There are lessons to be learned from the best companies on social media. If you’re reading this, can I assume you’re struggling on social media?

That’s fine, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But what do you actually need to do to grow your followers, improve your engagement and increase sales on social media?

In this article, we won’t tell you what to do. We’ll show you. By featuring what companies like Nike and Spotify are doing on social, you’ll start to see what’s required to improve your presence on social.

01. Keep Things Visual

If there’s one tool that should be at the top of every social media strategy it’s visual content. Social media is becoming only more and more visually-based – with the plethora of content out there, we need striking visuals to cut through the noise and grab our attention.

A brand that champions all things visual content is Buffer. Not a status update or Tweet goes by without a custom graphic accompanying it, and their engagement numbers prove it.

Check out what a typical tweet from Buffer looks like:

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The added element of the visual image, while simple, makes the link much more desireable to click on and the tweet itself way more enticing to read.

Let’s have a look at their Facebook page too:

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Here not only do Buffer include a beautiful custom graphic to accompany their status update, but an informative infographic at that! Extra points if your visual content is useful and shareable.

Infographics are incredibly useful tools when it comes to visual branding. They are visually striking, informative, and super shareable, plus they compress a lot of information down into a clever visual treatment.

02. Tap Into Specific Emotions

Emotional branding is a key element of design. By tying your brand to specific emotions and eliciting those emotions throughout your strategy, you can create a powerful and personal tie with your brand.

Footwear retailer TOMS hit this point out of the park by using social media to emphasise the link between their brand and product and their charitable business model, constructing an emotional branding of empathy, kindness, gratefulness and community.

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TOMS do this by sharing pictures and information and constructing entire campaigns around the concept of charitable giving. For example, check out their recent #withoutshoes campaign:

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The wording of TOMS calls to action, the use of emotionally-drawing imagery and graphics and the overarching concept behind the campaign helps transform TOMS from a rigid company into an emotional brand, making it all the more appealing to interact and engage with on the social.

You can channel just about any emotion via social media, depending on your brand. Whichever emotional draw you choose, be sure to channel it via emotionally-charged imagery and graphics, campaigns that reinforce your approach, and a consistent tone of voice.

03. Provide Useful and Valuable Content

A pitfall a lot of brands fall into on social media is just harping on about their product, how to buy their product, why their product is the best. Instead, try to create and share valuable content that revolves around your industry.

By producing and sharing original, informative, and valuable content, your brand becomes a paragon of authority. In short, you look like you’re passionate and know what you’re talking about.

Athletic wear brand Lululemon do just this across their socials, sharing a range of content from yoga routines through to meditation tips and guides to what kombucha is.

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Another thing Lululemon does to bring value to their audience is share inspirational quotes and messages that are charged at personal growth as well as physical wellness.

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This range of content, while not all of it centers around their product directly, focusses around the concept of wellness and health, topics that the audience likely have interest in.

Have a go at this yourself — find topics that focus around your brand’s product and create content that your audience will engage with. Before you know it, your social media pages will no longer just be another way to sell your product, but will be seen as a resource for valuable content — jackpot!

04. Connect With Your Audience

A big trend we’ve been seeing over the past year has been brands jumping in on consumer’s conversations. When social media first became prevalent for branding a lot of brands would tend to release content and then step away, allowing consumers to then discuss and share it. But, increasingly, brands are getting in on the conversation directly.

Spotify is a paragon of a brand that directly connects. In fact, a majority of their social media strategy revolves around it. Let’s look at two typical visual posts from Spotify:

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As you can see, both of these posts encourage direct engagement with the audience — one asks for opinions and answers, and the other a solution to the word jumble puzzle.

Plus, each correct answer in the comments is congratulated with a link to a related Spotify playlist, encouraging users to participate in the content and then consume the product — talk about multitasking.

05. Inspire Your Consumers

Showing your product in action, or motivating your audience to act in some way is a great way to make an engaging and punchy social media strategy.

Nike absolutely nails this, by providing round the clock support, motivation and tips for pushing yourself athletically. Check out how they’ve crafted this Instagram post around a Nike customer’s success story – not only is it inspiring and motivating but it displays their product in action.

