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

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Bloggers can yield a great amount of influence with their readers. If you are looking to do Online PR, you have to learn to pitch Bloggers correctly. Just like journalists, they are constantly bombarded by requests. Yours has to stand out – for all the right reasons.

# 1: Select Your Bloggers Carefully & Then Reach Out

Which blogs are actually reaching the audience you want to reach? Don’t look for the biggest blogs. Look for the ones that reach your audience. If you want to reach moms, you probably want to go after mommy Bloggers. If you want to reach early adopters of technology, you want to go after technology Bloggers and also generic Bloggers.

How do you know that a blog has a lot of influence/readership? There are three clearly defined characteristics of an influential blog:

  • Check the page rank. Solid blogs generally have a higher Google page rank. Anything 4 and above can be seen as favorable
  • Check for comments and responses left by others. An active blog will have regular comments
  • Check for how many times they post. Generally, a Blogger who posts three or four times a week is more in touch with their community than someone who posts once a week
  • Also check for the tone of the posts, sometimes a positive post can be written with little sarcastic, this might leave many thoughts in the reader’s mind, be careful to look at that aspect
  • Research on where all, a particular blog is been referred, most of the times influential Blogs are referred on other Blogs, this will also gain insights of the reliability and genuineness of an influential Blog, not just referred on Social platforms
  • Never rely on the number of visits, as it can tweaked. Best thing is to look at the number of posts and number of years a Blogger has been writing
  • Have a check on the Blogs if there is an opening of Ad placements on the Blog, those Blogs can be too commercial and cannot be guaranteed of genuine reviews on a particular product
  • There are few Blog who just links to other Blogs, should not be considered

Tip # 2: Provide Common Ground- And Be Convincing

How do you convince Bloggers to write about you? You must make an effort to customize your emails to these Bloggers. Capture their interest first, and then work on building a relationship. Remember – they don’t have to care about you or your product. You have an obligation to show them how it can benefit them and their readers.

Tip # 3: Giving Them Control, Make Them Feel Valued as Bloggers

According to a recent survey, it was found that majority of the Bloggers believed that it’s fine to write about products and services, given that they are free to write about it the way they want to. Give Bloggers that freedom. You can also give them something that they can give away to their readers. The easiest way to draw in large ‘crowds’ of readers is by offering a prizes, Goodies to a reader or a bunch of readers who will win in a contest. As for the mechanics of the contest, leave that to the blogger. The blogger probably knows his or her readers better than you. Entrust the prize and let the blogger create the buzz as they see fit.

On a final note, remember that it takes time and patience. When we pitch bloggers for clients, sometimes it takes pitching a 100 bloggers to get 10 positive responses. And, that’s okay. You want to find the ones that your message resonates with in a positive manner.

Social media tools for socialites that is becoming increasingly popular is the internet. Reasons could be many, but main one is the content generated by the users which is directly from the public. Social networking sites and very popular with the users, and plenty of them can be found online. They are free to use and are advanced in technology. The concept of social media optimization utilizes such forms of media for increasing your website popularity and value. As a form of online marketing strategy, it is also a part of functions carried out by the search engine optimizers. Optimization of your content by keyword is crucial here. Make sure you update your content on regular basis. Do not forget to use apt keywords and phrases, but stay within limits and do not over stuff your content. When starting SMO, you should submit your main site to as many social networking sites as possible. Social Media Optimization requires lots of effort and hard work, similar to Search Engine Optimization. One will not be able to craft web space and presence without being patient and hard working. It is the unlimited web presence offered to the website optimizers, that is the main advantage of social networking sites. To increase business popularity, Social Media optimizers can use its name and reputation. Some use a fictional name for this purpose, which is also OK. We can therefore craft a profile of our virtual and non-existing person, but it should be avoided if possible. No matter what name you use, it is crucial that your profile shows strong background and experience in the required field of business. The most common cause of the marketing tools and techniques failure is inadequate exposure to the business that is being promoted which later leads to brand anonymity. It is very important these days that marketing is done in proper and continuous manner. Promoting is very difficult with a new business, but if you do it in a planned manner you can have really good results. Online business, in order to be successful, needs you to put a lot of work and effort. Many optimizers have agreed that social media optimization is a good option for effective website optimization.

Social Media Optimization also involves a clear strategy of the specific tool adoption. Sometimes, the selection of tools are very important more than the Social Media approach. The selections of tools directs us towards a clear goal of reaching our target audience and this has to be planned to what is the overall reach one is looking at. In some cases this is tedious in nature ensuring every tool is connected to each other to ensure a seamless content distribution. But there are some tools such as Friendfeed, Facebook, Tubemogul which helps content dissemination easier.

