Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

[Editor's note: the following is a guest post by Peter Friedman, CEO of LiveWorld]

Social media is a dynamic, never-ending flow of conversation and relationships among and between customers and the brands they. Expressing a brand in that context is very different from deploying a traditional marketing campaign. That’s why taking your brand social doesn’t start with a Facebook page or a clever tweet. It starts with considering how you’ll develop a brand narrative through your customers’ experiences and share them in this interactive space.

At LiveWorld we’ve developed a model called the Social Brand Identity, which provides the foundation for a truly integrated social presence. The Social Brand Identity starts with business goals, with the intent of connecting them to social implementation. It develops a cultural context to guide how customers will experience each other and the brand in social media; lays out how the brand will participate in social; and describes how the social program will be integrated with the rest of the marketing mix. A company might create a single overall social brand identity, one for each brand, or a combination of both, depending on its strategy and structure.

The shortest version of the process has five steps.

1. Define goals and target audience 

Social is a terrific business opportunity—if you treat it as a way to connect with your customers and deliver personal touch at scale. And so we start by defining the business objectives that will be served by the social media program. There have been several high-profile stories about big brands spending millions on social media but failing to see results and therefore shifting back to traditional media.

What you find when you peel back the onion is that these situations aren’t a failure of the medium, but a failure in the planning and, in turn, the execution. It’s not surprising that if you don’t know what success looks like upfront, you don’t see results. The key lies in how well a brand works to extend the in-store experience to customers in social spaces.

2. Develop A Socialized Brand Statement 

Social media gives your brand the opportunity to relate more directly to customers. But companies don't have relationships; people do. [Tweet this

To project your brand into a relationship-building space, you’ll need to re-conceive of the brand as a persona and a relationship dynamic—one that focuses on the relationships among your customers, not just relationships with the brand. Why would your customer want to “make friends” with you in social? How is the brand relating to its target audience? Are you a cool friend? An older sister? A parent? A teacher? The best boss they ever had? 

For example, consider Oreo: the clever cookie who you want at your Super Bowl party, or any party, because he’ll always crack the best jokes. Starting with the brand’s core positioning, work through how it will be experienced in the context of social media dialogue and relationships. Think about what you’d like your customer to tell others about what they get from your brand in social media.

3. Define Your Party Model 

If your brand’s social media presence were a party, what kind of party would it be: A sit-down dinner? A chic soiree? A country BBQ? Defining your online party model is incredibly important, because it doesn’t just define the content that the brand pushes out. It also helps define how fans relate to each other on the page—which in the end will shape your brand as much or more than your own content.

What kind of party you’ll throw and the kind of conversations that happen there depend on your goals, socialized brand statement, target audience, and of course the broader brand values and attributes you’d like to bring forward. 

4. Personalize and Socialize the Brand

Now that you’ve developed the relationship dynamic of your brand. How else is the brand going to develop a unique voice in social media? Finding and engaging representatives among both your employees and your fans dramatically increases your ability to build and strengthen relationships in the social space. 

Your most important social asset (after your customers) is your people. Can you find ways to let customers peek beyond the frontlines via social so that your company is no longer an entity, but a living breathing collaboration of people delivering your product? In this step, identify likely representatives that could be tapped immediately, and make a list of future ideas for brand involvement.

5. Integrate Across Marketing

Integration means featuring your social campaigns and platforms in your TV and print ads, packaging, web presence, events, and sales process. Not just listing your Facebook URL, but giving people a glimpse of the activity there, maybe featuring user content. Over time, social media will ideally not be bolted on to your traditional marketing. It will be foundational to the entire customer experience, touching people through your marketing, sales and customer support—that’s the truly socialized brand. While true integration will require the buy-in of your organization, start the process by creating this roadmap of what it would look like. 

Remember, social media is all about conversation and relationships with customers. So don’t look at the Social Brand Identity as a final conclusion to how your brand will express itself in social media. It’s just the start. As you develop followers, their activity will help you revise and improve your approach, leading to new answers and ideas for each of these steps. With customers’ help your brand will evolve and grow stronger and with it their loyalty.

Image source: "Millais Boyhood of Raleigh" by John Everett Millais. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

About Peter Friedman
Peter Friedman (friedman@liveworld.com) is the Chairman and CEO of LiveWorld a services and technology company built to enhance the customer experience for global brands through social media. LiveWorld fosters social media environments that are natural continuations of the experiences customers have with brands—and with each other—in the real world. Solutions include: strategic planning, content development, engagement & moderation, program management, social advertising, social listening, measurement and reporting. LiveWorld is a trusted partner of the world’s largest brands including the category leaders in consumer-packaged  goods, financial services, retail and travel services. LiveWorld is headquartered in California with offices in New York City and San Jose. Learn more at http://www.liveworld.com and @LiveWorld.