Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Getting Real About Integrating Your Brand with Social Media

There have been way too many articles written with way too many points of view about how to leverage Social Media. So in considering this entry, I thought what would be the risk for one more?

For all of the studies I have seen, and all the opinions that are out there, not too many have figured it out.

And what's with the term "Social Media" aka Social Marketing, Social Influence, Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Viral Marketing? And let's not forget that it falls into the big ambiguous bucket known as Web 2.0...or are we up to 3.0 now?


No wonder everyone is confused. We can't even decide what to call it.

Perhaps most importantly, what about creating an ROI model that will sustain its existence? Solving for many of these hurdles requires a scalable framework and a monumental shift in the way companies conduct business today.

One thing's for sure, people are talking.

"Word-of Mouth Marketing" is the oldest form of marketing, right?

There really is nothing new about Social Media, except that now we have technology on our side. Through technology, and consumers shifting more of their time online, you not only can listen, but also measure, enable, and participate in those conversations between your fans and critics like never before.

From my experience, most organizations look at each Social Media opportunity in a vacuum - a Facebook page, a viral marketing video, a corporate blog, online PR outreach to bloggers, or customer forums on a Web site - they are not integrated with more traditional channels, leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.

Additionally, campaigns and initiatives are planned much like "traditional digital" and traditional marketing have been done for a gazillion years. There is a lot of time spent planning against eyeballs rather than the overall influence that those fans and critics have on your brand.

So what's a brand?

First - what it's not:

It's not your logo
It's not your corporate identity
It's not your tag line
It's not marketing

IT IS the perception that a customer has of your product / service and company - and the value that you deliver to that customer's inherent need.

For internal teams it's strategic, cultural, and operational.

Strategic, because it requires a deep understanding of your customer and how your offering impacts their unmet need.

Cultural, because EVERYONE in your organization must buy in, live the values, and embrace the execution by which you will achieve your desired brand perception.

Operational, because there must be process and role clarity for each department and individual stakeholders to achieve brand objectives.

Think about it.

What is the impact on your brand of having an item in stock that your customer is trying to buy when they are ready?

Think of those employees that interact directly with customers. What if they are aloof or uncaring? What if they are helpful, knowledgeable, and provide great service?

One positive or negative experience can shift consumer perception in an instant.

Your brand is the totality of EVERY aspect of your organization and the ability to deliver and meet or exceed the customer expectation. Social Media should be viewed as a powerful ingredient that enables the connection of every department within your company with each other and then directly to your customer.

Social Media has the opportunity to be the ultimate petri dish to gain insight into customers' needs in ways that have not been done before and create actionable steps to impact business across entire enterprises.

That's where the ROI comes from.

Social Media should be viewed as part of a larger effort and gets rolled in to a broader ROI model, made possible by having information to make better decisions and guide thinking.

This seems really hard.

Building brands is hard. The strategic, cultural, and operational challenges are enormous. But as consumer behavior evolves, it is imperative that businesses respond as if their survival depends upon it.

Now if there were only a better name for Social Media...

What do you think?
Have a different point of view?

Post a comment and share your thoughts.