Tag Archives: brand management

Brand – What is Your Story?

How important is a brand story? Let’s start with a true episode … about a week ago or so, I am bugging my 11 year-old daughter to go up and shower and get ready for bed. She says to me, “Dad, I have to watch Glee.”

“We’re DVRing it. You can watch it tomorrow,” I said.

She replied, “No I can’t. I have to watch it tonight. Everyone will be talking about it tomorrow at school.”

Marketers – do you realize how powerful my daughter’s words are? Not because I am biased and think the world of her, but this is exactly what we want for our brands … That our audience feels the need to talk about it tomorrow.

And this is accomplished by having a story line with continuous, periodic episodes. Episodes where the characters that are developed are your values, benefits, products, services, and people. The content of your episodes reinforces why you are in business, not what you are selling (as I mentioned in the article “Marketing Leadership (with a Hint of Social Media“) .

You need a content strategy that plays like the best TV production you know. Glee is about production, character development, and supporting other marketing channels (soundtrack downloads, touring concert, and merchandise). The content each week reinforces their “products.”

I am not suggesting that you need to create and maintain a production as elaborate as Glee, but I am stating you need a storyline. And each content piece you produce is an episode of “your” show, your owned media reinforcing your brand’s value.

And why is a brand story so important?

What’s the story morning glory
Well
Need a little time to wake up, wake up
Well
What’s the story morning glory
Well

– Lyric excerpt from “Morning Glory”, by Oasis

Because stories are what connect us to one another. And if you want to connect your brand with your audience and potential customers/clients and deepen relationships, you need not only have a good story, but also have to determine the outlets or channels where your story will be told and the scheduling for your content releases. If you want people talking about your brand, you need a well executed and coordinated content strategy.

According to Kristina Halvorson, “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” In her article, “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” she goes on to say that the best content strategy defines:

- key themes and messages,
– recommended topics,
– content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements),
– content gap analysis,
– metadata frameworks and related content attributes,
– search engine optimization (SEO), and
– implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance.

I would go on to say that a complete content strategy (your owned media) must also define integration with earned and paid media as I cover in the article “Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media.” But I digress …

Mashable suggests:

- Knowing your voice
– Timing your content
– Knowing your audience
– Solving problems, and
– Being true

as their 5 Key Tips for a Successful Social Media Content Strategy“.” I would add that you need to think how you will stand out from the crowd (read creativity into this) and tactically plan how your content will be shared such that your audience continues to grow.

The point is you should have a brand story. This starts with a brand position but goes a bit deeper to explain why you do what you do. A brand story that is supported by a creative content strategy that views owned media as part of the product/service you deliver. Your content should be a production of episodes across different outlets and channels to continually reinforce the brand.

So what’s your story morning glory?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Facebook and Audience Behavior

Nothing is more important than understanding your audience and their behavior. The best marketers start there and then create strategies to build awareness, consideration, sales, loyalty, and advocates for their brand (in that order).

Technology does not matter. How people use technology matters. Social media does not matter. How people use social media matters. Facebook does not matter. How people use Facebook matters.

How many times have we heard the proclamation “We need a Facebook page” without the deliverer having any insight as to how their audience will use the platform? What would provoke someone to “Like” their brand and even more important, stay engaged with the brand.

I can guarantee you I can get you one million fans/likes in a very short time … offer a free iPad to anyone that “likes” your Facebook page. So once you have one million fans, is that success, or is success getting as many “likes” as possible that stay engaged with your brand? Engaged fans – that is the audience behavior we want for success.

So how do you keep fans engaged? Well, the first thing is to keep the content fresh and continuously changing. You should try to change out content daily and let your fans know of the new content mentioning it on your wall posts. “Fan gating“ is a good way to increase your fans and keep them viewing your content on your Facebook tab. The tab should have exclusive content and is only viewable if a person “likes” your brand. Exclusive content can include unique articles, photos, polls, quizzes, videos, sweepstakes, image galleries, and other things of that sort.

The cadence (how often and when) of your postings has ramifications on your audience engaging with your brand. Other things that drive fan engagement is making sure you manage, moderate, and respond to comments on your wall, and prompting fans for their own UGC (user generated content) and letting fans decide on some aspects of your content by giving them choices. Buddy Media put out a good report titled “Strategies for Effective Facebook Wall Posts: A Statistical Review” which you can download to get some guidance.

At the end of the day, no one strategy fits all brands. You need to measure responses of your audience. You can use Facebook Insights to track fans and interactions over a period of time as well as some other parameters. (See “A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Insights”) What Facebook Insights does not give you is Interactions per Fans. This is the most important number to track. Everyone wants to see a high number of fans, but this number is only important when looking at interactions/fans at the same time. Yes, you want to grow your fans, but grow with fans that engage with you. Another useful source is “How to Measure Facebook Page Engagement.”

