Depending who you listen to or read in the social media space, the best reason to use social media for your brand varies. It can be for listening; resolving issues; lead generation; focus groups; recruitment; and much, much more.
All good reasons. All good value. And yet….
While these are all solid enough reasons to be on social media from a brand’s point-of-view, they mean nothing unless you have an audience. Not just an audience, but also one that actually trusts and supports you, and will listen when you speak. Without that, you’ll just be another tree in the forest that no-one hears fall.
So how do you build that most valued of commodities in social media (and business in general) – identity and trust? Especially in such a crowded space to start with?
Step 1: The Message is the Key
The big mistakes that brands make when jumping into social media is they see their competitors doing it, so think they need to as well. Wrong answer! (Insert buzzer noise here). For sure – social media can (and does) offer a fantastic additional tactic to add to your existing marketing mix. Yet only if it’s right for you – so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and not because of forced impressions.
Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, the most important part comes next – defining what your message is going to be, and how that is going to build the loyalty and brand identity that will define your success in this space.
The core points to consider here are:
- What’s our brand’s value proposition, and how do we convey that?
- Who will be our spokesperson/spokespeople, and in what capacity? How do we want to be perceived – thought leaders, the company that listens, educators, or something else?
- How will we ensure the message we’re sharing is consistent and built to last?
These are some of the initial questions to ask, and answers to provide. Without these, you’ll be floundering pretty quickly and people will move on to the next brand. Don’t let that be you. Think about the above questions, and make sure you have the answers (or know who the person is with the answers).
And, for the love of God, please make sure you actually know internally what your business stands for before you go outside!
Step 2: It’s Not What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It
Once you have your goals defined, and know exactly what will be said and who will be saying it, you move on to the next most important part – building your brand identity with these components.
This, probably more than anything, will be the part of the puzzle that either builds your identity and success, or sees you crash and burn on takeoff (I watched Top Gun again the other night, so forgive the gung-ho analogies!).
While it’s crucial to have the right people and message defined, it’s just as crucial (if not more so) to take it to market properly. What you say, and how you say it, is going to be the difference between you and your competitors. And if there’s one thing social media has taught all brands, it’s that people are always waiting for you to slip up.
To ensure your message is understood in the way you want it to be seen, you need to be consistent across every touchpoint: If you’re setting up a blog, make the editorial guidelines clear, both for internal bloggers and guest authors, determine the message from the blog, and make that core across all posts.
On social networks, the people that will be the “official” voice of your company need to share communications with each other regularly, and know whose role it is to reply to a certain question or issue.
Finally, on social media-led promotions that carry over to the offline space, ensure the same people promoting and answering online are attached to any offline teams as well, to keep the message clear and integrated.
These are just some of the ways to ensure the messaging from your brand is consistent and clear. That’s one of the first steps to building a true identity online. On top of that, obviously you need to make sure that your brand’s look and feel ties into this identity too.
The last thing you want to do is confuse people when they visit one of your online outposts (blog, social network, Pinterest board, etc.) and find a different colour scheme or look and feel at each place (unless you’re building external resources as a separate part of your brand identity, for SEO or thought leadership reasons).
Get the message consistent; get the look consistent; the rest will start to fall into place.
Step 3: The Long Road of Investment
Of course, this is all pre-identity stuff. Or, at least, pre-social media identity (you have identified what your brand stands for internally, right?). That’s the (relatively) easy part – the hard part is making sure that message is seen and, more importantly, retained time and time again.
And that’s where many brands fail, by expecting social media to be the quick fix to all that ails them. It’s not. Social media is not a fire sale – it’s a long-term investment and tactic, strategy, campaign, call it what you wish.
If you’re expecting your brand to be immediately identifiable through your actions on social media, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, it’s the consistency of the message and voice that will build your identity, not the speed in which you bring that to market.
Customer loyalty isn’t something that can be bought – and the brands that identify the most with their customers’ needs will be the ones that are rewarded with loyalty, referrals, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Social media can enhance the reach of these referring voices to the Nth degree – but you need to make sure you’re deserving of it to start with. Get your identity right by planning it and building it up the right way, and the world (social media or otherwise) can truly be your oyster.
The choice is yours.
