Loyalty Is Not a Given – Like Trust, It Needs to be Earned plus 5 more



Loyalty Is Not a Given – Like Trust, It Needs to be Earned

Back in July 2012, I spoke at an event in Toronto. During my talk, I made a quip about whether or not anyone still used Canadian smartphone giant BlackBerry (previously known as RIM).

While it was a throwaway joke that most people laughed at, it attracted its share of criticism too. James Howe, for example, thought it was classless and a low blow at a Canadian institution (for the record, we had a chat afterward and have since had beers and spoke at the same event, so all good).

Recently, on Facebook, I answered a question about the viability of BlackBerry to survive as they are, with both Google’s Android system and Apple’s iPhone essentially owning the smartphone market. I suggested BlackBerry couldn’t, even though I really wanted them to succeed, being a Canadian company.

For that answer, I was called unpatriotic, and not loyal to seeing Canadian companies succeed. The unpatriotic part made me smile, as I’m a Scot who moved to Canada and took up residency in 2006, so I guess that part was true (even though I feel at least half-Canadian now).

But it was the loyalty part that stuck with me, because for me, loyalty isn’t a given. Instead, it needs to be earned and constantly nurtured – something BlackBerry started to slip at in recent years.

Loyalty is All About the Customer

The biggest misconception brands have when it comes to the loyalty question is the definition of where it starts and what it looks like.

Too many make the mistake that loyalty begins and ends with great offers and meeting the customer’s needs at point-of-sale. While this definitely impacts how a customer views your brand, it’s a small part of the much bigger picture.

Any brand can offer great discounts. Any brand can undercut competitors and make an offer a customer really can’t refuse. Any brand can make split decisions in the showroom or retail space, and entice the customer to buy because of that decision (an extra 10% off, for example, or an extra year’s warranty).

That’s the easy part – but it doesn’t build loyalty. Instead, the bigger customer experience is key.

  • How does this product answer my immediate needs?
  • How does this product make me feel?
  • What’s the brand experience like?
  • How does the after service look, both reactively and proactively?
  • How does the brand listen to feedback and future product suggestions?
  • Does this improve my everyday life through use?

These are just some of the very simple, yet important, questions that brands need to consider when it comes to loyalty building.

Building customer loyalty

My co-author on Influence Marketing, Sam Fiorella, heads up the Customer Experience agency Sensei Marketing, and provides a wealth of information on this hugely important aspect of your customer’s “relationship” with you.

Delivering on Expectations

Back in the 80′s and 90′s, I was a huge proponent of Japanese video game giant SEGA. While popular thinking said their big competitor Nintendo had the better hardware and video game mascots, there was something about SEGA that just resonated more.

This saw me support each new hardware release without question (even the dud Mega-CD / 32X combo). No matter what the press might say, and what my friends were playing, SEGA met my needs consistently.

  • Their hardware took risks. They were the first console manufacturer to offer mass Internet gaming, and accessories like their R360 unit were groundbreaking.
  • Their games were some of the most innovative on the market. From the beauty of Shenmue, to the addictiveness of Chu Chu Rocket, or the weirdness of Seaman, SEGA consistently pushed the envelope on what video games should be.
  • They were a gamer’s game company, as shown by their arcade heritage and their determination to bring that experience home with each hardware update.

Sadly, this innovation came at a cost. Nintendo’s devout fanbase proved hard to crack, and when Sony entered the market with their PlayStation, it heralded a new mass market gaming industry, where quantity of games over quality of games talked.

SEGA couldn’t compete, and left the hardware market in 2001. If they were to come out with a new system tomorrow, though, I’d be first in line – because they always delivered. They’ve earned my trust through consistency and understanding what SEGA fans were all about.

Why Loyalty Is Not a Given

Which brings me back to BlackBerry. In recent years, it almost seemed like Canadians bought new handsets from the Waterloo, Ontario giant purely because it was Canadian, and it’s just “always been the way”.

And, for a while, that made sense.

BlackBerry delivered on its promises. Its hardware was secure, making it perfect for Enterprise-level organizations and small business owners everywhere. Its operating system was one of the best around. And it’s BBM messaging service was a unique feature not found anywhere else.

