The introduction of social media fundamentally changed the way brands, community groups and businesses interacted with their audiences.
Social media has quickly evolved from a person-to-person communication tool into an online advertising powerhouse. This evolution has allowed organisations to communicate directly with thousands of customers on a personal level, which had never been possible before. The flood of behind-the-scenes content and the rise of video advertising is a testament to that.
However, therein lies the rub. By taking advantage of the freedoms that social media offers, an organisation can fall into the trap of communicating in a way it would never consider appropriate on any other channel, and one that may be inconsistent with its wider brand messaging.
This departure from brand messaging is rarely sudden, but rather a slow deviation that creates a confusing message and an eventual dilution of the brand.
Here are some of the most commonly seen missteps, which could lead to an organisation’s social media presence uncoupling from its brand.
- No clear brand messaging across the board.
This is one of the most commonly seen issues on social media, often in small businesses, where the disconnect in messaging comes from a poorly defined brand.
Without a clearly defined and integrated communications plan, there can be no way that a brand’s digital presence can be expected to remain consistent with messaging used across more traditional communication channels such as websites or press releases.
Communications plans need not be long and complicated documents, however they should contain certain key pieces of information to ensure that communication is clear and consistent. This information includes organisational goals and objectives, key messages, target audiences, and the brand’s position in the marketplace. As part of a communications plan, there should be a content calendar providing details on the type of content to be published on each channel, on what date, and to which audience.
- The ‘just throw it up on Facebook’ excuse.
Another commonly seen issue is when an organisation takes a piece of content that does not fit on any of their other communication channels, yet publishes it on social platforms, without asking the question as to whether it is providing value to their social media audience.
Not formal enough for the website? Throw it up on Facebook. Not quite long enough for a press release? Pop it on LinkedIn. It is seen time and time again and it is a guaranteed way to dilute a brand.
This issue further highlights the need for a communications plan. Spend some time to understand who your audience is and why you are communicating with them before pressing that post button.
- Set and forget mindset
A set and forget mindset is something that can damage a brand’s message in an instant.
A social media post, with the right image, message, and tone can be completely undone by posting it and then not monitoring it for performance and, most importantly, comments.
If nobody reviews previous posts for comments and overall sentiment, a few negative comments can suddenly derail the message. Add to that negative, or off-brand, Facebook shares and suddenly the best-intended post can land itself far off target.
Beyond that, in 2019 an Australian judge ruled that publishers are legally responsible for moderating comments on Facebook and can even be found responsible for defamatory comments that are allowed to stay visible.
Furthermore, if social media posts are not reviewed for performance such as shares, comments, and engagement it can make it difficult to identify that perhaps a post’s poor performance is due to a diluted or confusing brand message.
Avoiding these common mistakes
While issues with social media messaging can be varied and wide-ranging, there are some simple ways in which a brand can tighten their messaging to ensure there is continuity across communication channels.
- Always have an integrated communications plan that identifies the communication objectives and provides examples of messaging to be used on different channels.
- Be prepared to say no to posting on social media. If the post doesn’t have a message that matches the brand, or if there isn’t a clear purpose for posting, the question needs to be asked as to whether it is needed.
- Monitor social media posts. While it can be time consuming, it is paramount that brands keep an eye on how their audiences are reacting to their posts before comments get out of hand.