Consumers expect a lot from big brands when it comes to social media. They look to their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for any indication of how they do business and how they treat their customers. They want to see that brands are smart and witty when they tweet, share useful information in status messages, and care about their customers' concerns.\r\n\r\nEssentially, consumers want to know that your brand will bring value to their lives in some way.\r\n\r\nFortunately, there are plenty of companies to learn from that are really killing it on social media. From the innovative and quirky to the pro-active and user-focused, these brands are setting the standard for how companies can elevate and strengthen their brand messaging.\r\n\r\nWith the right mix of social media sass and strategy, you can set your brand up for social success. So in this post, I'll offer some food for thought to help set a foundation for your social media marketing efforts, along with examples of big brands that are nailing it on social media so you can derive some inspiration from their success.\r\n\r\nBefore we dive in, don't forget to check out our guide to <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/social-media-plugins-wordpress\/" rel="noopener">8 of the best social media plugins for your site<\/a> and <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/4-ways-to-drive-more-social-traffic-to-your-blog\/" rel="noopener">proven strategies for driving social traffic to your blog<\/a>.\r\n<h2>1. Develop a Memorable Brand Voice<\/h2>\r\nBig brands have big budgets and big voices. But these things don't count for much if brands have trouble connecting with their target markets on a personal level and can harm them in regards to potential sales.\r\n\r\nThe missing ingredient many brands often lack is authenticity.\r\n\r\nThink about it. When there are so many companies vying for your attention online, how have some brands managed to make the cut to be included on your personal social media accounts?\r\n\r\nChances are, they've got that special <i>something<\/i>. They've got personality and they're relatable -- they're not just a brand scheduling automated content like clockwork.\r\n\r\nYou wouldn't think a dictionary could have personality, but somehow the team at <a href="https:\/\/www.merriam-webster.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Merriam-Webster<\/a> have grown their Twitter following to 623k+. When the brand started experimenting with developing a unique and memorable brand voice, it quickly gained a reputation for its wordplay, fun facts and observations on language, witty comebacks, and on-point GIFs.\r\n<p class="p3"><span class="s2">The dictionary has even <a href="https:\/\/www.buzzfeed.com\/jarrylee\/14-times-the-merriam-webster-dictionary-was-shady-af" target="_blank" rel="noopener">gained notoriety for its timely burns<\/a><\/span>.<\/p>\r\nhttps:\/\/twitter.com\/MerriamWebster\/status\/795740554063740928\r\n\r\nhttps:\/\/twitter.com\/Dictionarycom\/status\/719601164132708353\r\n\r\nhttps:\/\/twitter.com\/MerriamWebster\/status\/719622000055095296\r\n\r\nThe brains behind Merriam-Webster's success is Lauren Naturale, who reveals how the brand developed its brand voice in an interview with <a href="https:\/\/blog.bufferapp.com\/merriam-webster-show-notes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Science of Social Media<\/a> podcast:\r\n\r\n<em>"The brand voice is how we talk to each other in the office. It's not like some sort of marketing construct where we had a meeting and wrote down a bunch of adjectives,"<\/em> Naturale says.\r\n\r\n<em>"To succeed, you really need to have a deep understanding of the brand and who you're working with.<\/em>\r\n\r\n<em>If you're faking it and you don't actually like what you're talking about on social media, people can smell inauthenticity and insincerity from a mile away.<\/em>\r\n\r\n<em>The spontaneous stuff doesn't always happen right away, but if you develop a relationship with your reader's good stuff starts to happen for your brand."<\/em>\r\n\r\nLikewise, <a href="https:\/\/twitter.com\/DennysDiner" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Denny's<\/a> has gained a cult following for being different... and just plain weird. One look at the diner's Twitter account and you might think it was being managed by a 15-year-old boy, but no, it's just fun and silly content that has won over the younger generation.\r\n\r\nhttps:\/\/twitter.com\/DennysDiner\/status\/942102275148931072\r\n\r\nhttps:\/\/twitter.com\/DennysDiner\/status\/949010820448575490\r\n\r\nDeveloping a brand voice helps to humanize your brand, making your company more relatable for consumers.\r\n<h2>2. Listen -- Don't Just Promote Your Content<\/h2>\r\nSocial media accounts aren't just a one-way street for pushing your marketing content to the masses. They're also an invaluable listening post for learning more about your target markets and helping consumers find value in your brand.\r\n\r\nSocial media, whether your brand is on Twitter, Facebook or any of the other platforms out there, provides a wonderful open-ended medium for communicating and engaging with customers in real-time.