And then then wheels came off.

Whether it was arrogance based on its lofty position, or the fact no-one had come close to disrupting its Enterprise model, BlackBerry got complacent, expecting that its name alone would be enough. And it might have been, had it not been for a combination of circumstances that looks to have sealed the company’s fate.

  • Its physical QWERTY keyboard seemed misplaced as more users switched to touchscreen phones from Apple and Google.
  • Its previously strong Enterprise relationship softened, as IT managers acquiesced to employees that preferred to buy their own phones and have them hook into the corporate server.

Add to the fact that BlackBerry seemed out of touch with what its loyal customers really wanted, and the stage was set for the Canadian giant’s fall from grace, one that’s led to the possibility of the company being sold.

While there are several factors contributing to BlackBerry’s downfall, the loss of loyalty from even its staunchest supporters can’t be underestimated.

BlackBerry may have made the mistake of thinking loyalty would always be a given, but when they failed to deliver on the simplest of experiences, that’s when a customer’s true loyalty is tested, as the company is finding out today.

Something we can all learn from.

image: Pure Metal Cards
image: Hans Mestrum

Loyalty Is Not a Given – Like Trust, It Needs to be Earned originally appeared on Danny Brown - the human side of media and the social side of marketing - all rights reserved.


The Bullshit Excuses for Attitudes Towards Women Needs to Stop

Warning: This post contains profanity and disturbing imagery. If this offends you, you may want to skip today’s post and I’ll see you next time around.

A couple of nights ago, I shared a link over on Facebook to an article over at RYOT. The piece references a project by Associated Press Chief Photographer for Spain and Portugal, Emilio Morenatti, which shares the equally horrific stories and images of women in Pakistan who refused forced or arranged marriages, and had acid thrown at them as punishment for their “crimes”.

It’s not just refusal to marry that’s punished – for some Pakistani women, just the fact their gender is “wrong” is reason enough to be punished, as highlighted by Najaf Sultana.

Najaf Sultana
Image copyright: Emelio Morenatti

Now 16 years old, Najaf’s crime was to be born a girl to a father who didn’t want another female in the family. So, when she was just five years old her father burned her as she slept. Her parents then deserted her, and she’s been raised by relatives ever since.

The image of Najaf, and many more, can be found on Morenatti’s Flickr album Acid Attack Survivors. I urge you to visit and understand how some cultures see this as an acceptable practice.

As horrified as we in the West may be, these attacks are, tragically, a violent addition to the culture of women as second-class citizens that pervades even our “advanced culture”.

Men in the Loosest Sense of the Word

Recently, I wrote about how certain cultures have an endemic hatred towards women. Because hatred is exactly what it is when you think of how women continue to be “treated” by men. And, in the case of the men highlighted here, I use that term in the very loosest sense.

Despite there being very high profile movements like the #OneWoman hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, highlighting the issues that women face every single day, still the degradation and misogyny continues. And it’s not going to get any better while we make bullshit excuses for this treatment.

Take the recent “punishment” doled out to NFL running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. Rice was accused of beating his then-fiancee (now wife) and knocking her unconscious in an elevator in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino in February, after she allegedly spat in his face. Video surveillance caught him dragging her from the elevator.

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Because Rice accepted a pre-trial intervention program, his plea of not guilty to aggravated assault was accepted and he avoided jail. However, while non-punishment sends out a questionable message, it’s the actions – or lack of – of Rice’s employers, the NFL, that speak the loudest: Rice received a two-game ban and was docked two weeks pay as well as a match day check.

TWO. FUCKING. GAMES.

To put that into some kind of perspective, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon received a year’s ban for marijuana abuse. So, a violent attack on a woman is valued less severe than smoking pot? Clearly the NFL think so, as evidenced by their defence of Rice’s punishment.

“… if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it’s ok to go out and commit that kind of conduct… in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we’ve done that.” Adolpho Birch, senior vice president of labour policy for the NFL. Source.

It sends a message alright – it tells players that you’ll only miss a couple of games for hitting a woman, but a year of your career if you smoke pot. So go out and hit away, because that’s okay – just don’t be high when you’re doing it, or you’ll really be fucked.

