Category Archives: brand reputation

Digital Technologies and User Behavior Change What it Means to Be a Brand

If you look on Wikipedia for the definition of a brand, you find that it is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” But as a marketer, I think it is much more important to think of what it means to be a brand in terms of your target audience.

Thus, I define a brand as a promise made from a company to its target audience with regards to the product(s) it sells. A brand is defined by characteristics such as quality, features, availability, and overall user experience. When done right, every single aspect of the brand definition is lived by and delivered by every employee of the company.

brand and digital

But a funny thing happened along the way. Knowledgeable marketers started using poetic justice of communication and claims of the product/service sold by the company and stretched the truth. All this in an effort to increase sales. In some cases, this resulted in members of the target audience reacting and purchasing the brand. If shoppers were unhappy, they would stop buying the product, and maybe even tell a friend. The user did not believe “the promise” and reacted. As this plight has continued throughout marketing and advertising of brands, it has spawned an overall skeptical outlook by people with regards to company claims and advertisement belief. This cynical perception did not happen overnight. It took a good 50 years or so of “Mad Men” to drive this behavior.

Fast forward to today’s world. How do people react when they feel they have been misled by product claims? How do they react when they have a bad user experience? More and more users are sharing their product experiences. Whether it is sharing with their entire network on a platform like Facebook or broadcasting it to the world on a platform like Twitter.

The promise is still part of being a brand, but it is exponentially more important today.

So now that you understand the change, let me describe for you the gigantic immense problem this creates. The stretching of the truth that companies get caught in is a big problem, but it really is not the biggest problem. The key problem today is that companies have lost their ability to build brand AND engage appropriately in the digital world, simultaneously. Too many companies treat branding as one activity and digital/social marketing as a separate implementation. Company executives need to take responsibility of this detrimental scenario.

How many companies have a responsible leader in place with experience, business knowledge, and creativity to build and retain a brand COUPLED WITH experience, business knowledge, and creativity to drive successful digital marketing? The answer to this question is very few. And even worse, the fact that brand marketing and digital marketing are siloed exacerbates the problem.

The debacle up from this problem shows its ugly face daily. There are numerous companies that do not reinforce brand positioning through their digital implementations. The people running the digital channels are most often blind to what it means to carry out a brand voice and imaginary through social engagement. Many companies do not have a digital engagement strategy that centers on upholding the brand persona.

And adding to the challenge is the fact that brand position is equally in the hands of the audience as well as the company’s hands. The audience has a voice that is stronger and moves faster than ever before. You need to have a strategy and a plan that addresses how to leverage this audience rather than ignoring their voice and power that is carried in the digital world.

I think it is imperative to understand how the world of a brand has changed due to the technology changes and more importantly, human behavior. Every company needs a leader that has the skill set to address the change. Through my experience, I have worked with companies that do not want to address the change head on. Working the corporate environment and being a positive change agent has become a slippery slope. I would not go so far as to call the two a dichotomy, but together they are definitely challenging.

It takes bold, strong, experienced leaders to navigate a company due to the real and significant changes that technology and user behavior have created. The outcome of these changes cannot continue to be ignored or swept away. Whether it is fear, lack of skill set, or don’t rock the boat corporate mentality, it is no longer acceptable to keep brand marketing and digital marketing siloed. The future of your business depends upon it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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3 Steps to Fix Marketing Now

97% of marketing endeavors do nothing to move their audience. OK, that is not from a study. It is my own perspective. But consider the abundance of articles you see day in and day out noting marketing’s malignant state. For example …

Joe Marchese compares the state of advertising to the subprime debacle in 2008

• Joseph Jaffe hints to “The End of Advertising.”

90% of marketers are not trained in marketing performance, ROI

CMOs are missing the boat on what it means to be a modern CMO

• “While 74% of global businesses have a digital strategy, only 33% believe it’s the right strategy, and beyond that, only 21% – or less than one-fourth – believe they have the right people setting the strategy.”

needed marketing changeI could go on and on with the list above, but hopefully you have a bad enough taste in your mouth already. It would be great to talk about marketing innovation, but marketing innovation is an oxymoron. I’ll give you an example. I am an advisor to a new 1:1 brand/user content distribution company. We are a startup. How many CMOs do you think want a case study before proceeding? First off, every company that delivers case study has some spin to it. (If you want to gain some deeper insights into the flaws of case studies read what @augieray has to say about them.) And secondarily, don’t true innovators do something different rather than being me-too-ers.

