5 ways to create a character that will drive brand engagement on social media

Creating brand mascots on social media can be as powerful as creating much loved characters via traditional ad campaigns

The world of social marketing means that brands no longer have to be faceless organisations but can get closer than ever to customers. And what better way of doing that through the voice of your brand?

As ITV’s ‘who dunnit’ drama series Broadchurch concluded in the UK recently social media forums lit up with reaction about who the murderer had been. Central to the discussion was the character who had solved the murder – Detective Sergeant Alec Hardy played by Scottish actor David Tennant – who was commenting, in character, throughout. Engagement rocketed as a result.

The tactic of creating a central character to embody your brand (a mascot) has long been a successful marketing technique but extending that online helps further and extend engagement beyond the original ad campaign, so how do you get it right?

1)      Create a believable, representative character for your brand

In the case of Broadchurch @Alec_Hardy the work had already been done because viewers had experienced the character through the series but brands those that don’t already have a mascot can also develop their own brand figurehead by defining who their character is – how they think, what they do and what their role in life is. Brands already define their customers in this way. Now they need to define themselves in the same way.

2)      Pick the right name and avatar

As important as the character itself is the first impression you get from the name and avatar, so make sure both match the image you are trying to portray.  For sweet brand M&M’s the choice was obvious – the company’s chief chocolate office Ms Brown who not only has her own Twitter account @mmsbrown but also her own Facebook page.

3)      Give them a personality

Creating a character will fall flat on its face if it’s simply used as a voice of the brand without having a personality behind it. The character needs to be likeable or at least interesting and actually sound human if a customer is to engage with them. At lingerie retailer Boux Avenue Miss B x (she always finishes with a kiss) is the company’s brand voice, blogging and tweeting on the brand’s behalf. Though we never actually see her we know from her posts she is everything the brand embodies – girlie, excitable and fashion loving – exactly the customer base the brand wants to engage with.

4)      Speak and stay in character

This is one of the most important steps in creating a character for your brand because you must maintain the tone and voice of the character you have created. This is especially true if you have a number of people managing your social media community. Price comparison website Compare the Market has had runaway success with its meerkat mascot strategy  which has extended physically into a range of cuddly toys and online into the rather mad, but always in character, tweetings of @Aleksandr_Orlov. It certainly works as he has almost 60,000 followers.

5)      Be outrageous!

It may seem rather contradictory but the reality is that your brand ambassador doesn’t have to actually say much about your brand itself. On Twitter @betfairpoker is a brand character whose own Twitter resume says “Even as a child I rarely tweeted about Poker” and yet the character’s off the wall ramblings are enough to keep more than 26,000 followers intrigued with posts as crazy as this: “Caliban, the office pigeon, is dead. Like all birds, he died of a broken heart. I have scattered grain in his honour. Those eyes. That beak.”

Social marketing is about engagement. Engaging with a character rather than a faceless brand is as close as you can get – whether that character is real or not. And judging by the amount of spoof Twitter accounts for some of the UK’s best loved brands and companies if you don’t adopt and give your own brand character a voice you are missing a trick because you can be sure someone else will, so also ensure you have some way of letting your followers know you are the official one.