A wise man once told me: Harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. It’s like a carousel. You put the quarter in, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. Circular, circle. Feel it. Go with the flow.
Ok, maybe that was Kevin Nealon in Happy Gilmore, but it’s still pretty sound advice, especially for your brand on social media. With a carousel of engagement opportunities continually spinning, it’s essential to know when to jump on and when it’s time to get off–but it’s equally important to know how to balance yourself once you’re there. For social media, it’s great to know when to interact and engage, but also how to present yourself. Otherwise, you risk falling off the ride and drawing undesirable attention from everyone around you.
How can you ensure that your business is properly represented across all of its platforms? This is especially challenging with more and more individuals making real-time decisions on how your organization is perceived by the public. So what do you do?
Understand your brand’s identity and voice from top to bottom.
What do you stand for? What makes your product/service special? Who do we communicate to and in what tone? These are all questions that everyone in your company needs to know the answer to. Understand these concepts and not only will your identity stay singular across all platforms, it will also make it easier to be nimble and react quickly to real-time events. By knowing who your brand is, you don’t have to worry about someone with the keys to your Tumblr or Facebook taking it too seriously, or even worse, not serious enough.
Know your space.
Where is your audience, both online and off? What are your competitors doing? Questions like this keep your brand where it needs to be and away from interacting with groups that have little-to-no interest in your offerings. You can have the best social media team in the world, but if they are interacting with people that don’t care, good luck.
To keep this from being entirely hypothetical, let’s take a look at a few examples. One of a brand that uses the principles I’ve laid out, one that doesn’t, and another with versatility. To keep it simple, I’ll only be comparing Twitter accounts, but this applies to all social media and corporate communications.
Doing It Right
Dietz & Watson
What are they? A classic deli meat and a staple for many sandwich connoisseurs across the country.
What did they do? They listened and engaged appropriately. Comedian Michael Ian Black tweeted late one night: “Has anyone invented a laser that etches your face on a ham? It would be called LaserHam.” By understanding their followers, and their likes, Dietz & Watson was quick to act by actually creating a ham with his faced lasered on and replying to Black on Twitter with a photo as proof.
I know, the concept sounds silly, but it is a great example of understanding who your brand is, where your audience is, and how to actively engage them. I’m sure the total reach of over 3,000,000 in one day didn’t hurt, either.
Doing It Wrong
What are they? A community-driven website devoted to recipes and cooking articles.
What did they do? They didn’t clearly lay out what their identity stands for in all situations, resulting in a series of tweets that showed very poor taste. Sometimes it’s best to get off the carousel. When attempting to offer support for those in and around the Boston Marathon Bombings, they used it as a platform to plug their articles. If Dietz & Watson is an example of understanding when to let loose and have a little fun, Epicurious is an example of not knowing when to take a back seat. While this could have been easily prevented with clear understanding of brand identity (and also, human emotion), it wasn’t – greatly damning the overall perception of Epicurious.
Feeling the Flow
What are they? Mars Inc.’s arm into the world of canine nutrition and supplies. One of the largest and most recognizable names when it comes to dog food, but you already knew that.
What did they do? For Pedigree it isn’t as much about what they didn’t do and it’s more about how well they are able to do everything. From personalized, responsible dialogue over pet safety concerns regarding products, to sharing quirky user-generated images of pets, Pedigree clearly demonstrates a unified brand identity.
Their response on Twitter aligns with the bigger picture of ad campaigns and shows a singular, yet versatile voice. When it’s time to talk serious about products, share the way a pet can make you laugh, or spread the word about adopting pets, they simultaneously stay consistent with corporate messaging while understanding the needs, likes, and wants of their audience. No matter what brand you represent, you can take notes on how well they carry their identity through social media.
Lay the Groundwork
If you have clearly defined what your organization stands for, it should be pretty obvious if you’re taking your brand too seriously, or on the other hand, not seriously enough. Clearly identify what it does, what makes it unique, and who you can help, and a unified identity across all platforms should shine through. Let individuals in the organization decide what the brand means on a case-by-case basis, and well, your audience might get a little confused or offended. Now if you need me, I’ll be on Twitter trying to get my face laser-etched on some deli meat.