June 13, 2012

6 Social Media Tactics from al-Qeada Consumers have always been brand stakeholders. People have always liked, shared, interacted and promoted brands they find useful or identify with. In the olden days, brand advocacy was done face to face or over the phone at a small, disconnected scale. Brand marketers had the illusion of control. They believed they set the brand agenda and directed the brand evolution. Social media changed all that. Social media holds up a mirror to the brand asking, “Who are you and what do you stand for?” says Cindy Gallop. More importantly social media gives consumers a direct stake in the evolution of a brand. Two-way conversation invites consumers into dialog and, in June Cohen’s view, delivered at Mashable Connect, “lets others grab onto it and lets others run with it … a band without followers is just a lame idea.” The co-creation of a brand promises to add more real-time intelligence, infuse more real emotion and “create collaboration and collective buy-in between founders, stewards, fans and advocates.” “Imagine” June wonders, drawing on the lessons from the development of the TED brand, “if brand fans and advocates were enrolled and empowered to develop messages and engagement programs versus a handful of marketers sitting in a dark room worrying about how to control the brand and stave off unintended consequences?” The possibilities for openness, broad scale sharing, harnessing genuine enthusiasm and loyalty or mobilizing a larger brand community multiply. The trade offs are control for conversation and centralization for dispersion. The new distributed branding model might be taken directly from the al-Qaeda playbook; enroll and mobilize discrete groups of brand advocates to develop relationships and conversations in their own way targeted to their own niches with an overarching common goal. Let loose the reins and enable the true believers to spread the word on your behalf in their own time and way. Accept the idea that there are many paths to goodness and let them play out. Understand the brand’s marketing program as the backbone of an otherwise amorphous multi-headed creature that will make its way into the culture virally carrying and advancing the brand message. Accept the notion that marketers do not have a monopoly on good ideas. Should you be brave enough to countenance al-Qaeda-like brand governance, use June Cohen’s six rules of the road to “become more of a brand steward and less of a brand dictator” while keeping in loose touch with your disconnected cells of fervent followers. Feed the hunger for participation. People want to belong and contribute, especially people who use and care for your brand. Let them join up and figure how best to participate on their own terms. Encourage sharing and viral connections. Let the word spread organically. More sharing = more advocacy=deeper brand relationships. Listen to users. They know the brand as well or better than you. They know where you should go, what you should do next and how you should frame the message. Users can be your brand compass. Mine their ideas. Co-create the brand. Reach everywhere. Embrace channels, platforms, devices and changing media habits. Let the word go out in whatever form and to whatever device it naturally reaches. Let the brand advocates run with the ball. Accept adaptation and experimentation and embrace the ideas that work best. Tell a good story. Without strong storytelling, your brand will die of loneliness. Your story must be distinctive enough to break through the clutter. Arm your advocates with content that they can adapt and share in a variety of contexts. Provide clear strict guidelines. Enforce them. Develop repercussions for those who break the rules or violate the brand’s core tenets. Regulate advocate activities one at a time.
Facebook's New Engagement Metrics Advertising on Facebook has as much to do with extending and enriching the user’s Facebook experience as it does with building brand awareness, preference or demand. Zuckerberg & Company are constructing their advertising universe to simultaneously harvest ad budgets and to keep 900 million users engaged and coming back frequently. The metrics for Facebook ads are not necessarily reach, frequency or a persuasion score. Instead they are measurements of organic Facebook activities. Measuring “engagement” is simply counting likes, comments and shares. Each requires a different level of consumer effort or involvement. Each yields a different result for brands. Facebook is developing its own formulae for extrapolating the impact of likes, shares and comments and for calculating the virility and relative impact of these actions. But surprise! They won’t show us the math. They key to optimizing your investment is knowing what you want to get out of the communications and then using the right content to achieve that goal. If you want to amass fans, focus on likes. If you want to leverage your fans’ friends and drive added viral reach, you zero-in on sharing. If you want to develop a robust case for brand consideration, then develop a conversation with and for your fans. Each objective requires a distinct creative approach. Likes. Gaining likes is the easiest. Ask consumers directly to like you or gate a promotion or an offer with a like button. Decide whether you want users to like the brand page or like specific content. Understand that this requires a nanosecond and usually doesn’t register as a favorable brand impression. Other than bragging rights, likes have minimal value for building awareness or driving purchases. Shares. If your goal is spreading the word cost efficiently using implied fan endorsement as an accelerator, develop content that can be easily shared. This generally requires an eye-catching image or a funny video. If you are cleaver enough, this will gain you access to the newsfeeds of your fans’ friends. And since each fan has an average of 130 friends, this can become significant incremental reach quickly. But be warned. This demands the most time, attention and active engagement from Facebook users, gifts they do not bestow on brands lightly. Comments. Creating community through conversation can help a brand become relevant and more integrated into consumer’s lives. It’s a strategy to leverage brand awareness and preference and move toward loyalty and advocacy. The underlying assumption is that as consumers see how much the brand gets them, they will identify with the brand, buy more and tell others. An effective conversation strategy creates countless reasons to believe and reasons to buy. The trick is to frame and stimulate a series of conversations that Facebook users naturally want to participate in. Open ended questions, strong statements inviting reaction, polls or surveys or soliciting comments on polarizing subjects have emerged as effective ways to seed these conversations. Online everyone is a reviewer or a critic. The more you create opportunities to express opinions; the richer the conversation. Facebook conversations are a lot like talk radio. A minority actively participates but a majority follows the action closely without directly participating. Effectively using Facebook for customer engagement will get increasingly complex until brands develop surgical strategies for using the platform to achieve clear and measurable goals that link Facebook “engagement” metrics to quantifiable business goals like awareness, sales, repeat purchases or referrals.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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