With fewer people watching traditional live television (and as a result the ad breaks between shows) and the rise of online ad blockers, brands are becoming more and more reliant on earned media – the publicity gained through reviews, reposts, likes, shares and mentions – rather than paid advertising spots. But how can you get that all-important view on YouTube, ‘like’ on Facebook or share on Instagram? It’s not enough to just create a video with a funny cat – brands and media owners need to ensure they deliver the most impactful content and campaigns on the most suitable platform at exactly the right time to engage consumers. To start with, understanding audiences’ usage of each online platform is integral for brands and marketers. It may sound obvious, but consumers use each platform in different ways for different things. While Twitter may be used to keep up to date with news, advice and networking, Facebook is for staying in touch with friends, and Instagram is all about aspiration and inspiration. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are not the same and brands must not treat them as such. Successful vloggers – the ones with hundreds of thousands of followers – approach each one in a very different way.

Brands also need to understand why social media users share content. The motivation behind the majority of shares is to connect with a particular individual or group, not, as may be expected, to shout something about yourself publicly.1Social Media Sharing: Your invitation to the online conversation: October 2014. This sharing is about making a personal connection and is mostly done through messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp, or if posted publicly, directed to an individual or small group. Image sharing, on sites such as Snapchat and Instagram, tends to be more about seeking recognition and portraying the best side of oneself. This is at odds with brands’ motivation for sharing. Brands share content to make an impact – to gain as much attention as possible and become ‘top of mind’ for consumers. Consumers can be wary of this kind of behaviour – especially content that is posted directly by brands. Therefore, the best way for brands to enter social media is to get actual consumers or social influencers to share their content. 11_quote_1 People share personal and branded content for very similar reasons. For example, a piece of branded content is more likely to be shared if it is of personal relevance to the user or will help them to connect with others. Motivations for sharing on social media platforms vary, because these platforms fulfil different needs for users. Brands must think carefully about what content will work on each platform in order to remain relevant. Tongue-in-cheek Paddy Power material might not be sharable on Facebook for fear of offending Grandma, but may be fine to share with mates on Snapchat or WhatsApp. The downfall of many brands’ social media strategy is that they either rehash the same content across platforms or treat each platform as if it were used in exactly the same way by everyone i.e. using Instagram to share in the moment statuses like you would do with Twitter. Successful brands alter their content, objectives and tone of voice for each channel, while ensuring they retain an overarching personality. So, what do you need to do in order to be successful across the full range of social media channels?

  1. Tailor content to fit the platform: Remember, the use of social media is constantly evolving and each platform fulfils different needs for consumers. Think platform and need state first to ensure content is always relevant and cuts through the noise of competitors.
  2. Harness social media platforms in creative visual ways to effectively communicate with consumers: Tap into the ever increasing visual vocabulary trend by ensuring your images are powerful, inspiring, current and consistent in look and feel. Think both globally and locally when creating content, in order to remain culturally relevant.
  3. Tone of voice can differ by platform, but brand values and personality must remain consistent and authentic: A brand’s tone of voice must reflect how consumers are using the platform, but content needs to be coherent with the brand values in order for it to stay top of mind for consumers.
  4. Avoid getting lost in a sea of algorithms by investing in a social media strategy and partnering with influencers: Capturing audiences’ attention is only going to become more difficult across platforms. The first step is to take ‘social’ seriously within your business, dedicating resources to build a strong, and future-facing social media strategy. Then, if budget allows, harness the power of the influencers important to your target audience, but be sure to allow them the creative freedom to push the boundaries for your brand.

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