Last April, the social media airwaves lit up with a feud between two of Britain’s top supermarkets. 

Discount retailer Aldi relaunched its famous Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake for a charity drive. Meanwhile, retailer Marks & Spencer took umbrage, claiming the cake was a copy of its well-known Colin the Caterpillar cake. 

David Glenwright, JC Social Media

The two big chains bantered over social media, with a lot of on-brand humor. Aldi launched the hashtag #FreeCuthbert, accompanied by photos of Cuthbert in jail.

“The supermarkets and brands that are often hailed as the most innovative and engaging users on social media are often the ones that are a bit disruptive, putting out content that often surprises their audiences,” says David Glenwright, head of training and special projects, JC Social Media, Cheltenham, U.K. 

Aldi’s presence on social media, he points out, “is often a bit cheeky: People tag friends in their posts because they can’t believe how much the Aldi social media managers are pushing the limits.”

Social media has proven a great tool to engage with British audiences, but does that translate to the U.S.? It can, luckily, there aren’t that many differences. Here’s how to succeed: 

Answer the ‘why’

Businesses using social media must have a clear idea of why they’re on the platform, says Glenwright. Is it about establishing awareness? About driving traffic to a website to make a purchase? “Understanding the right balance for your brand is a vital first step in building a strategy,” he says.

Focus on relationships and communities

There’s a reason it’s called “social” media.

Social media feeds are personal places, where we see pictures of family and friends. 

Chloe Belchamber, Giraffe Social Media

So, says Glenwright, “content that’s interesting to us, relevant to us, and perhaps entertaining to us, is always going to be more appealing than content that forces products and tries to sell to us. If a brand focuses on creating a strong relationship with its community, it can get to a point where it doesn’t need to sell so aggressively, as users will be demanding the products themselves.”

Increasingly, says Chloe Belchamber, senior creative manager, Giraffe Social Media, Portsmouth, U.K., younger generations also expect brands to engage in social activism both on and off social media. 

Overall, she says, social media is about being open and honest. “If you’re not prepared to pull the curtain on your brand, then you’re not ready for social media,” she points out. “Instead of guarding your brand and keeping your consumers at arm’s length, give them an insight into the people, processes, and values behind your brand.”

More consumers have begun making purchase decisions based on a brand’s values, rather than their prices, Belchamber adds.

Mix up content

Posting a variety of content is typically the best way to keep viewers’ interest, Glenwright points out. “It’s important for a brand that their social media feed provides a variety of insightful, entertaining, and relevant pieces of content for followers,” he notes. 

Encourage as much engagement as you can. Easy ways to do this are by asking a question or posting recipes, which are easy to share or tag someone on. Always include images since viewers tend to scroll right past text. Images help you stand out.

Mark Smith, Double Up Social

User-generated content typically out-performs highly styled and polished photos, because it looks more authentic on social media, says Mark Smith, social media strategist and content producer, Double Up Social, London. “People like seeing your product in its real light and use case.”

Social media is a testing ground, he adds, “and the best overall social strategy is a combination of tens, if not hundreds, of different types of content.”

Social media is all about context, and brands should use it, “to tell a wider story,” says Smith, pointing to the 80/20 rule of social media, where 80% of a brand’s content should be entertaining and add value, and the other 20% should be more promotional.

How-to style content such as recipes and guides will always attract viewers because they help answer a question or solve a problem, says Belchamber.

Be true to your brand

Don’t try to emulate another brand, but create your own reason for being, otherwise, you’ll lose what makes you special.

Consider your target audience at all times, “and present a personality that resonates well with them,” Glenwright advises.

Social media is a great place to tell your brand story creatively, “to add value, build brand credibility and increase brand awareness,” says Smith. This could be about the sourcing of ingredients or the people behind the product. 

Monitor constantly

Keeping an eye on your social media account is just as important as posting on it, Glenwright says. “Social media is about relationships, and all good relationships are two-way. To ignore your followers, he points out, “is in some ways to miss the point of being on social media in the first place.”

Although there are many twists and turns you can take throughout your social media journey, staying consistent with your brand mission and purpose should help lead you in the right direction.