Large and small brands require different strategies when it comes to social media marketing. Being a well-known ‘household name’ gives brands an upper hand on social media – they already have a loyal fan base and they’re already part of people’s identity. This means their pages and content gain traction easier than lesser-known brands; probably the key challenge the latter face.
Let’s take a closer look:
Why big brands can get away with bad social media
Now, before we get cracking, it’s important to note that some large brands have outstanding social media presences. They have talented teams of content creators and ads managers to reach and influence their audiences. What we’re explaining is why some brands have millions of followers on their social media accounts without appearing to follow best practices.
One example of this is that famous brands can be very self-promotional on social media and still grow their follower numbers and achieve strong levels of interaction. This is down to what we call the ‘social media diffusion effect’. Here’s how it works:
Well-established brands have two major benefits over lesser-known brands when it comes to growing their social media presence.
1) They have an established ‘offline’ or ‘in real life’ presence, and
2) they’re ‘cool by association’.
The two are inherently linked but they manifest themselves differently. Society is familiar with famous brands and has been so for far longer than social media has existed – they have ‘offline’ presences, which includes any form of marketing other than social media. In general, if people know and like the brand in ‘the real world’, this is likely to translate into the online, social sphere.
Essentially, there is huge corssover in what happens in everyday conversations and what happens online. If Nike plays a role in someone’s offline life, it probably plays a role in their online life, too. We can show this diagrammatically. Below is the online and offline spheres of a well-known brand like Nike, Costa Coffee or Sainsbury’s. They all have large offline reputation spheres at the point that their social media presences are launched. ‘Online’, the orange sphere, refers to social media, and ‘offline’ is websites, PR coverage, TV ads, any point of sale, etc.
Over time, this offline presence filters into their online presence as people associate themselves with the brand on social media. This net movement happens regardless of how good their social media presence is, it is a diffusion effect.
The speed with which this happens depends mainly on two factors;
a) the quality of their social media, and
b) how much they benefit from ‘cool by association’ syndrome.
Part a) speaks for itself – if you checked out your favourite sports brand on Twitter of Facebook and they’re sharing awesome content and dropping discount codes each week, you’re highly likely to follow them. If it’s a load of sporadic posts with poor-quality imagery and confusing copy that appears to be selling to you, you’ll probably pass.
Part b) regards how much people want to be associated with that brand. Obvious beneficiaries are designer and prestige brands, anything that people want other people to think they’re interested in. Take Aston Martin, for example. Facebook fans? 2.8 million. Aston Martins ever sold? Less than 70,000. Strength of their social media content? Very self-promotional. But do fans care? No, not really, they’re going to ‘like’ them anyway.
The fact remains, however, if the social media of these brands is not adding anything to the individuals outside their ‘offline’ sphere of influence, they are not going to attract them into their online sphere. In many regards, it is all one-way traffic and they will reach a maximum online and offline sphere. At this point there is no net movement of influence to or from social media.
For brands with no or little offline presence, who benefit very little from ‘cool by association’ syndrome, simply diffusing their offline audience to their social media platforms, isn’t going to help them grow their brand. Online now on the left.
This is exactly why we see technical best practise amongst more smaller brands than larger ones – they have to be good! Without a massive budget to spare for traditional marketing methods, or even a shop, in order to grow their offline sphere, they have to grow their social media sphere.
Of course, these same mechanisms are available for larger, well-known brands, but a relatively small amount are able to grow their social sphere beyond the reach of their offline influence and start using social media to drive sales and awareness.
The net flow of influence is to the offline sphere. This is exactly how smaller brands have managed to grow their businesses through social media campaigns, they have created value-adding, shareable content, which has grown their online presence. The strength of the business and its products and services determine how well this translates to points of sales offline but this will begin to grow, benefitting from the diffusion effect.
Know what we mean? Have a comment to add? Feel free to!