Establishing Your Social Identity

If you've been taking steps to build your brand and stand out from the crowd, now continue the journey: here, we'll outline how to ensure that your voice is audible among the growing clamor of today's social media channels.

The Art of Social Media

Social media isn't just about sharing photos or letting followers know what you ate for breakfast. It's quickly evolving into an extremely powerful medium for retailers. But it's not something that you can just jump into without a basic understanding of how it works. Think of social media as creating art. Before a painter can create a masterpiece, he has to first understand how colors complement one another. He has to know which types of brush strokes are necessary to create the effect he wants. And most important, he has to practice - a lot. Just like any skill, it requires commitment.

The thought of entering a new space that's quickly evolving is daunting for some retailers. But if used properly, social media can transform the way you do business. It allows you to:

  • Talk with your customers, not at them.
  • Listen to customers' problems and quickly address them.
  • Expand your audience base.
  • Generate and strengthen brand awareness and share your brand's personality.
  • Share content and establish yourself as an industry thought leader.
  • Promote and sell (on some sites) products.

Determine Your Game Plan

How should you use social media? To answer that, you have to have a solid understanding of your brand and its personality. You have to know your audience and understand how they interact with social media. You also have to identify which business goals you're trying to address. For instance, a strategy for generating leads will be completely different than the one you'd use to grow brand awareness. And unless you're going to have someone tending to your social media accounts on a full-time basis, you'll want to make sure that you do at least one thing well versus trying to do four or five things poorly. It's a quality-over-quantity approach.

Establish Your Voice

Think of social media as your company's voice. The way that potential customers perceive you depends a lot on how you communicate online. Before you develop your social strategy, you have to determine what type of voice you're going to have. Is your personality going to be playful, or will it be professional and buttoned up? Will your tone be sarcastic or serious? Are you going to engage with other companies in the industry? Whatever voice you decide to use, make sure it's consistent with your brand and has a purpose. You don't want to confuse your audience with a case of multiple personalities.

The Social Media Landscape

Before we jump into an overview of the major social sites that retailers are using, it's important to understand how quickly the social media landscape changes. Just seven years ago, Myspace had more users than Facebook. It was "the" social media site for people between 18 and 24 years old. But when Facebook entered the social media space and gave users more freedom to share information with friends, Myspace quickly lost traffic. This massive shift in popularity quickly proved to advertisers that you have to pay attention to trends and be where your audience is at that moment.

While some social sites may see an ebb and flow of visitors, social media as a whole is still exploding. Currently, 74% of online adults are using some form of social media. So if you haven't dipped your toe in the water yet, it's time to get started. In fact, if you target millennials (adults born between 1980 and 1995) for any of your products, social media should be a priority. This is the generation that perpetuated social media. And millennials are still shaping the look and feel of it today.

Overview of Sites

Social media sites typically fall into two categories: user-profile based and visual based. As the name suggests, profile-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter are typically built around a profile, user connections and status updates. It's where people go to stay connected to one another.

Visual-based sites, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are built around sharing media, such as pictures and videos. Not only do users post photos they've taken, but they actively seek out pictures for design and purchase inspiration.


Facebook has grown to be the "everybody site." While a good chunk of the audience is between the ages of 18 and 29, everyone from teens to parents to grandparents are using it to stay connected.


Twitter is considered a microblog. Since each post is limited to 140 characters, messages and tweets resemble text messages. Most people use Twitter as a source for news and for sharing what they're doing at that moment. About 20% of online adults use Twitter, so its traffic is significant. Users tend to be young adults, ages 18 to 34 and college educated.


Imagine an online corkboard for posting images. Its users are predominantly female with a higher income. In fact, roughly 80% of its users are women.


Instagram has been growing in popularity lately, especially among teens and young adults. Instagram is mainly used as a mobile app that allows users to edit and share photos. And like Pinterest, most of its users are female (Appdata 2013).

Keep Growing Your Voice

Now that you have a good idea of which social sites will work for connecting to your customer, start using and growing your voice! Start by visiting our Building Your Social Identity page on the SSC to learn how.

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