Brands and Content, Beyond Social

By Seth Copenhaver - Head of Partnerships   OCT. 1, 2016

When Instagram Stories debuted back in August, brands immediately (and wisely) jumped at the opportunity to push video out to their followers. Less than 24 hours after the launch of the feature, AdAge had published an article about how marketers already preferred it to Snapchat. Around that same I started hearing grumblings, both from friends and the internet, about how brands were overusing the medium. Threats of unfollows were abundant.

As with most things, time will be the deciding factor on how successful marketing on Instagram Stories ends up being. One thing that can’t be argued is that social marketing is here for the long haul. As long as there are people who voluntarily follow a brand on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat you can safely bet that companies will continue to market to that audience.

What can be debated is how successful social marketing is. Certainly there are companies that are consistently great at it. Old Spice, Oreo and Denny’s seem to be perennial favorites, with all three frequently topping lists of “Companies Who Win Big on Social”. These accounts offer humorous, topical and sometimes just plain strange posts that give way to multiple discussions and write-ups trumpeting their clever timing and creativity. It’s easy to measure the popularity of individual posts by looking at the customer engagement, but much harder to quantify the portion of that audience that decides to purchase a package of Oreos on their next supermarket visit.  Even if a customer decides to purchase a product due to the chuckle they had from a branded tweet, how can we predict their consumer loyalty moving forward?

The grumblings about brands using social media to try to sell product is nothing new. Vocally disavowing advertising isn’t either. Consumers love to complain about advertising about as much as they love to consume. The rise of ad blockers, as well as articles written on how companies are trying to defeat them, confirms this. Zoning out for 30 seconds during a pre-roll prior to otherwise free-to-consume content has become the norm. In 2015, Hulu finally offered an ad free version of their service for a few dollars more a month.

But if consumers dislike ads as much as they say they do, how has brand loyalty survived? We all know that person that swears by Mercedes-Benz automobiles or the friend who wears their Converse until they fall apart and immediately purchases a fresh pair. If you stop and think for a moment, you will most assuredly come up with at least a half dozen brands that you find yourself gravitating towards and rarely deviating from. Uber or Lyft? iOSorAndroid? Stumptown or Starbucks? You are planting your brand loyalty flag far more often throughout the day than you probably realize.

There are several factors that help build brand loyalty. Word of mouth (La Croix!). Pop culture references and celebrity endorsements (Steph Curry’s Under Armour deal vs LeBron’s Nike contract). And yes, even doing the right kind of advertising still does the trick. But with the Internet a few years away from turning 30, the information superhighway is still mainly being used for just that: information.

Information has a huge influence on building brand health. If you’re like me, you filter your Amazon searches by “Highest Rated” and then scour the reviews for the upsides and downsides before clicking “Add To Cart”. Sites like The Wirecutter or Sweethome exist solely to give consumers the best possible information on a wide range of gadgets and home furnishings.

Brands are aware that being properly educated on a product is a way to win over consumer loyalty and they are out there creating more branded marketing than ever before. But presentation and placement is key. Simply adding these posts to your official website and pushing them out through your social channels is selling your content short. If a customer is browsing your site or following you on Snapchat or Instagram, there’s a strong argument to be made that these people are already loyal to your brand on some level or another. Some are most likely already brand loyalists, some are on their way there. You’ve built a captive audience and that’s valuable. Now it’s time to dive deeper.

So what’s the solution? Start believing that the content you are producing is just as powerful and important as the advertising you are running. As much as people claim to dislike advertising, they love when they find a solution to a problem. Whether that problem is figuring out the best running shoes for winter or the best cities to stay in for their European vacation, most every customer is looking for information before they decide to buy. If you put your best foot forward with creating great content and amplifying that to the potential customer looking for that exact information, you are well on your way to long-term brand loyalty.