Something else to think about is how users “experience” your brand on Facebook. The Facebook experience is very different than a website experience and understanding this is key. The main issue is that users typically experience your brand presence or are alerted to your new content on your Facebook tab from their newsfeed as opposed to going to the brand Facebook page wall. Thus, it is important to recognize that the individuals that “like” your brand may not go to your fan page. You either need to deliver compelling content on your wall (so it hits the individuals’ newsfeed) or alert your fan base of new content on your Facebook tab by mentioning it on your wall. You need to spark a reason why your fans should visit your Facebook page by posting compelling content on your tab. The tab can include exclusive content or interactive features such as polls or quizzes. You must be conscious to keep the contents fresh and updated on a regular basis if you have a Facebook tab.

There are a number of companies that can assist in the development of these tabs either as a service or providing tools for easy do-it-yourself implementation. Some companies worth checking out include Buddy Media, Shoutlet, North Social, and Involver.

You also need to integrate Facebook widgets on your content that appears on your website and/or blog. Hopefully you are aware of the Facebook “Like” button. By including this button on individual content posts you allow your readers to virtually broadcast that they enjoyed and “liked” the particular content piece to all their Facebook friends. So if someone reads your article, “likes it”, and has 150 friends on Facebook, they are referencing it to 150 peoples … nice advocacy.

Facebook also recently launched a “Send” button. The Facebook “send” makes it easier to notify your friends or family than email as you don’t have to remember email addresses, but simply look from a list of people in your social network.

Now, once again, I want to emphasize the importance of understanding audience behavior when they use these two buttons embedded in their content. When someone “likes” something, it is an expression and subconscious statement of who they are. “I like this band, movie, TV show, book, etc.” These declarations are personal bumper stickers. It is a broadcast and part of the formulation of one’s personal brand. As a brand, you need to determine how you play into this mix and entice someone to label themselves as “liking” your brand. Yes, you can get their attention and attraction by doing a sweepstake to get them to “like” you, but what will you do to provide continuous value to get them to build affinity for you, be part of your audience and ultimately become one of your advocates?

Use of “send” is a direct person to person, or person to group communication. When someone uses Facebook “send”, they are telling the recipient(s) “I thought of you and I think you will value this.”

While “like” may be viewed by more of the originator’s social graph, “send” is a stronger endorsement. Point is you need to understand how both can be used.

The Facebook scenarios I have walked through here are just one example of the imperativeness of understanding your audience, what they value, their behavior, and how they might use specific social media platforms. Yes, social media should be an extremely important part of your overall business and marketing strategy, planning, and execution, but you must understand your audiences’ behavior and how they will use the various social platforms you launch. You must measure response and continuously make tweaks in your execution to maximize key performance indicators.

So go ahead – kick some butt with your social implementations – but don’t just do it – think it, then do it, then measure it, then refine it. Continue the cycle.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, Facebook, marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

The Power of Compelling and Engaging Content

Okay, so you’ve read the title of the article and you say no kidding, I know that. But is this part of your strategy and plan before you start posting and tweeting?

Now that so many are getting on board with social media, the persistent nay-sayers are questioning it’s success. And to some degree they are correct. Because far too many are using social media as a sales tool to simply put out promotions. Promotions are like a one-night stand – not debating whether one-night stands are good or bad … that’s for you to decide, but rhetorical question … how long do they last? When it comes to brand marketing, brand reputation, I think most want to work for the customer’s long lasting love as opposed to quick one-shot lust. (Hey this could be my Valentine’s Day edition of the Social Steve blog, but I guess it’s a bit early for that. :) )

Bust seriously, this is real important stuff. Especially for product and service companies looking to have successful social media strategy and execution. Brands – you want to have a reason why prospects and customers stay engaged with you and come back. And the magical element (besides your product value) is great content. Think about it from a magazine subscription perspective. Why would you get a subscription to a specific magazine? Because you like the topic(s) they cover and the creative way they deliver the story. Well it should be no different for you.

Start by asking yourself these questions – Who is my brand’s target market? What does our product/service deliver for that target market and why does the segment value what we deliver? For the target market, what are their values, challenges, interests, and how are they entertained? Think about these sorts of questions and produce compelling and engaging content that is relevant to your product/service offering. The content can be articles, pictures, video, audio, and other forms of multimedia. Avoid sales pitches when generating content. Make your production of content a branding exercise. One that reinforces to your market that you are an expert or leader in your sector. Doing this provides a reason for people to stay connected with your brand.

The next aspect that you should think about when producing content is getting responses and engagement from your audience. I’ve been using this quote for sometime – “Content is not king. Conversation around content is king.” So ask yourself, “Are we producing content that provokes interaction with our audience?” Provide a place for your audience to post their own UGC (user generated content). Once someone gives you something they have written or created, they are more emotionally tied to your brand. Inclusion is a strong reason for connecting with brands.

