bringing a personal touch could look a number of different ways depending on your brand. It could look like highlighting stories of real people. It could be featuring employees (or even the CEO) of the brand to give the audience a glimpse into the company. It could simply be having a confident perspective and voice in the comments that makes the audience feel like they’re talking to a friend. A strong social media strategy means being able to consistently maintain that voice and persona regardless of what the news cycle brings.
Content Over Aesthetic
Yes, yes, we all love a beautifully designed social media post, whether it’s minimal and earthy or maximalist and full of vibrant patterns. But one of the most annoying things on social media is seeing something beautiful and not knowing what purpose it serves. With products like Canva making graphic design extremely accessible, it feels like aesthetic is everything, but there is a limit, whether it’s infographics or ad campaigns for a product. The last thing you want is to bring an audience to your page, only for them to not know what your brand even is. A consumer may think your social media account is cool, but if they don’t know what it’s for, then that initial interest will fade out. So yes, design away, but don’t design away the message.
What Do Brands Believe in Anyway?
Throughout the summer of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests, it was impossible for anyone to not address what was going on in the country politically and racially. Some brands really rose to the occasion, donating to causes putting out statements that plainly and directly addressed the situation and where they stood on it, and amplifying Black voices. The brands who failed often did not have the vocabulary to discuss what was happening, tried so hard not to alienate anyone that they ended up alienating everyone, or put all the labor of creating the right-sounding statement solely on Black employees when all of the leadership was non-Black.
Brands these days need to be able to take a stand on issues that are important to their customers, not simply because their customers care, but because the brand genuinely cares. So identify certain topics that your consumers care about. Do your research. Understand how the conversation is playing out. Keep learning. And always back it up. Engaging with certain issues is not about just deploying the right buzzwords. It’s about being thoughtful and responsive. Also consider the brand’s limits because for consumers, brands can’t just talk about it. They need to be about it.
As social media manager, you can also be an agent of change. If you notice that your audience want the brand to make changes (like making a certain material eco-friendly or donating to a certain cause), be open to that and communicate that to other teams. The customer isn’t always right, but they can help push companies and brands to improve their product.
Social media management is all about cultivating relationships with your audience and consumers. Just like any other relationship, good social media management is about listening, exchanging, being authentic, and adapting. We live in a time where it feels like so much is out of our control, and one of the few things we do get to control is what we buy into, whether a product or a brand on social media. It takes a lot of work to meet the consumer where they’re at emotionally, visually, and even politically, but if you manage to do that, you’ll have a loyal audience.