In our lives how we look, what we say, what we do, shapes the perception of our identity in the eyes of others. Social media provides a digital platform where we can control how we look, what we say and do, to frame our identity in the eyes of others.
Social media affords an opportunity for two-way communication with the organisation’s online identity. An opportunity for the organisation to foster a relationship with its consumers that reinforces its values and gains brand commitment, creates advocates for the brand and a platform where communities loyal to the brand can interact (Bailey 2015).
Organisations must know how to use social media strategically to build a following that engages stakeholders and identifies with the brand. Just having a social media account will not result in a following or building equity in the brand (Lovejoy & Saxton 2012).
What is the relationship?
Organisations must first ask, what is the identity they wish to project using social media? Secondly, what type of relationship do they currently have with their stakeholders? Thirdly, what type of relationship do they want to foster?
How an organisation views itself in relation to its stakeholders is termed Identity Orientation (Bartlett, McDonald & Pini 2015). Social media can be used to strategically frame messages, projecting the organisation’s desired identity Orientation. Bartlett, McDonald and Pini (2015) used the Brickson (2005) Orientation Framework to study how social media was used by elite secondary schools in Queensland, in the context of corporatisation. The framework consisted of categories:
Individualistic Orientations are mainly concerned with status and being seen as leaders in their field, better than the rest.
Relational Orientations are mainly concerned with connecting with others. Trust, caring and relationships are integral to their organisation.
Collectivistic Orientations are mainly concerned about society, welfare, causes and the broader circle of stakeholders.
Social media strategy
When creating a social media strategy considerations of choosing the most effective social media channels, posting frequency and posting times are important, but equally important are the messages and images that frame the intent of the posts. The Brickson framework can be a very useful starting point to consider the organisation’s identity orientation and how this translates into a social media post. For example, is the organisation an NGO cause-related charity? A collectivistic orientation would be an appropriate way to frame their social media messaging.
Reaching the Audience
Business Victoria recommends building content with the audience in mind, content that is useful and relevant (State Government of Victoria 2017). Organisations must understand who their target audience is and create an audience profile. Are they active on the type of social media the organisation has chosen? Why, when and how do they use social media? Use the audience profile to select content, language style and images that will be relevant to the target audience and in context with identity orientation.
The Breaking Through Women in Comedy project, a movement to support upcoming women comedians clearly identified as having a Relational Orientation with its audience. A detailed audience profile was created and social media messaging was strategically formulated to be relevant to this target audience, whilst building a fun but supportive and nurturing relationship (Davoren, Doyle & Logan 2018).
Social media that is treated as a strategic part of an organisation’s communication and marketing, can be used to build strong relationships with stakeholders.
Bailey, C 2015, Likes are not enough: Maximizing social media by building branded communities, Bailey Brand Consulting, viewed 24 April 2018, <https://www.baileygp.com/white-papers/social-media/>.
Bartlett, J, McDonald, P and Pini, B 2015, Identity orientation and stakeholder engagement the corporatisation of elite schools, Journal of Public Affairs, vol.15 no.2, pp.201-209.
Brickson, S.L 2005, Organizational Identity Orientation: Forging a link between Organizational Identity and Organizations’ relations with Stakeholders, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 4, pp.576-609.
Business Victoria 2017, Build trust and loyalty with customers, giving your business credibility, State Government of Victoria, viewed 24 April 2018, <http://www.business.vic.gov.au/marketing-and-sales/eCommerce-and-digital-technology/social-media-for-business/using-social-media-to-boost-business>.
Davoren M, Doyle, E, & Logan, W 2018, Breaking Through Women in Comedy, RMIT COMM2532 student project Davoren Doyle & Logan 2018, viewed 10 April 2018, <https://elainejdoyle.wixsite.com/womencomedy>.
Geralt n.d., Human-3175027_1280.jpg, Image CC0 creative commons, Pixabay, downloaded 25 April 2018, https://pixabay.com/en/human-google-polaroid-pinterest-3175027/>.
Lovejoy, K & Saxton, G.D 2012, ‘Information, community, and action: How non-profit organizations use social media’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol.17, no. 3, pp.337-353.
Image: royalty free image ‘human-3175027_1280’, <https://pixabay.com/>.