Social Spotlight: Square and The Power of Focus


Welcome to the Social Spotlight, where we dive deep into what we love about a brand’s approach to a specific social campaign. From strategy through execution and results, we’ll examine what makes the best brands on social tick — and leave you with some key takeaways to consider for your own brand’s social strategy.


Telling compelling stories as a B2B software company isn’t always easy–trust us, we know. But in the case of mobile payments processor Square, a laser focus on its primary buyers has allowed the brand to go deep with the stories it finds and champions. Making payments processing more human is no easy task, but Square has found a way to create connection by using beautiful photography, videography and custom illustrations to reveal the people behind the business. This approach creates maximum relevance for its audience–rather than trying to create multiple connections across diverse audiences, which often results in limited relevance and forgettable stories. Instead Square stands out in its category for being approachable, relatable and, let’s face it, a whole lot prettier on social than its competition.


Square, founded in 2009 by Jim McKelvey and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, was born of necessity: McKelvey is a glass artist who was losing four-figure sales because he couldn’t accept credit cards. Together McKelvey and Dorsey realized that democratizing the ability to accept credit cards securely and easily would change the game for small businesses, opening them up to new sales opportunities, venues and revenue streams. The timing was exactly right, as a renewed interest in “maker culture” and shopping local took hold in urban areas and more and more small businesses opened to meet that demand. Square’s first hardware product, the Square Reader, plugged into the headphone jack of a mobile phone to enable vendors to accept credit card payments through Square’s app from anywhere they had a cell signal. This leveled the playing field for businesses that didn’t operate out of brick-and-mortar locations, and everything from food trucks to farmers’ markets were now able to offer a cashless, convenient payment option to customers. Small business needed Square, and Square built its brand by being an ally to small business.

  • Goals: By honing an unwavering focus on the stories, challenges and triumphs on the small business audience their product was most effectively able to serve, Square’s social storytelling has created emotional relevance and brand affinity that drives conversion and loyalty. Beautifully executed video and photojournalistic content like the Dreams series presents Square as a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit and the people who act on it. Without expressly calling it out, the series’ content appears to focus on business owners who represent a wide spectrum of intersectional identities, creating yet another touchpoint of relevance for an audience that has struggled to see themselves in the marketing of the big credit card operators.
  • Offline connection: Rather than using social to drive, enhance or report on offline experiences with its products, Square turns the tables and uses the offline experiences to make its social content richer and more relevant. A great example of this is using its own proprietary data–how, when and where customers are spending through the Square platform–to join relevant cultural conversation that may have business implications for its small biz owner audience.
  • Key channels: YouTube is the primary content hub for the Dreams videos and other Square customer profiles that put the company’s commitment to small business in the spotlight. With more than 42K subscribers, the message is resonating: Square cares about your success and the success of your business. And the brand doesn’t stop at current business owners–there’s plenty of how-tos, demos and tips on how to get your small business off the ground, too.

    Instagram, which credits several different professional photographers as contributors, is a visually engaging platform for Square to champion the successes of its customers. This is done most effectively through portraiture supported by a direct quote from the customer, a style borrowed from culture documentarians like Humans of New York. Instagram is also the primary channel for Square’s promotional content, such as the 12 Days of Square contest run during the holiday season. Participants could win Square hardware by sharing their own small business success stories or examples of how they tackled a particular challenge faced by small businesses.


When you make great software, it’s tempting to try to appeal to every audience possible in order to maximize reach. But the result is often a lukewarm reception, because the audiences you do reach may have a hard time seeing themselves in your stories. It may take awhile for your business to reach the point where you know, and can optimize for, one specific audience. But the depth of connection that kind of focused relevance creates will be well worth it and pay off in the brand loyalty it creates.


  • Be a champion for your audience.  If you’ve ever heard a talking head say “B2B isn’t just business to business, it’s also human to human,” look no further than Square for a guiding example. There are real people, with real challenges and triumphs, behind every business you sell to. Find them and let them tell their own stories. Chances are, your B2B product makes it easier for them to succeed and they’ll be happy to share that. And all of those challenges and triumphs they’re navigating are shared by others, and that’s the emotional resonance that sticks with a potential customer when they’re making a purchasing decision. The more you show not only how your product makes a business better, but how it makes the lives of the people behind the business better, the more likely you are to win–and keep–loyalty.
  • Think about how the product experience can drive social content. Every day, your customers (and often their customers) are interacting with your products or services. It’s easy enough to show that interaction on social, but think about ways you can really bring it to life. What’s happening in that interaction that you can use to drive new ways to engage with your social audience?
  • Your data is yours–use it. Especially for high-volume B2Bs like software companies, tens of thousands of data points are created and quantified every single day. Mine that data for the interesting tidbits that go beyond your business and reach the level of mass culture. There are fascinating stories in your data that have wide appeal, emotional energy and instant cache for your brand.

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