You believe in the premise that a brand is a person, it lives and breathes, you can say that a brand requires the same effort to build its persona and appeal as any person does. In other words, it is about making thought through choices and its ability to meaningfully leverage an opportunity to engage or reiterate its image in any given context. And, the level of success with the initiative is solely dependent upon how congruent the action to the image built over time. In context of being social, a brand can choose to remain silent and observe, selectively engage and decidedly be the soul of the party. While there are enough ’50 strategies’ and ’20 golden rules’ available on handling social, here are some thoughts and observations to add to, or make sense of the melee.
Be deliberate: While social media is an arena with shorter feedback loops where people can applaud or boo you then and there – think through and persist in your position. Be self-aware, confident and honest with yourself or your script. If you have made a mistake, be deliberate in the way you correct it. Attitude is more important that rushing in to tender an apology and it lingers longer in a very short public memory. It is about ‘who you are’ and not ‘what you think others want you to be’ because the latter keeps changing depending on the pressure you are in. Take your time.
Be Insecure: The inherent democracy in social gives power to others to reposition you with what they are saying about themselves. So if you decide to bite the social blue pill – the right to remain silent is not an option. You need to be insecure about the content and quality of your conversations. It is a journey with no destination and there is a need to be aware about not just what consumers are saying about you, but also about what your competitive brands are saying about themselves.
Social is not a fixed frame: For example, a change in algorithm in FB can completely alter your metrics, strategy and budget requirements (it is changing and it will continue to do so). So to meaningfully construct a long term strategy, take cognizance of new developments and changes that are likely to happen in your choice of platforms and adjacent technologies – an continuously update your body of knowledge. Near field communication, interactive displays, leverage of social in POS, geo localization are some areas that will interact and impact social platforms. This interaction will be ‘uniquely’ relevant to your business, and it will keep changing.
Be your own interpreter: It is still an evolving field and experts are contextual. Feel free to explore and ask the question ‘What if?’ I can leverage social this way and not limit yourself to the question ‘How to’ become social. In the same vein, treat case studies with a healthy disrespect because what worked for somebody may not be replicable, or work for you as the context and parameters would be completely different. With the incredible amount of information and views that abound – remember to trust your head.
Think of Social as an augmentation strategy and not supplementary: The rules of brand building have not changed; find your multipliers. Look for points of interaction and opportunity for leverage that exists in social for amplifying your offline efforts. Don’t evaluate or build them as discrete approaches. For example, how can social create better engagement for your events?
Think Fabric and not threads: Even on social, look at creating interplay between the various platforms you use, and evaluate them as being interconnected. It is FB with twitter with pinterest and so on, not FB+Twitter
Be Brutal: Move on… Not just if something is not working but also if something has worked too long…Freshness is a critical ingredient in social and build every strategy with an expiry date.
Be selective: Be selective on who you want to appeal to, the channels you want to be present in or the conversations you want to engage with. ‘Much of Muchness’ is not strategy and do create a view on how you will gain on brand and business parameters.
‘This too shall pass’: Be it bouquets or brick bats. Put your feet up or hide your head only as long as it takes to put them down or lift it up. The bell will ring and you need to be up and running for the next round. Positivity is more perishable, negativity lingers longer – either way action will always be the need of the hour. And, public memories are short.
‘The only mistake you will make is not to make any mistakes. It is a cliché and it seems inconsiderate to the fact that brands are built with ‘years’ of effort and need to be protected.
However in an evolving medium with ambiguous rules (don’t believe the experts) there are no conclusive answers and one needs to try new things. You can be happy with building a better horse carriage or try to invent an automobile. Online is just a medium. A brand that built a ham radio station to engage with ‘media dark’ consumers is as successfully social to say the least. The root of the word ‘Social’ is considered to be Socius (Latin), meaning ‘friend’ or Socialis (Latin) meaning ‘allied’ (Courtesy: Wikipedia.org). In context of social media, empathy (being a friend) is definitely tougher and harder – than just being a mirror (showing allegiance). The choice is always yours.
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