Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brand builds relationships & relevance - Social media facilitates it

Today's snack - brand & engagement
The Business 2 Community website published an interview called 6 Questions on Social Media With Ted Rubin. While the overall interview was good, what resonated with me is the following statement:

" continue to reach your market, it's not about advertising any more, but about building relationships. Just activating your audience, however, is not enough. A brand always needs to be working to keep these valued influencer and advocate relationships alive and strong and build an emotional connection. Always remember that brand loyalty declines due to lack of relevance..."

Dialogue: A conversation with a center not sides 
Courtesy of relationship economics
A company's brand should focus on cultivating relationships and relevance with influencers and champions of the product to get to the TRUTH about their products. Building relationships speaks to my statement from yesterday's post that companies shouldn't talk AT people but rather WITH people. This requires one be willing to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. This also requires that companies be willing to participate in dialogue with proponents and opponents alike. This is hard, I know, particularly because of the blood, sweat, and tears one pours into their work.

But we worked soooo hard on it!
Companies spend tons in time and cash to be right about their products. What I've learned over the years is that no matter the effort you've spent identifying the perfect solution to a problem, you'll always find you've missed something. This is where building and maintaining relationships comes into play. 

Like a good friend who will tell you the truth no matter how hard it is for them to say it and for you to hear it, these are the people who will let you know what you've missed. You can hear it as criticism or you can internalize it as part of the collaborative process. You decide.

Just doing it - using social media to build relationships & relevance
Social media is the game changer as is the option to rate products because it creates a platform for regular people to chime in on things important to them. Why should companies care? Everyone knows the people using a product, doing the work, etc have the clearest view of it. The farther removed one is from the day-to-day product interaction, the less realistic the view point is. I see social media as a tool to facilitate meaningful interactions, to work together to create useful products, experiences, and services for and with the people using them. 

Strategy? Well, kinda...
Companies tend to spend a good deal of time on social media strategy for their products, but Ted Rubin suggests one just jump in and do it - connect with customers now. While I'm all for rolling up our sleeves and diving in, I do think it's good to agree internally on certain ground rules for publishing and response. Consider the following when using social media to engage customers: 

  • What types of information do you want to share?
  • Frequency of sharing
  • Response time to direct feedback
  • How will you handle a rogue commenter?
  • What mediums will you use to connect with customers? Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn? 
  • Is the content you're sharing true to your brand and company values?
  • Are you at risk of being too present in your customers' lives?
Here's a link to a list published by Mashable that highlights examples of how some companies are using social media to engage. 

Walk with us, not over us
One of my favorite examples of a company effectively using social media is Patagonia because they've embedded the engagement experience across multiple platforms from their blog to their catalogue. The stories, the perspective, the position on the environment, the timely Tweets, etc are all representative of a company walking with the rest of us, not over us.

What social media tool works best for you to engage your customers? What input has influenced your product evolution the most?

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