Humanizing your Brand!

October 6, 2010

It is important for any of the brands to act more as people and not as  automated systems. I have even come across brands who use tools like Hootsuite, Cotweet, Jist and many more to post content regularly in order to look like an active brand.

But, that’s not sufficient for the brands. Most of the time one has to  interact with users regularly in order to suggest, resolve and discuss around various conversations and make sure there are real people behind every Twitter or Facebook Profile

But what about organizations that are leveraging employee participation to communicate with their audiences through social media? Here are a few tactics to consider implementing to humanize your brand:

  • Instead of an icon or logo, use a team photo for your Facebook page or corporate twitter account to show that real people are behind the brand.
  • Include the names of employees representing the brand in any account profiles, about us pages, etc.
  • Include a page on your blog with author profiles and photos – offer a behind the scenes look at their role within the organization.
  • Have a monthly “Meet our Team” post on your blog or Facebook page. This could include a text entry with an attached image or a video post that offers some insight into the personality of the organization.
  • Build stories around individual employees’ favourite products, why they love them, how they use them, etc.
  • Encourage team members to communicate on behalf of the brand through their own twitter accounts – which would include their photo, their role within the organization and a link back to the company website.
  • Get out of the office – have a plan that bridges digital communication with face-to-face audience interaction. This could include employees speaking at industry functions, hosting seminars or educational events, employee volunteerism within your community, regular pr/service visits into the marketplace, etc.

What other tactics could you implement to humanize your brand?

Understand Your Audiences

A word of caution before pulling the curtain back on your organization – take some time to really understand the needs of your internal and external audiences. Before setting out to humanize your organization through social media:

  1. Communicate social media goals and guidelines with employees – particularly if they will be representing your brand through personal accounts of off- hours.
  2. Understand the information needs of your audience and balance the frequency of culture posts – personal stories are great for building relationships but it’s important to be mindful of the fact that too much content related to the organization may not be of interest to your stakeholders.

These are the most aspects that any brand should start following. This will certainly help a brand to avoid crisis as Dominos Pizza faced last year.

Pls Note: This post was been inspired by the original post on Social Media Explorer

Traditional media had always promised us millions of Reach but no one bothered to measure or did not have any tools to measure the reach with qualitative analysis. Social Media PR which is so called “New Media” in India comes with Reach and a strong influence…

People ask me why Social Media PR can be dominating in the future. The most important draw-back of traditional  marketing approach is the reach but no influence or less influence. Thought it claimed to have quantitative reach but failed to have qualitative results to the reach. We never felt it important just because we didn’t have any other option. But Social Media has opened the big doors for consumers to voice their opinions against their bad experiences with the Brand. This certainly did not change overnight in India but it took enough time to reach out to people’s realization.

Social Media Marketing - Indian Social Media

Social Media Marketing - Indian Social Media

Most Importantly, Social Media Marketing comes with a strong power to influence consumers decision because of its communication model. Social Media Marketing is more towards permission based marketing approach. This does give them a right to accept what they feel and how they want it to be. It is very difficult for a brand to approach a consumers with its own rules and approach. In such case of personalization there is strong sense of influence too. Since the consumers have to power to weave their perceptions it becomes very easy so establish a strong chain of influence along with the reach. Its the enough room consumers have achieved in this medium bringing  more difficulties and straight-forward approaches for the Brands. This has completely changed the consumer’s experience with the Brand. Hence, marketers have to strongly think and brainstorm about building necessary approach in this medium. There can be silent damage to the brand if the marketers do not feel the necessity of interacting with the consumers directly, which may result in great downfalls for any Brand or service.

This certainly can also be a great help for brands to also identify the loop holes in their Marketing & Communication approach, resulting them to fix issues and problems pertaining to the Product, service and much more…

Most importantly since Social Media PR has a great Reach along with strong Influence, marketing efforts can achieve assured qualitative results and also ensure better penetration of the brand or service amongst the consumers. In such cases a clear ROI is also defined effectively.

Cost of Inactivity

June 5, 2009

I would like to thank to one of my online friend – ISABELLE who has been actively discussing with me on this matter, The Best part of our discussion was coming up with a  new perspective to look at “Cost of Inactivity” rather than analyzing it through ROI, Cost per click etc etc.

