5 Must Haves for the Social Brand

To succeed in the social selling environment, marketers must adequately respond to consumers’ needs and emotions as they arise. As consumers adapt to the commercialization of their social platforms, digital marketers must alter their strategies in kind. In a recent presentation, We Are Social’s Regional Managing Partner Simon Kemp addresses several of these emerging trends, including increased privacy concerns and annoyance with excessive ads (http://wearesocial.com/). What’s more, data collection “opt out” options, filtering mechanisms, and private sharing apps empower consumers to act on these feelings- concealing themselves and their data from any unwelcome marketing messages.

How, then, can businesses build relationships with consumers desiring nothing more than silence? According to Kemp, truly social brands are those that, instead of dictating their value to consumers, work alongside audiences to create value.  However, most companies miss valuable opportunities to start the conversation, says Kemp. He outlines five “provocations” by which companies can build a social brand.

  1. Social equity = brand equity

Accessible from any device with a screen, social media affords companies infinite opportunities to engage consumers. This is particularly valuable given that consumers are most often referred to brands by word of mouth endorsements. But the ultimate goal of truly social brands is not merely to spread awareness, but to fuel conversion and instill feelings of conviction in its users. Thus, a brand’s reputation lies not in its content, but in the conversations it sparks among its consumers. If social conversations underlie brand equity, what kinds of interactions foster brand loyalty and equity?  Posting excerpts from key events can spark meaningful discussions between company and consumer. By fielding questions from consumers on Twitter, the company can readily point consumers to additional company resources and further involve them with the brand.

  1. All social marketing should deliver mutual value.

The objective of most companies is to generate a profit by selling products that provide value to consumers. To Kemp, a truly social brand applies this logic to every one of its social media conversations. Whether they are providing thought leadership, answering a product question, or resolving a customer service issue, the company views every interaction as an opportunity to add value and engage its audience as effectively as possible. Kemp presents this “interactive” paradigm as a welcome contrast to “interrupting”- stealing the consumer’s attention without meeting their needs. Companies traditionally used these “interrupting” ads in TV advertisements targeted at mass audiences who could not yet skip the commercials, but today’s filtering and skipping options allow consumers to bypass these ads.

  1. From singular ads to evolving brand stories

Created in response to expensive television contracts, interruption ads are outdated in the modern digitized environment. Hoping to make a return on their significant investment, marketers simply broadcasted their ads to as many people as possible. Low numbers of channels further limited their ability to tailor content to specific customer segments. 60 years later, interactive digital media has completely eliminated those barriers and allowed marketers to focus instead on effectiveness. Now, digital marketers can seamlessly optimize experiences for different genders, ages, regions, income levels, and any other conceivable category. Furthermore, digital marketers can respond to changing customer needs within seconds. Marketers can leverage this flexibility to tell an evolving brand story that responds to company developments and consumer preferences. This two-sided, dynamic relationship more approximates actual social relationships than interruption ads.

  1. “Social listening powers all marketing”

Segway. Amazon Fire Phone. New Coke. These product failures can be blamed on marketers who pushed innovations onto the market without adequately researching their consumers’ needs. Though no company can perfectly respond to the desires of every consumer, their social media posts can reveal insights that marketers previously needed research to find. Even posts about their favorite TV shows, political views, and vacation spots can provide the company with meaningful insights. These observations, which Kemp calls “social listening”, inform all areas of the company ranging from marketing to packaging, advertising, and customer service. In taking the time to listen, the company learns what experiences consumers want. Especially useful for Morningstar is information about followers’ buying behaviors, lifestyles, and interests.

  1. CSR= Civic Engagement

Finally, Kemp highlights civic engagement as another vehicle for social brand building. This reworking of Corporate Social Responsibility shifts the company’s emphasis to improving the greater good. By proactively serving their consumers’ communities, they demonstrate concern for them as people, not merely as revenue drivers. More importantly, this forges stronger partnerships between the company and its consumers, both of whom are working in tandem to improve their collective space.

By implementing these five provocations, companies market with the people instead of simply marketing to them. This social strategy establishes a democratic marketing relationship in which brands exist not as distant opaque entities but rather “of the people, by the people, by the people, [and] for the people”.

To watch the full video, click http://wearesocial.net/blog/2015/07/future-social/

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