A social brand is a transparent brand, and that’s just what consumers want. They’re tired of being lied to with offers that are too good to be true. They’re sick of being interrupted with irrelevant ads in their daily lives. They get enough of it from tv commercials and website popups. So when they visit their favourite social media sites, they expect brands to behave and be tame. Consumers want a less bombarding and more personal experience.
Your brand is reflected in everything your company says and does. And when you ‘say’ and ‘do’ via social media, that reflection travels at the speed of a browser refresh and amplifies louder than a thousand clicks of a share button.
Practicing these four principles will help you strengthen your social brand communications across all digital media.
1. Remember your brand’s core values
Whenever you sit down to craft a message, write an email, update your fan page, send out a tweet, or respond to a commenter, think of your brand’s core values and personality. Before writing a single word, ask yourself: will this help or hurt the brand? Is it congruent with what the brand stands for? Stay aligned and relevant, and you will communicate your message more appropriately.
If you’re just getting your brand onto social sites, then start by listening to your audience first. What are they talking about? What are they sharing with their friends? What questions are they asking? Once you get to know your audience’s interests, questions, and frustrations, you can begin interacting with them and offering up the type of content that they’re already sharing.
2. Help your employees believe in your brand
Absolutely everyone in your organization holds the responsibility of reinforcing your brand. If your people don’t believe in the brand’s vision and values, then they won’t be able to properly interact with outside parties. If they confuse or offend your customers somehow, it will only damage your image. This translates to the offline world as well. Employees must understand and agree with your brand before they can go off on their own and talk with consumers, partners, investors, suppliers, distributors, and the media. Make it a habit to consistently praise and reward actions that show brand responsibility.
Workers come and go. On average, a person holds a job for around two to five years. Somehow, it is up to you to make sure the brand’s culture is passed down to the newbies, like a legend is passed down to younger generations one conversation at a time. The experienced workers who understand your brand may be gone tomorrow, and the fresh ones that join have no idea what’s going on… until you educate them. Ongoing internal training is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page and your corporate culture doesn’t weaken over time.
3. Build relationships and create brand advocates
A social brand has to be social. Period. Throwing up a Facebook page with your logo on it and getting some “likes” is merely a half-assed attempt at social branding. It takes deep two-way conversations with consumers, and the building of relationships. Some companies use social media mainly for customer service, and it works wonders for them. For example, of all the tweets sent out from Whole Foods Market on Twitter (@WholeFoods), 85% are responses to customer comments, according to Bill Tolany, Head of Integrated Media.
Offering special treatments or incentives to happy customers can turn them into brand advocates. If a customer already likes your product or service, and you treat them right, they may start to share your vision and spread your message for you. What’s more, brand advocates naturally influence the opinions and buying behaviours of their family and friends, because that’s who people trust the most.
You could even think about starting your own brand advocacy program. Check out the Ford Fiesta Movement, in which 100 “Fiesta Agents” across the US get to drive a Fiesta for 6 months, complete monthly missions, and share their experiences in various ways. You can also check out the Microsoft MVP Program, consisting of around 4,000 teachers, artists, doctors, engineers, and technologists who share their know-how with huge online followings.
4. Respond properly to negative feedback
A social brand is an exposed brand, open to negative feedback and criticism. But dealing with negativity in the right way can turn a critic into your next customer or an angry customer into your next number one fan. The results of negative feedback depend entirely on how you deal with them. Handle them well, and you become a star; ignore them, and you might as well hang your logo on the corporate wall of shame.
We can’t be all things to all people, so you’re bound to receive complaints in one form or another. When an unhappy someone posts a complaint about your product or service, others tend to follow along and add their two cents as well. Whatever you do, don’t ignore this. It can snowball out of control unless you respond properly. However, if you say something wrong, it’ll make things worse.
One of the best and easiest things you can do is simply offer help (or maybe an apology) to the original complainer. It shows that you care about how your customers feel. And as customers, we love that sort of thing, don’t we?
Being a social brand means talking to people as a professional human, as if you were talking to them face-to-face. With pretty much any company and any type of response, you’ll want to keep it friendly and helpful, but at the same time, feel free to let your brand personality shine through. Then, before hitting the send button, get a second pair of eyes to check your tone of voice. Align your messages with the vision and values of the company. Continually educate your employees and make sure they are with you 100%.
Brand accountability is nothing new, but with social media, ignorance and incompetence will wreck you faster than a drill sergeant having a nicotine fit.