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7 Strategies to keep your consumers coming back for more

Whitepaper | H  ow Social Media Messaging Builds Your Brand

When it comes to posting on your brand’s social pages, you have a wide choice of content types, including photos, updates, video, and links. Each has its own strengths—and a proper place in your arsenal. Regardless of what type of content you post, there are certain messaging strategies that consistently prove to increase fan engagement across social networks. We’ve repeatedly seen specific content strategies work over many different brand pages—both to trigger instant engagement and to inspire fans to keep coming back for more. In this paper, we take a look at these seven strategies, using real life examples from companies that do a fantastic job of engaging their fan communities.

Tap into fan passions You already know what your fans are passionate about, so make your social pages the perfect platform for them to express their passions. If you market for a fashion brand, talk about design, style, and haute couture. If you’re a food brand, ask for favorite recipes and opinions on food trends. Focus on the unique personality of your fans to determine what type of messaging or content they’ll respond to best. Here are some examples of brand pages that excel at engaging their followers on a personal and emotional level.

Benefit Cosmetics Benefit Cosmetics shares regular updates with its community about its makeup products: news about upcoming product lines, pictures of makeup, and tips and tricks. In addition to being product centric, however, Benefit injects a healthy dose of personality-driven appeals to its fan community— for example, in recognition of the fact that everyone has “down days,” Benefit prompts users to let them know when that feeling happens, so that the brand can respond with an instant “Beauty Boost” compliment to brighten users’ days.


H&M H&M understands its fans love for fashion. Instead of trying to replicate the experience of shopping in the store or on the website, its page supplies a steady stream of interactive content tailored specifically to its social audiences. On Google+, H&M publishes a range of follower-only exclusive collection previews, contests, and behindthe-scenes footage, like that of a Vogue editor preparing for an H&M photo shoot. Their most popular posts are the ones for their top collections with Beckham, Versace and Marni.

Tip Photos or video media are incredibly engaging when attached to messaging updates. In just the first 100 days of the network, over 3.4 billion photos had already been shared on Google+1. On Facebook, posts including a photo album, a picture or a video generate about 180%, 120%, and 100% more engagement than the average text post, respectively 2.

Ask Simple, Closed Questions Would you rather do a task that’s quick and easy, or one that takes time and effort? It depends on the reward, right? Day-to-day interactions on social networks don’t really offer fans much reward other than taking part in a community, so make sure your messaging is easy to interact with. One strategy to ensure engagement is to ask followers questions that are a breeze to answer. Asking open-ended questions requires fans to consider and write out their answers. However, nothing is easier than stating an opinion to a “Yes” or “No” question. The barrier to typing a one-word response, or simply clicking “Like,” is very low, so more users respond. Let’s look at some examples of brands that make it easy for users to engage.

1 Google, Q3 2011 earnings call 2 Facebook, “Best Practices for your Page and Media Strategy,” 2012 3

Whitepaper | H  ow Social Media Messaging Builds Your Brand

VEVO VEVO, a top music video website, shares a lot of videos and artist news with its followers. Every once in a while, however, to shake things up and keep the messaging light and fun, it balances the dialogue with a simple question. In the example below, VEVO welcomes the weekend by sharing a funny e-card image with the prompt, “TGIF! What’s your weekend jam?”

TIMBERLAND Timberland, the outdoor clothing, hiking boots, and active sports product company, incorporates images of its product line into the majority of posts. To freshen the mix of messaging tied to the product images, Timberland regularly includes style or image related “closed” questions. These messages pack a double punch— the products still get featured visually in a way that is relevant to the messaging, and the question prompts a response.

3 Facebook, “Best Practices for your Page and Media Strategy,” 2012


Tip Question posts and fill in the blank posts generate about 90% more engagement than the average text post 3.