Yet perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this – after all, this is the NFL, purveyor of a sport that means so much to so many Americans. Just look at the recent Steubenville rape case.

Nothing More Important Than Our Game…

A 16-year old girl was raped by two players of the Steubenville school football team. The attack was filmed by several people and uploaded to Facebook and Twitter, with apparent celebration of the act (and the capture of it) by those involved.

When the attack eventually came to light, there was a huge backlash against the way the school had handled the case. There were examples of failure to report, alleged destruction of evidence, and more. The reasoning that came to light was endemic to all that’s wrong with how we treat women – the victm was so drunk she couldn’t look after herself, so essentially she brought it on herself.

Worse still, many people took to the web to “slut-shame” the victim and blame her for ruining two promising young stars of football. After all, their “lives were over”, as stated by one of the attackers. Yes, raping a girl and forcing her to live with that memory for the rest of her life clearly pales in comparison to your precious football career.

Ironically, Steubenville high school would seem to agree. One of the rapists, Ma’lik Richmond, is back on the school’s football team roster after serving just 10 months for his rape of a girl who clearly asked for it because she was drunk.

Like the Rice example above, to offer some context here, over in Broward County, South Florida, an 8-year old boy was banned from school for two years for taking a toy gun to school in his backpack. Now, in the light of recent tragedies like Newtown, the zero tolerance for guns policies that schools are enforcing are obvious paths to take.

But this was clearly a toy gun. This is a child – an 8-year old boy. Yet he gets a two-year ban, while a rapist that actually ruined a life gets back onto the football team and can aim for a scholarship in the big leagues after just 10 months?

Doesn’t that seem just a little fucked up to you?

Excuses are Bullshit Ways to a Clear Conscience

The thing is, we’re making excuses for the kind of mindset that encourages this second-rate view of women as property, and apportioning any blame directly onto them whenever a crime is committed.

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Take the case of Seth Rudnitsky, who was tried for multiple sexual assaults on the University of Maryland campus in 2009. In the defence of his client, Rudnitsky’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, put the “intrusions” down to nothing more than a drunken mistake.

This is not a sexual assault case. You have a really good kid who has never been in trouble his entire life. It’s your typical freshman “I went out and had too much to drink and was being silly” kind of case. Source.

Right. Because sexual harassment and assault is always excusable when alcohol clouds judgement. After all, it’s not as Schamel is alone in that thinking. When there was a string of similar attacks at the George Washington University, the school’s paper, The Hatchet, is quoted as reporting,

…[the sexual assault] shows that students have a responsibility to keep themselves safe.

Not that the University has a responsibility to provide a safe environment. Not that the assailant has a responsibility to his fellow human beings to respect their fucking rights. No, the responsibility should be on the victim – of course.

Because that’s always the easiest way out, right? Place the blame on the victim, because clearly if they hadn’t been asking for whatever punishment they got, or attack they endured, they were clearly asking for it just by being them – women.

Silence Is the Biggest Enemy to Change

These examples, old and new, are just the continuation of how women around the world are being treated. From hate crimes in Pakistan to sexual crimes in America, and across the world – women are being forced into situations and a “way of life” that we can never comprehend.

After all, as a guy, when was the last time you,

  • Heard a woman say,”He deserved it when I sucked his dick, he was so out of it”?
  • Had acid thrown on you because you ditched your fiancee for another woman?
  • Had women come up to you randomly and grab your crotch and ass, and say, “Come on, you know you want it”?

As Andrea Weckerle, founder of CiviliNation - an organization dedicated to creating an online culture of acceptance and tolerance without fear of harassment or retribution – succinctly states,

I am sickened by girls and women being treated as second rate. I am sickened by misogyny, whether in “milder forms” as in North America or in the more extreme forms we see in other parts of the world. And I am sickened by far too many women buying into the negative messages females receive when they dare to demand equal treatment.

There is a major issue at stake right now, and there has been for a very long time. And it’s never going to get better if we stay silent and accept excuses. but we can change that.

RAPE SURVIVORS BUILD MONUMENT  CHANGE US CULTURE   The Monument Quilt

If a culture believes it is okay to burn women and disfigure them because they don’t want to marry someone they don’t love, then that culture is fucked.