According to Wikipedia, “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs.” And that is exactingly what marketing needs. A better solution to meet the new changing requirements dictated by audience behavior. Audience behavior that is defined by digital, mobile, social, and the ability to validate, refute, or ignore brand advertising and communication. Marketing has done an extremely poor job at keeping up with their audience’s behaviors and usage patterns.

So what are you going to do to fix this? I have three recommendations:

1) Completely change your marketing mentality from being a sales-tangent to focusing on customer relationship building. Marketing needs to lead relationship building and demonstrate brand worthiness in the form of delivering continued value and optimization of the entire user experience. If you build a strong relationship with your customers, they will be loyal buyers and advocates. If you merely concentrate on a sale you open the door for another brand to win over a fickle customer. This change of mentality will actually yield greater success of your sales objective in the long run. Don’t be so short sighted.

2) The CMO must change or the CMO needs to be changed. An overwhelming number of top marketing executives are not active on digital, mobile, and social channels that their audience engages on. How can the emperor understand the common people if he/she does not participate where the audience does and engage with them? How can anyone put together a digital strategy that yields success if they are not a regular user in digital? Far too many CMOs (or Chief Strategy Officers) do not have digital skill sets. Far too many CMOs/CSOs do not understand user digital behavior.

3) Move to a zero-based marketing budget. Just throw out everything you’ve done in the previous year unless you are certain that it has returned positive measureable results. If we agree that marketing needs a major facelift, how can all marketing line items you do year in and year out be correct. Start clean. Your audience behavior has changed so much, it warrants a complete revamp.

I know I have brought up a number of contentious recommendations. Change is tough. No one really likes change. But as the audience behavior has dramatically morphed over the past number of years, too many marketing executives have stayed stagnant. Too many believe they can just hand digital marketing over to a young digitally sharp user and think they have things covered. Well results say this is far from true. So while company marketing leaders’ skill sets have not changed much over the years, a significant void has emerged. And it is going to take some strong willed people to make changes that are required.

Are you ready to step up to what is truly required?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Why Marketing Must Change Due to Social Media Behavior

Let me get this right on the table. Neither technology nor hype demands the change of marketing. Rather it is the behavior of human beings usage of new technologies that demand marketers adapt.

marketing leaderBrand reputation always sat in the hands of the target audience. But now the way people use social channels to compliment or reject brands creates an exponential power for people to influence brand reputation. This is the main reason why marketing must change due to social media behavior. When brands falter, the nature of people is to call foul. And now the technology of social media creates a platform for greater consumer power. This is the case independent of a brand’s participation or lack there of on social channels. Many brands are afraid to open up a social channel in fear of what their customers might say. But anyone can post derogatory statements on Twitter, forum, review sites, and any other platform. And the use of these other channels is likely to have a more positive or detrimental effect on the brand anyway.

Earlier this week I tweeted “Social media means people see the difference between what you (brands) say and do.” Think about it for a minute. People now can (and do) call out brands in a highly social forum when they step out of line.

And this brings up a very important point. Honesty, not transparency, is a new marketing demand due to social media behavior. Too many people mistake the importance of brand transparency when they really mean brand honesty. Marketing is really about demonstrating a great value and overall user experience of your product/service. Nothing in the world is perfect. In fact, some companies may avoid perfection on purpose because the result would drive pricing up too much while the product at hand is quite sufficient and valuable for the market they serve. Transparency would mean a requirement to openly show all the warts of your business. This is not necessary. But honesty is. Be careful of stretching product claims via advertorial “poetic justice.” It is an invitation for revolt of social channels.

And there is one other thing about social media behavior you should consider. People want to share positive experiences with their friends, family, and colleagues. They express these experiences on their social space. This means that brands should go beyond the marketing of their product/service and give their target audience a reason to love them. There are many tactics that brands can use to accomplish this love. Social cause. Producer of valued added content. And many other tactics beyond product/service value that give your audience a reason to love your brand and share it.

So if there are two new punctuated rules to successful marketing it is 1) honesty, not transparency; and 2) taking a big step forward and offering reasons beyond product/service value for people to love your brand. These two approaches will truly ignite your audience. The audience will react and initiate your desired actions. This is the new successful marketing mentality.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Please Ask Yourself – Are You Worthy of Having Me as Your Customer

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself if you are worthy of having customers? What exactly does that mean?

worthy business

Well it starts with having a thorough understanding of your customers. They are people with wants and needs, and can get motivated and/or disillusioned by your actions and presence. You need to understand your target audience beyond an interest in their purchases. Previously, I stated that empathy was the most important word in marketing. Marketing strategy must start with target audience empathy.

