Members of a company’s leadership team, including the CEO, need to take a more hands-on role in their brand’s marketing and PR efforts if they want their business to thrive in today’s “connection economy”.
Why? Because we live in a hyper-connected world, thanks to the emergence of new media technologies and the social web. The smart brands – established ones and those emerging from the pack – understand this and are taking steps to be more open, useful, relevant and human. And the marketplace is responding positively.
But we have a Twitter account, I hear you say. Our Facebook page has thousands of ‘likes’. We’re all over this social media thing!
Meaningful and respectful
Errr, no you’re not. You’re getting confused between simply using social media tools because, well, everyone’s using them, and leveraging them strategically to open up your business and communicate with people in ways that are meaningful, respectful and that have impact on an ongoing basis.
Forget the tools for now. The moment you start thinking about channels specifically – around ‘what’ platforms you should be on – your social media efforts will be severely compromised.
Instead, start asking why you should be on Twitter? Why should you have a Facebook presence? Why should you produce videos for YouTube?
First work out what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to:
• Retain customers by providing superior service?
• Assist people with their buying decision?
• Understand trends within the marketplace?
• Increase awareness of your brand?
• Highlight the expertise of your people?
• Educate customers in a particular area?
• Increase sales using alternative channels?
• Grow your brand’s thought-leadership positioning?
• Attract potential ‘star’ recruits?
Changing the ballgame
The other key thing you need to think about as a business leader is how social media is changing the ballgame. We all know digital technology continues to level the playing field in many industries, occasionally skewering established players along the way.
But there’s an underlying theme at play here that social media is responsible for, over and above the disruption caused in many industries now that the “middle man” is all but redundant.
The theme is this: humanisation of brands and all that goes with it – openness, transparency, authenticity, adding value via interesting and relevant content (as opposed to one-way broadcast of advertising messages), senior leaders who are visible, passionate and authentic rather than carefully crafted, polished, templated ”personas”.
The brands that I see doing this well, for example, Patagonia, FreshBooks, HubSpot, King Arthur Flour, 37 Signals, and at the bigger end of town, American Express, Ford Motor Company and Whole Foods Market, are real and inclusive.
They blog, tweet and interact with customers on numerous social networking sites. Importantly, they have each cultivated growing, vibrant communities of people who genuinely like and respect their brand (and are not afraid to tell the world via their personal online networks).
I refer to these companies as “connected brands”. Crucially, they understand the power of human-to-human interaction, the importance of telling stories, of getting their in-house experts out from within company walls and talking to potential customers, of being interesting (and interested in others).
How can your company tap into this trend?
Help people, don’t hype. Be relentless in reaching out to people via social media channels, adding value through content that’s helpful, empowering and/or inspiring or entertaining.
Collaborate with bloggers and other content creators. Get involved in interesting projects that serve the community in which you operate.
But above all, get out of your office and on to the social web. Participate as an individual, a human being, in social media channels. Write blog posts, participate in online videos. Come out from the shadows and show customers you give a crap.
If nothing else, encourage your people to “socialise” the business through education and empowerment. Who knows, the results might just bring a smile to your face.