Friday, May 4, 2012

Is your brand part of the conversations or completely lost?

Simple steps to win positive buzz. 

“Everyone is on Facebook, we need a fan page”. Unfortunately, many marketers still think like this. Following trends without analyzing its assumptions and nuances can be the worst enemy of any marketing plan. In most cases, Facebook is not even the most appropriate platform to spark conversations. Marketers’ ultimate goal is to reach their customers and communicate with them. For that reason, it is time for those that are still thinking about fan pages to realize that the era of one-sided communication has ended.

People don’t talk to corporations; they just talk to other people. So, the most effective brand messages are those that are able to permeate into human territory and get into those conversations. People talking about a brand is a beloved marketing treasure, but not a result of chance and luck as many managers claim. There are some patterns behind those brands that reign the positive buzz in the social space.

They understand that people love to share great or terrible experiences.
Individuals are inherently inclined to share content, but that’s another topic for discussion. What matters here is that they will not look for a brand’s fan page and share it. They will just pass along content that is interesting, useful or entertaining. A common mistake is to think that because it’s interesting to the marketer, it will be so for everyone else. Thinking about the customers and why they connect is the first step. Most of the brands that have more soundbites online are related to great or terrible experiences. Maintaining an expected product and/or service will not be a matter of conversations, so the key is to do exceptionally well in some areas, while being careful of not doing bad in absolutely anything.

They have brand fanatics and some enemies.
Brands that try to delight everyone, delight no one. Not everyone loves Apple, Starbucks, Benetton, among others, but still they are desirable brands. In order to deliver exceptional experiences and create brand fanatics, it’s important to make a trade-off. Unique points of view can sometimes transcend the barriers of a few conversations and energize social movements.

They know when to respond to negative comments.
When a person critiques the brand’s point of view or philosophy, it doesn’t deserve much attention. When Dove developed its “Real Beauty” campaign, people started to talk about the brand from a positive and negative side. Many videos against it went viral, but that just energized more those who did connect with the brand. However, when a customer exposes a bad experience about a product or service and has some argument, it is important to react immediately. If a customer has a complaint, it’s essential to solve it before it degenerates in a hay ball of bad advertising. 

It doesn’t seem like chance anymore. Doesn’t it? Conversations can be joined at any time. Just trying the following steps will get people talking about your brand.

1.    Understand what your customers are talking about. Start by figuring out what they are saying about your brand, if they are saying something at all. But don’t skip this step because many surprises can arise from this exercise. You can use any online listening tool, such as NetBase, Radian6, among others. Don’t just stick to the summary charts of sentiments, but dig into the soundbites. Don’t limit yourself to your brand and main competitors, but think out of the box of topics and other brands that could also be connecting with your target.
2.    Change or start the conversations. With a rigorous understanding of your customers’ conversations, you can now start an action plan. Take what your customers say and don’t say to look inside your company first. Solve areas and/or procedures that can be creating trouble. Then, create those experiences that will surprise your customers. Think about something that will solve a current problem they have and you will give them a great reason to share their experience.
3.    Just keep doing it, forever. The success of brands that have exceptionally growing positive soundbites never stop being actively engaged with its customers. Especially customers that are effervescent evangelists of a brand are more vigilant to any mistake. Remember it’s their word behind every recommendation they make, so no one will still carry a positive message when errors take place.

Finally, make sure you always stay true to your brand essence and your arena of knowledge. People don’t believe in soda brands that suddenly care about health, or in financial institutions that don’t care about money. Those types of incongruences can also take away the positive buzz from your brand and turn it into negative. Even if you have a great initiative, don’t implement it if it’s not true to who you are as a brand.

Lamia Pardo-Figueroa
MS Integrated Marketing Communications
Medill School at Northwestern University
Twitter: @LamiaPF
LinkedIn: Lamia Pardo-Figueroa

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