When Paid Social Media started creeping into the world of performance marketing a few years ago, it was the lesser stepsister to the major channels – PPC, Display, SEO, and Affiliate. At the time, Social intrigued many brands I worked with, but they felt it was a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’ in their marketing strategies.

Fast forward a few years and Social has now taken over. You’ll find brands pinning their hopes and dreams on the success of Paid Social; buzzwords like ‘viral content,’ ‘snackable content,’ even ‘clickbait’ are becoming part of our marketing vernacular. I don’t have to go on a spiel about the adoption of mobile or social media platforms – I think we can all agree on how Social Media gained traction and power.

Yet one recurring issue with brands and their approach to Social, whether it’s paid or organic, is that it’s hollow. As my generation and younger are gaining financial power, we’re not willing to spend or engage with brands that we perceive as disingenuous or trying to make a quick buck at our expense.

We want real, relatable content. We want brands that represent qualities that align with ourselves and our beliefs. Brands need to infuse their Social content with relatable qualities to maximize the brand power.

But that’s hard, isn’t it?

Yes & no.

Foundational Principle: You can’t take a ‘batch & blast’ approach to your organic content or paid ads.

This may seem basic, I think we all learned about the importance of customization in Marketing 101, but it’s one principle often ignored by brands because ‘batch & blast’ is quick and easy to execute. But users, including yourself, want something relatable; tailored to them where possible.

Okay that’s great and all, but how can I come up with content that isn’t ‘batch & blast’ and feels genuine to each person I want to talk to? Seems like a lot of work …

Great question, now we’re getting to the good stuff!

Foundational Blocks of Your Brand Persona

A brand persona is going to be your best and most valuable asset. A persona helps users relate to your brand and gives them something to buy into when they engage or make a purchase.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?

Creating a brand persona sounds difficult, but it can be simple. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the driving principles of your business?
  2. Are those principles found in your Social content?
  3. What do your customers care about?
  4. What are users saying about you?
  5. What are users saying to you?

Let’s pretend you’re a fast-fashion retailer and start by reviewing your mission statement. What are the core principles touted as your reasons for doing business? What do you stand for?

Your core principles may be around:

  1. Delivering the latest trends in fashion
  2. Sustainable manufacturing processes
  3. Superior customer service
  4. Giving back to the community

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First step to building the foundation of your brand persona across Social is to evaluate the original content you’re creating against your mission statement. Check both paid and organic content. The goal is to uncover if you’re messaging the brand’s value props ineffectively or at all. Often the conclusion is that brands need to fold in more content around their value props versus promos and discounts. Using the example above, some content topics could be sustainable business practices, customer service, and community. Infusing content with qualities that make brands more human and easier to relate to for users. When you are spending money on these platforms to promote your brand, making relatable content is critical, otherwise you’re essentially wasting media dollars.

Talking to Your Customers

The next step after identifying the gaps and opportunities in the types of messaging you’re pushing out is to develop the tone and flavor of your messaging. You might already have touches of this in your content (e.g. are you a fun, edgy, or a preppy brand, etc.) but we need to elevate to the next level. Strengthen your brand persona by using this tone purposefully, and consistently. Apply it across the different types of content you’ll develop to promote the value props identified in the previous section of this exercise.

Make your paid content work as hard as possible for you by doing a lot of the initial research into creating relatable Social content for your community.

Listen to Your User’s Content

Identifying the appropriate tone for your content can be hard. The richest source of insight into your user’s perception of your brand persona is the content your current customers are pushing out about you. Look at their selfies; are there trends in product styling? What types of settings are common? Is there a subculture gravitating to you or is there a wide array of individuals attracted to your brand?

Talk to your community in the language they are using to talk about you.

For example, Doc Martens reflects the type of content their users are posting within their own organic content. Let’s compare content users are posting using #docmartenstyle versus pieces from the Dr. Martens’ organic Instagram feed.

User Content:

User generated content on Instagram

Doc Martens’ Content:

Original brand content reflecting UGC tone

The feel of the content is very similar.

Boiling It Down & Rolling Out Your Persona

In a nutshell, a brand persona contains two core components:

  • A set of qualities that humanizes the brand to users
  • A tone that is relatable to users and aligns with the brand flavor

When developing your content calendar for paid and organic Social, look at your planned pieces and make sure there is something for the customer to buy into other than just a selling prop. Ask your team:

  1. Does the messaging and imagery align with our brand value propositions?
  2. What should the user think they are buying into when they engage with this piece of content?
  3. Is the tone consistent with past posts and on-brand?
  4. Is our brand persona clear and tangible in this content?

One final piece of advice: stay close to your brand community. They are the best resource for gauging if your approach is working or if it needs to evolve after some time. After all, the only constant in the world of digital marketing is change.