If it’s not the widespread culture but individuals hiding behind the culture, then punish the individuals heavily and make the culture one that won’t allow these people to hide behind it, or stay silent for fear of bringing shame onto the culture.

If you truly believe that a women deserves molestation and abuse because of how she dresses, or how much she drinks, or the way she walks, and that “boys will be boys”, you are not a man. You are a fucking beast that deserves to be put in jail.

We all have a choice – we can either excuse this hatred and misogyny by way of cultural and gender behaviour, or we can shout out against it until we’re heard. Either with our political votes; our voices; or, more likely than not in this world where the mighty dollar still talks loudest, with our wallets.

Boycott countries where the culture of hate is commonplace. Boycott organizations where the culture of violence against women is deemed less criminal than smoking pot. And boycott educational facilities where the protection of students seems to be less the responsibility of the faculty and more about the victim should have known better.

At the very least, stand up and say something if you see a friend, or colleague, or family member say or do something that you know isn’t right, and is only fostering more hate and misogyny.

Maybe it’s a dumb idea. Maybe I’m being naive. But something has to change – and naivety has ways of turning into educated decisions and making real change.

For the sake of our mothers, sisters and daughters around the world, naivety is a better start than no start at all.

image: marsmet tallahassee 

The Bullshit Excuses for Attitudes Towards Women Needs to Stop originally appeared on Danny Brown - the human side of media and the social side of marketing - all rights reserved.


Blog Comments, Digital Universes, and the Future of Social Conversations

Back in “the good old days”, conversations around a blog post would happen at source – the blog itself. This led to a few direct results:

  • The blogger would be seen as an “authority figure”, since the ability to spark conversation meant his or her thoughts were worth listening to and debating;
  • Commenters could share their thoughts and, by adding extra value to the conversation, potentially increase awareness and interest in their own blogs or social footprints.

Then social media happened (and, yes, I firmly place blogging as one of the granddaddy’s of social media, but for this post I’m going to separate the distinction).

Instead of blogs being the sole recipient of comments, now there were Facebook discussions, Twitter conversations and, more recently, Google+ threads. The domain of the blogger was no longer the domain of the conversation.

For bloggers, this was seen as a major problem – just Google has social media killed blog comments to see how much concern there is. Personally, I blame crap content over social conversations when it comes to this complaint, but then I’m a grumpy bugger.

For brands, who used blogging as a way to garner immediate and direct feedback on company culture, product launches, etc., the problem was more pronounced.

Instead of being able to monitor on a single domain, the question of scale reared its head as multi-channel conversations painted a much more fractured picture of how their brand was perceived.

The thing is, this new challenge shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge, but an opportunity.

The Hyper-Extended Conversation

While having multiple discussions going on at the same time causes its own set of problems as far as scale goes, it’s also nothing really new.

Just because a pre-social blog post kept comments on its domain, that doesn’t mean the topic wasn’t being discussed elsewhere. Email shares and forum posts, for example, continued the conversation away from the eyes of the blogger.

Additionally, despite what many bloggers might think, our blogs aren’t the centre of everyone’s digital universe. Web users have vastly different social behaviours – some prefer engaging on blogs, while others prefer their own “safety zones” in the shape of their chosen social network(s).

Future of social conversations

As people and as businesses, this is how we learn – by allowing people to share honest thoughts and acting on them.

Often, blog readers may be put off commenting on a post. The reasons can be many:

  • There’s already a lot of conversation happening, so why add more at the source?
  • The blog community seems like a clique.
  • The blogger doesn’t respond, so why should you leave a comment?
  • The reader simply doesn’t feel comfortable offering their details to comment.

All valid reasons to not comment – yet these very reasons (and more like them) don’t mean that same person won’t discuss the post elsewhere.

This unwillingness to comment on a blog directly, but still discuss elsewhere, offers a great learning opportunity for those looking to truly understand what makes an audience tick, both from a blog reader angle and potential customers through a business blog.

The Closing Loop of Fragmentation

Technology vendors are recognizing this need for closing the loop on fragmentation, and are trying to offer solutions that marry the best of blog commenting in their native form with their social counterparts.

