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First things first: define your brand ID in social channels

As social media use becomes the norm for brands both large and small, one constant that everyone struggles with is brand identity on social channels. Especially when you have more than one individual manning your account, or teams of copywriters trying to translate traditional copy to social snippets. How do you define your brand and ensure that anyone from customer service to front line community managers are literally speaking the same language? How do you ensure that when a key employee leaves your identity isn’t lost with them?

The first step to successfully translating your brand in consumer interaction channels is to understand who you are as a “person”, not as a corporate behemoth, but as an entity someone would want to interact with outside of from a customer service perspective. That’s how you can sustain engagement long-term and be invited to the dinner party that is social media.

Brands have a “brand book” that details everything from proper logo usage to mission statements, tag lines and beyond. Developing and integrating a social identity into that is a must. As there really isn’t an “above the line” and “below the line” these days, your social persona must be integrated into all aspects of your marketing, where and how it makes sense.

One of the ways I’ve found incredibly useful, as I’ve helped launch brands into the social sphere is to start with the “traditional” brand persona and then dive deep on social. This can take a variety of forms, but must include social listening for your core customers. Who are they? What do they care about? How can you add value to their daily interactions? What other brands do they use or care about? How does your customer service live up to your brand premise? (Or if it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?). If you could choose a living person to represent your brand, who would it be?

Pick your niche. Are you funny? Witty? Value-based? Traditional? Put yourself into your customers’ shoes (not all brands appeal to all people). This will help you to define a voice and channel-specific strategy and enable your creative team & strategists to brainstorm on effective ways of reaching them, and give you a solid platform to engage on a daily basis, no matter who is doing the talking.

[photo credit: nomadic_lass on Flickr]

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The difference between forcing a community and finding a community

The last couple of years have brought a shift in social “media” as ad agencies have tried to disrupt the space with clever gimmicks (Real-time marketing) which is what they’ve always done best. Disrupt conversations and grab attention. It’s a perilous game: one misstep and you’ve got an angry mob on your hands. And it doesn’t work to drive much of anything except a couple of articles and some goodwill. Until the next brand trumps it and you’re forgotten. It’s a zero sum game in the end, and one that costs a lot of money to boot.

The real growth is where your value meets a need. There are a few brands who are doing it right. They’re the ones who spend the time getting to know the community of people who could USE their product or service and deliver the value behind it in a way that impacts someone’s life.

The digital space isn’t all about YOU. It’s about how you can help US. Sure, wit and snark will always play a part, but that’s a small part. Customer service? Big part. Relevant content that I can use? Big part. Being there when people are just talking? Big part.

It’s time to get back to basics and start serving the customer, not just looking for the most likes and retweets. Pay attention to the people, they’re the ones who buy your products. Invest in that strategy and you’ll win.

[Image credit Robie06]

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Thoughts on the Twitter archive deal with Gnip

After turning off the firehose to Google last year I’d been wondering what they would do with their huge database of users tweets as the next logical step appeared to be granting the search giant access to their archives as well. They announced today that they’ve partnered with Gnip to provide the company with every tweet back to March 2006 when the company launched.

As someone who has developed social/ digital personas as part of the larger marketing strategy this is great news. Using data from various social platforms is a fantastic way to get a broad (and granular) sense of what issues most resonate with consumers, how they feel about your products and your competitors. By analyzing that data a richer picture of your customer emerges.

In the past we’ve only really been able to gather data for the past year, but with this announcement the ability to look at trends over time becomes a possibility. Is the same issue recurring? Has customer service improved over time or gotten worse year over year? Are there seasonality trends that weren’t immediately apparent? All of these data points could now be analyzed (or re-analyzed) based on this new data.

Unless you’re a very sophisticated (and deep pocketed) brand storing broad term data year over year and merging it with the same query sets was probably not at the top of your radar. As Gnip merges this data into standard listening tools running ad hoc reports and performing a detailed analysis becomes much simpler.

I’m looking forward to seeing this roll out and doing some digging. What do you think about this move by Twitter?

Image credit: fagalar on Flickr

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The Canadian Digital Living Room research

Do you have kids? Are you a 5-screen household? If so, you aren’t alone. That’s the number of screens (TV, mobile, tablet) that the majority of Canadian families with kids have according to MediaCom research. It’s a far cry from the lone TV in the living room most Boomers & Gen-Xers grew up with.

I recently attended a conference that presented a ton of great stats from Microsoft Advertising and Rogers Connect based on research they conducted in November – December 2011 of Canadian parents with kids under 18.

For anyone in marketing or advertising that is looking to market to the next generation of families, multi-screen programs are an absolute must. Gone are the days of focusing on one device or medium. Your content and campaigns must be adaptable to various mediums.

Some key stats that were revealed include:

Canadian adults consume 190 hours of media per month

Which devices are they consuming it on?

-       99% TV

-       53% laptop

-       48% Gaming system

-       30% mobile device

-       6% tablets

88% of families use their TV simultaneously with another device so the opportunities for seamless-content and advertising is abundant to create emotional connections through multiple devices and cater to the screen they are looking at.

As well there is a slight difference between how parents with younger children (Digital Natives: 0-10yrs) vs. parents with older children (Digital Adopters: 11-18yrs) view the role of tech in their family dynamics. Digital Adopters tend to become educated about tech by their children; they are influenced on purchase decisions, are educated about new technology and are using it more frequently to communicate with their children, even when they are in the same house together. The Digital Adopter families spend their time together in the living room primarily consuming media that breaks down as follows (82% TV shows; 81% movies; 37% playing video games; 10% using social networks). Integrating campaigns around these various activities makes perfect sense and can serve as a media multiplier with multiple touch points to reach the audience with functional and emotional content.

While the research didn’t focus on the specific types of content or brands that resonated with the various groups, it is valuable to get a baseline understanding of the growth and spread of platforms that is now becoming part of the fabric of how families interact in their daily lives. I can see this playing out with my own family and how, as my children grow they start to use things such as my tablet while we watch TV and I’m on my smartphone. This will only continue to grow and advertisers and content creators should pay attention.

Thanks to Microsoft Canada & High Road Communications for the media pass; it was a highly informative day for someone who lives and works in the digital space.

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Where are your customers?

There are an abundance of social networks vying for your attention as the social web matures. Not all of them “stick”, but the ones that do, really stick. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pintrest (and Foursquare within a niche) are the immediate ones that come to mind.

How does a brand determine where to be and how to leverage each network? It’s not as hard as it appears, although it does take research and analysis. Where are YOUR customers? Who are your customers? How does your brand fit with the communication channels they’re using? Does it?

Play to your strengths and your USP (or better, your UVP – unique value proposition) – you can’t force your brand where it doesn’t fit naturally. You can begin to shift your culture to align with your *actual* customers & enthusiasts, but you can’t force fit it. Social media is not a panacea.

I’ve said for years that context is what matters in a social media environment and the best way to provide context to your customers is to be relevant where it makes sense, and in a *context* that makes sense.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worthwhile. If you can determine which social network(s) are right for your brand to focus on you’ll be in a much better place than spreading yourself too thin and trying to be everything to everyone.

Some brands can (and should) be omnipresent across all properties, but they still need to have their objectives and goals at the forefront. They need to understand the *Why* as well as the *How* of their communities interests and passions.

Are you prepared to do the leg work and really listen to your customers and prospects before jumping into tactics? Just because there’s a new shiny object that needs attention doesn’t mean it will do anything for your business. If you can add value to the stream be there with bells on because your customers will appreciate it.

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