Inactivity has been an important concern in the Social Media World especially in the Indian Markets. Social Media has been very successful in other countries. India has still yet to taste the response of Social Media. Yes there are many companies who have started using Social Media as one the mediums to engage people. But they are not completely in it. The current perception of the Indian market is still restricted to contests, Campaigns to engage users and not discussions, brainstorming and other Crowd sourcing activities. Indian brands are still skeptical to act transparent to the actual people and still looking at different ways to control these mediums in either restricting themselves on tools or content.

But Social Media is more than just sharing a company’s information, their operations, their expansion plans, service etc. Social Media is also, giving an opportunity to the people to participate in one’s brand conversations, such as brand enhancements and many more. It need not have to be specific to the brand but a relative activity of the brand. Ultimately what people look for is an opportunity to converse with people on different possible discussions, express their views, frustrations, ideas etc. where they would like make some value additions. The Best example of is the Idea Campaign, it does have an emotional connect as well as involve people in the brand’s Initiatives.

There is one more reason why Brands in India are not very keen in involving real people in their activities, as the fear of conversations going against them. But, its worth taking a risk.

It needs a long term strategy to develop good relationships with the real people. An ideal social media strategy should span across between 3 to 6 months. Social Media strategies are little time consuming, but in this case we are building a communication support to backup our promotional activities. It just like somebody approaching you with a product which has no history and future. Everyone needs some supporting, not just appearing it on Hoardings, Electronic media, but also adding some personalized touch to it.

Brands still look at one big Idea, than looking at simple strategies to support it. And this kind of practice is dangerous for a brand image. Moreover, just being listed on all popular social media services, will not be considered as being active on it. One has to talk to people, ask their reviews, involve them in the brand’s survey processes and also involve them in possible brainstorming processes. This will certainly place any brand to a customer’s expectation and also building brand loyalty. People wants their concern to be considered. So far we have been hiding and running away from their concerns, and naturally that leads a Brand Disaster in the coming future. Moreover, being active is so important as there is immense competition around the brands itself. Lets understand one thing, being inactive is far more expensive than being active. Here are some important aspects to look at it:

  1. Misunderstanding towards a Brand
  2. Loosing valuable customers without knowing
  3. Negative Influence
  4. Misinterpretation of the customers  expectation and hence ending up in a loose out
  5. Advantage for the competitors
  6. Negative conversations going out of control damaging the Brand Reputation
  7. Very difficult to convince and provide possible justification on a claim or an incident
  8. Loosing out good opportunities to connect with consumers directly and also understanding their expectations
  9. Spending lot of money on the research companies, with assumptive survey reports
  10. Unwanted Redirection of Valuable Conversations

Looking at so many possible disadvantages, Is Being Inactive Worth a try ?

This is the only thought I always carry whenever I meet a new client for pitch presentations on Digital Marketing. I always choose to meet the actual decision makers because they are the one who needs to understand how digital marketing can help enhance their brand loyalty and values.  Because Digtial  Marketing needs complete transparency in the information or deals provided to them. Hence the actual decision makers has to be present while understanding how digital Media works and reacts. Even though many times I end up meeting other part of the organizations. I don’t blame them, because everyone who is in charge of marketing always follows the proven methods of marketing. But there has to be a clear thought process and one needs to have enough exposure towards all kinds of marketing.

All the smart marketing professionals do understand the importance of digital Marketing and its reach. One thing everyone should be open is for new ideas and news mediums to explore, which drives marketing communications for their respective companies.

I have met many clients in India where they are not even open for discussions on Digital Marketing, because they are scared of being written wrongly. I agree, since web is a open platform and anybody can write anything about anyone. But what have we done to overcome it? If something is written against you or any wrong information is published.

Let me give an example:

In the traditional media there is a control on what’s written on a brand, service or a personality. Despite of all these things there have been so many articles which are been wrongly published or wrongly quoted. Brands do take care of it through their PR agencies… right…, but what is the use of taking care after the first damage is done. If something wrong has to happen or if somebody wants to write wrongly about anything, they would still write. Same is on WEB. Lot of clients say that we don’t want to carry out any marketing programs online, as sometimes it back fires them. But how? I don’t see a reason to it on why one should not use web as a medium to communicate their marketing or awareness initiatives. Why does one think like that? In fact there is a great influence on the brands through web. It may be a Babycare product or it might be techno gadget. Everybody relies on web for detailed information right from the cost to reviews. And it really matters to ones buying decision.

