Any Fortune 500 company’s core aim in today’s consumer and business landscape is to achieve top-of-mind awareness. That means a brand or product has to come to mind first when a customer thinks about a particular industry.

To achieve that, a digital marketing strategy is essential, in particular one that stresses the importance of social media marketing (SMM). In the 2019 Social Media Marketing Report, 93% of respondents said social media had grown exposure for their businesses, and 87% said that traffic to their websites had risen.

Remember care brand Dove’s #ShowUs campaign? It encouraged women to create a photo library on social media to shatter beauty stereotypes. With 5,000 images in the photo library and almost 700,000 uses of the hashtag on Instagram, the campaign became an internet sensation. Casper, the mattress store, also used social media inventively and to great effect. It designed a “magical, internet slumberland of sounds, meditations, and bedtime stories” and shared it on its social media feeds to help people get to sleep.

But any social media strategy has to be designed with the target platform in mind. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, TikTok, or Youtube are all unique, attract different types of users, and suit different kinds of content. Strategists can harness these platforms’ potential as a PR tool to develop intimate relationships with potential customers, as a means to capture the zeitgeist, and even as a communication channel for customers to query and complain.

Behind the scenes, those same strategists can analyze the market more deeply. Sentiment analysis helps them navigate public opinion and pattern-detection software allows them to track unusual activities on their feeds.

The platforms

Facebook has the widest reach of any social media platform. It is the dominant communication platform in some countries and has an audience spanning the generations. The platform sells targeted advertising, making it very attractive to companies launching social media campaigns, with options to target an audience along demographic lines.

Instagram has a strong, user-based concept, adopting content loop strategies with prominent Instagrammers central to the platform. It is largely image-driven, although several new features over the years such as reels and stories have raised user engagement with video content, allowing a wider range of formats to help market goods and services. One big limitation for strategists is that sharing third-party product content is not allowed, so gaining traction is a major challenge.

Twitter is the only platform centered on text. If virality is the aim, this is the best platform to promote content, due to the ease with which users can reshare. That gives strategists a perfect tangible metric to track a campaign’s success.

TikTok is the new kid on the block. It has a video focus and is generally used by a younger audience. It lives on short, creative videos.

YouTube, on the other hand, is the top dog when it comes to video content. The platform is defined as social media by strategists because content can be reshared across different channels so easily. It’s where they can show off deeper, more substantive content, with a powerful recommendation engine to aid their efforts.

At the front end

Fortune 500 companies use social media to forge an intimate relationship with customers, future collaborators, and potential staff. They allow an audience in behind the scenes, giving a more authentic view of the people behind the product, their personalities, and views. The content is relatable and personable.

Red Bull is one company that exemplifies that approach. It collaborates with sportspeople across 97 different sporting disciplines, exhibiting their biographies and offering the audience an intimate behind-the-scenes relationship. The Red Bull Perspective skateboarding documentary follows four pro skaters to show “how they see the world”. It was one of many campaigns that went beyond the sporting discipline, for viewers to form a deeper relationship with athletes.

With a different tone and tact, Wendy’s, the US fast-food restaurant, achieved the same aim. Cutting through corporate politeness with their roasts, it won wide media exposure with their no-holds-barred responses, in an approach that fans found refreshing. Though controversial, the style came across as authentic and relatable to many.

Another tactic is to tap into the zeitgeist by reacting to current events. At the Superbowl in 2013, Oreo did so instantaneously. When there was a blackout during Beyonce’s halftime performance, Oreo made its voice heard, tweeting “Power Out? No problem” with a starkly lit image of a solitary Oreo and the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Countless organizations lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement; Google, Netflix, Walmart, Nascar, PwC, Nike, Ben and Jerry’s, IBM, and PayPal included. As for the Covid-19 pandemic, an unexpected angle came from Uber who, counter to their business model, demanded their followers “stop moving” due to restrictions.

Companies squeeze all the potential they can from social media, also using it as a venue for customer complaints and concerns. It is highly suited to the task, as the platforms generate a measurable KPI, where organizations can analyze how fast they are responding to complaints.

Back-end use

Away from the flashy videos and beautiful Instagrammers, Fortune 500 companies are using social media in smart, analytical ways.

Pattern-detection software is one such method. It is used to track any novel activity in relation to companies’ social media feeds. Whether a product is trending widely and the company has cause to celebrate, or a previous post has gone down like a lead balloon, it is essential that the organization is aware. With negative feedback or positive, pattern detection keeps companies informed.

Another analytical method is sentiment analysis. Companies apply sentiment analysis to see where opinion falls on certain topics. Analysts take phrases across social media platforms to see whether they are discussed negatively or positively.

Fortune 500 companies are using social media for PR announcements, to build personal relationships with users, as a complaints-and-feedback channel, and to make themselves relevant to the moment, and, if successful, newsworthy. But what we can’t see is where companies are using social media most effectively. They are getting to know their audiences, understanding trends, and keeping an eye out for anything unexpected, both positive and negative, on their feeds.

What ensures the success of their campaigns is the clarity of their aim – to achieve top-of-mind awareness. Every department in an organization should ask itself: How can we use social media to expand our presence and to be present for our customers? The wide coverage social media offers on any trending topic provides the perfect tools to analyze and create opportunities to achieve that top-of-mind awareness.

Cover image source: Alexander Shatov