If you really understand your target audience, you are in a position to prove to them that you are worthy of their business. And digital marketing is a key asset to use to demonstrate your worthiness? Not sure about that? Consider the following …

1) Where do consumers and business decision makers go to capture product/service information?
2) What does it take to be perceived as a subject matter expert?
3) How relevant and prolific is the use of mobile?
4) What is more compelling and believable … Hearing a product/service is great from the brand itself or an objective individual?

If you take time to answer the questions above, I think it becomes a no-brainer how important a strong digital presence. As you think about your digital marketing strategy, go back to the first question I asked … Are you worthy of having me as a customer?

Think about how your digital presence can continually prove you are worthy of your target audience’s business. Here are some elements that should be part of your digital activities, presence, and implementations …

1) Listen – listen to what your target audience is saying. This should guide everything you do in business if you truly are a customer-centric business.
2) Engage – connect with people to build deeper relationships such that you learn more from them and win their trust and support.
3) Content – deliver stories and information that your audience truly values. Give them a reason to stay connected and interested.
4) Outreach – actively seek people that are interested in your product/service area. Search the internet, forums, communities, online groups, etc. for relative conversations and participate.
5) Mobile – everything you produce online needs to be accessible via mobile. Just look at the growing number mobile use. If your digital presence is not mobile-ready, you are missing out on a good part of your potential audience.

Granted, much of what I have just stated resembles last week’s post where I focused on the areas you need to focus on for social marketing success. The point in this week’s article is that social marketing actions are driven by the objective of winning the customer over. And this goes far beyond a particular product or service. Digital presence gives marketers an opportunity to provide a product/service extension … a strong enhancement of the user experience.

If there is one reason why you need to ask yourself if you are worthy of having your target audience as customers, it is because the actual audience is asking themselves, “are you worthy of having ME as your customer?” Purchase decisions are being driven by customer use of digital technologies more and more. Social and mobile technologies may not invoke “last click” purchase action, but they certainly set the path to the final purchase, ongoing loyalty, and advocacy.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, content marketing, influence marketing, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

All You Should Know About Social Marketing to Be Successful

I have been blogging now for five years on the topic of social media and social marketing. I have shared a great deal of information with regards to social best practices, case examples, integration, and organizational implementations. There is a wealth of information contained here within The SocialSteve Blog. But wouldn’t it be nice if it could all be pulled together in one article? (Really – that is impossible.) But I will attempt to give you a “Cliff Notes” version of what you need to know about social marketing that I have covered in my blog.

All You Need to Know About Social Marketing

So lets get cracking and I will refer you to some key highlights from The SocialSteve Blog …

The first thing to realize is that brands need to use social media to enhance their brand image as covered in the article “Brands in the Age of Social Media.” Some brands were initially apprehensive to get involved in social media because they believed that they lost control of their brand position. Certainly, objective audience postings are more believable than subjective brand communication, but administration of good traditional marketing practices and utilization of social marketing highly increases company-driven brand influence.

Social media has put brand reputation in the hands of the democracy of users. Thus, brands must build strong relationships with users. And the way to do this from the start is to have complete empathy for the target audience. Yes “empathy” is “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” And once you have empathy for your target audience, “Connections and Relationships are No Different for Social Media” than in “regular” social situations.

So far, I have mentioned some of the general mentalities required for successful marketing, but generalities are not enough. You must understand the “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals.” The first fundamental starts with a strong and inseparable link between content and social marketing. A content strategy and social marketing strategy must be determined in unison. The brand definition is the center point of marketing strategy and content must reinforce what the brand is about without directly referring to the product. The social marketing strategy must then address how the content is to be proliferated such that readers/viewers/contributors share the content and some even become advocates. Throughout my blogging career (really not a career but a platform to share), I have given much coverage to content. It is imperative – crappy content, crappy social marketing; stellar content by the perception of the target audience, damn good chance of winning social marketing. Consider reading through some selected content article highlights:

Content Marketing – A Must for Marketing Communications
4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy
7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business
The Power of UGC (User Generate Content) for Social Marketing
Evolving Social Media Marketing – From Content Marketing to Contextual Content Marketing
If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words, What is the Value of a 6-Second Video #Vine

