Welcome to the penultimate article in the "building your brand" series, today I want to talk about the usage of social media to help promote your company, a product/service or yourself (personal brand). To help illustrate the various characters that can be found in social media and to see which best suits you I am going to work with examples of a teenage party (18th birthday or leaving school type thing, where all are invited). The reason for this is that in my view social media is just a like a party, and the hosts are the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Digg and many others. You or Your Brand are the guests and just like partying teenagers its about "standing out" and "being the best" ... not being the little ignored guy in the corner.
@ The Social Media Party
The guy/girl in the corner Ok so this sounds like I'm being a little mean, but we've all seen the little shy guy/girl or person with few friends who is very quiet attending a party but not really doing much. Sometimes they sit alone sometimes with others but none the less they are quiet and unheard. This to me is like creating a facebook fan page for your brand and not shouting about it. Just because you attend the party doesn't mean you will make any friends, you have to advertise and network to develop the relationships where by people will come and talk to you, or in this case join the fan page or follow your twitter account.
Consider: If you answer "yes" to the following questions then you should start a conversation, otherwise next time you hear "everyone is doing the social media thingy, so should we" have the guts to say "no" because its not right for you. Do you have content worth sharing? Do you release content worth sharing on a regular basis (including blog posts)? Is your target audience under 35?
The Loudmouth Blabber The loudmouth is the one that overcompensates for the lack of value they carry by blabbering on ... basically decrease in quality in crease in quantity. The person is constantly demanding attention and never listens. This is exactly the same with social media (or blogging) companies whom are constantly "pimping" themselves and the products/services they offer, by not listening to feedback from the crowd you are in essence shutting the door in their face - they are unlikely to want to come back and talk to you (in our case less likely to deal with your business or brand).
Consider: Social media should speak for itself because your content should also, if your content doesn't talk quality then you stand little chance in social media. In general the higher the quality of product/service the more people will talk about it on the social networks. The theory is that you should only need to post 1 link per post you write, it is then for the community you have to spread the word (from one to another and so on, the viral effect if you're lucky).
The Sparkling Showoff We all know who I'm talking about, the people who get out their smart phone or little gadget that does something special, or shows off something expensive or that he/she know one else in the room has (maybe an iPhone or the new iPad). People gather round (follow your group on facebook, follow you on twitter etc) to be closer to the centre of the party. Soon after they gathered begin to dissipate and back off because they realise that the gadget maybe inaccessible (they won't get a go on it), the person/brand is intimidating or maybe they realise that the person/brand/product is bland and nothing special. This is like launching a new site online, there is a social media buzz and viral effect almost but after a few days the honeymoon effect ends because you haven't maintained the connection with the others, you've decided that instead of you working you will let your product do the talking... not always the best route it is generally the connection and relationship you have with your clients that brings them back time and time again.
Consider: Beauty is skin deep, products and services have a limited ability to talk for you and sell themselves - it is for you to connect and show the real value and resource of your product... it is you whom the connection is with and you whom the community trust - not your service.
The Buzzword Adict These are the people who namedrop constantly or are constantly talking about themselves and what they have done that is so amazing recently, even though for most people what they do is for them an everyday event! These people are those who go online mention famous names left, right and centre just to get attention - or perhaps they fill social content such as twitter with keywords and links ... not only do people pick up on this but they will begin to ignore you and further to this search engines will take little to no notice of these events. The best bet and best practice is to talk naturally and not to act as you think you should be seen, social media is about conversation not campaigning for your product or services.
Consider: Remember what I said earlier it's a converstation, it's two way and it should be totally natural. If you decide to use social media it requires commitment to engagement, not commitment to a campaign.
Be a R.A.T.
Sounds like a peculiar thing to tell someone but being the RAT can make your social media branding exercise extra special and give it that x-factor that your competitors don't have, after all if you are going to be the same as them what is the point - you need to be the best.
Responding Now British Telecom are well known for having one of the worst customer service records in the UK. Unlike some companies (eg ComCast - telecoms company in the USA) BT are yet to find social media as a route to better service. ComCast offers a twitter conversation (via @ComCastCares) to its customers to help report and fix problems but the minor and major, they are not alone in doing this, one of the AKD partners UKHost4u [we no longer partner with ukhost] also offer a similar service to repost hosting issues or outages. Responding quickly to current and potential customers is of the upmost importance, gaining trust isn't easy but this is one great big leap you can take towards being trusted. As well as this it also protects your brand because you are acting in a very proactive manner to reduce larger complaints.
Adventure Beyond Competitors Don't be afraid to think outside the box and do something new or different, something from another industry or that has never been done before. A good way to do this is to offer a competition with a huge prize to draw attention, this is how big brands do it so try it with a smaller brand too, if they do it so can you.
Target Correctly Targeting your audience is very important, you must target and speak to your audience in the correct tone and manner. Each type of person and audience requires a different approach - for example KFC or McDonalds would target the younger generations trying to take a tone which is "young and urban" maybe even using texting acronyms like Vodafone have done on billboards with the advert "unltd txts" ... if you are selling meals on wheels to elderly people online then you may not use social media to begin with but if you do you will need a softer less abrasive tone which speaks on a friendly level with the client.
3 Steps to a Strong Social Brand
1 - planning Planning your social events can be a crucial point for any business or brand (not so much if your selling yourself as a brand because that is you as a person and should be you talking naturally off the cuff not pre prescribed). You need to determine what you want to show your brand as being (consider brand position), plan what resources you want to show-off and consider why you want to show it off - don't just do it for the sake of it because you can. Remember quality over quantity. Also plan which social media outlets you will use, facebook and twitter are the norms but if your technical you may want to take a look at Digg or Delicious. Hint: Writing down your plan means if you go away on holiday the conversation continues.
2 - Implement This is where the hard work really begins, you need to put your strategy into action - generally unless you're your own brand this isn't a one man job (though you can hire an seo like Andy Kinsey) to really help you out. If you get stuck and need help posting tweets on a regular basis you may want to consider auto-tweeting using socialtoo.com
3 - Analysis Tracking and monitoring your implementation and time on social media can be very important, otherwise you won't really know the impact it has had on your sales or visitors. There are many tools for doing this, one of the simplest is simply using analytics tools (such as google analytics) but generally this isn't enough, there are a number of ways to check the number of times a link you post is clicked, several are paid but the one i favour bitly is completely free and they are constantly improving the analytics they provide (also bitly is a link shortening service).
Do you have any tips for using social media for branding? Is your brand currently in need of followers on twitter or facebook? Do you own a successful social brand? If you've said "yes" to any of the above then leave a comment below.