Mastering social media can yield big success for brands. We identify seven ways for brands to thrive on social media in 2017.

What does 2017 entail for brands? Social media has solidified as a way for brands to reach new audiences, hype up their products and services, and raise brand awareness. But with new platforms, formats, and algorithms coming out each year, it’s important for brands to stay ahead of what’s working and what’s not.
We take a look at seven ways marketers and PR professionals can score big social media wins in 2017.

1. Envision Yourself as a Brand Publisher

As brands get more advanced in their content creation, many have fully embraced the role of publisher. That was our final prediction when we began 2016. Now in 2017, we’ve seen brands thriving in the publisher role. Rather than just advertising products at their target audience, brands are creating content that educates, inspires, or entertains their audience.
Some are even rolling out their own brand newsrooms to do so. We’ve seen standout examples from powerhouses like Red Bull, NASA, and Starbucks, but there are other unexpected brands making strides here. GE and Intel show off innovations, while Reebok wants to get people into fitness in whatever way inspires them. Even Dollar Shave Club has launched a magazine teaching its male user-base “how to be a guy”.
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We even have an example of the opposite scenario, a publisher becoming a consumer brand. Into the Gloss started out as a beauty blog, and then treaded into selling skin and makeup products, creating the brand Glossier.

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A post shared by Glossier (@glossier) on

Perhaps due to Glossier’s experience as a publisher, the brand has already started to amass a cult following. By knowing its audience and what content will resonate with them, Glossier can create stories and social media posts that are personable and foster a relationship between brand and consumer.

2. Establish a Brand Aesthetic and Voice

Looking back to Glossier’s Instagram post, it didn’t have to do with the products, but rather setting a certain aesthetic around the brand. In 2016, we saw that this was a big tactic for beauty and fashion brands. Other publishers have followed suit.
In 2017, brands will need to set a tone or general feel that is bigger than their product or services. Red Bull has imbued their energy beverages with a sense of adventure from creating thrill-seeking content. Urban Outfitters posts whimsical and dreamy photos that speak to the life their consumers may try to cultivate.
And Totino’s Pizza and Pizza Rolls speaks to its audience, by posting as though it’s one of it’s target followers. Just a very pizza-obsessed one.

The aesthetic can go beyond the visual, as many of Totino’s tweets are text only, but still spot-on for establishing a brand tone. Going as far as to give the handle a pun name, “Pete Zaroll”, Totino’s helps consumers see the brand as a personified being, rather than just a food company.

3. Make Video. Seriously, You Should.

Video was the format du jour last year, and it’s still dominating across native platforms into 2017. Each platform has slightly different features for video content, whether it’s disappearing Live video stories on Instagram, 360 video on Facebook, or something entirely different. 
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This video is from Nutella’s “Spread the Happy” series, which focuses on people who make the world better through acts of kindness. While it doesn’t have to do with Nutella, it sets the tone for the brand and creates a positive story for people to connect with.
Video create a storytelling medium for brands, one much more interactive than video ads on television. These stories capture your viewers’ full attention, and get them engaging through reactions, shares, and comments.
Video is also becoming easier than ever to produce. The native platforms have their own tools, but there are other apps and sites to help you kickstart your video strategy. With the casual nature of social media, brands don’t have to worry about their videos being tidy and polished. Especially with live video, which we’ve identified some tactics for brands previously here.
Videos also tend to be favored by algorithms currently, so creating them is doubly important.

4. Join the Rise of AI with Chat Bots

We mentioned in our Social Media Cheatsheet that social communication apps are becoming more popular, with Facebook Messenger striving to be the ultimate app for users’ every need. Others like WhatsApp, KiK, and WeChat are also popular in the walled gardens of dark social. 
For brands, this has come to mean using chat bots to break into those more intimate platforms. Chat bots allow brands to interact with their consumers on a direct level, guiding users to content that is custom to their needs.


The mattress company Casper is already getting attention for its creative marketing, but its chat bot is definitely worth a look. Called Insomnobot-3000, it’ll chat with restless night owls between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. EST. (Just don’t try to bother the bot during the day!)
Beyond quirky, memorable experiences, chat bots can offer product tips or suggestions, which lets brands reach their consumers on an individual level.

5. Start Your Data-Driven Storytelling

With so much content out there, it’s become imperative that brands know what will catch their users attention. For many brands, this means using data to make better decisions. This data gives brands the proof of what is more likely to work, and they can focus more of their efforts to the creative process.
Let’s take a look at a brand’s native content in NewsWhip Spike, to surface top trends.

Whole Foods Spike

Looking at Whole Foods’ Instagram, we can see that the top content in December came from holiday food posts. But beyond that, we can also note that these three top posts came from re-gramming photos from other Instagram users. These are tactics they may want to continue.
By knowing the types of stories that your audience is engaging with, you can improve upon that content. You can concentrate on telling better stories, that will engage in new and different ways.

6. Partner Up for Some Branded Content

As publishers need to supplement their revenue streams, and brands want to reach larger audiences in more genuine fashions, branded content has solidified as a symbiotic relationship for the two. 
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This video Thrillist produced with Smith & Forge, a hard cider brand, has driven over 97 million views on Facebook. It’s been shared 1.4 million times, along with stacking up 676,000 likes/reactions and 114,000 comments. The video is far from an advertisement, which speaks to its success.
More and more publishers are offering native advertising opportunities for brands. BuzzFeed has been particularly adept at this, and looking into Spike’s branded content view, we can see that Tasty has done several posts with food products. Tasty averages nearly 30 million Facebook engagements on their content monthly, which means a lot of eyes for brands.
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For this recipe tutorial, Nestle La Lechera partnered with Tasty. The video drove over 304,000 likes/reactions, 232,000 shares, and 22,000 comments, along with an astounding 17 million views. By partnering up, brands can get their products in front of new audiences and boost awareness.

7. Foster a Community and Grow Loyalty

We looked at how important communities are for brands last year, especially in the wake of algorithms. As social media platforms favor peer-to-peer sharing, building out a community of followers that share and promote your content is key. By providing engaging content, brands can create a virtual meeting ground for users to discuss and interact with the brand. 
In our 2016 Whippies, we awarded a few brands for their community building. Nissan, which was our top choice, has grown an engaged community through sharing photos from Nissan enthusiasts instead of professional stock photography.
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Followers comment on the post, often sharing photos of their own Nissan cars. Community managers often respond, interacting with fans and linking to relevant information or sharing appreciation.
Other brands have grown communities in different ways, such as hosting Live video giveaways or offering sneak peeks of products. No matter how it’s done, an active community is the life force of a brand’s native channel.

Ready, Steady, Go

How is your brand going to tackle social media in 2017? Talk to us over on Twitter and let us know. Or, take a free trial of NewsWhip Spike and start exploring the stories that will resonate with your audience.