The next social marketing fundamental is far too often missed. Social marketing is not about building the social field of dreams and having people show up. Social marketing starts by going to relevant conversations where they exist as opposed to expecting a crowd to show up on your Facebook page or simply following your Twitter feed. You need to go beyond your own social assets and go where the existing conversation exists and start to engage there. Early on, I coined the social media A-Path. The A-Path allows social marketers to traverse their target audience through a sequential path increasing commitment to brand at each stage. The A-Path starts by getting brand Attention, followed by Attraction, then Affinity, Audience, and Advocacy. The early part of this path is accomplished on social channels other than the ones the brand owns and manages. As you progress your audience through the A-Path you slowly wean users to brand-owned social channels. This method is described in “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.” When using this approach, marketers need to understand “When to Ask for a “Call-to-Action’ in Social Media.” Following this approach provides an understanding of how “Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales.” You will also see the relationship of “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel.” And one other note on this holistic approach to social marketing … Do not jump to a conclusion that your Facebook “likers” are your audience. Understand “Where ‘Audience’ Fits in Social Media.” It is likely different than you assume.

And now the last imperative social marketing fundamental is to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” Specifically, I am talking about social media marketing measurement. The referenced article outlines that awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy should be measured. Not sales. Parameters to be measured in the four categories are covered in the article. When it comes to measurement and “Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term.”

So you have the fundamentals down, right? Now, where do you start? “Before You Start with Social Media” you need to apply marketing basics. The referenced article explains the need to understand the brand and its position, defining a communication or campaign objective, as well as defining a communication plan. A presentation deck is provided to take you through the steps. The deck was later updated in a more recent post, “University Social Marketing Presentation.” And when you put together your social strategy, you must pay attention to “Marketing Demographics and the Ramifications of Social Media.” Consider psycho-demographics as well as standard demographics. Psycho-demographics identify various segments of the target audience’s state of mind. When you identify the various states of mind, you can then deliver contextually relevant content.

Now that you have the fundamentals and a game plan, you cannot stop there. Far too many companies make errors with regards to organizational issues for social marketing. Here are some very important issues …

CEO understanding and support
Social Media in Your Company – Guidance for Where It Fits In
When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider ….
Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person
3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

Social media gives the target audience a strong voice. Brands can no longer put out statements and advertisements and expect the audience to simply accept what they are saying. Brands need to listen to their audience, engage and build relationships. Brands have an opportunity to build an emotional bond with their audience. Emotional branding will yield loyalty, word of mouth marketing and overall, long-term brand preference and sustainability. Social marketing is a must in today’s consumer driven world.

You now have the definition of how to drive social marketing success. Let me know what else you need or do not understand.

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

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Who Gets Your Brand Persona?

A brand persona is the social role or character your brand plays. Does your brand have a (formally) defined persona? Before I even ask if your audience gets your brand persona, let me ask this … Does your entire company get your brand persona? And most importantly, does your social marketing person or team thoroughly understand the brand’s persona? The social manager needs to live the brand persona more than anyone else in your entire organization. Your brand’s social presence must be a total reflection and reinforcement of the brand persona.

persona

I always knew the great importance of an established and solid brand persona, but it really hit home this past week … My son and I were watching the TV show “The Voice” (a guilty pleasure for both of us). The show was eliminating two contestants. There were eight singers from the previous days sing off and the three with the least votes from the television audience were in jeopardy. On the night we were watching, one contestant would be saved and continue in the competition. The show’s host asked the viewing audience to tweet “#thevoicesaveyourchoice“ within the next three-minute period and the contestant generating the most tweets would continue in the competition. Both my son and I thought one contestant should be the obvious one to be saved. I said Max, “Why don’t you tweet to save Matthew?” He said he agreed but that he did not want that on his tweeter stream. The indirect point he was making was that tweeting something in reference to The Voice was an infringement on the persona he wanted to portray on his social presence. In fact, I felt the same way. That is why I did not tweet a “#thevoicesaveMatthew” because it did not support my musical persona. (As I said, The Voice is a guilty pleasure.)

Subconsciously, both my son and I were totally tuned into our individual brand persona in our social presence. Not that we actually took time to think about “marketing” and “branding” when it came to ourselves. It was just a natural reaction. But we instinctively knew what type of postings support and deviate from the social presence and persona we wanted to portray.

