Leverage It For the Long Haul To Build An Inspiring Brand
Social media has changed the way we think about our businesses and the way we do business. It’s changed the way we engage and interact personally. When I think about how long it took for me to warm up to it (i.e., get onboard with Facebook, learn how Twitter works and figure out the numerous features and opportunities generated through LinkedIn), it’s inconceivable to think of life without it now.
Social media is not only shifting the way we interact, but also what we’ve come to expect, the decisions we make and how we create meaningful dialogue with one another. Organizations are hopefully asking the questions of not only what, but also where, when, who and why they should use social media as a brand building strategy.
What we know now: Organizations Are Getting Smarter About Their Use of Social Media
In a recent November 2010 study on the ‘State of Online Branded Communities’ conducted by ComBlu, organizations are getting smarter about how they use social media. That’s the good news. ComBlu’s study covered 12 industries, 78 brands and 241 communities. The key results reported:
- The number of organizations with a cohesive strategy increased from 20% to 33%.
- Companies are doing a much better job at creating diverse engagement experiences and using multiple ways to engage their communities. The use of engagement tools increased from 28% to a whopping 76%. That’s 2 ¾ times more than a year ago.
- Brands like Bravo with their Millionaire Matchmaker and Top Chef shows scored high in best practices as their fans can watch and engage with the shows simultaneously creating an inspiring, differentiated experience.
- This level of community interaction has moved to whole new level for personal connection with the customers of Bravo’s brands in ways unfathomable in the past.
There are Still a Few Missed Opportunities
The bad news is that ComBlu’s reports showed there are still some missed opportunities:
- No brand in the study scored in the highest quartile of performance (?50 points).
- Only 40% have some rewards and recognition for those that promote their brand.
- Almost 50% had no visible community manager.
- Many brands have campaigns that are short-term or become obsolete. A more effective strategy is to host and migrate these campaigns with a long-term focus to maintain community engagement.
Facts About Facebook and Twitter
- There are more than 500 million active users on Facebook. The average user creates 90 pieces of content each month and there is more than 30 billion pieces of content that includes web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, you name it) shared each month.
- Twitter has nearly 200 million accounts and the average number of Tweets per day is 110 million. That’s more than 40 billion tweets in a year.
The increasing use of social media has so many implications for brands to develop and leverage a social engagement strategy that delivers exponential returns. But don’t be shortsighted in your strategy or approach to leveraging it for your brand.
Strong brands are built by design, not by default. Building a strong brand is a process and the inclusion of social media in your strategy to build and sustain your brand should not be a quick-hit or haphazard focus, but rather long-term.
Leverage 3 Steps to Get ROI Over the Long-Term
The first step is to include social media in your long-term business strategy. Social media can’t be lumped in with all your other marketing initiatives, as it will get lost. It has to be part of your overall long-term business strategy, because it is here to stay and it’s only becoming more ubiquitous as more people use it across the globe. So do the due diligence to study how brands are using it successfully. Seek out white papers and reports on best practices and when developing your strategy include the execution plan that answers What, Where, When, Who and Why.
The second step is to execute the plan and make sure you have a point person or team dedicated to community management. Social media is about building an emotional connection, person to person. Make sure you include how you will listen to and engage with your community to create meaningful relationships.
A recent in-depth study on customer engagement by Razorfish reported, “…engagement is more than just a channel. It’s a dialogue; it’s the ability to choose how and when to engage; it’s the value each channel represents; it’s whether or not expectations were met.”
Razorfish’s research found that customers are more focused on the relationship they have with a brand and how different channels (phone, email, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) enable them to realize their interests, needs and expectations. The relationship is driven by the following priorities ranked in order of importance for customers’ feeling …Valued, Trust, Efficiency, Consistency, Relevance and Control. The first three elements were perceived very critical, the latter three much less so. So, think about these elements at key engagement touch points through social media channels with your customers and community, and how you can deliver in positive ways to enhance the relationship and the experience.
Razorfish’s research also demonstrates that engagement drives the value of influencers – those that talk about your brand whether positive or negative. So, it makes sense to ensure you create positive engagement experiences that INSPIRE your customers because they will spread the word about your brand.
The third step is to continuously measure and monitor the return on social engagement not by fans and followers but rather by metrics that matter. Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester recently reported on social media marketing metrics that matter and to whom. He’s outlined metrics as follows:
As you can see in the chart to the left, Elliott has identified three key groups within the organization (social strategists, marketers and senior leaders/owners) and the types of metrics (as examples) they should be looking for and their frequency. Think about your business and what objectives you want to accomplish on a daily, quarterly and annual basis, and over the long haul with a social media strategy. As you develop your strategy and implement your plan, take the time to revisit to ensure you are meeting your goals, and make adjustments as needed. It’s good to set short-term goals that roll up into your long-term plan.
Remember, operating in this social media space with a solid strategy and plan can only help build an inspiring brand by design. Educate yourself and get smarter so you can leverage leading practices and mitigate those missed opportunities. It will help your organization build more meaningful relationships and engage in dialogue with everyone in your community – employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders, and ultimately impact your top-line growth in revenues, earnings and overall goodwill.