There has been a significant evolution with the current tools which have come up with more integration options. Thus, hoping to similar evolutions in future which will make things more organized and smoother for any Social Media Programs

Conversations are built on the quality of the content used, it could be in the form of Pictures, Videos, text, link, captions or any form of the content. I am not just saying content, but it is all about quality content. “Quality Content!!” this sounds too tricky. Sometimes I would feel what quality content would be. Is it professionally shot pictures, videos, written text… Hey…. No not at all… What I mean about quality content is something which triggers you to express your views, something which tickles you, something which instigates you to raise your voice, opinions. In other words, something which involves you in a conversation, viewing of videos, viewing of photographs and much more. The content associated with every conversation should connect users with their expressions and views. Be it a picture or a video, we always have something to say about it, but sometimes it subsides within ourselves or sometimes the content is so strong that we cannot handle our expressions and the result would in the form of comments, liking etc. Though it might be just a picture or a video there should be something associated with it, as every picture or a video has something to say always. Many of us still feel that if just sharing content would be enough to trigger conversations, YES in simple words. Imagine in our school days, everyone of us would be very excited to share our new fancy looking water bottles, New school Bags, New Book covers, New pencil boxes with our friends. Sometimes you also drive attention of people who are not your friends, just because you have something unique with you to talk about or share about.

It’s the same thing, you do it when you share something unique and creative with the users. These are key elements to drive people’s attention and hence building conversations around the content. Now this content could be company facts, their developments, their expansions in the industry, their achievements, let people know about what we are doing, in this case we are giving them an opportunity to speak to us or about us.

There are some other ways to look at triggering conversations such as using some teaser messages such as “Government goofing up with people’s tax money”, the picture or video associated with it could be very positive such as the video might show the entire tax money getting utilized for the betterment of the country and also showcases important initiatives taken in the progress of the country. These kind of messages will certainly add lot of value and will also gain lot of conversations to its surprise value too. So, the idea behind triggering conversations are not building BIG ideas, but small idea pieces which builds regular conversations around a brand, service or an individual

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 ?

Recently, I did a close comparison between proprietary tools  and Social Tools available. Now this might sound little confusing. Let me clear this fact. Proprietary tools means having your own site and having your own social features available on your site such as Hindustan Lever having Blogging, Video sharing and community features on their site. In this way they think they can grab the same amount of users to their website, just like all other popular tools available such as Facebook, Orkut, You tube, WordPress, Blogger etc.  The logic behind this is great, but it does not work at all. Many clients featuring all these possibilities on their site anticipate tremendous traffic to their site. But this is not the fact at all. It never works like that.   The clear difference is Proprietor y presence does not have the general identity which other social tools have. Its like knowing a company’s website and knowing yahoo.com. Yahoo is considered to be a landmark, anything published on it has a global reach. So the presence can be considered as a landmark. It also depends what kind of approach Yahoo had towards users and what they offered. Most of the people are glued to this presence.

Recently, I had a chat with one of my client who thinks that they had provided all necessary social platforms on their site and does not feel the need of using other popular social media presence to add more traffic to their site.  Well I don’t see any clear reason to why one should not use other Social Media platforms. In fact, my recommendation would be not spending any money building Social features on an individual company site and use other popular social platforms to drive the traffic to the site. Users want to meet up at a common place. There are 1000’s of places where people discuss and meet online. Yes.. But a website is compulsory….. there cannot be any replacement to it.

A simple example :

Knowing a destination like Gateway of India and knowing an address of a Corporate office, are two different things.  Even if a corporate office has everything as Gateway of India has, people will still go for Gateway of India, because everybody knows about it from ages. It is a Landmark !

Similarly, it is just not advisable to maintain proprietary tools and expect tons of traffic to their site. One must have a clear and a strong presence on general online presence, because they are already established and people have accepted it, because the motive behind is to just connect people and not promote an individual business. Whereas, a proprietary online presence is focused to only promote and talk about specific business. Though a proprietary presence may have tons of traffic, but there is no credibility of the traffic. Most of the traffic is driven through Google Ads, Search Engine techniques and it is been rated on the statistics. Nowadays, statistics is not just everything. One cannot decide the credibility of the information through number of page visits. What about credibility of information, how can statistics define a particular visitor of the site is willing to know about a company’s business or their communications. But all this is possible at the available Social Tools. They are designed and developed only to know about this particular intention of a user.

Online statistics can been a good beginning to rate a website ROI, but in the long run, it fades out and the traffic depends on the quality of information and not just quantity of information

One more example:

A contestant dancing in his room and a contestant dancing on a stage has a clear and logical answer to the above disucssion. No one would go to his room and watch him, until he or she comes on a global platform.