Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide inexpensive resources for connecting with core members of your target market. While this technology and subsequent marketing strategies are fairly uncharted, it’s important to understand that social marketing has a unique value that is different than any other medium.

I graduated in the winter of 2007. In less than two years, Facebook has doubled and Twitter has entered the building with a fury. Nowhere in my schooling did the concept of social marketing appear and as a copywriter, my idea of branding was finding the right hook to capture an audience.

The notion of branding is changing, at least for this particular medium. It’s forcing marketers to reevaluate how it interacts with customers. Personally, I think it’s for the better. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to spend every moment at the office equating overdraft protection to menacing toddlers, but the fact that I get to dive further into the “character” of a company opens a whole new set of doors.

Here’s what I mean by character. Social media allows businesses to create a profile that is as close to human as an entity can be. Every interaction is a chance to explore the dynamic between business and patron on an individual level amidst a very public backdrop. This is more than personification. It’s personalization. Here are five ways to maximize that brand persona on any social media platform.

Listen – Gone are the days of set it and forget it advertising. Social media allows you to hear what customers are saying or at least what they are reading. With the ability to track what links get followed or view comments, it’s easy to see how customers want your brand to fill their needs. Listen to those needs.

React – Imagine you were talking to someone in person and they kept directing the conversation to your exceptional baking skills and how you should attend an upcoming potluck. Would you bring sushi? I hope not. As a brand, you have to adapt to what your followers are asking for. If you are trying to force feed informative blogs, but they only look at random videos, it’s time to hunt for more random flicks. Remember, social media is opt-in. People that follow you value what you have to offer, so keep yourself valuable. That value comes from the user not your mission statement or positioning strategy.

Get Off Track – This is not a commercial. Think of social media as a one-on-one conversation held in a very public setting, almost like a cocktail party. If your posts are all about your company, you are no different than the guy who talks about how great he is. It may be okay at first, but people will eventually stop caring. Instead, share something interesting or respond to what someone else says. The fact that you are paying attention to your core customers shows that you are involved and not just beating your chest.

Don’t Quit – One of the main criticisms of social media is its inability to show tangible results. Doubters think that all the time spent should translate into quantifiable results. Welcome to branding. While some companies have found direct success, most probably won’t. The jacket with your company logo doesn’t directly translate into sales. The interstate billboard with your tagline can’t be traced to foot traffic, but they don’t hurt the cause. More importantly, this interaction is a fraction of the cost. Set it and forget it advertising is the easy way out. Social media is time consuming by nature. You have to keep at it. Stagnation means you’ve turned your back on the entire conversation. Don’t be rude. Be honest. Be flexible. Be your brand.

Love The Trend – Social marketing meiosis is exciting. You are watching the birth of a new medium mature and grow in real time. It may be a little far out to say, but social media and the Web 2.0 could change the landscape of our being much like radio did 100 years ago or print five centuries ago. For the purposes of staying on top of your own social media strategy, you need to embrace the new developments that are out there. Find new ways to connect, integrate and stay ahead of the curve. Social media is fun. Enjoy it.

For any questions on how to humanize your company into a social media platform or to discuss how social marketing can improve your business, talk to us. We’ll listen.