Recently I did a webinar with Chris Vary (Weber Shandwick) and Victoria Harres (PRNewswire). The topic was Romancing Your Audience: Managing Corporate Social Identity. Our discussion inspired me to do the blog post on the topic.
Think of all the ways your company uses branding to build awareness or to promote its values. A few things come to mind – providing great customer service, saying “happy holidays” to your fans on Facebook, answering questions on Twitter, posting funny videos on YouTube and making people smile, blogging about your events, the list goes on. All of these things lead to higher brand awareness and create emotional connection with our customers. Over time, all of our little actions build up into a solid perception of our company.
Our brand is made of sum of all the impressions and encounters on the web. I maintain that social media marketing IS branding!
And I am not the first one to state that. In Web 2.0 age everything we do or say affects our brand. As your company’s storyteller you are trying to ensure that all digital activities are strengthening your brand and not fragmenting or crippling it. You want your customers to hear a consistent story, not to create confusion. Your brand has a personality, it has specific voice and reflects specific values as well as has a unique visual style. All of these elements become important in your social interactions.
Recently I saw the 2010 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index – Consumers Seek Brand Meaning. The premise of the article was that “what makes goods and services valuable and worth spending for will increasingly be wrapped up in the brand and what it stands for”. Differentiation is critical to sales success. But this will only happen where brand values are established as a brand identity, and believably exists in the mind of the consumer. But it is hard to establish that identity if your digital voice and behavior are inconsistent across sites or programs.
People will tell you – give up the control of your brand, consumers now own it. It is correct, but only to some extent.
My belief is that companies and consumers share control, just as they always have.
It just means that companies now have yet another channel to manage consumers’ expectations. We all know that as brands we have no choice than to be involved into online conversation – they will happen with or without us. That’s nothing new. But it is still hard for companies to identify how to do it right. Do you free your grassroots and give them ok to engage on your behalf without making an attempt to sensor or even guide them? This sounds risky, right? That’s because it is, there is a number of ways this approach can go wrong. Or do you just tightened the control around social media and continue to live under the illusion that tight control is possible? We already established that in the Web 2.0 world it isn’t a solution either. There needs to be a way that encourages social media pioneers and at the same time guides them and the rest of the company towards the right educated balance through multiple tools like guidelines, robust training program, playbooks etc.
Example: Intel. We are a big company and have global presence. It is hard for just one person to manage its social identify, so we rely on guidelines and training to ensure our brand is preserved in all of our communications across the globe. We started this journey with putting in place Intel Social Media Guidelines as well as Branding Guidelines. Guidelines allow us to create a framework of engaging in social conversations on behalf of Intel without dampening our digital evangelists’ enthusiasm. It is a short document that is easy to read and digest and is translated into 35 languages. Intel also put robust digital training in place for Social Media Practitioners and marketers.
Part of the brand is also:
- How u communicate. Authenticity, transparency, and honesty are important!
- Adding value to a conversation, providing meaningful (not disruptive) contribution, earning respect of the community.
- Human element in your communications. Don’t be afraid to be human. People often times ask me: “Where do you fall with your communications: B2B or B2C?” And my answer is “P2P” – person to person. It doesn’t matter what type of company you are, you communicate with people, so try behaving as a human being and not as a cold corporate element, you customers will appreciate it.
All of these elements are adding to your brand perception over time, so be mindful of that.
How do YOU manage your corporate social identity?
P.S.: Full webinar is available for replay here