Mascots can work marketing magic. They can give a face and even a personality to a brand, creating a figure that’s more relatable for customers than a bunch of business buzzwords.

While your audience is used to seeing mascots talking to them from their televisions, social media offers a chance to connect on computer and mobile screens. We’ve already seen how a mascot can be an unexpected treat for your social audience and solidify your savvy on these platforms. But when and why can a mascot profile be a component in successful social media activity?

Here are three strategies for giving your brand’s figurehead a voice on the latest social networks. Depending on what your business goals are, adding this angle can be a great way to engage and entertain your audience.

1. Aflac: Making a Complicated Service Approachable

Nobody enjoys shopping for insurance. It’s a dreaded task that usually involves stress, worry and spending lots of money. To counteract that negative perception, it’s no surprise that so many insurance companies have adopted fun and charming mascots to front their businesses. Many of them have turned those mascots into huge successes on social as well as in advertising.

One of the most successful of these is the Aflac Duck. The quacking bird was the star of many television spots, and now its Twitter profile has more followers than the insurance company’s official account. The duck’s account includes some discussions of the Aflac policies, but those are all done in a very consumer-friendly tone. They explain what Aflac does, how it processes claims, and how it helps customers. Tweets about the company get interspersed with cute bird pictures and amusing posts. The overall effect of this approach is to present insurance as just one part of running your day-to-day life, and a small one at that.

2. Energizer: A Lighthearted Alternative

Creating a social media account for a mascot can also help organize your interactions with customers. Mascots are naturally a better fit for mobilizing fans around easy-going chats centered on your product or service. But when you want to tackle serious customer concerns, you don’t want to give a mistaken impression that those conversations are frivolous.

Energizer has a Twitter account for the brand and another for the Energizer Bunny. The main company account is all business and operations; tweets cover product promotions, customer service and outreach, and partnerships with other brands. On the other hand, the Energizer Bunny’s account covers softer content. Much of it is positive affirmations or popular culture references. Occasionally the account does respond to customer issues, but the focus is almost exclusively on upbeat public service announcements.

Insurance also provides a good example here, with Flo from Progressive. The car insurance mascot posts to Twitter and Facebook with almost exclusively humorous updates that have little to do with claims or vehicles, and rarely ever link out to a Progressive website. More often her followers will find pictures or jokes, such as “Flowers are the worst Valentine’s Day candy.” Rather than encouraging fans to buy insurance or check out the company’s work, Flo’s profiles present the brand’s sense of humor. Many insurance companies have turned to entertainment to attract customers, but Progressive’s dedication to a specific tone in its humor has successfully attracted more than 24,000 Twitter followers and more than 5.4 million Likes on Facebook.

3. Mr. Clean: Leading the Social Media Strategy

For some companies, moving into the social media realm with a mascot made it possible to skip having a formal brand account. After all, one of the risks of having a mascot profile in addition to your business one is to potentially divide your audience, limiting your brand’s reach.

One example of successfully relying on your figurehead is the Mr. Clean brand of cleaning products. In this case, where the mascot and the company share a name, it allowed the business to adopt a tone more like an individual using the social networks. On both Twitter and Facebook, the brand’s posts are written in first person, as though the bald man himself is speaking out to his fans and followers.

For brands that don’t share their name with their mascot, there are still plenty of options for keeping your figurehead front and center. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes opted to make a branded Facebook Page for the cereal, but it doesn’t have a formal Twitter account. On Twitter, the company’s voice is just its mascot, Tony the Tiger. As with Mr. Clean, Tony the Tiger’s tweets are all in first person, giving a voice to the familiar big cat.

By making your company and your mascot a single social presence, your brand can behave more like an individual person in your posts. It creates the sense of genuine conversation for a fan who replies, rather than reaching out to an cold corporate entity. It also links any character traits of the mascot with public perceptions of your company. For instance, if Tony the Tiger frequently responds to fan tweets, then Frosted Flakes benefits from seeming like a more involved and receptive brand. Think of this strategy as putting your best face forward: all the most unique and human attributes of your brand can go into that mascot and become part of your company character.

[Image credit: kowarski, Ben+Sam, Mike Mozart]