When you think about the most influential accounts on social media, people like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, and Cristiano Ronaldo come to mind. But in reality, the most popular influencers on social aren’t people—they’re brands.
A survey conducted last year found more people follow brands than celebrities on social media. On Instagram alone, 80% of people follow at least one business.
Why do people actively and passionately engage with brands on social? Because social is where people are. It’s where we get our news and information. It’s how we discover brands, conduct research, make purchases, seek support, and show our love for the products and services we adore.
Hootsuite recently surveyed more than 9,000 businesses and found 88% of companies use social media primarily for brand awareness.
That statistic speaks volumes. Today it’s a given that brands must be on social to create awareness and lasting bonds with customers. But to succeed in the future, social must expand beyond marketing to all of the places where customers engage with your company, your products, and your people—in other words, your brand.
Because marketing was the first department to champion social, we marketers have an incredible opportunity to lead this expansion. We can unite our companies around the voice of the customer and be the guardians of the insights and data that social media generates. In turn, that data can be used to improve overall business performance, increase revenue, improve relationships with customers, and more.
Follow The Formula
It’s an ambitious goal, to be sure, but one that can be achieved by following a simple formula I call “ACE.” It stands for advocacy, customer, and ecosystem.
Advocacy is all about building your brand from the inside out. Too many companies I see overlook the power of their employees as their biggest and most natural advocates. Inspired by a purpose-driven brand and vision, employees can carry the message of your brand to their personal and professional contacts across the social networks they use on a daily basis.
They’re believable, too. According to Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer, 61% of consumers view employees as a credible source for learning about companies—ahead of journalists and industry analysts. They’re also much easier, less expensive, and less risky to activate than celebrity and micro-influencers. That’s because inspired employees are genuine and authentic. Audiences pick up on that.
Melia Hotels understands the power of harnessing employee advocates. The luxury hotel chain has more than 370 properties in 40 countries. Employees regularly receive a stream of brand-approved updates on social, which, with the click of a button, they can share with their own networks, exponentially increasing reach. Even Melia’s CEO has embraced employee advocacy: Not only is he active on social, he also regularly answers questions with the hashtag #AskCEOMelia, modeling the behavior the company wants from all of its employees.
Melia’s social strategy has translated into some real results. For example, in one year, it has almost doubled the number of applicants per job offer on LinkedIn, making HR a big supporter of social, as well.
Now to the “C” in the ACE formula—the customer. Ideally, everyone in every department in a company is contributing to customer success. Social is the golden thread that connects every area of an organization to that shared mission.
The most obvious and direct connection to customers is through support channels, but typically support has been seen as cost center. However, through social, support instead becomes an incredible opportunity for insight, lasting connection, and authentic conversations with customers—all while reducing the cost over more traditional means. It’s about making memorable customer experiences at every touch point.
And now to the “E”—ecosystem. By ecosystem, I mean fully integrating social into your existing stack of marketing, sales, and customer service technologies to harness the full power of social.
A study by Altimeter found that the deeper we go in the customer journey, the less marketers know. They are collecting social data but not using it to power their existing analytics systems.
The goal is to blend social and non-social data together, providing organizations with a crystal-clear, unified view of customers throughout every stage of the journey. Again, marketing should be the quarterback for running this data-based ecosystem, integrating this integral information into all aspects of the organization and elevating the customer experience at every stage.
Driving brand awareness on social is table stakes today. But to succeed in the social landscape of tomorrow, companies need to move beyond marketing and expand social across their organizations. The smartest brands are already ACEing it on social. Isn’t it time you ACEd it, too?