Rethinking creativity and trust in social media

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Imagine what today’s retail landscape would look like without social media. Social has become such an integral part of any retailer’s marketing strategy that without it, the sector would be completely different. For example, platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram have totally reimagined both the fashion and interior sectors, allowing even the smallest retailers to reach new audiences. Social is so deeply ingrained into retail that even huge brands such as ASOS attribute successes partly to innovative social strategies.

The issue for some retailers is that social is fast-paced. It changes in the blink of an eye, and in a world where retailers face huge hurdles, it can be hard to get right. Hootsuite’s 2019 Retail Trends Report recently unveiled how brands can utilise social to better connect with customers and build trust. Something that can be invaluable to retailers navigating the current concerns around the lack of consumer spending.

Getting your voice heard

The report found that a new social paradigm is emerging, one where consumers are growing tired of a spray and pray approach to social. In a similar way to what has happened on other mediums such as email marketing, customers want to be treated like individuals, as opposed to demographic segments such as ‘age’ or ‘location’. Brands have talked for years about the need for authenticity when it comes to social content, but now it’s time for action.

Social is such a successful channel when it comes to communicating with customers, the flipside to that is that it’s also extremely saturated. Not only is there the possibility to reach millions of existing and potential customers, but there are also thousands of other brands trying to do the same. To overcome this, brands need to look at creative ways to speak to customers on an individual level. This is a hard thing to get great right, but as social’s popularity continues to increase, so will the need to stand out. That said, competition doesn’t have to be a negative thing. In fact, more often than not, it fuels creativity. A perfect example is Burger King’s quick-witted responses to tweets from the like of McDonald’s.

Beyond organic social

Looking beyond organic, brands are also using social to produce more ads than ever. Marketers seem to be constantly increasing social ad budget, with an increase of 32% in 2018 alone. This rise in demand has, however, also brought increased costs. As retailers hustle for the best prices for maximum engagement, it puts further emphasis on the need for creativity. By creating high-quality content that will resonate with a target audience, retailers stand a much better chance of their ads not just being noticed, but being remembered.

Stories are a great way for brands to get creative and grab attention from both an organic and paid perspective. Since Snapchat introduced the format, the more visual element of the Stories function has become increasingly popular and has spread across most platforms. Nearly a billion users across platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp use Stories to interact with family, friends and their favourite brands. In fact, 64% of Hootsuite’s business customers have either implemented Instagram Stories into their social strategy or plan to do so in the next 12 months.

That’s no surprise either. Stories are a great way for retailers to communicate with customers in a personal, creative and authentic way without requiring a significant amount of budget.

Trust: the key to social success

There is no denying the impact social can have for retailers and the importance of including it as part of any marketing strategy. Yet, social media is undergoing a huge change. The last few years have seen the likes of Twitter and Facebook under pressure from both consumers and various governments to tighten up practices, from how influencers use the platforms to fake accounts and ad fraud. But, this is a huge opportunity for retailers as it shows that consumers ultimately want one thing – trust.

This is why brands have to work on building meaningful relationships with customers across social, rather than just using a platform or producing content for the sake of it. In a market where retailers are facing the most challenging obstacles to date, social might not be the silver bullet to fix everything, but using it to build authentic trust with customers is certainly a step in the right direction.

Author: Rob Coyne, general manager EMEA, Hootsuite


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