Anchor your brand in your target group's culture with social media

3 August 2023

The added value of social media is sometimes difficult for marketers to determine, apart from the results it has to offer the sales team. As a result, some tend to consider a 'must do', while it actually offers a wonderful way to gain a place in people's lives. The key is to identify your brand with the culture of your target audience, and for that, social works best. However, this requires a certain amount of courage from your brand.

Person working on laptop

Social media platforms and privacy are at odds, a heartbreaking shame. What happens to your data is transparent in a technical sense - with thousands of boring pages for you to read in order to find out - but not in terms of usability.

Consumers should be given more choice in what they do and do not accept: practical options in which you can also immediately see what you get in return for each element. Because while social media as a service is free, your personal data is the currency with which you pay. Consumers are looking for a good deal just like everyone else.

Before you can get a good deal on that as a brand, you will need to understand how to translate brand-centric ideas to social.

"Consumers are just like everyone else looking for a good deal"

Your brand as a tourist on social media

You can compare social media to countries, each of which carrying its own culture. For example, on Twitter it is very common to talk to strangers, on LinkedIn a lot less so and on Snapchat not at all.

Each social media platform has its own regions, cities and neighbourhoods inhabited by people from different backgrounds. Brands entering these neighbourhoods do so as tourists, not part of the local culture yet.

Therefore, read up on that local culture beforehand to learn what is going on there and how you can contribute to it. That way, you will create better content - and become a better tourist in the process. Until the moment you decide to go native.

Social media: culture catalysts

'Culture' is not created on social. Social shows, amplifies and accelerates culture on its own. It’s all about the people making that culture, with social as a very useful tool to do just that. The ‘shelf-filling culture’, for instance, is created in supermarkets, not on TikTok.

If people are negative about your brand on social, it is mainly because of your brand, not because of social media. That Instagram post from the company outing doesn't make it better or worse, it only communicates what the atmosphere was like.

"If people are negative about your brand on social, it's mainly because of your brand - and not because of social."

Now, how do you connect with a culture as a brand?

  • For a start, you can get a lot of authority from content creators who fit with your target audience.   

  • See which (sub)culture fits your brand and which content creator’s voices are being heard in that culture.   

  • You can support their channel with a shout-out, a barter or the well-known sponsored content. By doing so, you create a lot of legitimacy, which works particularly well in industries like tech, fashion and gaming.  

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More social = less discount

When you connect with your target audience's experience, the price becomes less important. Brands managing to bring cultural capital are less likely to show the need to deploy discounts because they already give the people what they want.

A great example of this is UK-based carwow, a car loan intermediary. What do people who buy cars actually want? To watch cool cars. That’s why carwow is running a YouTube page with Top Gear-like car videos. Its 8 million subscribers find entertainment, education and practical information related to buying a new car. In the Netherlands, for example, Autowereld could learn a lot from this.

Social: excellent for demand generation

When additional budget for Google Ads no longer results in increased sales because your brand already shows up on just about every search, the key is to increase the funnel. Get more people searching for your brand, product and market.   

Demand generation on social is flexible, quick to set up and has many niches to be used for testing traction. Depending on your other expressions, you can demonstrate the effect on search directly. The challenge with upper-funnel marketing is that - especially in the beginning - you will see less ROI because you are simply not focusing on conversion.   

However, there is a so-called brand lift to speak of: brand recognition and better brand perception, resulting in more searches and eventually more conversion opportunities. Especially brands looking to grow can utilise social to fuel demand generation.   

Today’s social media opportunities

Many brands do feel the pressure to be present on social as a channel used for direct contact, but unfortunately it often scores poorly as a traffic source. However, with the right approach, there are plenty of opportunities for your brand just as well. Consider the following best practices to help you find them:   

  1. Find the subreddit of your own brand, product or market. If you exist in the eyes of your customers, you will see that reflected on social in one way or another. Which cultural expressions do you see?  

  2. To choose does not mean to lose. Which social is your target audience on? Does that subculture fit your brand? Make your choice and show off how much of a geek/super fan you are. People don't buy Jordans because they help them jump higher, but because it represents a culture.   

  3. Go native. The corporate, clean way of communicating is the path of least resistance. Only when you dare to contribute to the local culture do you become part of it. In doing so, remember: the medium is the message.   

  4. Try longform. Verified Twitter accounts can now post pieces of text and company pages can send their own newsletters on LinkedIn since last year. The longform offers a lot of space for your story - such as a sneak peek - and is easier accessible compared to a podcast or Medium piece.   

  5. Go for quality. Great content is not determined by budget. The barrier to making professional stuff is getting lowered on the daily, thanks to ever cheaper microphones, cameras and drones.    

  6. Don't leave it to AI. Responding to culture is pure fugazi. It's best to ask ChatGPT for a one-off Twitter joke, but consistently keeping your finger on the pulse is human work because of its capriciousness and topicality.   

  7. Experiment continuously. Every country handles social differently. For instance, Snapchat is more popular in Scandinavian countries because it is more private, and livestreaming in China generates instant revenue, even for cabbages. There are no sets of laws that consumers follow: they are constantly trying out all kinds of things. As a brand, do the same. As a marketer, connect using new channels and research whether you want to be visible there as a brand.   

Go native or go home

Social is not a huge bin of human eyes for you to dish out your brand content. Culture is what makes social fun and interesting, and that goes beyond clever catchphrases and hooks. Why do people use a particular medium? What language do they speak? If you forget that, you're basically a bad kind of tourist on an otherwise super cozy terrace.

Dare to make it about your fans and their interests, behaviour and standards. If you go down this path, you will not only score the occasional like, comment or share, but also the heartfelt interest of your target audience. You’ll rise to a new status, the one of a brand that 'gets’ social.

Rowan Polanen
Rowan Polanen
Digital strategist

Relevance is king, performance is the castle - this is how Rowan sums up his views on digital media and advertising. As a digital strategist at iO, he applies his knowledge to (among others) Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn ads, but also to digital strategies full of well-founded choices. This way, he guides iO's creatives to long-term success using the right insights and data.

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