Keeping Your Brand on Track in the World of Social Media

Staying on Track

You’re a savvy business owner. You know the value of social media as a tool for marketing your company and connecting with clients. You’ve created a social media strategy. You’ve explored the possible outlets and chosen the ones that best fit with your goals. You have followers. Now what?

This is the moment when all your hard work can pay off. It’s also the moment when the real work begins. Social media is all about communicating with your clients, building and maintaining relationships with them. It’s also an excellent tool for building your brand because it gives your clients a chance to connect with your company on a regular (nearly daily) basis.

These connections are important. After all, where would you be without the people who support your company? You need to interact with them, but you also need to be aware of how you’re being perceived in the online world. So, how do you manage and keep your brand on track in the overwhelming world of social media?

Pay attention to the buzz.

There was a time in the world of business when the only way you could see into the minds of your customers was to set up a suggestion box. You would then wait to discover what everyone had to say about your products and services.

Well, social media is like an instant suggestion box. Here’s a real world example:

Keep an Ear To The Ground

A friend of mine runs a catering business from her home. Recently she received a Google alert that her company name was mentioned on a client’s blog. She immediately checked out the site and discovered very mixed reviews of a party she catered. Most of the guests raved about the quality of the food. Just as many commented on a new chicken recipe she debuted there. The verdict was in—the recipe was a disaster. She knew right then that she needed to adjust the recipe or cut it from her menu.

Like my friend, you have to pay attention to what others are saying about you. Social media is a great place to keep up with how your brand is perceived. Set a Google alert for your company name, links to your site, or specific phrases from your content. When you get an alert, check it and respond.

Keep personal views out of the picture.

Your company Facebook page isn’t the place to share your thoughts about an upcoming election or social issue that is currently in the news (unless your company is closely related to politics or social causes). In fact, sharing your personal opinions about controversial topics on a business fan page can harm your company. Your clients are likely from diverse backgrounds; you run the risk of offending people and losing customers (and money) if they discover you have different beliefs than they do.

People identify very closely with their core beliefs, and they like to associate with others of similar belief. For example, people looking for a web designer need someone who will be able to identify with their brands and be able to communicate with them through the website.

Even if you’re an award-winning web designer with years of experience and an impeccable talent for design, you can lose clients if they find out your core beliefs differ from theirs. They may feel that if you don’t share the same beliefs, you won’t be able to identify with them and convey who they are through your work.

Save the op-ed pieces for your personal social media accounts. Don’t mix business and pleasure, especially online.

Stay positive.

Sharing is Caring

You’ve heard the saying that it’s easier to attract flies with honey than vinegar. The phrase may be old and tired, but the philosophy is still true. People gravitate toward what makes them feel better about themselves. Social media outlets are certainly not the place to badmouth your competition or journal about your daily woes. It doesn’t send the message that you’re worth your customers’ time and money.

At the end of the day, you want your customers to choose your company because what you have to offer is superior to the competitor’s offerings. If your goods and services are superior, they will discover that on their own. Experience is far more powerful than your words, so you don’t need to point this out. Keep your brand focused on the positive aspects of who you are and what you offer. Everything else will fall into its rightful place.

Consistency.

Chain restaurants are successful—not because they serve better quality food than their family-owned counterparts—but because they offer consistency. Whether coasting along an interstate in theU.S.or wandering a city square inMadrid, weary travelers know what to expect when they see the golden arches of McDonald’s. It’s not that the mass-produced hamburgers and fries are tastier than the local establishment next door. (In fact, one might argue that the local establishment likely has better food than the chain.) Instead, the customers like knowing exactly what to order and how it will taste.

This is branding at work. Branding is successful because of the consistency. Your customers know what to expect from you, and they like to know just what you will offer them. Social media gives you another format for developing and promoting your brand. Yet, there are many different platforms available, and each platform has its own audience with varying needs and interests.

