How do you define your brand’s social media strategy? Do the words “community” or “conversation” come to mind? If they aren’t immediately a part of your answer, it might be time to reevaluate.
This year, LUSH Cosmetics UK announced their move from multiple social handles to a single brand hashtag, #LUSHCommunity. This news quickly became a topic of office conversation. How would LUSH contact their audiences? How would they share updates? Make announcements?
But then, we stopped. We took a second look.
Traditionally, brands have treated social media as a megaphone. But, by using social media as just another tool to expand reach, brands overlook the reason that social media exists in the first place: to cultivate a community for conversation.
For brands, social media should be a starting point. Brands need to remember that social media is a shared space, and for consumers, its value isn’t monetary. It’s the social currency users gain when they engage with each other that matters more.
If the people using social media care more about content, conversation and clout than they do about click-through rates, then brands should care more about those elements as well.
So, what if we started treating brands on social media as communities?
What if we decentralized the brand’s social media presence to let its community curate its story?
Would we cultivate more human connections?
Building customer content into the brand’s social media strategy
Sabine Schwirtz, Community Manager at LUSH Cosmetics North America, discusses a shift in brand identity. She states, “I think many marketers who have been in the industry for a long time are worried about maintaining the voice of the brand. But, the voice of the brand is not always the same as the voice of the customers. We’re moving closer to times where a brand’s identity is the same as their customers’ identity.”
And, Stephanie Buscemi, CMO at Salesforce, recently reiterated that sentiment. She states, “In the future, the content won’t come from the brands. It will come from the communities.”
LUSH has simply given customers a place to discuss, ask questions and interact with each other. The community becomes a place for customers to lean into their passion for the brand and its products.
It’s a disruptive decision. There’s no denying that releasing control of your brand’s narrative in this way is a risk. But, it’s undoubtedly a trend. If you’re too nervous to let your customers take some control of the conversation, it’s possible that you actually don’t know them as well as you think.
Shifting from social listening to social understanding
When a brand shifts from driving the conversation to letting customers take the wheel, the brand’s social media strategy moves from communication to collaboration. In doing so, the brand moves from social listening to social understanding.
Social media isn’t the only place where a marked shift to understanding is happening. Up and coming technologies, like voice search, artificial intelligence and voice robots also require a deeper level of understanding to be effective. It’s a trait that has always differentiated the computer from the human. A computer can listen to provide output, but a human can understand to provide input.
By cultivating community, brands can listen and contribute, but more importantly, they can understand. They can act accordingly.
Creating a community-driven roadmap
When brands better understand customer needs, they can shape their R&D and product roadmaps to solve for those pain points. That level of personalization nurtures loyal customers that in turn organically advocate for your brand.
When a brand’s social media strategy focuses on community, brands acknowledge customers as content creators. This shift replaces a brand’s inauthentic social presence with a content strategy driven by real, lasting relationships.
By recognizing social media as a gateway, brands tap into the world of possibilities that the user-generated content created there provides — and the immense amount of value it adds to brand identity.
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