Social media is dispersed and fluid. Brand management is centralized with limited flexibility. Yet these worlds must co-exist. As companies become increasingly social, communication is no longer the exclusive domain of Marketing and PR. Maintaining a consistent voice across all vehicles, social and otherwise, is a key challenge and hurdle for many brands. Here are five tips to help you make sure that your social media efforts contribute positively to your brand experience.
1. Have goals.
What role do you want social media to play in the brand experience? Are you looking to simply drive awareness and build followers? Or are you looking to deepen customer relationships? Or do you see opportunities to open new data streams on customer behavior? Maybe social media is mostly a channel for customer service or recruiting. Each of these requires a different plan of attack. Without goals, your efforts will be scattered, inconsistent – and a poor reflection on your brand.
2. Have a channel strategy.
You don’t sell your product in every store or advertise your brand on every network. Keep your social media efforts focused on those channels that are most important and relevant to your audiences. The “mile-wide and inch deep” approach will limit your ability to drive real relevance for your brand. A strong presence across the most important platforms for your audience is significantly more desirable than a token presence across a dozen vehicles. Great brands are not all things to all people; social media doesn’t change this.
In building a brand, one of the most important things you can do is listen. How do your various stakeholder audiences see you today – and how do you need to evolve these perceptions to take you where you need to go? The ease of setting up profiles on multiple social platforms belies the difficulty in doing it well. Who’s talking about you or about your competitors – and what are they saying? What types of things are your target audiences most concerned about – and how can you positively contribute to these conversations? Before you jump in too deep, take the time to listen.
4. Be transparent.
Social media is a human environment. Great brands make human connections. The irony is that brand management tends towards rigor and inflexibility. Public, real-time engagement can be an uneasy bridge across these two worlds. Mistakes are inevitable; running from them or trying to bury them will only make them worse. Acknowledging any missteps and behaving genuinely will speak volumes for your brand while fostering credibility and trust.
5. Be committed. And be patient.
Great brands are built by a sum of experiences. This takes time. Building your brand in social media also takes time – and more resources than you think. Your presence in the social world grows one follower / comment / like at a time. Set the right expectations internally to ensure that resources remain in place for the long term. Show commitment to your audiences externally by keeping your brand fresh, active and relevant across your chosen social media channels.