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No brand sets out to alienate its audience. Unfortunately, despite good intentions, some brands learn the hard way that what consumers want is not the same as what brands THINK consumers want. And the backlash isn’t really about consumers behaving badly – it falls to the brands.

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For example: Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body” campaign was meant to promote their “Body” line of lingerie. Unfortunately, it was perceived as promoting a negative and damaging message about body image, prompting a UK petition, and numerous re-imagined versions of the ad by more body-inclusive competitors.

Victoria’s Secret is a brand you’d expect to know its audience fairly well. So how did they manage to step so squarely on a social media landmine? The same way everyone else does – by letting “fairly well” audience knowledge be enough. (It isn’t.)

Your audience is larger – and more vocal – than you realize

Brands and marketers can’t be so short-sighted that they only connect with those who mention their brand online. This is short-sighted because mentions only show a fraction of the conversation.

If Victoria’s Secret had explored the social data of women talking about “body” or “body image” they might have discovered a world of women beyond their target audience – women who could have been brought into the fold with more inclusive messaging.

Instead, they heard from women whose opinions were already negative, thanks to a few poorly chosen words in their ad.

Of course, even with consumers who DO mention their brand, it’s important for marketers to explore deeper aspects that can lead to the real connections consumers demand. That means digging into consumer behaviors, needs, desires and lifestyles to discover even the most seemingly unlikely audiences.

Brands can’t stop at surface data – they have to know what really makes consumers tick and use that information to their benefit. That includes knowing how consumers feel about their competitors.

Consider this scenario:

Someone tweets: “Is it wrong that I can’t watch Survivor without eating Doritos?” Whether you’re CBS or Doritos, you have something to work with here, but let’s say you’re Doritos.

Of course you’ll want to respond to all the people talking about Doritos, but now you can also investigate the people watching Survivor to see if more of them are enjoying Doritos. AND you can look for those who aren’t enjoying what they’re eating – and suggest Doritos as an alternative.

Personalization and emotion win the day

Of course you want to make that suggestion in a very friendly, non-“salesy” way. Because what sets social marketing apart is the approach, which should always be human and personal (that’s why it’s called social media).

If you want an example of that in action, look no further than the #ShareACoke campaign. Though Coke wasn’t sure how big the campaign would get, they picked a smart entry point: It doesn’t get more personal than someone’s name. But what really made the campaign a success was the emotional life it took on – with people gifting Cokes to friends, family, missed loved ones in the military, etc. And emotion is the driving force behind social media.

What brands and marketers must answer now is, “What about my brand, or my competitors, gives consumers ‘the feelz?’And how strong are those emotions?” Putting those insights into action is what will broker the truly human connections that will turn casual followers into brand advocates.

And that definitely beats the alternative. Just a few detractors can make a lot of social “noise.”

Consumers are more opinionated, and vocal, than ever before – with social as a forum for all of their emotions, good and bad. Luckily, marketers have more opportunity to get to know consumers and prospects deeply and personally.

If they use social data wisely, they can keep ahead of consumer trends, reach more unique segments, and broaden their audiences – all while besting the competition to boot.

Want more information about how to deepen your brand’s connection with your audience on social? Reach out to us!

How well do you know your consumers in social? Learn how leading brands are tapping into social audiences by embracing the new normal in marketing.

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