Matthew Neville

The benefits and challenges of advertising on social media

As part of Bdaily’s latest feature week, The Business of Social Media, we spoke with Nina Taylor, social media manager at iProspect, to find out the benefits of adapting organic social media for brands, and the challenges that brands face in this industry, including brand building and tackling topics of a more sensitive nature.

iProspect, a dentsu company, is a global digital-first end to end media agency. Its “unmatched mix” of media strategy and storytelling with digital expertise and audience knowledge defines the new territory of performance-driven brand building.

By delivering human-centric solutions, iProspect accelerates growth for brands including Sonos, Cox, LG, Hilton, Levi’s, Budweiser, Microsoft, and Procter & Gamble. The iProspect team works across a network of more than 8,000 media and performance specialists spread across 93 global markets.

Social media as an industry is expected to reach a global market size of $223bn this year, and $834bn in 2026. There are 4.65 billion global active users, with each one spending on average 147 minutes on social networking sites per day. It is no surprise then, that brands want to be a part of this, and use social media to promote their businesses.

It would be difficult to overstate the benefits that good use of social media can provide to brands. “It’s a really effective way of building a community”, said Nina, emphasising how much more informal and conversational social media can be. It allows brands to engage with their audiences and customers, in a way that traditional media cannot.

Nina highlights that “organic social activity, as opposed to paid social media advertising, is about bringing mass awareness, and with millions of people using social media for hours each day, there is certainly a huge appetite for content!”

Although social media can support increasing visibility and awareness of a brand, recent developments in consumer shopping behaviours and purchasing within apps, such as the ability to link certain products on a website within a post on Instagram have also increased a brand’s ability to sell directly to customers through these platforms.

Nina believes that this will “increase going forward too, with Instagram,owned by Facebook/Meta, recently extending this feature to all users.

Good social media strategy should be all about revealing the person behind the brand, creating a human element to commerce, and bringing something new to the conversation. With that in mind, Nina offers some tips on how to build a brand successfully on social media:

Work out what the brand’s personality is: Treat your brand as if they were a person- would they be cheeky, classy, informative, safe, or adventurous? Tailor your content to fit this personality. The interaction and engagement with other users through comments and responses should also reflect this personality to present a cohesive, seamless brand experience. There should also be a consistent style and tone of voice used throughout.

Develop a strategy – ask ‘why’: Why should your brand be present in this space? Why do you want to convey this message? Why should social media users be interested in your content? The ‘why’ will form the basis of everything your brand does on social media, so it’s important that it is robust and communicated to everyone who is part of the brand’s presence on social platforms, whether than be within the company or external agencies.

Be brave: You can only stand up for what you believe in if you know what you believe in and why. If a post causes controversy, it is more beneficial for a brand to stand up for its beliefs, rather than delete the post or try to brush it under the carpet. Having said that, Nina says that “if a brand makes a genuine mistake, apologising for it and setting out how it will change going forwards is also better than deleting the post or negative comments.”

Engage with people: Make it a two-way conversation in the way you would with a friend. If you try to interact with someone and they don’t answer, you are unlikely to try again. The same goes for brands on social media, you have to give back to your audience if you want them to stay and continue to engage.

Nina continued: “Being present on social media does not come without challenges, and the two-way conversation between brands and users can be a blessing and a curse. An engagement management strategy and even a dedicated team is really important if a brand wants to truly connect with its audience.

“We’ve seen more and more brands shift their social media efforts away from organic posting and into the paid-for side of the platform, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that a brand’s organic content is as important as ever when it comes to staying present in the hearts and minds of consumers.

“Brand loyalty should be seen as crucial to new customer acquisition, and support developing your brand’s personality as mentioned earlier.

“There is a misconception that organic social media management involves less strategic input than planning paid-for campaigns – in fact it requires a more complex approach in order to stay relevant and present in this highly competitive space.

“You’re fighting against people who’ve spent tens of thousands of pounds boosting content, and you’re competing against friends and family too.”

Social media platforms can organically boost content that is engaged with quickly in its algorithm, meaning this content will be served to more people. Users will also be served new content based on what they have already engaged with, so knowing your target customer inside and out is key.

It is essential to know what content they are already consuming, at which times, and on which platforms. Another challenge of managing a brand’s social media is understanding how to deal with negative comments or reactions to posts. This can happen around topical events such as International Women’s Day, Black History Month and Pride Month.

“Users will hold brands to account, and if a brand wants to put something out there, they need to be able to back it up”, said Nina.

An example of this would be the @PayGapApp Twitter account, an automated bot that quotes tweeted posts from companies and organisations who mentioned International Women’s Day, along with a statistic on how much more (or less) men were paid in that organisation than women.

It was revealed that some organisations professing their support for women in the workplace were paying women a median hourly wage that was up to 31 per cent lower than men’s, something which Twitter users were quick to “ridicule”. In keeping with Nina’s advice to be transparent and honest when it comes to bad press, some companies used the Twitter bot’s replies to highlight what they are doing to close the gender pay gap.

These negative experiences sometimes lead to companies not wanting to participate in challenging conversations online, for fear of being called out. Nina recommends that brands “do the work internally to decide what they have to add to the conversation and avoid posts that are generic or self-serving.

“Interviewing someone from the business and getting their point of view is a better way to do it as it seems more genuine.”

Despite the challenges of advertising on social media, it is said to offer many opportunities for brands to interact with their customers or followers, and build a community, in a way that no other media can. It is no wonder, then, that 80 per cent of social marketers say their key strategy is to increase engagement across social channels.

Nina suggested: “If you want to get your brand started on social media, or grow a following that you have already, be sure to do the work needed internally to decide a strategy, core beliefs, tone of voice, visual style, and brand personality.

“Ensure that your brand’s accounts are consistent with this, and that you have a strategy of how to respond to your audience if they engage with posts, in order to build a sense of community and a loyal, engaged following, then watch your brand thrive!”

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