For example, Livefyre – which I use on here and pretty much all my blog properties – took a big step in collating the conversations around a blog post with their SocialSync feature.

Livefyre SocialSync

This cool feature identifies conversations on Twitter (see above image) and Facebook Pages, and delivers them into a blog’s comment stream. This ensures any additional discussions on two of the bigger social networks aren’t missed, as well as enables the blogger to reply directly from their own comments back into that network.

While the SocialSync feature is perfect for bloggers looking to truly optimize the conversation, Livefyre’s business solutions for brands goes even deeper and offers social signals from multiple touch-points online.

Livefyre’s main competitor, Disqus, offers their own take on closing the conversation loop. As well as pulling in Reactions from Twitter, the company provides deeper insights into the community around your blog.

Disqus Audience

By analyzing the kind of content your readers consume elsewhere, as well as the content that encourages them to leave a comment, Disqus can recommend similar content on your site.

By providing this overview, you can tailor the content you produce based on the goals around your blog – discussion, consumption, lead acquisition, and more.

Disqus’s ability to implement these focused tactics based on comment intelligence, and Livefyre’s true social integration, offers a glimpse into where we’re going and how content producers can truly drive their own deliverables.

If you’re a self-hosted WordPress blogger, then Comments Evolved for WordPress offers a simple, out-of-the-box solution that collates the main comments around your posts in one place – on your blog itself.

Comments Evolved for WordPress

The plugin allows you to run either native WordPress comments (the standard system that comes with WordPress), or a choice of Facebook, Google+, Livefyre or Disqus.

From a social network angle, if your post encourages discussion on Google+, these will show under the G+ tab. If the post is shared on a Facebook profile, any subsequent comments on Facebook will be pulled in.

It’s a quick solution for those looking to see the bigger conversational picture and offers more options for readers to use their preferred system.

The Future of Social Conversations

While these current platforms, and more like them including the likes of Echo and IntenseDebate, are looking to offer an all-round experience when it comes to blog commenting, the future should be looking to move way beyond even that.

Comments are merely the starting point of where we can go – the possibilities and insights comments can truly offer are limited only by the vision of what we see as important, and the technology to provide these goals.

Influencers and Advocates

While comments offer social proof and validation for the interest in a blog post topic, the actions after that are where we, both as bloggers and brands, can gain the real value from.

  • Which commenter drives even more interaction on the post with other commenters?
  • Which commenter extends the conversation and drives more traffic your way by sharing elsewhere?
  • Which commenter evokes you to rethink your position the most over time?
  • Which commenter jumps into other blog posts elsewhere to promote your argument over that blogger’s?

These are just some of the data points we can gather from following the social footprint of a commenter, and identifying who the influencers are in our community, and how that ties into blog or brand advocacy.

It helps us reward these folks and increase the loyalty we already enjoy with them, as well as identify who may be the best “community marketers” that can help us when we have something to share – an offer, promotion, news, etc.

Emotional Resonance and Content Strategy

One of the biggest advantages a blog has over more mainstream print media is the ability to connect on an emotional level.

While you can still find some excellent examples of emotional reporting, especially in Time Magazine, which seems to be going through a renaissence, most print publications don’t position themselves as emotional connectors, mainly due to editorial standards and restrictions.

Blogs, on the other hand, can offer a very distinctive and human voice behind the content, which can connect emotionally with the reader and build a long-term fan. While that reader may leave a comment advising of how much the post meant to them, on less emotional posts, it’s harder to decipher.

By combining sentiment analysis technology with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and a blog’s chosen comment system, the blogger (or brand) can start to see which content instilled which emotion.

  • Did the content leave the reader elated, happy, sad, blase, concerned, etc.?
  • Did certain parts of the content offer one reaction, and other parts of the same content offer another?
  • How did they share that content afterward – positively or negatively?
  • How did they feel when you responded in the comments to one of their questions – did you grow confidence in your ability to be conversational, or alienate a previously friendly face?

These are just some of the ways we can use social intelligence in comments and the reactions from our content, and start to see what works, what converts, what instils actions and reactions and how these compare to the actions we were hoping for.

Brand goals

By doing so, we tailor our content creation to be the strongest it can be, and – ideally – provide exactly the type of content that delivers on whatever our goals may be.

