Brand Building and Social Media Strategy

Anyone who has spent time in the brand space will have certainly come across Marty Neumeier’s “The Brand Gap” – it’s one of the foundational books on how to cultivate a brand, and is a must-read for any brand manager.

The central premise of the book is that a brand is not simply a logo, identity or even product. Neither is it what you, the brand manager say it is. Rather, a “brand is a person’s feeling about a product, service or organization.In other words, it’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.”

Branding is all about creating an emotional clarity by providing a story around what you are selling, and social media will fan the flames of those companies that live up to their brand promise, or quickly take down those that are merely selling a false idea.

But what kind of role does social media play in crafting successful brands today? If at it’s core a brand is “what they say it is,” and we have more “theys” sharing their thoughts and ideas with the world, then what does that mean for how brands grow in today’s marketplace?

Let’s take a look at Neumeier’s five basic principle of branding, and how each idea is transformed by social media.

When setting out to launch your product or company and embark on thinking about what kind of brand you want to help shape, don’t start with thinking about the website or the kind of ads you’ll run. Instead, focus on how you can foster interactions with your customers. It’s through those interactions with your consumers that your brand will be shaped and influenced.

The Brand Gap spells out five key disciplines about how to build a brand:

•    Differentiate
•    Collaboration
•    Innovate
•    Validate
•    Cultivate

So where to begin?

Well, just as social media has impacted marketing, customer service and public relations among others, it is influencing these five core disciplines of brand building.

Differentiate: Great brands start with great products, and that differentiation needs to continue through to delivering great customer service and attention to their needs. Some have suggested that customer service is the new marketing, and brands like FreshBooks and Zappos are setting themselves apart from the competition through not just a solid product, but through a passionate desire to build relationships with their customers.

Collaboration: Perhaps more than any of the five principles, social media is giving companies the ability to collaborate with their customers and extended communities. It’s more than just crowd sourcing for “cheap” advertising. Shops are taking it another step further and letting customers shape actual products and services. Champion’s Hoodie Remix not only let’s their fans design a sweatshirt and vote on the best entry, but that winning hoodie design will be added to Champion’s product lineup.

Innovate: How do you know when an idea is innovative? When it scares the hell out of everybody – it’s continually pushing the boundaries and trying something new without ceasing. Social media can be scary ground for some organizations, because when done well, it forces brands into an honest reckoning with their customers about who they really are.

Validate: Neumeir sees Validation as bringing the audience into the creative process, and brands that are listening first on social media platforms are going to gain the insights needed to better meet their customer’s needs. Starbucks, Dell and even American Express are learning how to connect early and regularly with their customers, even in the face of the economic downturn.

Cultivate: “If the old paradigm of brand management had been to control the look and feel of a brand, the new paradigm is to influence the character of a brand.” Paul Isakson addressed this beautifully in his presentation on Modern Brand Building:

The way and speed with which people discover, process and share information has changed dramatically. Create room for agility, flexibility and iteration.”

With some advertisers contemplating a massive $3 million Super Bowl ad buy this coming Sunday, one has to wonder whether a company should attempt to strengthen it’s brand through a mere 30-second spot, or 365-days of continually providing the channels and platforms for developing meaningful connections with their customers.

The brand is no longer omnipresent. Consumers’ response is fueled by tweaks to a brand which are fueled by more change. It’s a symbiotic relationship that allows for more transparency and through that constant discussion, produces better creative and a more honest message for for both the consumer and brand.

How has your social media strategy impacted your company’s brand?

Social Media as a Market Research Tool

I know most of use social media to share photos, keep up with family and all that. But believe it or not a strong social media presence is a powerful tool. It can give you valuable insights into your audience and clientele. Read and create conversations with consumers online, you can read their needs, opinions and criticisms regarding particular products, companies and brands.

Here are three ideas to get a little market research out of your social media:

1. Observe

Just through simple observation social media can provide a lot for market. On a regular basis tune in to what your target audience is saying—on the Facebook pages of competitors, in LinkedIn Groups, every day on Twitter—you can easily pull from that data as you like.

Less structured than polls or surveys, routine observation offers the advantage of immediacy and ease—requiring nothing more than the ability to pay attention.

2. Polls and Surveys

Polls and surveys are a more formalized and yet easy way to conduct market research online: use them to gain information from many readers at once. It is pretty easy to post an online survey that quizzes users for info. Designed to be easy to create and easy to answer, surveys typically have good response rates.

Having a successful survey or poll make sure to consider the following: Publish it on all your networks, make it simple to fill out, offer an incentive (i.e., a chance to win something) and include a short, personal message with the announcement. Remind your followers about the survey before it ends—or even to encourage them to spread the word.

3. Questions

It sounds almost too simple, but the age-old advice is true: if you want to know, ask! Reach out to Twitter followers, Facebook fans and blog followers by simply asking them what you would like to find out.

Then, take the generated user responses and use them to build knowledge on how products or services are being received. You can even engage with individuals on social networks with follow-up questions and responses, building relationships in the process of gathering info.

What do you think? Does your brand use social media to gather info on customers, competitors and your industry?

Posting views on Facebook and other social media sites delivers a powerful reward to the brain similar to the pleasure from food and sex, per a Harvard study.

Social (Online) Profiling, How to cope!

I don’t care what anybody says, but social profiling is here to stay. In the future, no doubt, social profiling is only going to increase. So, do you stay away or do you jump on the bandwagon?