Danny Brown is the co-author of Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing, described as “the book that will change the way we do business today” and recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Books in America by Nielsen BookScan. He’s an award-winning marketer whose delivered results for organizations like Microsoft Canada, BlackBerry, FedEx, Ford Canada and LG Electronics, and his blog is recognized as the #1 marketing blog in the world by HubSpot.
I remember saying this to someone: People don’t connect with brands. People connect with people. If you want to build a strong brand from the beginning, do it right. Know who you are, what you stand for and be accessible from the beginning. You definitely can define your audience starting with your own employees as your initial advocates to be the message purveyors. I like your point about consistency. Social media is definitely NOT the panacea. It’s the people who carry your message that will define your success. Your own actions will spillover into the market. But you have to own your message and be open to dialogue to build your success.
hessiej Exactly, Hessie. I recall speaking with David Garland – TheRiseToTheTop – back in the day about brands, and his point was: “Who wants to speak to a logo?”
You for sure want a clear, strong brand – but guess who defines that? Yep, people – both externally and internally. Something to remember. 🙂
I think the importance of the How & Consistency factors come from the way we, as humans, truly interact. The truth is that it’s easy, in business and personal life, to say we are one thing and yet our actions say something different. That’s why people can assess someone as having integrity who they regularly disagree with.
I disagree with you on the brand not being immediately identifiable though. If a co. already has spent time and resources on developing their voice internally / is already a truly social business, than there is probably someone in the org who is ready to communicate that on social media platforms, the same as they would meeting customers / stakeholders in person.
JoeCardillo Hey there Joe,
Great points, mate. Despite advances in technology, especially in just the last 20 years or so, the human psyche (and the way we make decisions) remains one of these core intangibles that (for now) will mostly remain out of reach. Which doesn’t help marketers or algorithm builders. 🙂
I completely agree with your point about the identifiable part. Where I was mostly coming from (and perhaps the wording didn’t convey this) was the immediate expectation of being known as “Brand that stands for this”.
We can create the messaging, the advocates and the measurement of how well we’re doing, from day one to when the analysis is created. Yet it’s going to take a bit of time to build up the long tail trust factor that truly defines what your brand is about, and having consumers/customers know that when they want something, they can come to you for that because that’s exactly what you’re all about.
Cheers for the great comment, sir!
Danny Brown JoeCardillo Ah, I’m with you now. Too true, they have to see you practice what you preach.
@DannyBrown @ArcIntel Everyone cares about my brand! What are you talking about?
@40deuce Ahem! Your brand or reputation? 🙂 @DannyBrown @ArCIntel
“And, for the love of God, please make sure you actually know internally what your business stands for before you go outside!” Having been ‘raised up’ in a company that understood that their culture was as important as their excellent product, at one point I THOUGHT that businesses understood what they stood for… and then I started working with hundreds of different small business owners and realized: WRONG. Businesses exist and grow for all sorts of reasons, and some grow quite a bit without even contemplating WHAT they stand for.
Fast forward to Social Media, and I’m in a room with the decision makers discussing the initial strategy and planning necessary BEFORE entry and I ask: what is your company voice? Who are you?
Silence. Crickets. Dumbfounded stares.
Amazing really, but I get revved up then because I realize the opportunity that lies before us once we hammer that all out and start really building brand loyalists.
Great post ‘mate.’ As always.
AmyMccTobin What is it with you and @hessiejones and all this crazy orange font? Sheesh!
It’s funny – so many businesses do so many great things, and then forget some of the little-yet-big things that could turn them into something so much more.
Here’s to less crickets, more corks. 🙂
Danny Brown AmyMccTobin Crickets and Corks — is that similar to horses and bayonets? Totally agree Amy… on your beautiful use of font and internal alignment on message.
RT @ThinDifference : Why No-One Cares About Your #Brand http://t.co/Zz0r5CxZVz via @AmyMccTobin
@jkcallas Morning Jure!
@AmyMccTobin morning… do u wanna talk today,… finally home
@jkcallas Today is crammed for me. How is Monday?
@AmyMccTobin monday can work with me as well, send me an email with some time and let talk 🙂
@flaviasiosteen @AmyMccTobin Agree. Practical advice.
@ThinDifference @AmyMccTobin For sure!
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