Social media is more than hashtags.
Foster customer loyalty by building your brand—consistently—across social media platforms. — Getty Images/ViewApart

Social media has only become more important in the era of social distancing and store lockdowns. As a tool for brand building, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms offer value for merchants of all sizes. Here’s how social media branding works and what this type of marketing can add to your business.

[Read more: A Guide to Growing Your Business With Social Media Marketing]

What is social media branding?

Social media branding is the practice of using specific web-based tactics to consistently engage your audience with the goal of boosting brand awareness. When your small business focuses its social media posts on branding, the goal is to enforce your brand identity: the things that make your company unique, recognizable and worth patronizing over competitors.

The best marketing rests on solid brand identity. This identity is expressed in how you make your customers feel. It’s created in small things like your logo, brand colors and tagline and further enforced with your in-store signage, email marketing, customer service and social media channels. Social media branding is an integral part of your marketing effort, and it’s even more important now that customers may not be able to frequent your establishment in person.

Basics of social media branding

There are a few boxes to check as you start considering your branding on social media. First and foremost, make sure your brand identity is consistent across your social media channels. Followers should recognize your brand instantly through a consistent logo, color palette, bio and handle. While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all use different layouts (e.g., banner size, profile picture shape and word count in the bio), there must be a common thread throughout your social media presence.

Next, develop a guide to help your team maintain a uniform tone of voice and visual consistency across your channels and posts. Your brand voice guidelines should cover the following factors:

  • Brand persona: Is your company’s personality more playful and fun, or professional and authoritative?
  • Tone: Does your post copy sound warm and personal, or is it more direct and clinical?
  • Language: Is the vocabulary in your posts savvy and industry-specific, or is it simple and whimsical?
  • Purpose: Is your social media a place to inform and educate, or is your aim to delight and entertain?

The decisions you make around tone and personality are contingent on your product and industry. Do what feels most authentic to you and your small business.

Finally, include some visual guidelines to go with your social media writing style. This might include things such as fonts, typography, graphic templates and even what filters you use on Instagram pictures and YouTube video editing. Photos and videos should align with your brand’s aesthetic and color choices.

The number one thing you can do to build brand loyalty on social media is to be responsive to customers’ comments and messages.

Work with your audience

Social media platforms tend to have varying audiences. Facebook users tend to be older: The fastest growing audience on Facebook is users over the age of 65. On Instagram, however, the majority of users are between ages 13 and 29. As a result, it helps to develop specific marketing personas for each of your social media channels.

A marketing persona is a representation of your ideal customer, accounting for things such as demographics, desires and pain points. When you develop specific personas for each of your social media channels, you’re better able to craft messages that resonate with your key customers.

[Read more: 3 Expert Strategies to Improve Your Social Media Marketing]

Look at your sales data for information on who most often buys from your store. Map those customers onto the social media network they’re most likely to use. For instance, if you own a cafe, it’s more likely that your millennial clientele will check out your Instagram profile, while older customers will seek opening hours and store announcements on Facebook. These personas will help you narrow down your content ideas and address the right audience.

Provide great customer service

The number one thing you can do to build brand loyalty on social media is to be responsive to customers’ comments and messages. “Social media is the first place most people turn to for customer support,” said one Buffer expert. “And more and more people are using social media to get help from brands.”

Data suggests that being responsive on social media can directly impact your sales results. And, crucially, ignoring customers can cause less brand loyalty: Sprout Social found that 30% of people will go to a competitor if a brand doesn’t respond to a message on social media. Check your direct messages, read comments and keep up with customer questions and concerns. Customer service is integral to building your brand on social media.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published July 13, 2020