Now let me ask you a question. How close does your brand’s social person or team produce a reflection of your brand’s persona on social channels? Every post, every engagement, every exchange in your brand’s social presence must fit your brand persona. Your social manager needs to be as sensitive as that teenager who worries what everyone will think of his/her post. The social manager needs to stop for a second before every social exchange and ask, “Does this reflect the personality and voice of our brand.”

While I recognize that what I am saying here may not be new to you, I am challenging you to make sure you REALLY execute.

1) Have a formal brand persona defined and distributed to everyone in your company.
2) Reinforce to everyone that if you are to get your target audience emotionally attached to your brand, the company as a whole must act and present itself in one unified personality and persona.
3) Train your social manager. Make sure he/she completely understands the brand position, personality, voice, values, and persona. Test the social manager from time to time to make sure they represent your brand presence 100% correctly.
4) Listen to your audience and insure your brand persona resonates and appeals with them. Make modifications to optimize the intersection of your brand position and your target audiences wants, needs, desires, and motivations.

Strengthen your product/service with an outstanding persona that creates an awesome extension of the brand user experience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Social Media Posting vs. Winning Brand Preference

Are you just aimlessly posting or are you working to drive brand preference in your social marketing efforts?

brand preferenceLet’s be clear. The objective of social marketing is to create brand preference such that when individuals are ready to make a purchase decision in the brand’s category, they repeatedly prefer your brand. Brand preference can be measured by a Social Brand Index that considers awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (Note – I developed and use the Social Brand Index when working with brand clients.) Social marketing success is measured by the degree of brand preference you capture. You need to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” before you start your social strategy, plan, execution, and collection of data.

So if you are responsible for your brands social presence, recognize that each posting is a small opportunity to create brand preference. Many can come up with a cute or humorous post, but how many can pull together a social presence that:

1) creates continuous brand preference, and
2) integrates across all other company activities?

Let’s take these one at a time. First, what does it mean to create brand preference via social marketing? It means that

• every posting,
• all the listening on brand social platforms and elsewhere in the digital space,
• every piece of content production,
• every digital conversation, and
• all promotion opportunities

are aimed at

• influencing positive brand perception,
• brand loyalty,
• brand love, and
• growing word of mouth marketing for the brand.

How many social effort areas are truly choreographed to accomplishing this? While social marketing posts must by timely and spontaneous (real-time marketing), opportunistic content and postings must still be aimed at achieving and deepening brand preference. Before you post something, simply run a litmus test … Ask, “Is this post aimed at further creation of obtaining brand preference?” This is what I mean when asking what the difference is between social postings and creating brand preference.

But the social marketing effort is not done there. It must be integrated with all other company areas that affect and touch the target audience … That would most likely be the entire company. Remember, the job of social marketing is creating brand preference. Thus, social marketers must collaborate with direct marketers (advertisement, promotions, PR, email, event, SEO, display, etc.), executive branches, customer service, and all other support services. The collaborative nature with other functional areas in the company must be give and take. That is, social marketers must deliver target audience information and perception to the company as a whole as a function of social listening. Social marketers must also capture activities (plans, strategy, stories, programs, thought leadership, etc.) from the extended company functional groups that should be shared to the target audience to help shape brand preference.

Far too often, brands take on social marketing because they think it is a must for their business without understanding what the objective should be and how to measure the results. From a strategic perspective, this means developing a plan, activities, and metrics that will yield true brand preference. From a tactical perspective this means stopping for 5 seconds before posting to ask, “Is this post incrementally helping to yield brand preference.”

Brand preference is established by having (at a minimum) a satisfactory product/service, but that offering is then supported by unwavering commitment to the buyer. Social media is a prime opportunity to demonstrate target audience commitment. In social marketing, the commitment shown by production of superior content (valuable information and/or entertaining media), listening and taking action on applicable posts on a variety of platforms, and engaging in conversation with socially active users (especially influencers).

What are you doing in your social marketing activities to create brand preference?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Why Brands Need to Embrace Social Media Fear

C’mon, admit it. You don’t want to be the last to know. You don’t want to miss out on something important. In fact, a new acronym has emerged in social media to highlight the fear. FOMO – fear of missing out.

And FOMO creates a great opportunity for brands. Brands need to recognize that their audience is thirsty for news, information, and entertainment. They want to be in the know. Given this reality, ask what your brand is doing to produce content to give them the information they value?

When we think of FOMO, the focus is typically on a younger audience in B2C marketing. In order to highlight that social media fear is prevalent in older audiences and applicable to B2B marketing as well, let me introduce a new acronym. FONK – fear of not knowing.

