In the 21st Century, brands have more access to consumers and shopper data than ever before, but these shoppers don’t want a sales pitch. They want a personalized brand experience — emphasis on experience. Fortunately, a number of tools exist to provide the perfect avenue for authentic marketing: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat.
Brands Used to Hold the Keys, Now Shoppers Do
Advertising on platforms like Snapchat, in particular, can seem almost crude for brands compared to other polished and highly-targeted video ads brands can place on Facebook and other sites. Because each platform speaks differently to each person, it’s important to understand the role each plays with your shoppers.
Brands used to control the advertising story, and the path to purchase was nearly a straight line from a shopper’s awareness of a need to them walking into the store. Brands could take their time, and everything they did was strategic. It didn’t matter that advertising was “salesy” — brands only had a certain amount of time in specific places to reach consumers.
Today, the path to purchase has been fully disrupted and shoppers are exposed to an overwhelming amount of marketing messaging. 34% of online browsers click ads accidentally, which could be because mobile ads aren’t easy to close. Another 15% feel tricked into having done so. They turn to ad blockers because the ads they’re exposed to are annoying and intrusive (64%) and because they disrupt what the person is actually trying to do online (54%). Another 65% of consumers will skip pre-roll video ads, and they’ll do it as soon as the skip button becomes available. All this is without discussing ad avoidance behaviors in traditional mediums; consider the fact that many networks disable fast forward in OnDemand viewing because viewers will fast forward through ads if given the opportunity.
How Social Platforms Display Authenticity
Enter the casual streaming video platform. The original strategy was not intended for brands and their marketing efforts; Snapchat, specifically, was created to provide instant messages, pictures, and video that would disappear after being viewed. Now, Stories will last for a day, but they’ll still disappear. It was made for privacy and short moments of connection, and this is exactly why it, as well as Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, are perfect for authentic marketing.
Both Instagram Stories and Snapchat fit in the same niche — images and videos that last only for a day. Facebook Live is video streaming in real time, and its authenticity is born from the fact that, unlike most live TV, there is no buffer time to alter content. Everything is seen as it is, and because it’s provided by Facebook, it also leverages full-scale reach that’s harder to achieve on the other two platforms. (In fact, people are three times more likely to watch a video on Facebook if it’s live.)
All three can share backstage and day-in-the-life type content, exclusive promotion codes, and feature products, influencers, and event coverage. Consider the way Heineken leveraged Snapchat at Coachella 2014: It created engagement with clues about performers, and when a follower guessed correctly, it directly shared exclusive sneak peeks about when and where the performance would go on. It attracted attendees from being mere spectators and made them a part of the event, even in a small way. Meanwhile, Facebook’s live video can also leverage comments and polls, allowing brands to directly engage with viewers in real time and give them a role in the content they’re viewing. Cosmetics brand Benefit does just that every week during their “Tipsy Tricks” videos, allowing viewers to influence which types of makeup and products are utilized to create that day’s look.
Tips to Leverage These Platforms
Only Use a Platform If Your Audience Is There.
This is a hard and fast rule of marketing, and it applies here as much as any other channel being considered. Don’t waste time, money, and other resources creating videos that no one is going to see. Do your research and know where your shoppers spend their time.
Speak to Your Audience.
Remember, these channels are intended for authentic marketing, and that means you need to directly engage with your actual shoppers. Use positive conversation and discuss relevant content that fits your target audience. Take the time to understand how they want to be spoken to and give them the content they desire to encourage more engagement.
If you’re too buttoned up and stiff — or worse, bland — it will probably turn your audience off pretty quickly. They want to see real people and real moments. Humor is usually a plus, but don’t try to force it either. Don’t be afraid of transparency; instead, use it to build a sense of friendship and trust.
Exclusivity can be as simple as only providing a certain kind of content via that particular channel (as with the “Tipsy Tricks” video mentioned above). Or, when the platform allows it, it can mean providing exclusive content directly to a specific person (as with Heineken’s Snaps at Coachella). Consider utilizing influencers or celebrities to “takeover” the channel for a specific amount of time; this is as exclusive as it is interesting and engaging.
This is especially applicable for Snapchat and Instagram Stories, thanks to their brief nature and the ability to include still images. These can be leveraged as teasers for bigger reveals by sharing clues, or by sharing images that use a sticker or similar graphic to hide part of the picture. Puma’s Snap for a Kylie Jenner photoshoot is a great example. Your followers get something exclusive that makes them want to tune in for more.
Be Somewhat Spontaneous…
Against every marketer’s habit to plan everything in advance and have it analyzed and tested, it’s fairly important that this content be made spontaneously. It can be planned, but it should feel authentic to build a real connection. People love using Snapchat because of its raw quality, so trying too hard to be polished is going to feel incredibly false, especially on that platform. Hint Water’s “Friday Yoga” photo Instagram Story is clearly not a planned marketing moment, but it’s a real moment that taps into what its customer’s life probably looks like.
…But Remember to Have a Plan.
Brands are still trying to send a unified message. That does take planning, especially if it’s going to be at a major event, involve a celebrity with a defined schedule, or is going to give an inside look at manufacturing (ensuring proprietary work is not divulged). Devise a plan that details your goals and has defining moments and ideas to provide structure but allows for creative engagement.
Don’t Expect Perfection.
Imperfection is actually the point. For these channels, your audience doesn’t want a sleek, perfect ad. They want a real connection. That doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards. It’s not easy, but you can maintain quality without striving for utter perfection.
Don’t Repurpose Content.
A Facebook Ad isn’t going to cut it as a Snap, and you don’t want the same exact content of a Snap as an Instagram Story post. Each channel differs, and has different audiences. Posting the same exact thing isn’t going to get the same results, and worse, it could end up hurting your brand. How authentic is content that shows up the same way in different places? That being said, you can integrate them together and let each channel point to another for particular contests, sneak peeks, etc.
Facebook has fine-tuned the use of data for itself and for Instagram, and that means both are going to be easier to measure in terms of viewership and engagement. Pay close attention to those numbers to maintain quality content that appeals to your audience. However, for Snapchat, there isn’t an analytics option built in. That doesn’t mean you can’t measure analytics for that channel; you’ll just have to find a third party program to do it.
Authentic marketing is a great way to reach your shoppers while building trust and giving your business a human face to develop relationships with your audience. Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat each provide similar, yet distinct, avenues to reach audiences with authentic content that’s interesting and engaging. Use these tips to leverage these platforms to authentically connect and engage with your shoppers.