26 Jul 2016
Brands using social media

What To Learn From The Most Unlikely Brands Mastering Social Media

It’s not news that your brand needs to be on social media. Your customers are spending more time than ever on their social channels – they’re scrolling through Instagram when they wake up, checking Facebook while they’re in line for a coffee and getting lost in their Twitter feed on the train. And that’s just before 9 am. So it’s no surprise that most brands are now firmly on the social media bandwagon, dutifully tweeting out brand updates and sharing LinkedIn posts.

But sometimes it can seem like only the most popular or consumer-focused brands have any success on social media. While fashion and food brands are crafting viral videos and building an army of Facebook fans, B2B brands often struggle to see engagement – especially those with hard to explain products or dry subject matter. But at the end of the day, your brand is speaking to real people no matter what industry you’re in. So there’s no reason you can’t engage your audience and have a bit of fun with your social presence.

If you need some inspiration, take a cue from three of the most unlikely brands seeing huge social media success:

  1. The Power Of A Sense Of Humour 

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) probably isn’t the first business you think of when considering social media superstars, but it’s a great organisation to draw inspiration from. The QPS Facebook page has over 700,000 fans and a massive amount of organic reach. In fact, QLD Police has the highest number of fans on a police Facebook page in the English speaking world. The key to its success? A sense of humour. Just take a look at this post, which generated almost 60,000 likes:

QLD Police Facebook

So what did they do right? Well, to begin with, they tapped into a popular sentiment about the band, and proved that they don’t take themselves too seriously. At the same time, they delivered a serious message by reminding people to stay safe on the roads. The engagement on this post shows that people responded well to the refreshingly tongue-in-cheek attitude. Another post along the same lines was picked up by news publications all over the world – and actually led to artist reps approaching the police service to make fun of their own bands on social media.

QLD Police Image

Takeaway Tip: The approach works because it’s relatable and not overly serious. One of the most successful posts on the QPS page is simply a photo of an incredibly tall policeman standing back-to-back with a much shorter policewoman. Everyday moments like this might seem trivial but if they make people laugh and help to make your brand seem human, they’re worth trying. Funny takes on popular culture and current events can also help to extend your brand’s message far beyond your Facebook feed.

2. Engage Audience Interests

At first glance, General Electric don’t seem like a brand that would create a tonne of Pinterest-worthy content. After all, Pinterest is just recipes, #fitspiration and life hacks, right? But General Electric prove that Pinterest can be a valuable channel for engaging all kinds of audiences with visual content. To get an idea of their approach, take a look at the ‘That’s Genius’ board, which is full of highly shareable quotes and ideas from GE founder Thomas Edison and other pioneers. Then there’s the technology facts in ‘Mind = Blown’, GE’s take on the popular Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ meme, or boards like ‘Badass Machines’. GE successfully taps into the zeitgeist of memes and an audience fascination with innovation and inspiration. The brand’s Pinterest account is basically a smorgasbord of engaging content for tech geeks.

GE Pinterest

With over 26,000 followers, it’s a great case study of how a B2B or technology business can build an engaged online community and position itself as a unique voice, without getting off-brand.

Takeaway Tip: Don’t be afraid to show some personality and try something new – even if it’s not directly related to your products and services. If you can connect with what people are  searching for online, you can start adding your voice to their conversations. You can afford to take some risks on social and have a bit of fun (as long as you’re not sharing anything inappropriate or offensive). As Joe Lazauskas from Contently suggests, “GE didn’t likely do 18 months of market research to find that consumers are predisposed to respond positively to Thomas Edison memes. They tried something new that had little cost or downside, and it worked well.”

3. Focus on Your Customers

Sharpie pens have been around forever (since 1857, according to Wikipedia), and while they’re a staple of stationary cupboards everywhere, I wouldn’t have picked the brand as a likely source of social media inspiration. How exciting can a permanent marker be? Yet Sharpie is a brand that really shines on Instagram, where it focuses on what the product can actually do. Rather than sharing pictures of its products, the brand’s Instagram account is a vibrant collection of the artwork, designs and decorations people have created using Sharpie pens. In many of the images, the Sharpie brand doesn’t appear at all.

Sharpie Instagram

By placing the spotlight on the customers, Sharpie highlights the benefits of its products without sharing promotional content. It appeals to all kinds of audiences, from aspiring graffiti artists to school kids and teachers. At the same time, it draws attention to the talents of its customers, which helps to build connections with potential influencers.

 Sharpie Instagram2

Takeaway Tip: Showcase user-generated content and make your customers the focus of everything you do on social. This helps to drive engagement, start conversations and ultimately build a loyal online following. Think about the real value of your product, rather than just the selling points you list on your website, and use social media as an opportunity to highlight it.

Your Turn

Social media offers you a chance to connect with your audience on a personal level. You can afford to relax a little and appeal to customers’ interests and quirks, no matter what industry you’re in. Put your unique brand personality front and centre, while still shining a spotlight on your audience. Most importantly, try out new things and don’t be afraid to have some fun with it.

Feature image via Jason Howie.

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  • Jes Tubnor

    Great blog, Annie! It was a fun read 🙂

    • Annie Peachman

      Thanks Jes, glad you enjoyed it!

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