Why a social media identity is important for your brand

Emily, Copywriter

From big brands to your local knitting group, we’ve all got a social media identity.

Even you. Whether you actively cultivate it or not, if you have one or more social media profiles, you have a social media identity. As a ‘Millennial’, I grew up during the rapid growth of social media. At the start of high school, Myspace, Bebo and MSN reigned, but by the time I graduated university in 2015, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were staples of our social media diet.

In that short space of time we’ve come to define ourselves online. Often judging others by what they post and write in pixels.

But where did it all begin?

In 2011, sociologist and media theorist, David Gauntlett described the Web as “separate gardens” – meaning that only the creator of a web page had influence over it. But as the Web grew into the shared space we know today, David coined the term, “collective allotment” – a space to share our ideas, culture and impact with a community, often with the hope of being accepted. 

Web 2.0 is like a collective allotment, we come together to work collaboratively in a shared space.

Acceptance and affirmation drive our social media usage. The focus has shifted from static websites where content was a one-way street, to platforms built on connection, where people and brands can reaffirm their identities.

But what is identity?

It’s important to remember that our identity is ever-evolving and changing. It’s a socially constructed concept; we build it through interactions with family, friends and organisations. Things like our gender, social class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation shape our identity.

For brands however, their identity was previously viewed externally, such as what they produced or the service they offered. Now, a brand can build an online presence that’s anchored in things like nationality, founding and philosophy. In today’ social-media-saturated society, the right tweet or Snapchat story is integral to a brand’s customer experience.

In our research for the Rufus Leonard Brand Experience Index we discovered just how important crafting the right digital connection can be. Finding the balance between honest, worthwhile content that represents the right identity, whilst also appealing to your customer’s identity too.

Here are just a few brands, both big and small, who are getting it right: 

Nike Women

I know it’s typical to choose a Nike campaign. But the Better For It campaign set out to connect with women for the long haul. It understood that when seeking encouragement, confidence and inspiration for their workout many (especially millennials – 56% in fact) turned to social media. They changed ‘real-time’ marketing into ‘right-time’ marketing. Using an everyday phrase to connect with their audience – it’s accessible, understandable and relatable. Now athletes of all abilities use #betterforit when talking about fitness online. Reaffirming their own identity as a healthy and active person, whilst subconsciously connecting to Nike’s brand experience.  

Nike women

Domino’s Pizza

Domino’s UK joined Snapchat relatively late in January 2016. But their well thought out approach paid off. They produced a short Snapchat Story film called, “Dough to Door”, following the journey of a delivery driver who hits a few obstacles along his route. Each stage of the story included a random letter, when put together it offered the viewer a discount code. This low-budget but high-value content led to an increase in orders and followers. The brand represented itself as fun-loving and light-hearted, with content that’s worth following for.  


Jimmy’s Iced Coffee

And then there are small companies and start-ups, without the big budgets of brand giants, some fail to create a social media presence. They simply copy competitor content, use obscure #NationalDays in the hope of exposure, or blindly promote without personality. Brands like Jimmy’s Iced Coffee however, have amassed 13.K followers on Instagram for being a brand who acts like a person. There’s no pretending or pretense, Jimmy simply shows the adventures of his life – his identity is his business’s identity. Followers interact with him on social media because they see a part of him in themselves, not because he makes a good coffee. 

Jimmy's Coffee

So when it comes to creating a killer social media identity, remember:

Understand your ‘tribe’ – not just the basic demographic stuff, but who they really are. What drives them to get up in the morning? Do they care about social issues? Are they loyal or fickle? Knowing as much as you can will help you choose the right platform and create the best identity.

Understand your brand – everything you post online reflects you, so know your principles and values down to a T. If what you’re saying on social media doesn’t ladder up, don’t say it.

Always ask, ‘so what?’ – because that’s what your audience are asking too. ‘So what’ is really, ‘so what’s in it for me?’ Joining a conversation on Twitter just for the sake of it is like joining a random chat in your local pub. Unless you have something useful to add or value to give, keep quiet.

Don’t be lazy – piggy-backing on random #NationalDays, copying competitor content or sending out stock responses is a bland drop in a colourful ocean. Lazy social content equals lazy social identity.

Tell a story – and make it one that’s worth listening to. The best brand stories on social media offer something (like Domino’s), reaffirm a community (like Nike Women) and feel genuine (like Jimmy). 

Emily, Copywriter

A graduate of our RAW intern programme and a winner of our Rising Star Award in 2016. Emily joined us in 2015 as a Junior Copywriter, working with clients to make the most of what they say, with a flair for social media strategy and cooking anything involving cheese.