I opt that you jump on the bandwagon. Very simply put with the advent of Kred, Klout and similar platforms anyone can easily profile you. This profiling is a step up from the, “let’s go and learn more about you on Facebook”.  It is going to become the norm for people, employers and whoever to use social profiling in the future.

These new platforms have metrics that measure your digital influence. That’s scary on one hand, but also thinks of it as a level playing field (where one can easily compare you against others on set criteria).

So what do then? Once you are on Kred or Klout, you’ll find out quickly where you stand. For example I started out at 18 on Klout! Damn, I thought, that really is bad (out of a 100). Here are some tips to help boost that up for me (and for you):

1. HAVE SHARING WORTHY CONTENT
Any type of content you create needs to be worthy of sharing. Here are some ideas:

  • Tweet your Niche: Tweet what you specialize in, your niche. As well people like tips, how-to’s etc. Try to make people benefit from your content.
  • Use Quotes: Quotes are short and sweet and people can easily relate to them. Make your quotes about your niche is important. Being short and sweet it is easy for people to retweet your quote, that is very cool.
  • Photos: As they say, “a picture is worth thousand words”. So true! Also remember that photos are easily retweeted. Like quotes, photos are easy to digest.

2) START A DISCUSSION BY ASKING A QUESTION
Ask a question, but something related to your niche. This is tough, but if you have small following, a question can lead to a discussion. Through this for example you can increase your klout score through “feedbacks” from people or more “actions” taken upon your tweets. You can do so by posting tweets such as:

  • Niche Questions: People are more than happy to share their opinions. Ask questions like, “What do you think the trend will be for _____?”
  • Chat in Blog:  Connect with new people and start a discussion on blog chats. It is pretty active and a good way to start new and meaningful conversations with others.

3) ENGAGE WITH INFLUENCERS
The last method is to engage with influencer users in your niche. Get into into their conversation, tweet them, respond to their tweet but make sure that its something that they can respond back too. Hope this helps! I went from 18 to 38 in one day!

Basics: Social Media Marketing & Optimization

Internet is accessed by people all over the globe on the daily basis as it is the reservoir of knowledge and information and above all it has become a medium for the online business. To increase the traffic to your website it is very essential that the site should have the maximum visitors visiting the site.

Social Media Marketing? (SMM)
Social Media Marketing (SMM) is an effective way to grow a connection portfolio by way of social networks, blogs, message forums and online communities. It involves driving traffic to a website through new channels because search engines aren’t the only sites that drive big traffic anymore. Whereas it’s not the end of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But Social Media Marketing (SMM) is another way to drive traffic to your website.

Wikipedia says about SMO:

“Social media marketing is a recent addition to organizations’ integrated marketing communications plans. Integrated marketing communications is a principle organizations follow to connect with their targeted markets. Integrated marketing communications coordinates the elements of the promotional mix; advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion.”                  

Overall, social media furnish the large range of online marketing methods of leverage and maximize targeted visitors. The Social Media Optimization Services creates your web page highly prominent in social media searches. This cost efficient online marketing strategies assure to encourage your business concern internationally.

Social Media Optimization? (SMO)

Social media optimization is a more narrowly defined activity then social media marketing. Social media optimization is often limited to making a web site or blog more adaptable to social media.

Wikipedia says about SMO:

“Social Media Optimization is in many ways connected as a technique to viral marketing where word of mouth is created not through friends or family but through the use of networking in social bookmarking, video and photo sharing websites. In a similar way the engagement with blogs achieves the same by sharing content through the use of RSS in the blogosphere and special blog search engines.”                        

The idea behind social media optimization is that by adding compelling, dynamic and fresh content on a regular basis, e.g. through Tip Sheets, How To listings, white papers, a podcast or bl-og, a web site gets more easily and frequently linked to and achieves top ranking and visibility in the general and specialty search engine such as Technorati, Blog Pulse and podcast directories. Other examples of SMO are the implementation of links to social media web sites to make tagging, sharing bookmarks (Del.icio.us), and voting for content (Digg, Netscape and Stumble U-pon) by visitors easier.

Social Media Optimization is in many ways connected as a technique to viral marketing where word of mouth is created not through friends or family but through the use of networking in social bookmarking, video and photo sharing websites. In a similar way the engagement with blogs achieves the same by sharing content through the use of RSS in the blogosphere and special blog search engines.

Rohit Bhargava explains five suggestions for social media optimization.

1. Increase your linkability
2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy
3. Reward inbound links
4. Help your content travel
5. Encourage the mashup
Read his post here

Some additions by Jeremiah Owyang:

6. Be a User Resource, even if it doesn’t help you
7. Reward helpful and valuable users
Read his post here

Couple more from Cameron Olthuis:

8. Participate
9. Know how to target your audience
10. Create content
11. Be real
Read his post here

Some more from Loren Baker:

12. Don’t forget your roots, be humble
13. Don’t be afraid to try new things, stay fresh
Read more here

Some additions by Lee Odden:
14. Develop a SMO strategy
15. Choose your SMO tactics wisely
16. Make SMO part of your process and best practices
Read more here

Remember, SMO is not a one-time game. You need to keep the ball rolling, be consistent. If you are writing a blog, trying podcasting or joining conversations, just be consistent. Consistent effort is the key to success.

Benefits of Social Media Optimization service include a better understanding of product issues, awareness of consumer opinions and feedback from various sources, and other posted content found that talk about your company, products or services, employees, or other company information.

Think of SMO as a lead generation and SMM as the collateral you use to give to your leads.

Hope you found this post helpful.

This is as simple as it gets for social media!

This is as simple as it gets for social media!