So you’re creating great content and getting your target market engaged. There is still one more thing to address – What are doing to optimize the sharing of your content by your audience? This is the essence of word-of-mouth marketing. Thus, there should be a specific design strategy for delivery of your content. Let me give just one game changing example …

For a number of years, I worked as a marketing executive in high-tech. I would often participate in key industry conferences as this was an important lead generation venue and activity. (Still is.) Producing collateral for the events was very important – you know product slick sheets you pass out to everyone passing by your booth. If your product is compelling, most will grab and save the product one-sheeter or pamphlet. But what is the likelihood that this gets shared by the receiptant to their network? So what if you gave out a notebook (my favorite giveaway passed out at conferences) with a simple insert with your product information with a QR-code and URL for more detailed information. There are two facets of this approach that makes your product content more likely to be shared: 1) Given the content is part of a notebook that will presumably be used for about 6 months over and over again, there are more chances for the prospect to mention it at various meetings and encounters with others. 2) It is hard to share a brochure and much easier to share a digital asset such as a QR code or URL.

The other sharing features that have almost become ubiquitous at this point are Facebook Like, TweetMe, and other sharing widgets that accompany postings on your site or blog. It is a no-brainer to use these. There are a number of other strategies and tactics for sharing, but the point is planning this!

So if you are a brand, product, or marketing manager think content in your strategy. Produce continuous content that keeps people coming back, subscribing, and sharing. Analyze and measure your releases. What type of content gets the most traffic, the most interaction with your audience and the most mentions or sharing? There are a number of tools to support metric analysis. Listen to your audience – they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

There will be huge rewards for product and service companies that integrate a complete and continuous content strategy to their brand management activities. Take this from someone who has been a marketing executive for a number of product and service companies and is now working at a “content company.”

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

You Are Pretty Easy to Pick Out

This past week, I was walking into work in the crowded lobby of my downtown Manhattan office. All of a sudden I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around and see my boss. After the usual “hi, how’s it going,” exchange, he says to me “You’re pretty easy to pick out.” I say, “Yeah, my shinny bald head” and not to mention that there are not too many men who have both ears pierced in that lobby. Hey – what can I say, I do like to stand out. What else would you expect from someone who had spiked hair and shaved lines in the back of their head and a long tail dropping down the back in the late ‘80s.

But you know there is a really important takeaway here. Let’s relate the “easy to pick out” nature of a person in a crowded Manhattan high-rise lobby to a brand in today’s age. And let’s turn the subject to social media. (What a surprise :) .)

Today, I no longer find myself convincing anyone they need to play in social media, but rather describing that social media is more than Twitter and Facebook, and how to go about it. So I’ll start by recalling one of the first articles I ever wrote for my blog, “Before You Start with Social Media”. I emphasized the importance of knowing who you are, and knowing your target audience. It is important to go through the very old marketing practice of defining your positioning statement. A strong position statement should consist of the following parameters:

• For ……………………… [target customer]
• Who ……………………. [key qualifier – form]
• Our product is a ……… [product category]
• That provides ………… [key benefit]
• Unlike …………………. [main competitor]
• Our product ………….. [key point of differentiation]

Make sure this is honest and real. I am not suggesting that the positioning statement be explicitly communicated, but everything you do communicate should be tested against the positioning statement to make sure your communication reinforces who you are and speaks to your target audience. (Read “bases for Facebook and Twitter strategy” into this statement.) Spend some time on this … this is the structure for everything you do and gets magnified by the branding activities you do. So if this is weak, you’ll be branding crap and if it is strong, you are at step one of strong product/service brand reputation management.

Once you clearly understand your position in the terms described above, you MUST determine how you will rise above all the noise provided by others in your vertical industry. A great example of this is the recent Old Spice campaign in a highly competitive and saturated deodorant space. Take a lesson here. The elements of this success are: 1) knowing who you are and what you stand for, 2) telling your story in a quirky or standout matter, 3) selecting the best social channels to get your story out, and 4) provoking customer engagement. And the outcome – Old Spice will be “pretty easy to pick out.”

Another example is Ford Fiesta. While some car companies are easy to pick out appearing in front of Congressional meetings, Ford is pretty easy to pick out rallying customers and garnering buzz. Ford has a complete integrated marketing strategy that relies heavily on continuous social media – not a limited time campaign.

You don’t have to be a giant like Procter & Gamble or Ford to stand out. There are numerous examples of small businesses using social media to capture their crowd.
Check out:
Follow the food truck using social media,
Doctor uses social media to promote community, customer relationships, and
Small businesses learn to use social media to connect with customers
just for starters.

These are just a handful of examples of brands using social media to make themselves “be easy to pick out.” Isn’t this exactly what you want from your brand?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, Facebook, marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter, Uncategorized