#NoFilter- How social media is changing the face of brand awareness

Lewis Copeland, MSc digital marketing management student

Today, social media presence is a must for businesses who are looking to expand. If you are not taking advantage of social media, you are missing out on a fast, inexpensive and effective way to reach half of the world’s population.  Of these social media users Sherpa Marketing found that more people follow brands on social media than follow celebrities. On Instagram alone 80% of people follow and engage with at least one brand.

According to research collected by We Are Social, there are 3.53 billion social media users in 2019 with the global total growing by 2.88 million since 2018. Mobile users remain the dominant force with  3.26 billion people using social media on mobile devices in January 2019- a growth of 297 million new users representing a year-on-year increase of more than 10%.

Image Source: We Are Social

Whilst the opportunities to utilise social media to expand into new and existing customer bases remains abundant true success is based on engaging with consumers, creating a strong relevant brand presence as well as informative content is imperative.

So what are the benefits of social media for building my brand?

With more than half of the world’s population using social media it is a great place to reach new and highly targeted new customers.  The notion that consumers only engage with brands they already know on social media, is a common misconception as  60% of Instagram users state that they have discovered new products on the platform.

As of January 2019 Instagram boasts 894.9 Million active users and compiles one of the highest audience engagement rates. Despite the impressive statistics for Instagram it is not an ideal marketing tool for every industry. Fashion, travel, beauty and brands with a more visual offering remain at the forefront of Instagram’s success. In order to capitalise on Instagram as a means of growing brand awareness all images must be clear and aesthetically pleasing.  The British Journal of Photography argues that although a positive tool, Instagram’s association with parent company Facebook puts all images at a risk of loss of ownership once posted onto the platform due Facebook using content and data to create revenue. Additionally Mike Marko notes that Instagram does not support a call to action clickable hyperlink in image captions which may cause consumers to deviate from gaining more awareness of products.

However, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have long been used by brands as a means of showcasing and selling products.  Influencer Marketing Hub notes that Instagram has combatted the lack of support for hyperlinks by adding a shoppable post feature where consumers can simply press the shopping bag icon to be shown the prices of the items in each image with a call to action direct link to that exact product on the organisation’s website. Social commerce is well on it’s way to becoming a mainstream retail channel on bar with other mediums such as websites and offline stores.

Despite these challenges Instagram remains a significant leader in building brand awareness. For example when Absolut Vodka ran an Instagram campaign to promote a limited edition spark bottle the company achieved a 5 point lift in brand awareness through short video clips highlighting their new bottle. However a key point to note with this campaign was that Absolut is an already well established brand with a significant social media following from the offset so instant results of the same magnitude cannot be expected for a business who is yet to have such a social media presence. In light of this, the application of developing brand awareness shows to be a misleading term. For Absolute this process consisted more of reminding consumers of the brand as opposed to growing the actual awareness due to the already large customer base. However, for SME’s building brand awareness would be more likely to produce significant results. Given this information the term building brand awareness should be used with caution as it is only likely to be effective for smaller organisations.

 Image Source: Big Commerce

How can social media improve digital marketing?

A strong social media presence is a key component in a successful digital marketing strategy. It is essential for the platforms to become humanised to form meaningful relationship moments by introducing consumers to the people who make up the business and how customers are benefiting from using your products allowing consumers to connect with the brand on a personal level. However, an air of caution is advised when growing a brand presence on social media as consumers may initially struggle to connect with the brand. A UK study from Trinity Mirror Solutions found that more than half of adults do not trust a brand fully until they see real proof that the brand is keeping it’s promise.  

Social media analytics can be used to leverage the reach of their posts, the click-through rate of the consumer journey and which segments are interacting with content the most frequently.  This information is particularly insightful as it allows for the content to be adapted in real time to target another key segment if the reach is falling short.

What are the future trends for social media moving into 2020:

The landscape of social media is constantly changing. Instagram is one of the largest social media networks and major changes implemented here can shape the social media landscape. One major change going into 2020 is the possibility of Instagram removing the likes features on posts.  If Instagram removes likes then brands won’t be able to measure the metrics of the direct impact of their campaigns as easily as they do now. This might encourage some brands to invest in Instagram Ads as they can easily track the ROI for those

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