Updated: Feb 19
With more people than ever looking to shop for products online, social media in a post-pandemic world offers new opportunities to companies, even while operations relying on in-person visits shrink and suffer.
It's well-known now that Amazon and others have had record years during the Covid pandemic, which really comes as no surprise. Those companies built for shopping from home and at a distance, who do not have to rely on brick and mortar stores, have business models that offer distinct advantages. Even if you aren't Amazon, there are ways to define and re-align your products and brand online for stronger sales using social media and an e-commerce engine. From a late 2021 survey, the Harvard Business Review reports that "CMOs anticipate that social media investments will remain high at 23.4% of marketing budgets.... Along with this, CMOs are increasingly investing in online customer experiences: 60.8% of CMOs indicated they have 'shifted resources to building customer-facing digital interfaces' and 56.2% planning to 'transform their go-to-market business models to focus on digital opportunities.' It is clear that social media will continue to play an important role in driving consumers toward digital offerings." So what does this actually mean for your social media strategy and online business? Well, in previous articles I have talked about a "pull" marketing strategy for social, where the culture of your customers becomes a powerful way to create engagement with your brand and products. In other words, the focus should be on building rapport between how your potential customers see the world and themselves in it and how your brand aligns to those viewpoints and beliefs. For instance, Sephora launched a 'Beauty Together' brand position and campaign that did exactly this; the brand supported the desired ideals of the customer and the culture of beauty, the ways in which their customer community wanted to see themselves; the brand was there to say "we're in this together, we're on a shared journey, finding all the wonderful ways to beautify you." It was both friendly and expert, and didn't push products on the customer; rather it pulled the customer in with a purpose. This is one savvy way to deploy your brand into market and into your social channels. Another strategy, and somewhat analogous to the first, is to partner with your customer in the creation of content that adds to their own experience of and feeling towards your brand. Starbucks' Red Cup campaign is a simple example of this, which has been done for other various products, and was an old tactic of newspapers in the day, which is to simply have customers send pictures of themselves holding product for a prize. In Starbucks' case, the prize was relatively small, $500, but it generated a lot of views on Instagram using the hashtag RedCup. This same strategy could be applied to any product in any channel to any consumer group; your brand doesn't have to be as well known as Starbucks to be effective, all you need is some affinity, a reason to love what you sell, a reason to share the experience, and a means to close the loop, ie., actually have people purchase your product in the end. There are many ways to create more engagement for your brand and products through social media using consumer communities, pull methods, and user-generated content techniques. Always give your potential customer a reason to be involved with you as a reason to buy from you. Whether it's functionally customer-service you're offering like Amazon, where they have EVERYTHING and the return policy is hassle-free (which seems like reason enough for them), or whether it's more emotive and immersive in an ideal, like Sephora's 'Beauty Together' brand campaign that invites you on a journey, or whether it's a brand affinity campaign like Starbucks with a small gift attached, finding the right strategy for you, and being consistent with that strategy over time, will help you reap new opportunities and rewards online.