\r\n\r\nMany brands are using dedicated social accounts -- on Twitter and Facebook, in particular -- to deliver customer service. So much so that people have come to expect that when they tweet or message a company with a complaint their issue will be quickly addressed -- and usually much quicker than if you phoned or emailed.\r\n\r\nTake Microsoft, for example. Have a problem with your XBox? Then get onto the <a href="https:\/\/twitter.com\/XboxSupport" target="_blank" rel="noopener">XBox Support Twitter account<\/a>, which responds lightning fast to user problems.\r\n\r\n[embed]https:\/\/twitter.com\/XboxSupport\/status\/949041949360627712[\/embed]\r\n\r\nListening to customers doesn't just mean listening to their grievances. Often, customers and other users can be a great source of inspiration for content and even marketing campaigns. Next time you're stuck for ideas, try scrolling through your feeds and check out what customers are most frequently talking about on social media.\r\n\r\nIt's also worth checking out your competitor's customers, too. So make the most of tools like BuzzSumo and Facebook Pages to Watch to help you keep your ear to the ground.\r\n<h2>3. Surprise and Delight<\/h2>\r\nAn unexpected and pleasant surprise can really make a person's day. Whether it's a free coffee from your favorite cafe or a kind follow up from a company you follow on Instagram.\r\n\r\nWhatever it is, surprises make people feel special and important. For brands, these surprises can make a powerful impression on consumers -- an impression that can last a long time.\r\n\r\nOne of my favorite examples of a brand that has nailed a "surprise and delight" campaign using social media is <a href="https:\/\/www.sujajuice.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Suja Juice<\/a>, an organic cold-pressed beverage company that offers cold-pressed juices, probiotic water, smoothies and drinking vinegar.\r\n\r\nAs part of the company's #ItsTheJuice marketing campaign, it organized a social listening campaign for people who used hashtags like #caseofthemondays, #isitfridayyet, #momprobs, #midterms and #lackofsleep to identify people who were either having a bad day, tired, sick, hungover, etc. and then offered to deliver cold-pressed bottles of juice to their homes.\r\n\r\n[embed]https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/p\/BKuGnInh3FB\/?tagged=itsthejuice[\/embed]\r\n\r\nIn total, the company reached almost 400 people and successfully dropped or shipped nearly 6,000 bottles of product.\r\n<h2>4. Tap Into Influencer Marketing<\/h2>\r\nInfluencer marketing is on trend right now. People are more likely to buy something if an influencer, whether it's a celebrity or a micro-influencer, endorses the product. A simple tweet raving about a brand of drink or an Instagram photo featuring a carefully placed brand name is all the social proof a company needs to reach certain target markets and sell products.\r\n\r\nWhile most people like to think of themselves as individuals and independent thinkers who aren't influenced by external forces, we ultimately want to feel like we belong. So when making buying decisions online, consumers often trust the opinions of others. This psychological behavior is usually referred to as "social validation."\r\n\r\nIn fact, <a href="https:\/\/stackla.com\/blog\/12-stats-prove-social-content-influences-consumer-buying-behavior\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">71% of people<\/a> say they make buying decisions based on recommendations they find on social media.\r\n\r\nOne of my favorite examples of influencer marketing is "Yule Log," a YouTube video starring Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman.\r\n\r\nIn this 44-minute-long video, Offerman sits comfortably by a fireplace, every now and again sipping from a whiskey glass. The video is simple yet absolutely ridiculous, making the most of Offerman's unique brand.\r\n\r\n[embed]https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?time_continue=1&v=LS-ErOKpO4E[\/embed]\r\n\r\nThe video was a viral hit for Diageo, the parent company of Scottish whiskey brands Lagavulin and Oban. It also won a Shorty Award for Best Influencer Marketing Campaign.\r\n\r\nWhether you have the big bucks needed to work with a celebrity or you'd prefer a more targeted micro-influencer campaign, there are influencers everywhere ready to work with your brand. First, it's important to identify the influencers in your market -- maybe existing fans of your brand who have a growing profile -- and then use a tool like <a href="https:\/\/klout.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Klout<\/a> to rate their social influence.\r\n<p class="p3"><span class="s2">Ready to work with a micro-influencer? Check out our guide, <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/micro-influencers-tech-brands-leveraging-authenticity\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Micro-Influencers in Tech: How Brands Are Leveraging Their Authenticity<\/a><\/span>.