Social Conversations and the Win Factor

Now, for the average “hobby blogger”, this may seem like something that’s way overblown and unnecessary and that’s probably true.

But as we move towards content creators becoming mini-media operations, and brands looking to both connect with their creators as well as tailor their own corporate content more strategically, it’s a future that’s worth thinking about.

From the blogger’s side, they become more authorative and produce the content that makes their part of the web more attractive than others in their field. Subscriptions rise, content is shared, and the conversations around the blog – regardless of where they are – drive consistent and informed content.

From the brand’s side, they understand the consumption behaviour of their customers – existing and potential – and deliver the type of content and calls-to-action that increase ROI, loyalty and brand share of voice. They can also only identify the very best bloggers and content partners to work with, based on relevance to not only the brand but the brand’s goals, and how that blogger and his or her audience fits into them.

From the reader’s viewpoint, they receive only the very best content and non-invasive promotional offers and news, based on their own previous decisions that have helped shape the new consumption model they’re now part of.

Of course, there needs to be a strict adherence to respecting privacy. Data is powerful when used properly – but dangerous precedences can be set in motion when this power is abused.

But for the companies and content creators that build and use this data ethically, the future of social conversations awaits. And it’s even closer than we think it is today…

For an excellent complementary piece to this post, please check out The Broken Art of Company Blogging (And the Ignored Metric That Could Save Us All) from Dan Shure on the Moz blog.

image: Reilly Dow

Blog Comments, Digital Universes, and the Future of Social Conversations originally appeared on Danny Brown - the human side of media and the social side of marketing - all rights reserved.


Because You Matter

When you start a new adventure, it can be pretty daunting. A new job; a new romance; a new school or college. Online is no different.

The first time you join Twitter, it’s like a crazy maze. When you log into Facebook, there’s no quick set-up guide. If you want to start a blog, the choices can be bewildering.

Then you look around you, and see others that are seemingly way ahead of you. People that have 50,000 followers on Twitter; 2,000 friends on Facebook; are in 30,000 Google+ Circles; have 10,000 subscribers to their blog. You begin to doubt whether you should even be here – how can you possibly compare with that?

Don’t worry – you can’t. But you don’t have to. You just need to be you. No-one else; just you.

Think about that person on Twitter with 50,000 followers. Did they join the service with 50,000 ready-made followers? No – they started with a clean sheet. Zero. And they built. Through seeing how Twitter worked, how to converse, how to connect. But a lot of it was trial and error – much like yours will be, and everyone else’s was.

The 2,000 friends on Facebook? Some may be business contacts; some may be personal friends; some may be old school buddies. Some may even be part of the 50,000 Twitter connections. But again, it starts from zero. Just like you will, and we all did.

The 30,000 Circles on Google+? How many are actually interacting, or sharing, or plussing?

The blogger with 10,000 subscribers? With a bunch of comments on every post? With lots of social bookmarks? That all started somewhere. It went through months of no-one reading, or commenting. It takes time to build a community of readers and commenters. But build it you will.

Because you matter, and you’re building something special without even knowing it.

That single tweet of yours that someone saw? That made them stop and think, and you mattered to them. That Facebook status update of yours that a mutually connected friend saw and shared with his or her friends? That made them stop and think, and you mattered to them.

That blog post you wrote that a complete stranger left a comment about, thanking you for sharing just what they needed at that time? That mattered – all because you wrote something that might be missed by everyone else, but for that one person you mattered.

We spend so much time wondering how we can be like someone else. How we can have that person’s success. But you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with who you are. Right here. Right now.

Because at this very moment in time, for someone, somewhere, you matter. And that’s all that really matters, no?

image: Phoenix Dark-Knight

Because You Matter originally appeared on Danny Brown - the human side of media and the social side of marketing - all rights reserved.


How to Build the Commodities of Identity and Trust in Social Media

Depending who you listen to or read in the social media space, the best reason to use social media for your brand varies. It can be for listening; resolving issues; lead generation; focus groups; recruitment; and much, much more.

All good reasons. All good value. And yet….

