Wrapped a Little Too Tight About Brands and Social Media?
Are you concerned that your brand and company isn’t getting the punch and profile that it deserves on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the like? Are you not getting “RT”ed, “liked” or “shared”?
Real success in social media boils down to about five issues: legitimate and relevant content, authenticity in messaging, timeliness, respecting the fact that we all already have too much information to contend with, and finally – and most important – treating your follower, fan or visitor with respect.
Social media – which is simply a contemporary communication platform with unique characteristics – represents an opportunity to provide information of value. Regarding your readers as numerical eyeballs on a page suggests that your content may be lacking in real worth. If you’re not demonstrating worth, remember that it only takes a fraction of a second to “un-friend” a corporate Facebook page or quit being a “follower” on Twitter.
Highly relevant content rewards an online relationship, but spewing links to useless information repels people who probably would otherwise be interested in what you have to say.
Once you’ve selected the platforms most appropriate to your company (B2B, B2C, not-for-profit, or the like), how do you achieve success in social media?
Present opportunities for customers and stakeholders to evaluate and buy in to your products, services or ideas. Minimize the selling. Demonstrate your area of expertise. As Wall Street Journal columnist Clay Shirky once told me in a one-on-one interview, four basic media revolutions preceded the digital communication phenomenon: printing, point-to-point communications (telegraph), recorded media (beginning with vinyl records) and radio/television. Interactive media, Shirky declared, is different in that it represents “the greatest revolution in individual expression.” Online visitors zealously protect that individual expression, and will go to great lengths to control it. If you’re punching out advertising messages and trying to cram them into social media, the chances are you’ll be rejected, unless your messages are incredibly funny, relevant and entertaining.
Realize that what’s hot on social media often differs considerably from what’s popular in mainstream media. As Shirky recently pointed out, widespread content availability and search engine access on the Internet is leading to a whole new way of reading and absorbing information. Match your platform to your content, and your content to your potential customer or stakeholder. Reward them.
Online visitors and viewers want relationships with people, not brands. They are increasingly loyal to their need for information, not the brand. This critical piece of information was recently confirmed by the Pew Research Center, and has particular importance for how information is delivered, whether in the traditional sense or online. When people want information, they’ll go to the platform that they – not you – think will deliver it. As Gina Chen stated on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, people seeking hard news or information will demonstrate by their actions that “the loyalty isn’t to the platform, the application, the delivery system, or the brand. The loyalty is to the need for information.” If someone decides that your Tweet is highly relevant and worth re-tweeting, then you’ve achieved success and perhaps started up the beginnings of a viral phenomenon.
Match your desired brand experience with your social media content – be honest and authentic. Marketers often push brand promise (as opposed to experience), as that usually represents the specific claim that supposedly makes a brand distinctive. In the online world, a company can make all of the claims it wants, but the visitors or the interactive participants are the ones who decide whether the claim is true and authentic. A recent Harris poll showed that up to a full one third of American consumers trash or compliment brands online. That means your customers or stakeholders are probably talking about you online in some form or another, even as you’re reading this. If your company makes a brand claim that falls short, be prepared. The digital voice of the consumer will make itself heard.
Relax and find your path. If you’re wrapped a little too tight about your message and content in social media, it will show. It will not be viewed as authentic. It may not even ring true. But if your content is personal, relationship-focused, authentic and highly relevant, you won’t have a problem. In reality, what works are things that make up a memorable conversation. Achieve that and customers will cheerfully forward your message, talk about it at the water cooler and punch up some viral muscle. Unwrap yourself, have some fun and give those people a digital megaphone – you deserve it!
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