Let me come back to the topic where we were discussing about how one can write negatively about a brand, service or a personality – on the web. For any product & service, there is criticism & applauds. It all depends on how one carries it forward. If there is criticism, one has to come forward & give enough justification and show transparency towards their practices. I am sure it will not take much of time to convert criticism into applauds. But one needs to be proactive to go ahead and work accordingly towards it. After all why do we have programs such as online monitoring, Online Reputation Management etc, presence in Social Media. All these programs do help an organization or a brand to actually overcome all these hurdles. Well Digital Marketing follows a different set of rules on marketing & PR. One needs to really think out of their old ways of marketing and handling customers. I even mentioned in one of my articles that it is no more a sellers market, hence it’s a buyers market. And buyers do expect direct information, direct reach and transparency in ones communication.

Many marketing professionals do ignore this medium, but what are we doing about those suspicious comments made on the brands in the digital medium. If we don’t bother about it, it might bother us in future. In every marketing practice there is something called anticipation which leads the future of any organization.

To share with:

I had come across a brand called Nestle. Surprising there are so many social Groups on “Boycott Nestle”. Which has more 3,000 users each in the group? I am sure Nestle is not doing anything to manage their online presence. With the extension of Internet Bandwidth and more Internet service providers in the market. Very soon we will find every single person in this country having a Personal computer and an internet connection. I am sure Brands, service industries etc will have a tough time to convince users. So, its time that we build our presence and be ready for all kinds of possible hurdles. Lot of marketing professionals do think of competition, but how many competitive promotions are really genuine enough to be worth called as competitive. People do have enough spending affordability. The only thing they look for is genuine deals. Even if it little out of their budgets but they do see how loyal the marketer are. As that affects their relationship with the marketers in the long run. I hate to see Teaser marketing promotions which follow “Conditions Apply”. In the current scenario this is the most attractive marketing practice but yet it is proven to be very wrong marketing practice. Lot of marketing professional might not agree. But where is the trust in the brand, which every organization looks for. Are we are not targeting long term relationships with our customers? Are we going to sell only one product to the customer in all our future marketing practices? Certainly not…

All I have to say about Digital Marketing is an organization needs to be very transparent when you are directly reaching your consumers and hence rather face them than avoiding them. Because they are ones who can bring success to any business in the world. And digital marketing multiplies your business to X10 times to any other main stream media activities. But they are equally important at times.

I have come across many people perceiving Online Reputation Management (ORM) as a program to only avoid Negative articles. I don’t blame anybody for this, because the concept of Online Reputation Management started with managing negative articles appearing in the search engines. Though it has been an important program to handle negatively published articles online. This post is not just to educate anybody on what is ORM. But this article will help in looking at broadly.

Let me share my experience with a similar case:

The other day my boss just asked me to do some online analysis to find out whether any negative articles are been published on one of our client’s name. I went through the Search engines, Blog directories, Social Communities to figure out if there is anything negative written or negatively portrayed. Surprisingly I did not find anything on these platforms.

I took almost 2 days to do a complete analysis on a particular brand. Well, let me share.. I had been to many Blog directories Indian & International as the possibilities of something written on a brand, service or an individual is more. So I took this route first. But I could not find anything. I had submitted the report to my boss and he got back to me in a day and the first thing he asked me was “hey there is nothing negative about this client what are we doing then for them. Is this some kind of joke” believe me he literally used these words. I took exactly 5 seconds to collate everything and asked him to give me a second to speak up. So he said yes….. The first thing I told him was that Online Reputation Management is not a program to be carried only when there is a problem. But this a program to be carried out even if there is no problem and nothing negatively published. Every one must have heard this saying “Prevention is better than cure” Same way managing a brand reputation or building a brand reputation is equally important as handling negative published articles. Listening to this my boss just tried smiling on it and gave a satisfied nod. Then he said “OH I never thought of this”.

There have been many circumstances when I come across people who stick to the written concepts or published articles online, books etc or influenced. But if one thinks this way… They may start feeling… “Why Not”

Why do we wait till the damage is done to a brand, why can’t we develop such measures before we anticipate of going something wrong. The search engine really supports well in these matters. If we are building a reputation or managing a reputation for any brand, Service, Product or an individual, we regularly post clear and transparent articles, profiles, and all insights of it. We do it regularly,  so that this process always keeps our real reputation up in the search engines, similarly keeping a track of it would also help us monitoring and also avoid unnecessary interference created by negative or falsely written information. Thus we succeed in avoiding a black mark on the respective brand, products, services etc.

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