Sharing, friending, commenting, checking in, retweeting…the level of participation social media platforms have ushered into the business world have delivered opportunity as well as issues.
Consider the average marketing planning cycle. Many marketers organize around an annual plan with campaign strategies that have specific start and end dates. But you can’t flip Twitter and Facebook on the day a campaign begins, expect results and then flip them back off at the end of the campaign. Social media is a commitment not a campaign.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Consider a brand’s social media presence to a telephone. If you turn the phone on and give the number out to consumers, that phone is expected to work 24/7/365. This can create a challenge when identifying the right resources and the right content required to engage with consumers across social media platforms.
Goals Drive Resources
In a recent article, MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley outlined the varied approaches to supporting a Twitter account, blog or other social platform as well as the pros and cons for each approach. But in all instances she suggests supporting them with a specific person that is identified by name and can even be found on Google. Putting a name in front of a brand is not always well-received. Brands are used to being anonymous and in line with exacting identity standards created to achieve a single, consistent brand voice.
Brand Voice vs. Social Voice
But social participation works best when it is done by an individual. That may sound silly or obvious. But many companies operate its Facebook page or its Twitter account anonymously without identifying the person actually responding to customer inquiries and comments. This detracts from the effectiveness of the effort.
Companies including Sharpie, Sodexo and Best Buy all have their own unique social voice and it’s brought each brand positive results.
Making Marker Fanatics
CPG brands know their fans and Sharpie is no different. Positioning themselves as enabling creativity, Sharpie has gone from being a marker to being an unmatched design tool harnessing creativity and amplifying self-expression. A quick search of Flickr alone shows how extreme this can become. By personifying their brand through folks like “Sharpie Susan” Wassel, they have a fan club that continues to grow and inspire itself.
An Appetizing Corporate Culture
Sodexo relies on social media to help detail its culture. The foodservice giant has to staff a 100,000 person -- and growing -- workforce. Kerry Noone personifies its HR function with amazing results. Noone notes that Twitter alone has saved them $300K in Monster.com advertising.
Listening. And Responding
Best Buy has evolved the farthest by pushing its brand and its social voice to ultimately become one and the same. Through Barry Judge’s self-admitted experiment, opening the doors to direct customer input and using Twitter to connect it’s blue shirts to any customer on Twitter, it’s been an evolution for the electronics retailer.
As detailed below in a comparison created by Shiv Singh, you can see how a brand's voice and its social voice differ. But in all instances, Best Buy’s used social media to become a customer service channel and connect real customers to real employees. It’s even apparent in Best Buy's advertising. The results have helped the brand immeasurably in the very competitive market of consumer electronics.
Social Voice Best Practices
As sites like Twitter attract brands, some stumble when it comes to finding their voice. Should the tweets/status updates be made by one person or multiple? Should these people be identified or should they remain anonymous? While there are several approaches, the more a brand is represented by a real person the more engaged it can become with its customers. Here are some basic tips to consider.
- What does Google already say about the people representing your brand?
- Sign Tweets/Posts. Something as simple as ending tweets sent on my work account with ^KD show when it’s me doing the tweeting.
- A picture will help reinforce that real people are behind the brand. This could be the avatar, this could be the background, but the more attempts at making a personal connection, the better. This is actually one we need to implement. Our Twitter page needs the personal touch of a pic.
- If a brand does not have the staff for multiple people representing the brand, it should consider promoting “online office hours” noting when the brand is most likely online.
- Consider that a person representing doesn’t have to be the brand, they merely help reinforce it.
- This person should have a passion for the brand. It won’t work if “Skippy the Wonder Intern**” is updating a brand’s Facebook page.
- Consider any online tool to help make a connection. While a brand might focus on Facebook and Twitter, sites like Flickr, Twitpic, YouTube and Whrrl (http://whrrl.com/ ) to tell a richer story. Keep in mind that all of these sites lead back to the brand.
The end result of understanding and finding a brand’s social voice can bring dividends in customer satisfaction, human resources, research and development more. It all depends on a brand’s goals and focus. Cross-posted to Empower MediaMarketing's blog, Social Study.
The end result of understanding and finding a brand’s social voice can bring dividends in customer satisfaction, human resources, research and development more. It all depends on a brand’s goals and focus.
Cross-posted to Empower MediaMarketing's blog, Social Study.