merlinuward-83_600BRANDido and friend, Merlin U. Ward is someone who walks his talk consistently giving in ways that are valuable to the recipient. As an entrepreneur, your personal brand and business brand (which is really founded on your personal brand), he shared some valuable points.

You Get What You Give is a book every brand manager should pick up and not put down until every strategy illustrated therein sinks fully into their conscience. As a personal brand, you are your brand manager so please take note. Many brands seem to get it wrong with social media, and while it takes a while to get accustomed to the bells and whistles, online branding has taken to, there’s no reason why a brand can’t effectively roll out and manage its social branding strategy.

Merlin U. Ward delivers a well-written book on what a brand manager needs to consider in their branding campaign, and most importantly, ask themselves “why” they are in social media in the first place. Through five social media strategies: branding, customer service, community experience, innovation, and sales, Merlin takes readers through what it takes to successfully implement each strategy, and the kind of success one can look upon as proof. Also shared are stories of not-so-successful attempts by brands that took the short route or ignored their audience’s needs, and ended up paying for it.

It’s a great read for brand managers, regardless of their field or the size of company they work for.

As a personal brand, you are your brand manager.

Here are some of the highlights from the book:

Failure to lock down


Despite our best efforts, things sometimes don’t go as we planned. That happens in social media too, as Merlin goes into the folly of a brand not acting quick enough to stop a bad situation from getting worse. Case in point, Rebecca Black’s 2011-failed attempt at music stardom, and the global ridicule and “butt-of-jokes” image that was avoidable if her brand managers could have quelled the negative response when it became apparent her music video was not up to general liking.

The need for sound social media policies

Before you go and start updating, tweeting, and sharing, your brand must have a playbook that has sound and clear social media policies for your employees and brand managers. This playbook outlines all possible scenarios you can expect as a brand, and what actions to take when they occur. While each of life’s situation is unique and handled as such, flying by the seat of your pants in social media is asking for trouble, the kind that damages a brand’s reputation.

Do you want love, or is creating controversy your thing?

Merlin strongly emphasizes that brands need consistent values across all its marketing elements, including social media. Having a strong value proposition eliminates any traces of mediocrity and seesaw decision making. Strong values also set the foundation for the direction the brand wants to go with, be it to generate love or create controversy wherever it goes.

Creating controversy is a risky decision, but brings with it enormous public relations potential. Being loved, on the other hand, isn’t quite as easy, and still requires a firm stance. The call is for brands to set out, develop a deep understanding with its audience, and listen to what they say, as only then can the brand know what kind of message fits the context of their brand and their connections.

You get what you give

Social media is an “input equals output” proposition. You get as much as you give to your audience. If your social media strategies are rash and careless, expect a less caring audience that will rarely care what you do/offer, if they take the time to listen/follow you in the first place.

The innovation strategy

No other strategy requires the complete trust and faith in your audience as the Innovation Strategy does. You could put the decision to innovate in the hands of your audience and come out a winner, like the Frito-Lays example given in the book, or have the move backfire and end up with a product that doesn’t quite fit with your company (Hasbro and the cat token).

Again, small business owners, a deep connection is required with your customers if you are to ask for their opinions during innovation. Merlin also cautions against fully leaving innovation to the audience.

“Your customers are your product improvement team, not your product development team. Forget new products or complete overhauls. Generate ideas to make the product better, but not fundamentally change the business,” he writes.

Social media metrics

As with any commitment, a business will need to know whether it’s getting any tangible return on investment. For social media, this can be the number of impressions left by the audience on your content, or the sales shift experienced through social channels. Merlin differentiates the two kinds of metrics that brands should consider, and how each measures against the overall success of the social strategy employed.

If I’ve shared more than I should, it’s only because the book is that insightful and informative. As an entrepreneur or small business owner looking to revamp its social media strategies in 2014, or one that is venturing for the first time, You Get What You Give is the book you need placed alongside the paper on which you write down your objectives.