The rise of social media and the arrival of one-to-one communication has presented a unique problem for brands. That is the need to develop a personality. That is not to say that before social media arrived brands were flat, faceless entities, but with the nature of social media and immediacy of connections brands have with fans, there is a need for a daily connection, regular content and public communication with customers that the brands of yesterday aren't quite equipped to deal with.
When social media first emerged and later became a platform for brands, there was a near universal understanding that brands suddenly had to be friendly. You had to talk with everyone that decided you were worth talking to in the first place and above all, you had to be nice. Subservient to the customer no matter how foul-mouthed their tirade, or irrelevant their comments, even if they were being nice. But is this really how it needs to be? Do brands really have to be people's friends?
Alex Bogusky (co-founder of Crispin, Porter & Bogusky) says that "Advertising is, in its purest form, just getting your attention."
That should run through the minds of every marketer and brand manager when it comes to social media too. Social media (when it comes to brands) is essentially another form of advertising, regardless of whether some might feel that it's sacrilegious to say. So as a brand, you must use social media in order to get your audience's attention. You don't need to talk to someone as if you know them; believe it or not, people don't care if you're their friend or not, but rather you need to give them something to talk about. Being link-worthy in social media is the ultimate currency you should be aiming for.
Smart Car provided an excellent example of this when they provided a master class in how to have a personality in social media without the end game just being â€˜getting friends'. When someone sent a joke on Twitter about them, instead of the bland, safe response in order to not get noticed, they instead went the cheeky route. And guess what? They got talked about. They got written about and they got linked to. In response to the tweet "Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it."
If You Don't Have Anything Important To Say...
One of the worst things brands do when it comes to social media is to get obsessed with the idea of content. It is understandably tempting, if you have a social media profile, to fill it with stuff so that you don't get forgotten and you get those all important likes and comments. But this is actually, only really useful if you have something important to say.
Quite often when we follow brands online we, (un)surprisingly, are only really interested in the things they have to say that are about their brand. We're not there for chit chat, we don't even really mind if brands say anything back as long as they're giving us something useful to start with.
The brutal truth is that your social media activity still has to be ultimately tied to your business objectives. Right now, we are in a state of limbo with social media. When it started out, we all jumped in as brands or marketers to make sure we were there, being seen. But right now, investment in social media will only continue if we can prove there is a real business case, and the answer isn't in the numbers. These can be disappointing, even verging on the ridiculous.
If you look at Coca-Cola, the most popular brand page on Facebook, they currently have 51.2 million likes. A nice, big sounding number and certainly the largest for a consumer brand on Facebook. But consider that Coca-Cola has 215 million customers in Latin America alone, and that there are over 1.7 billion servings of Coca-Cola each day, suddenly the figures don't look so impressive.
Which is exactly why making friends in social media is bad for business. Instead, it's about the bigger picture. How far your brand is spread, the word of mouth you're building, the sales you're generating and the brand messages you're portraying. If you make it about friends, you'll probably end up losing.
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