Regardless of how you interact in social media, your visual image and message should be consistent. For example, Facebook fans like the ability to interact and share with each other through status updates, photo sharing, and tagging friends. This creates a more informal atmosphere than LinkedIn, where people post resumes and network with others on similar career paths. The language you use may change. On Facebook, you can use more casual language than you would on LinkedIn, but the message remains the same: I care about your successes in life and how I can help you achieve more.

With this in mind, use the same contact information and taglines wherever you post. You also want to use the same profile picture across all platforms, so your clients recognize your face or logo no matter where you are.

Be personable and engaging.

Neutrality

In a retail world seemingly dominated by the big box stores, local mom and pop establishments still manage to survive—and thrive. This doesn’t necessarily make sense to those of us who look at the bottom line equation of “lowest prices=highest sales”. Why are people willing to spend more money—especially in a struggling economy—for the same goods and services they can get elsewhere? It’s all about relationships.

When you shop at a local store, you’re more than just another face on the other side of the cash register. The local shopkeeper eventually recognizes you and, over time, you develop a relationship. You talk about your lives. You share pictures of your family. There’s a world of difference between being greeted with “Is plastic okay?” and “How was your daughter’s dance recital?”

You return because you share part of your life with that person. When was the last time you walked into a big box store and saw the manager rush off to the stockroom to retrieve a new flavor of coffee set aside just for you to try? My guess is that it hasn’t happened. The nature of mass production and sales doesn’t allow that same level of connection to develop.

Social media is a way to replicate this relationship building. You may not be able to actually see your clients and customers on a regular basis, but you are able to connect with them. Take whatever amount of time you have available to read status updates and comment. You don’t have to engage in lengthy conversations. Just a simple “congrats” or “glad to hear this” can go a long way toward letting your clients know you care and are interested in them as people.

One on One with Social

Your social media strategy should include the amount of time you have available to read and respond to your clients’ comments. Set aside a few minutes each morning and peruse your status feeds while enjoying a cup of coffee. While watching your favorite TV shows, hop on your computer or phone during commercial breaks to catch up with your clients. Show your customers that you’re interested in more than just taking their money, and you can gain a customer for life. Let them associate your brand with your interest in them as people.

About Level 343

This account is where everyone involved with Level343 content marketing efforts show up. You can say there is no "I" in this team. Sometimes we will chat about a certain topic with a variation of ideas, suggestions, even opinions. Then one of us will start writing the post, hand it over to someone else who will continue the diatribe. Eventually it ends up on our editors desk who either chops the hell out of it, or you're reading it right now.

Comments

  1. Thanks Brittany, I’m glad we hit the mark ;) – Not an easy thing when you consider how customized campaigns can be. We understand that actionable things like connecting and engaging doesn’t come easy for a lot of people, companies, brands, etc. but as long as they can be consistent in producing a great product whether it’s a great newsletter, blog, videos, ect. then these tips can help a social media manager build a better campaign.

  2. David I’m going to start believing you ;) thanks for being such a great reader we should come up with an honorary badge or something… ;)

  3. Hey Daniel, I’m sorry I missed this comment of yours… I’ve been super busy. As always, you are charming and one of the reasons we continue writing. Grazie mille xo

  4. Wow, very thorough! I definitely agree that paying attention to the buzz and being genuine are the keys to a successful social media presence. So many companies use social media as a way to broadcast, when the real power is the ability to connect and engage with customers, helping to build a loyal fan base.

  5. Excellent advice, I wish to be as savvy as you presume, :). It’s hard to keep your personal opinion for yourself, especially in my case. You’re so right, Gabriella, :).

  6. Great reading this, Consistency goes across the board of running a business, like you mentioned about the restaurant example. One needs to be Consistent in providing quality service, provide excellent customer service, and getting the job right first time round. :)

  7. Hey Gabriella,

    It is the ‘hey everyone else is doing it so we should too’ attitude that means people are jumping in blind and then fumbling around trying to find the ‘great customer service’ button on twitter or facebook. Like you say if you are douche bag in real life your gonna be a douche bag online (and if you are a douche bag it is likely that you will hire someone to to the job for you but spend your time telling them that they are doing wrong!!)