Tell Users What You Want from Them Use instructive language in your posts to make it crystal clear what you want fans to do. Believe it or not, ending a post with the instruction to “Like” or “+1” this post usually results in a markedly higher number of those actions! We found a perfect example on Wildfire’s own fan page. The two screenshots below show content that we posted on Wildfire’s Facebook Timeline. The content was very similar, was published within one month, both posts showcased interesting pictures, and both had a similar number of impressions. But the post with the instruction to “Click LIKE if you’re as thrilled as we are,” got nearly four times as many Likes as the post without the instruction. This result is consistent with the results our clients get on their pages as well. The lesson: Never leave the next step up to interpretation—tell fans exactly what you want them to do.


Whitepaper | H  ow Social Media Messaging Builds Your Brand

Steve Madden Steve Madden tweets its followers a variety of fashionfabulous content, but when it has a specific action it wants readers to take, the instruction to “watch” couldn’t be clearer.

Treat Your Fans Like They’re VIPS Do you have exclusive information that you haven’t shared or posted to your website yet? Do you have internal photographs of your team, or videos of a company event that you won’t be sharing any other way? According to the research firm Razorfish, the #1 reason fans “Like” or “Follow” a brand on social networks is to get access to exclusive content, promotions, and deals. So, give your fans privileged content that makes them feel special. Coupons, giveaways, and sweepstakes get the highest amount of entries on average. If it suits your brand, you can even give your fan community a special name like Lady Gaga does with her “Little Monsters.”


The Washington Redskins The Washington Redskins regularly gives its fans opportunities to engage in VIP, exclusive events. For example, the Redskins host a monthly live Google+ Hangout on Air with a rotating selection of players. Every month the Redskins give fans the opportunity to be one of the nine live attendees of the hangout (while the rest of the community watches the video stream live, and later via recording.) The Redskins get their social communities excited about upcoming Hangouts via an active messaging schedule, alerting fans to the next athletes scheduled to appear in hangouts and how fans can sign up to be one of the exclusive nine that get to chat with them live.

Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkin’ Donuts does a great job using the Facebook VIP strategy. Every week, the company encourages its fans to submit photos of themselves with Dunkin’ Donuts products. And each week, one lucky fan is chosen as the “Fan of the Week,” an honor which includes having their picture featured on the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook page. For giving fans a chance at Facebook fame, Dunkin’ receives week after week of quality engagement.


Whitepaper | H  ow Social Media Messaging Builds Your Brand

Tip Be seasonable and timely with the content you’re posting. Fans are more likely to engage with topics that are already top of mind, such as current events, holidays or news. For example, posts mentioning Independence Day on July 4th generated about 90% more engagement than all posts published on that day.4

Invite One-on-One Interactions Even if you have a great connection with your brand’s social follower base, you can take the relationship to a new level when you respond to them personally. Address your fans by name whenever possible, and respond to their comments one-on-one. Many followers express pleasant surprise when they receive this personal touch, because it proves that you’re listening and are receptive to their comments and feedback. And they’ll be more likely to keep posting.

Annie’s Homegrown Annie’s Homegrown takes the time to respond to every customer post with helpful information, gratitude for the fan’s loyalty or, at the very least, a “like”. Annie’s often uses the fan’s name in replies to personalize the conversation and make the fan feel heard and appreciated, like in the tweet and Facebook post depicted here.

3 Facebook, “Best Practices for your Page and Media Strategy,” 2012


Timberland Timberland again demonstrates a high attention to fan engagement by celebrating individual fan photo uploads. Each photo uploaded by a fan is a visual endorsement, not to mention valuable earned media, so there is a high value to encouraging fan photo uploads. For example, Timberland posted an update informing the community that, in celebration of its page reaching over one million fans, it would collect and re-post favorite fan photos, giving each chosen fan the enticement of boosted exposure.

