By Katie Webbe, Group Marketing, Added Value

The digital landscape has witnessed dramatic changes in the past four years. A more connected world in which brands can take full advantage to reach their audience. Internet use has increased by 53%. We’ve gone from 100 million active Twitter accounts in 2010 to more than 600 million today. And the number of Facebook users has vaulted from 300 million to 1.28 billion worldwide, with 1 billion active users on mobile devices too.

This year, for example, the drama of the World Cup dominated 60% of the Twitter conversation for a month, making it the most connected World Cup yet. Here, Added Value tells you how businesses can make sure they’re heard through the social media noise during big events and beyond. It’s clear that these tips have worked for the biggest brands, but they can be applied to the smallest of startups as well.

1. Listen first

It’s one thing creating a really great piece of content. And it’s another making sure it lands with your audience in the vast space of the social media world. The key is to spend time listening to your consumers. Observe how they are interacting with your brand on social media and what they are saying about it. Sony did this brilliantly by inviting all mobile users to share their conversations around the World Cup on a single platform — One Stadium Live. Integrating Twitter, Facebook and Google+, the mobile-first platform aimed to be at the heart of how the world is feeling about the tournament and even had a 24 hour newsroom with up to the minute results and commentary.

2. It’s not all about you

Social media channels are personal spaces — a digital extension of our personalities. Before hitting the go button on any kind of social media activity, brands need to ask themselves “would anyone care about this? Would anyone want to share this?” Coca Cola tackled the issue during the World Cup by collaborating with a social media channel to promote its brand. In partnership with Tumblr, Coke created an account on the channel dedicated to a countdown to the World Cup. The brand used the channel to create a mosaic of fans’ faces in the form of a flag that will be revealed at the opening match.

3. Create value outside of your world

The best social media campaigns engage with people, rather than broadcast to them. Interaction is a key performance indicator for how consumers are receiving your brand virally and the best way to make this happen is to step into their worlds. Go beyond the mind-set of just inviting consumers into your world and offer them something of value. As the X Factor hits our screens once again, brands will be gearing up to make the most of the huge opportunity for online social engagement. In 2013, ITV broke engagement records for its advertisers with its X Factor app. Advertisers ran social media-focused campaigns within the app, with Asda encouraging fans to build and share a snowman on social media, generating engagement rates of 50% with 20% clicking through to Asda’s website. Not only is the brand bridging the gap between reality and the digital world, but also creating a space where people can interact with the brand beyond their usual world of groceries. The very best brands use social media to play an active role in our lives, making us want to spend more time interacting with them.

4. Don’t be afraid to have fun

People want to be entertained. Brands that aren’t afraid to have a joke and bring human qualities to their social media campaigns will likely see more engagement. As part of its World Cup campaign, Adidas created a ‘Brazucam’, building six cameras into the games official ball that filmed ‘ball’s eye footage’ on its tour around the world and releasing video episodes in the run up to the World Cup starring famous football stars like David Beckham.

5. Quick! You missed it…

Big events are key opportunities for brands to interact with the world in real-time on social media channels. Last year it was all about Oreo’s famous Super Bowl blackout tweet, which reacted to the action in real-time as it unfolded — its perfect timing racking up the retweets to over 10 000 in under an hour. And this year, Ellen DeGeneres and her Hollywood friends managed to crash Twitter with their Oscar’s selfie, retweeted more than 2.5 million times. NASA also used the Oscar’s as an opportunity to engage, piggybacking on the success of Gravity to tweet clever facts and images about #RealGravity, getting more than 8100 retweets. The passion and support surrounding big events like this year’s World Cup makes them prime opportunities for brands to spontaneously tap into real life moments and emotions.

Social media is not just another channel to broadcast your brand message. It’s a chance to emotionally connect with people and build advocacy for your business from the very start. For SMEs, social media is an unprecedented way to understand who your customers are, what they enjoy, what their lifestyles are, and even where they live. Using big events as a backdrop puts your business in the perfect position to creatively engage with people and their passion points in real-time.