All brands need instant-recognition visibility to thrive, and developing a loyal customer base is essential as our engagement options expand and attention spans are whittled down. If a business lacks a strategy to establish not just brand presence and loyalty but consistency, it’s not going to succeed – it’s that simple.

Social media is a defining factor in brand perception through the eyes of your target audience. As I mentioned in our 8 Key Points in E-Commerce & Social Marketing post, Americans now spend upwards of 5.6 hours a day online, with 3 or more hours dedicated specifically to social networks. With this nearly-constant online engagement, opportunities to establish brand loyalty are virtually endless – but a widespread strategy is key.

Social Media Engagement IS Advertising – Act Accordingly

Do you remember the last time you clicked a banner ad, or ignored YouTube’s “skip ad” option to watch an entire minute-long commercial before your desired video? We’ve all been annoyed by these digital billboards messing up the view, and as with billboards in the physical world, we have trained our eyes to ignore them. Meanwhile, advertiser spending is expected to exceed $14 billion by 2018.

Advertising blind spots are real, and as a rule what has worked in the past is likely to offer diminishing returns in the future as readers wise up to the absent value of clickbait-hooks. Direct reader engagement through social media is one key solution in not only developing a new relationship between marketing and readership, but to establish an exchange of information on both sides of the publish button. Polls, contests, giveaways and user-generated content initiatives are reflex methods brands should be actively testing across social platforms to offset reader fatigue from more traditional advertising strategies.

Champion Your Own Efforts

There has never been a better time for a brand to trumpet its socially responsible efforts, resulting in a halo effect for the company. Establish your brand through a compassionate lens, partnering with charities, philanthropic organizations and beyond, and wear those associations on your marketing sleeve. Utilize socially-conscious hashtags users can regularly return to and even share as a means of measuring your brand’s dedication to the greater good.

Custom Platform, Custom Voice – With Consistent Identity

Audiences interact differently on Twitter than on Facebook, Instagram and so on, and engagement triggers vary across platforms. While remaining true to core brand values & ideals and a consistent message, it’s important to strategically format your social media marketing to fit the particular platform while furthering your brand’s narrative. The more compelling the narrative, the more likely your audience is to echo that narrative and integrate it into their social ecosystem.

To be the brand that users recommend to friends, you need to provide value, clarity and authenticity – as well as consistency. Measure the success of your branded social media efforts, and adapt your strategy in accordance with the engagement of your audience. Stay the course on what works, and keep them coming back for more.

Explore Multiple Social Platforms – and Innovate!

Avoid being the “old dog” in your branding efforts. Developing new tricks and methodologies are essential for survival in the social media wars, and consistently kinetic advertising evolution is a must. A Facebook account alone isn’t going to cut it – building a community around your brand requires an engaged readership, and keeping up with the social media Joneses requires its own dedicated effort.

Explore emerging social media platforms in addition to the tried and true, and experiment with new opportunities. If your business doesn’t have dedicated accounts in FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or even Snapchat and beyond, you’re already behind in the game – take a moment to register new accounts, and begin developing strategy immediately. Brands such as McDonald’s, General Electric and more are paving new roads in Snapchat, experimenting in new methodologies with impressive results. The luxury carmaker Audi partnered with The Onion in 2014 to Snapchat the Super Bowl live, utilizing its agency Huge and Onion Labs for a humorous content team-up. The event grew Audi’s Snapchat following by over 5,500 users before the end of the big game.

Engagement is Everything

Every social platform offers its own unique value proposition, and with a dedicated social media strategy and consistent follow-through it’s possible to not only engage readers and potential customers, but to establish their trust and loyalty in a manner far more effective than static ad placement.

Utilize the help of social media monitoring and engagement platforms like Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud to track and gauge your reader base. If people feel heard, if their concerns / complaints / compliments are registered and receive a reply, the likelihood for an establishment of brand loyalty is far higher than if the consumer were to feel ignored.

The Explosive Potential of User-Generated Content

Whatever service or product your business provides, if it’s worth its weight in binary code, it’s possible to turn casual readers into vocal supporters. Only some will be driven by an evangelistic fever to promote your brand, but engaging your audience is absolutely essential – as is inspiring them to do your work for you.

Utilizing reader engagement and user-generated content across traditional social channels and apps like Snapchat, SoundCloud and beyond are increasingly successful: 53% of Facebook video views in the last year were from shares. User-created content rose 122% in the same period, a remarkable leap in engagement leading a bottom-up trend. 65% of Snapchat’s 100 million daily users create content per day. Pinterest pin creation has leapt 75%, while Twitch video broadcasts are up 83% at over 11 million per month.

We’re currently in a cultural trend of personal oversharing on social media; people readily share €”their shopping habits, travel details, hobbies, passions and more, offering brands a virtually limitless was to connect with potential customers. If you provide a valuable resource or popular feature, and pair it with strategic vocalization, loyalty will follow.

Are you ready for a dedicated consumer base to rally around your brand? Then it’s time to hit the ground running!