As a website designer, I used to sell my freelance services with the following pitch: “I know it may seem like you don’t need a particularly well-polished website as a small business owner, but a website is priceless real-estate. Think about it. Your store or office is only open eight hours a day, so what do customers do when they need you during the other sixteen? Your website is your only 24-hour employee. It’s a 24-hour storefront. It’s a 24-hour billboard. Don’t you want it to sell just as well as you do in person?”
Looking back on this, I can see how the world has dramatically changed since the boom of social media. Today, a website in the traditional sense seems antiquated and rusty, in that it’s one-way communication. Websites can provide information based in truth (as composed and polished by copywriters, brand experts, focus groups and legal teams), but not information based in firsthand experience (outside the internally-crafted case study or handpicked customer testimonial). This is one of the gaps social media fills. In its open market for ad revenue, flashy capabilities, and easy accessibility, it provides availability to real-time conversations and firsthand reactions to brands.
In this, social media is also a flashy, easy, and lucrative double-edged sword. Conversations on social are real-time, and in that they can become unpredictable. Some users in your audience are singing your praises, and some are cursing you six ways to Sunday in 140 characters or less. These quick and fiery conversations are valuable from an analytical perspective, but both can also cause the brand narrative pendulum to swing too far too quickly.
So how can a brand keep face and push forward their brand-positive narrative through the din? The answer lies in content. Strong, evergreen, and brand-true content can soften, steer, or even change altogether the cumulative social conversation. Going back to the old website design pitch, “Content is the 24-hour employee. It’s a 24-hour storefront. It’s a 24-hour billboard.” Social media is a 24/7 marketplace, and as marketers and designers, we must dictate often unpredictable 24-hour conversations with content we create in our 9-5s.
While this may seem like an insurmountable task, it is not. Beginning first with a systemic approach, cultivate, create, and curate content that promotes and reinforces your brand. Promote your brand without over-selling your product. Be persistent in presenting a well-rounded, thoughtful, and engaging content library that is both innovative in the space yet true to the brand’s values. Lead conversations worth having and inspire emotions worth sharing. Social content crafts a story — a narrative that reveals, supports, and reinforces your brand.
What will your story be about?