In 2005, according to the Pew Research Center, just 5% of American adults used social media. Fast forward to just shy of two decades, and that number is now an astounding 72%. Worldwide, more than half the earth’s population, 59% to be exact, uses social media in some shape or form. Not only has social media’s growth been exponential, but the platforms themselves haven’t ceased evolving, continuing to change how they interact with consumers and how consumers interact with each other.
Social media is both everywhere and every when—there are no breaks or holidays; there is no closing time—it’s a 24/7 operation. For brands to fully take advantage of everything these channels have to offer, engagement needs to run around the clock, too. In the blink of an eye, you can avert a crisis or capitalize on a moment. But if you’re not paying close attention, your brand can also just as easily plunge into unwanted viral stardom or miss key moments to accelerate growth.
“We’re in a different place in the world than we’ve ever been before,” said Phoenix Warthen, Senior Director of Client Success at ICUC, a digital customer care and community management agency. “With the proliferation of platforms, it’s become a difficult landscape to navigate for brands, and the second that you settle in, a new social channel starts or a new feature launches. Everyone is struggling with trying to figure out how to navigate it all.”
But there are strategies brands can put into place to ensure they’re getting the best of social media, and not the other way around. Here’s a few foundational tactics ICUC suggests to consistently and confidently traverse these uncharted waters.
1. Establish a clear brand identity strategy. When customers are upset, they want to be heard and they’re going to turn to the easiest channel to voice their grievances, regardless of whether or not it’s a brand’s preferred medium to field complaints. Today, it’s all about meeting customers where they’re at, be it on TikTok, Instagram or Reddit. Brands can no longer expect customer service to be contained to a helpline or an email address, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be efficiently and effectively managed.
With a clear brand identity strategy in place, a company can tactically avoid crises and pragmatically water down fires because anyone monitoring its socials will know how to proceed.
ICUC also suggests tapping into social listening tools as part of a full brand audit during the identity development phase, in addition to scouring the web and diving deep into social media to find out what’s being said about the company, its competitors and its industry in general.
“It’s important for brands to know who they are and what they stand for,” explained Warthen. “If they don’t have a brand strategy in place, how can they stay true to their identity? Without clear guidelines, your community will call you out for not having a consistent voice. We always tell our clients, ‘Know who you want to be as a brand and follow through from there.’”
2. Prepare for a shifting landscape. When it comes to social media, the more things change the more things keep on changing. Just look at Twitter—from fraudulent accounts affecting the stock market to advertisers pulling their business on the daily, it’s essential to keep up with the latest developments. And then we need to reckon with the growth of TikTok, the fastest growing social platform, sitting at more than a billion users worldwide—100 million of them in the U.S. alone.
“You should be listening to everything that’s being said about your brand, about your industry and about your competitors at all times,” Warthen said. “It will inform your decisions on how to approach posting and advertising on each platform, and tell you how the audience as a whole is receiving anything you do.”
And now there’s audio moderation to take into account. On TikTok alone, 88% of users report that for them, sound is central to their overall experience of the app. These numbers are not taking into account Instagram Reels, Facebook Live Audio and Discord’s Stage Channels.
To properly moderate audio on social media, an ample supply of time and resources is necessary. ICUC recommends a mix of social listening tools and 24/7 human specialists to avoid missing opportunities to engage with customers and maximize a brand’s overall reach.
3. Take advantage of outsourcing. Now, more than ever, brands need to consistently connect with their communities on social media. It engenders loyalty, generates business and it can also just be fun, providing some much-needed light-hearted banter. The challenge is doing this effectively, on budget and 24/7.
“Developing a community management strategy can be incredibly overwhelming. You need time, resources and training, and without all these things in place, brands can fall short of customer expectations or miss out on opportunities for growth and innovation,” Warthen explained. “That’s where ICUC comes in, and why outsourcing is so beneficial. Not only can we help you develop all the necessary strategies, but we’re global, so we’ve got teams in place to do all the watching and all the social listening, 24/7. We keep our lights on for you.”