Engagement or Brand?
Social media is a very fluid and quickly evolving marketing resource that presents organizations with the ability to promote engagement with its customer base. While it may excite marketers to see hard metrics of interaction and viewership, I would still caution them against too much exposure of brands to customer input.
Brand is traditionally an element that is structured by an organization to regulate the emotional connection between a company and its customers. With such customer participation in social media, brands can quickly loose control of brand dialogue and risk damaging their most valuable product.
Engagement and Brand!
The question remains whether engagement really is a good replacement for brand? Can you have both?
I believe it is more than possible to maintain brand and promote engagement at the same time. This calls for a more than superficial use of social media however. Companies cannot use social media for social media sake, especially without proper brand strategy folded into their daily communication.
This means that before an organization takes to the airwaves they must plan out their social media brand strategy, which goes beyond the individual tweets, social media calendars and Facebook updates. In a brand plan social media is merely the way of delivering a message, the important question is what type of social message do you want to deliver and why do you want to deliver it? What is your purpose? What is your driving reason for being different from others on the twittersphere?
An Example of Great Social Media Brand Strategy
The promotion campaign for the Hunger Games movie trilogy is a famous example that relentlessly stuck to brand voice. Lions Gate Entertainment created several twitter accounts that all remained in character up to the release of the first film. The Capital.pr twitter account, for example, always held an overbearing, opulent, bourgeoisie communication with its fans. This tone of voice was true to the brand of the Hunger Games and demonstrated a very detailed and well thought out brand plan that informed all social media communication.
For a more detailed analysis of Lions Gate's social media strategy please see my full analysis in my portfolio.
5 Steps to a Social Media Brand Plan
- Develop Your Mother Brand - First you must be sure that your organizational brand is completely realized and understood. Do you know what values, benefits and advantages you offer your customers? How do you differ from your competitors? If your organization were a person, how would he act? What is your mother brand?
- Select Key Metrics - What do you want to influence or achieve with social media? You don't simply want to increase awareness and engagement, those are stale metrics that say nothing to real communication goals. You want to convince audiences of certain brand promises or company values. You should never jump into social media full force without some end goal off which to base success.
- Develop a Social Media Brand Product - Treat your social media accounts like another product that your company offers. As such a product, it should be able to be evaluated on brand strength and quality. Does it stand up to company expectations of other products? Is it a tangible extension of the brand of your organization, or have you created another personality in your social media presence? Social media should also be analyzed on ROI and other product oriented metrics as well. Remember: Social media is a brandable product, just like any other product your company offers.
- Conceptualize Marketing Tactics - Now that you know your key metrics and your social media brand, what actual social media marketing tactics are you going to utilize to realize your goals? Where do your customers interact most? Linkedin? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? What value are they actively seeking online?
- Create Relevant Content - As always, content remains king in the social media realm. However where most companies jump in on the fifth step, you have thought out the brand strategy behind your social media actions. In the long run, your social media strategy will be cohesive and remain very powerful at conveying a unified message to your audience. As you have selected to revolve your social media actions around your brand and not around your content, you will see more powerful customer connections that can identify with your brand and its values, rather than its day-to-day content.