WTF

Let’s face it. As professionals in a given line of business, you need to be on top of the latest business news and innovations. No one ever wants to be in a conversation or meeting and be asked, “What do you think of … ,” and have no idea about the given issue.

So both FOMO and FONK present a grand opportunity for brands to deliver value to their target audience and keep them coming back. FOMO and FONK should help to drive your brand content strategy and your engagement strategy. You want to be perceived as the subject matter expert on the topics that relate to your brand. You need to have a reputation that your digital presence and assets are the places to go to keep up on trends and developments. Furthermore, would it not be great if people engage and debated those same topics on your digital spaces?

It is quite simple. If you can help people with their FOMO and FONK, you can be their savior. And brands, it is really not too bold to think you can be your audience savior.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Do You Need 24/7 Social Media Hours of Operations?

open 24 hoursDetermining your brand’s hours of social media operations is one of the most difficult questions answer. Social purists will be quick to say 24/7 operations are required because user digital hours are very different than store hours. But it is very easy for someone that does not have the budget and profit/loss responsibility to state idealistic requirements.

Lets start with the obvious … One size does not fit all. The appropriate hours for social media operations vary from brand to brand, company to company. There is no blanket answer. It depends on the product/service offered, overall brand positioning, and target audience behaviors.

Before we attempt to come up with the right answer for your company, please consider a handful of relevant issues:

1) There are really four reasons why you potentially want social media activities beyond “typical” hours of operation: a) to engage in customer service issues and problem resolution, b) to expedite responses to postings on your brand social channels, c) to actively listen for brand mentions in the entire social universe to manage brand reputation, and d) for continuous real time content distribution to address your worldwide audience.
2) Social marketing and customer service are not synonymous. There is definite overlap and social media platforms may be be used in customer service. Therefore, you need to determine if extended hours of “social media operations” is a responsibility of the customer service team or the social marketing team. Start by defining requirements of the “use” of social media.
3) How important is it to respond immediately to comments on your brand social platforms as it relates to your brand position and reputation? Could a 12-hour delay in responding actually diminish your brand’s reputation such that it affects audience brand consideration, preference, and/or loyalty.
4) Recognizing that bad news is shared and travels fast, how important is it to have a disaster PR business plan in place? A disaster business plan that actively neutralizes negative social postings.
5) Does your brand need to proliferate compelling content throughout the 24-hour day, or are one or two compelling daily posts valued by your audience?

If you start by looking at your brand position and audience behavior and expectations, you will begin to zero in on your specific social operational hours required. I do not think 24/7 operations are required, but I do think there needs to be continuous social business plans that address 24 hour operations. Let me explain.

First off, I am saying that there need not be a “social manager” position working 24 hours in the day. The customer service team should have access to social monitoring tools and be trained how to respond on social channels. Maybe it is a customer service organization that requires 24/7 operations. This really depends on the size and portion of the audience that uses the brand product or service, or makes purchase decisions throughout a 24-hour day.

Second, social media publishing tools allow posts to be scheduled throughout the day. Social managers can queue up a number of posts during their working hours to be posted throughout the day. The speed of response required is more important in determining social operation hours than actual brand postings.

And last but not least, consider social business continuity plans. When I talk about social business continuity plans, I am suggesting that organizations work through a number of “what if” scenarios to determine how to activate social operations and responses. Activation of social operations is not the same as having social staff working all the time. It is kind of like the life of a journalist … A journalist does not work 24/7. For news media companies, there is always someone monitoring “events.” If a grand event emerges in the middle of the night, the journalist is on call to cover the event immediately. The ramifications as it relates to business social operations is that brands need to monitor and listen 24/7. This could be accomplished via an outsourced party. Brands need to pre-plan “what if social scenarios” and have appropriate people on call and workflows to take action immediately.

When you pull this all together, I am suggesting that social monitoring needs to be a 24/7 activity. Actual social managers need not be working 24/7, but a group of social responsible managers need to be on call 24/7. And this is not limited to the person with the social manager title.

I’d like to highlight one other point. Under no circumstances can social operations be limited to Monday through Friday operations. In most industries, target audience activity is not limited to weekday activity.

In summary, understand who you are, what you stand for, and your audience behavior. That will drive the right answer to the working hours of your social operations. Also, make sure you put in place an action plan for social events that happen throughout the entire day. You need to make sure you can react at any point as situations warrant. This requires having monitoring capabilities and workflows defined; not social media managers working 168 hours in the week.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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