<\/p>\r\nIf you want to make a bigger impact, it's worth reading about the advertising trends that are spilling into 2018 in our post <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/advertisers-trends-2017\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">How Agencies Are Killing it: Advertising Trends for 2017<\/a>.\r\n<h2>5. Make the Most of User-Generated Content<\/h2>\r\nHaving social media accounts means you need to feed the beast, and not just every once in a while, but regularly and usually multiple times a day. For many companies, having to churn out constant content and come up with new ideas to keep users engaged can be overwhelming.\r\n\r\nFortunately, you don't need a big budget to leverage user-generated content (UGC). UGC consists of any form of content that has been created by the users and consumers of a brand or product. You don't need to pay for UGC and the bonus for companies is that its authenticity provides an added boost of social proof.\r\n\r\nIn order to create a user-generated content campaign, you can encourage customers to leave reviews and testimonials, which you can then turn into marketing content.\r\n\r\nUGC is particularly prevalent on Instagram, where brands can easily "re-gram" photos and videos from users' accounts.\r\n\r\nGoPro, for example, looks to its users for its stunning Instagram posts. The camera manufacturer encourages its 13.5 million followers to send in some of their best shots, often taken in awe-inspiring locations. Not only does this make for hugely shareworthy content, but it also shows off GoPro's cameras in actions.\r\n<h2>6. Experiment with Video<\/h2>\r\nVideo is one of the most powerful tools on social media. In fact, people watch more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day and YouTube reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any broadcast or cable TV network -- and that's just mobile traffic.\r\n\r\nSo if you're not already creating and sharing videos, there's a good chance your competitors are and you're missing out. Video is no longer an option for brands -- it's become a vital part of any successful social media strategy.\r\n\r\nFor many companies, the desire and will to experiment with video is blocked by the struggle to come up with a big idea. This is where advertising agencies and in-house marketing teams can help, though sometimes it's often the simplest ideas that go viral.\r\n\r\nTake Dollar Shave Club, for example. The company doesn't shy away from dropping f-bombs in its first ever product video. Wanting to appeal to young, professional men who spend too much money on big-brand razors from local stores, the company created a funny and silly video that spoke to its target demographic, and how the company could solve their problems.\r\n\r\n[embed]https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=ZUG9qYTJMsI[\/embed]\r\n\r\nHow did Dollar Shave Club conceive this viral hit? CEO Michel Dubin, who studied improv, wrote the video script himself and hired a comedian friend, Lucia Aniello, to produce the video. <a href="https:\/\/www.quora.com\/Dollar-Shave-Club\/Who-created-the-video-script-etc-for-Dollar-Shave-Clubs-video" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to comments on Quora<\/a>, the video cost approximately $4,500 -- and attracted 11 million views and coverage on various media outlets.\r\n\r\nOld Spice made its video debut 7 years ago with its viral hit <a href="https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=owGykVbfgUE" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Man Your Man Could Smell Like<\/a>. More recently, the American brand of male grooming products has taken an even quirkier approach to its <a href="https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/user\/OldSpice\/videos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">video production<\/a>.\r\n\r\n[embed]https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=C5FJTe-dM7s[\/embed]\r\n\r\nWhile Old Spice's videos have high production values, including lighting, sound, scenery, and props, Dollar Shave Club proves that all you need is a great idea. The key is to experiment with video content and figure out what your audience enjoys most.\r\n\r\nFor more on video marketing, Buffer provides some solid tips in its <a href="https:\/\/blog.bufferapp.com\/video-marketing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">guide to creating video content for social media<\/a>.\r\n<h2>Conclusion<\/h2>\r\nThere's been no other time in history when people have had such direct and personal access to brands like they do with social media. While this has its many benefits for consumers, especially when it comes to customer service, it gives your brand extraordinary scope to experiment with marketing campaigns and get direct feedback from target markets, and tweak your campaigns accordingly.\r\n\r\nWhile many of the companies mentioned in this article are household names with massive followings, it doesn't mean your brand can't follow suit and come up with your own innovative campaigns. I encourage you to look to these outstanding examples of social media done well for inspiration, and get out there and start developing your own unique brand voice online.