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Champions of the call to action (just look at their tagline), Nike also delivers punchy call after punchy call throughout their social media strategy. Each piece of visual and written content acts to inspire action and movement.

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Another thing Nike does is offer unique, tailored support and replies to their audience. Just have a look at their Twitter replies to see the range of unique motivational messages they send out to every engaged user.

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Nike’s attention to detail and their commitment to providing tailored pieces of motivational content to their audience makes their social media presence so unignorable and successful.

Consider structuring your social media campaign around the idea of inspiring your audience. When consumers feel enriched by a social media page, they’re far more likely to interact with it. Post motivating quotes, connect and encourage consumers directly, and show your product in action to elicit that true inspirational energy.

06. Keep It Consistent

While what’s on the inside is the most important, looks are still pretty important too, at least when it comes to social media.

Having a well-designed and cohesive brand is incredibly important for your brand, and Dropbox knows this all too well. Just check out their cover photos across their various Twitter pages:

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But it’s not only your cover photos that need to stay consistent, as Dropbox have done, be sure to maintain your distinct visual style across all platforms, content types and messages. The consistency of these clean, light, and character-filled illustrations helps tie each platform and piece of content together, creating a seamless network of profiles.

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Find a style of illustration, photography, or overall design that you love and stick with it. The more you use that style, the more intrinsically to your brand it will be linked.

07. Have a Little Personality

The aim of social media is to better flesh out your brand’s voice and personality, so it’s pretty important that you make that personality memorable and iconic.

A brand that rocks an iconic personality is Mailchimp. The email brand constructs a personality of fun and playfulness, with their content packed full of self-deprecating jokes, enthusiasm and playful personality-driven visual content.

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Mailchimp reinforce this branded personality through the use of brightly colored imagery, wacky concepts, handwritten typography, and a blatantly un-corporate approach to their graphics and copy. Check out the way they’ve written and designed this visual job listing:

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This distinct branding of Mailchimp as friendly, playful, and colloquial helps the brand become much more desireable to interact with on social media and helps them stand out from the competition in a unique way.

08. Get Onboard Different Platforms

Social media doesn’t start and end with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. While those are the perfect starting points for a brand, the most successful brands flesh out their persona, values and content by extending themselves across multiple platforms.

One brand that leads the charge on all social platforms is clothing retailer Free People. Let’s have a look at how they stretch themselves out across a few platforms.

Pinterest

Did you know that according to Shopify, “people referred by Pinterest are 10 percent more likely to make purchase on e-commerce sites than users of other social networks”. Free People’s visual boards are peppered with links to their products, making this move fiscally clever as well as clever for maintaining the brand.

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Snapchat

Snapchat is a growing medium for brands to showcase less polished (and therefore more realistic) behind-the-scenes elements of the brand to create a personal connection with audiences. Free People show sneak peeks and BTS content on their Snapchat, a strong community-building exercise.

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Spotify

Yep, they’re even on Spotify. While it may seem odd for a fashion retailer to be active on a music platform, their curated playlists – full of dreamy, trendy tunes – feed perfectly into their brand story.

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The idea behind extending your brand on multiple platforms is to flesh out your brand. Don’t simply exist on each new medium for the sake of existing on it. Instead, try to reap the unique benefits of each platform and allow for them to spice up your marketing.

Youtube

Free People offers lookbooks, tutorials, guides to pulling together an outfit, and even exercise and etiquette tips on their Youtube page. This strategy is also a throwback to point number 3, providing useful content outside of your product.

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Over to You

Social media is a pool of endless possibility when it comes to marketing yourself, which can be both exciting and completely overwhelming.

This is why it’s useful to pay attention to what the top dogs in social media are doing. What is their formula? How can you take inspiration from their social success and transplant it to generate your own?

If you take nothing else away from these eight lessons and case studies, do take away this: Find a social media strategy that works and stick to it. Evoke it through well-designed visuals, intentionally-written copy, and informed decision making, and you’ll be on your way to a storm of likes, comments, shares and results.

Now, over to you. What lessons have you learned from observing and interacting with brands on social media? Which brands do you think dominate the game? How do they do it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.