Social networks have changed the way businesses communicate. Brand owners were once able to carefully control the way their message is broadcast. Everything from the adverts and posters to the websites and the scripts for sales personnel would be crafted so that the brand voice was consistent.
Behavior has also changed. A company’s reputation being important, many companies did not take risks with how they were seen to behave. While we have seen companies like FCUK and Ryanair actively creating a badboy reputation to gain brand awareness, most businesses don’t like to take risks.
So, social media is a minefield where an open door policy can turn against you. Marketing managers need to accept that the public has the upper hand and then find a way to fit in rather than trying to control things.
Social media success takes work
In a Q&A for Intuit Small Business Blog, social media advisor Rebekah Radice says, “Many businesses and brands believe, foolishly, that they can simply hop on social media and — poof! — their offline reputation is magically transformed into online currency. They neglect one key component of online success: It takes a lot of hard work.”
She adds, “Let your audience get to know you on a very real, authentic, and personal level and you will never ‘feel’ like you have to blatantly self-promote again.”
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One brand that seems to get it is Paddy Power, which understands that sport and humour are so often linked. The target audience likes to have a laugh.
Lots of brands on Facebook have learned to enjoy the audience, rather than trying to get the audience to enjoy the brand. Honda, Skittles and Oreo deserve a mention. Pringles is a brand that routinely has fun with fans, such as its presence at the V Festival. Photos from that event are featured on the Pringles Facebook page.
I also like the Yellow Tail wine page, which uses fun photos, humorous themes and comments to entertain fans. Creating an entertaining environment, where your brand is a feature, not the focus, is a subtle but important difference.
Differentiation in a ‘sea of the same’
Rebecca Radice offered another great piece of advice. “Many businesses seem to take their cues from others, imitating competitors rather than marching to the beat of their own drum. The only way to create differentiation in a “sea of the same” is to share what makes you so remarkably and wonderfully you.”
Mashable’s Stephanie Walden advises, “Online audiences are particularly wary of thinly veiled advertising labeled as ‘content’… Don’t be the overly promotional fan page — it’s the equivalent of your annoying, Ivy-League-educated relative who dominates every dinner conversation bragging about various accomplishments.”
Last year I interviewed Dan Toombs, aka The Curry Guy, for Red Rocket Media. He told me, “I have almost completely stopped promotional tweets. I chat back and forth with people and try to offer advice at times. Business has picked up since doing so.”