While these are all solid enough reasons to be on social media from a brand’s point-of-view, they mean nothing unless you have an audience. Not just an audience, but also one that actually trusts and supports you, and will listen when you speak. Without that, you’ll just be another tree in the forest that no-one hears fall.

So how do you build that most valued of commodities in social media (and business in general) – identity and trust? Especially in such a crowded space to start with? Thankfully, it’s not that hard – but it does take work and stamina. Let’s dig in.

Step 1: The Message is the Key

The big mistakes that brands make when jumping into social media is they see their competitors doing it, so think they need to as well. Wrong answer! (Insert buzzer noise here). For sure – social media can (and does) offer a fantastic additional tactic to add to your existing marketing mix. Yet only if it’s right for you – so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and not because of forced impressions.

Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, the most important part comes next – defining what your message is going to be, and how that is going to build the loyalty and brand identity that will define your success in this space.

The core points to consider here are:

  • What’s our brand’s value proposition, and how do we convey that?
  • Who will be our spokesperson/spokespeople, and in what capacity? How do we want to be perceived – thought leaders, the company that listens, educators, or something else?
  • How will we ensure the message we’re sharing is consistent and built to last?

These are some of the initial questions to ask, and answers to provide. Without these, you’ll be floundering pretty quickly and people will move on to the next brand. Don’t let that be you. Think about the above questions, and make sure you have the answers (or know who the person is with the answers).

And, for the love of God, please make sure you actually know internally what your business stands for before you go outside!

Step 2: It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It

Once you have your goals defined, and know exactly what will be said and who will be saying it, you move on to the next most important part – building your brand identity with these components.

This, probably more than anything, will be the part of the puzzle that either builds your identity and success, or sees you crash and burn on takeoff (I watched Top Gun again the other night, so forgive the gung-ho analogies!).

While it’s crucial to have the right people and message defined, it’s just as crucial (if not more so) to take it to market properly. What you say, and how you say it, is going to be the difference between you and your competitors. And if there’s one thing social media has taught all brands, it’s that people are always waiting for you to slip up.

To ensure your message is understood in the way you want it to be seen, you need to be consistent across every touchpoint:

  • If you’re setting up a blog, make the editorial guidelines clear, both for internal bloggers and guest authors, determine the message from the blog, and make that core across all posts.
  • On social networks, the people that will be the “official” voice of your company need to share communications with each other regularly, and know whose role it is to reply to a certain question or issue.
  • On social media-led promotions that carry over to the offline space, ensure the same people promoting and answering online are attached to any offline teams as well, to keep the message clear and integrated.

These are just some of the ways to ensure the messaging from your brand is consistent and clear. That’s one of the first steps to building a true identity online. On top of that, obviously you need to make sure that your brand’s look and feel ties into this identity too.

The last thing you want to do is confuse people when they visit one of your online outposts (blog, social network, Pinterest board, etc.) and find a different colour scheme or look and feel at each place (unless you’re building external resources as a separate part of your brand identity, for SEO or thought leadership reasons).

Get the message consistent; get the look consistent; the rest will start to fall into place.

Step 3: The Long and Winding Road

Of course, this is all pre-identity stuff. Or, at least, pre-social media identity (you have identified what your brand stands for internally, right?). That’s the (relatively) easy part – the hard part is making sure that message is seen and, more importantly, retained time and time again.

And that’s where many brands fail, by expecting social media to be the quick fix to all that ails them. It’s not. Social media is not a fire sale – it’s a long-term investment and tactic, strategy, campaign, call it what you wish.

If you’re expecting your brand to be immediately identifiable through your actions on social media, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, it’s the consistency of the message and voice that will build your identity, not the speed in which you bring that to market.

Customer loyalty isn’t something that can be bought – and the brands that identify the most with their customers’ needs will be the ones that are rewarded with loyalty, referrals, and word-of-mouth marketing.

Social media can enhance the reach of these referring voices to the Nth degree – but you need to make sure you’re deserving of it to start with. Get your identity right by planning it and building it up the right way, and the world (social media or otherwise) can truly be your oyster.

The choice is yours.

image: Margarita Perez Garcia

How to Build the Commodities of Identity and Trust in Social Media originally appeared on Danny Brown - the human side of media and the social side of marketing - all rights reserved.


   



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