Take Your Relationship to the Next Level It is important to not just sit back and wait for a chance to engage. Actively invite personal conversation with your community by soliciting their opinions on relevant topics or asking them what types of content they want to see. Then act on their suggestions. The Wildfire Facebook fan page is one example of this approach working very successfully. Our fan page is an ongoing initiative to build engagement with a community of marketers, business owners, and social media managers interested in sharing knowledge about social media in general (and Wildfire in particular). We’ve found that our most engaging posts—those that get the most feedback from our fans— are consistently the ones that invite people to post any question they have about social media, or to have their pages reviewed by social media professionals. The key to success is that we actually answer all the questions that are raised. Because of our reliable—and personal— follow-up, our brand is trusted as one that responds. Our “Social Media Hour” has become a popular fixture, and commenters frequently leave feedback about how helpful they find it.


Whitepaper | H  ow Social Media Messaging Builds Your Brand

Here is an example of fan feedback we received after posting that we would review any fan page that left its link in the comments of a message. We promised just a simple 10-second test, but we delivered for every single fan page that participated. Many fans were pleasantly surprised and grateful—and they let us know about it.

Humanize Your Brand We don’t know what it is, but people get undeniably excited about a glimpse behind the scenes. It works for DVD and Blu-ray sales, and it works on social profile pages too. Followers respond to VIP content, and what’s more exclusive than a look inside the workings of your company? Any messaging that humanizes your brand, adds depth to its personality, or colors its character will go over well with fans. This strategy can even add a positive new dimension to your brand, changing its image from untouchable to relatable with a few thoughtful posts. Our own social profile pages regularly displays posts that share the spirit of Wildfire with our fans. In the sample post below, we let Facebook fans in on the fun tradition of ringing a cowbell to signify the launch of a new customer campaign. This post received 50 Likes within an hour of its publication.


The same is true of the post to our Google+ community on the right, which showed an amusing effort by some women at Wildfire to join in on Men’s Health Awareness Month activities by donning mustaches for “Movember.” The follow-up commentary from readers demonstrates their appreciation for the levity and entertainment value of the post.

Upping the Ante: Promoting your Messages as Paid Media Many marketers aren’t aware that an active social presence, no matter how consistently engaging, doesn’t guarantee them visibility in their fans’ and followers’ news feeds. In fact, most of a brand’s social audience never sees its page posts. According to one study, a brand’s posts on Facebook typically reach just 16% of its fans.5 So while publishing a steady stream of content is a very necessary part of engagement strategy, it is not sufficient as a stand-alone strategy. Organic reach alone will not get the message out to your communities at the broadest scale. Brands can reach and engage a larger percentage of users by running paid social ads. Social ads drive engagement by tapping into the viral characteristics of social sites and broadcasting brand messages: ads generate Likes and shares, which increase visibility in the news feed. And since more than a quarter of social network users are likely to pay attention to a social ad posted by a friend6, that news feed visibility has the potential to be quite impactful. This extended visibility won’t just suit your brand within the walls of the social network it originated in, either— paid social advertising on Google+ extends the influence of social signals into search and the rest of the web as well. In fact, advertisers that activate the social extensions feature within their AdWords account see a 5-10% uplift in click-through rates on average7. Stay tuned for an upcoming Wildfire report that offers tips and best practices for engaging your audience and amplifying your brand message.

5 Bannon, Deirdre, “State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012,” insights/reports-downloads/2012/state-of-the-media-the-social-media-report-2012.html 6 Rao, Leena, “Most of the Page Views on Facebook Contain Social Ad Formats,” http://techcrunch. com/2011/09/14/most-of-the-page-views-on-facebook-contain-social-ad-formats/ 7 Google Ads, “Social Extensions”


Putting it all together As you’ve seen from our examples, the subject matter for your social profile posts is limited only by your imagination. But if you want to make sure you and your followers are getting the most out of every message, keep a few simple guidelines in mind: • First, humanize your brand by being personal, friendly, and unafraid to tap into the shared passions that brought you together in the first place • Always make your fans feel special and appreciated by giving them one-on-one or VIP treatment whenever possible—even if it’s just a personal thank you or a peek behind the scenes • And finally, keep things as simple as possible by making it easy for fans to respond to your posts, and by letting them know exactly what it is you’d like them to do next

So, now that you’re armed with seven actionable strategies for improving engagement, be sure to explore and test which strategies work best for your brand’s various social communities.

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