By Gavin Hammar, founder and CEO, Sendible

Social media is bringing more benefit and more opportunity to businesses than ever before. From social selling to customer engagement, organisations that get their social media strategy right, are finding success. However, the basics of using social media still hold true and using it to bolster brand awareness remains one of the strongest drivers of any strategy.

Social media is the perfect tool for businesses to reach all types of audiences and give them a 360° look at the brand. Consumer postings can be the most powerful way to strengthen brand awareness and that is backed up by some of the latest findings from the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR), which showed that 74 per cent of consumers choose to use organisations based on customer reviews posted online.

The key to building a brand on these channels is about building relationships. In the early days of social media, many organisations mistakenly used it simply to push out information to customers. It was a one-way traffic stream of information with a view to boosting lead generation and sales. As social media has matured, companies have had to wise up and revise their strategies. The focus now is back on the customer, with a more subtle approach involving engagement, interaction and listening.

When a strategy has been formed specifically to build brand awareness, every piece of communication on social media is generally about style, content and timing. The style is important and needs to be decided at the outset, with a consistent tone of voice that reflects the brand guidelines. Perhaps the most critical element is content, after all that is the voice of the brand and therefore has to be relevant, interesting and thought-provoking. Content is about value as well as volume and every posting or tweet should be created to engage the target audience.

The right timing and preparation at the start of any brand awareness campaign will also have a positive impact. Whether that is responding to topical issues that affect the brand, joining conversations that are relevant to a specific industry or prescheduling social media posts to coincide with seasonal or themed events. Companies should provide advice and create a buzz to get people noticing their brand. Ideally, the messaging itself will be focused on the benefits the brand can provide to people within these communities and not necessarily on the product themselves. Throwing in key words to guide conversations and create interest without being overly sales-focused will tie in to the brand becoming a thought leader and could also kick start the sales cycle.

Niche networks can provide great opportunities for creating brand awareness, these may not seem as powerful as their dominant competitors as they typically have much smaller social graphs. Often, they are limited to groups of people with the same, specific interests, such as music, gaming, cycling, or online marketing. It is important to explore the option of these social networks, as the members could potentially be advocates of the specific brand or product.

Finally, monitoring the progress of any social media campaign is a vital component to guage its overall success. For brands that are in their infancy, or those businesses that have neither the staff resource, nor the budget to manage the daily demands of social media monitoring, adopting a management platform could be the best way forward. Rather than having to rely on multiple tools to effectively manage social media, companies should search for a social management platform that can engage with the required audience, track results and monitor the brand from one dashboard. These solutions can also assist in implementing and managing the strategy itself, from scheduling messages and providing automated responses, to analysing and classifying prospects.

Given the prolific growth in social media users, there is a perception that building brand awareness on these channels should be a fairly straightforward process. The audience is there ready to engage, however businesses have to ensure they are creating the right messages, at the right time, and carefully monitoring and measuring their efforts.