• William Careri

The Key to Brands Creating a Social Identity in 2019

Most people know the story of how Facebook became Facebook. From where it originally started and where it is now has drastically changed; not just in appearance, but in terms of their users.

Facebook may have followed after Friendster and MySpace chronologically, but it paved the way for platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Facebook, being the early leader of social media, was for many companies an experiment in turning their brand digital. It was the first site that allowed for brands to interact with their audience in a form other than a 1-800 customer service line.

The issue, however, with being the "experiment" for brands to go digital, came with pitfalls. In 2018 alone, two million people (millennials being the majority) stopped using Facebook, according to a study done by eMarketer.

It's not new information that Facebook has become more popular among older generations, while younger generations are turning their heads. A reason for this is because Facebook's user interface, compared to that of a platform like Twitter, is messy and difficult to interact with. So what is a brand supposed to do when their key market leaves? Well, they follow.

In early 2018, the four major platforms in the battle for Millennial and Gen Z's attention were YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. With the tremendous innovations Instagram has made throughout 2018, as well as Snapchat making more than one unfavorable update, it seems Snapchat has started to fall off that list. YouTube still remains at the top because it is the only site dedicated and geared toward video content creators.

Where brands seem to be spending most of their time, however, is Twitter and Instagram. Brands have found a home on Twitter because of how easy it is to communicate with their audience while still having the option to upload photos and videos on top of their standard text-based communications. Instagram compliments this well because it does the exact opposite. Instagram focuses on photo and video while being supported by a caption.

Let's look at two of my favorite brands and how they use Twitter and Instagram. Both use these platforms in very different ways, targeting somewhat different audiences.

Wendy's has become notorious for their Twitter account. Not only for their quips with followers, but also corporate competitors. Wendy's was one of the first brands to break away from the "marketing team" sounding social messages. Instead of posting the same photos of their food every day with deals they're having, they're using that space to build relationships with their followers. Wendy's is doing what modern day social media users want -- authenticity and transparency. When Wendy's tweets a message like this one, they are saying to their followers "yeah, we're not going to be a typical brand on social media."

The Wendy's Twitter Team is not only clever, but very responsive and consistent. Their tweets are distinguishable from that of McDonalds, Burger King, and other competitors. They are appealing to their audiences' sense of humor. There is a trend of YouTube videos where content creators will participate in react videos of them reading Wendy's tweets. For Wendy's, it's less so coming up with a great deal on food (even though the 4 for $4 is incredible), and more so about creating that authentic, transparent, consistent and responsive social media experience.

Arby's is another brand that is absolutely addictive when it comes to their social media presence. I don't know what it is about these fast food restaurants and their incredibly creative social media accounts, but it's working.

Arby's is a little different in the sense that they don't focus on text-based, witty responses, but rather letting their ingenious creations do the talking.

Arby's spends a great amount of their time targeting a very specific audience. Arby's, using their resources to create posts related to anime and video games, has found a following of gamers, anime fans, and artists alike.

Using their food, take out containers and boxes, Arby's creates mini masterpieces to include with photos of their food. It adds a special twist to each post, allowing for a more shareable and engaging message. Arby's is appealing to their audience's sense of creativity. While being less transparent and vocal compared to Wendy's, Arby's is still being authentic and consistent with their message delivery.

As a key take-away from this, it's important to understand why brands like Arby's and Wendy's has become successful -- it's because they're authentic with their audience. Finding a way to break from the standard formula for business social media growth while also accurately engaging with their following has ultimately led to their success.

2019 is a new year, and if it's any indication from 2018, we are in for a wave of changes to both the platforms themselves, and how users interact with them.