  8. Derek Jackson says:

    I can see your point Anita, but there are a lot of personalities that make a living doing nothing other than acting annoyed at problems, so there are people that empathize with complaining: not that you have to go overboard with it. I personally think that voicing some frustrations makes you appear more human and this authenticity is valuable when promoting anything. There is no one right or wrong way to get traction on social media and different people prefer different methods. A lot of companies might prefer using one of the companies listed at http://buyfacebookfansreviews.com to help them get social media traction. Another company might want to take more of a long-term viewpoint and try and build up their brand by posting quality content and interactions. This is the best and most proven strategy for long-term success, but it takes dedicated effort to keep up with this and fight through a lot of difficulty. Being consistent is valuable, I agree, but being too predictable can also be boring so you need to have a sense of balance with how you approach that.

  9. I agree, Anita – sometimes sharing a frustration is fine. Sometimes it’s even a great way to solicit a solution. It’s amazing at how many people actually read your comments, tweets, posts, etc… and you very seldom know about it until you share some frustration or overdo it.

    There’s a fine balance in your mood vs. your behavior online; staying positive is the expected norm. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a mood where snapping at a happy comment or tweet would have made me feel 100% better. Of course, I refrained, because it would have been a complete train wreck.

    I understand we can’t always be happy; it’s how we choose to look at our individual situation and how we want to be perceived online. At the end of the day, we know first impressions count, and you have to decide – do you really want to give a bad impression? Your mood, your behavior, can transcend your projected communications.

    If you really want to get all psycho babble, consider how much trained professionals (covert CIA, FBI, all those sneaky psychiatrists…) can read into your actions, hand writing, search patterns, etc. Now we’re under a bigger, more connected microscope. What, how and why we engage online will become part of our online presence. To me, that’s very important – especially if that’s how you do business and intend to keep it that way.

  10. You hit the nail on the head: “You return because you are treated as a human being rather than just someone who puts cash in the till.” – And isn’t that what any consumer wants – to be treated with respect? In my opinion, that’s what begets trust.

    Although I agree with you that transferring this approach is a completely different road when dealing with an online presence, we are given enough tools to build it within a well thought campaign. That’s where the problem lies, in my opinion; MOST companies, people, consumers, etc. aren’t ethical, compassionate, or social in real life. They think having a presence on these platforms is enough.

    I could go on and actually write a brand new post in this comment space lolol. Suffice it to say, if you’re a douche bag in real life, no matter what you do online (short of hiring an agency that represents you), you will come off like a douche bag. Enough of those already out there.

  11. What you say about staying positive is so true. I prefer to engage with people on Twitter who are positive, and not whiners who constantly complain or just lash out at companies and people because something struck them wrong or they have a minor problem.

    Sharing the occasional frustration is fine — it makes you more human. But to follow a Twitter account that is nothing but an all-day litany of complaints or dislikes about this or that, is just a drag. I have enough problems of my own and have to work to keep myself positive, without being bombarded with everybody else’s negativity all day long.

  12. Hi there!

    Great post! One of the things that is most misunderstood is that you should treat it is if you were chatting to your customers in real life. What makes you go back to the same or pub time after time? Why do you visit particular bookstores or grocery stores? Usually it is because the stock is good and the service is excellent. You return because you are treated as a human being rather than just someone who puts cash in the till. Although transferring this approach to the online world of social media is not a piece of cake, it can be done. Value your clients and customers. Value your prospective customers. Interact and you will find that social media can work for you.

  13. This is really great advice. Working at a web design company myself, I realise the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with our clients. They are the key aspect of everything we do and to ignore them would be to do ourselves a serious disservice. It’s for this very reason that we strive to promote not only ourselves, but also our clients on the various social network sites. This, whilst something we are still determined to continue developing in and working on, is a strong part of allowing us and our clients to remain at the forefront of our respective professions.

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