The social media fervor is pushing people, brands, government and hosts of others on a frenetic pace to build cult-like followings. The risk here is witnessing the failure of these purported stakeholder relationships when these followers look behind the curtain and find Oz is a crusty old man spewing nothing but false promises.
History is littered with companies failing to adapt quick enough as consumers and markets change, and not engaging with stakeholders in social media is the next black hole. Social media, however, is but one means – albeit increasingly powerful and important – of building relationships with your audiences. It’s another tool in your communication arsenal, and long before you even think of dipping your toe into the pool, re-examining your brand and how it plays out both offline and online is the second most crucial step.
The first is accepting that consumers are in charge and they’re expectations are on the rise. They demand more choices – in products and services, where they shop and eat, and where they get their information. They engage in conversations about products and issues – hardly paying any attention to the old school, one-way message marketing tactics – and more often than not, those discussions don’t directly include you, me or any other brand.
Couple the power of consumer control with the realization of the dynamics of a changing marketplace with intense global competition, and brand strategies should become a more frequent priority for any company. But, please, for the love of whomever you pray to, a brand is so much more than a logo or tagline. A brand is your competitive advantage that differentiates you from your competition. News flash: It’s how others perceive you, and you can leave it to them to shape your brand or proactively do it yourself.
Think of this about your brand well in advance of spending 30 seconds to create your Twitter account (what’s more, long before executing any marketing tactic, including the news release):
• A brand must consistently deliver on expectations
• At the core of a meaningful brand relationship is a compelling story and a memorable product experience that is attractive enough to repeat
• A brand is more about what people say after you’ve left the room than what you say about yourself
Successful brands reflect character – who you are and what you stand for, and clarifying that character is paramount. It’s the centerpiece of an authentic and transparent brand proposition. Following that, look at your vision for success, scrutinize your markets and competitors; then identify your points of differentiation and build your brand proposition that is strategic and salient, authentic, transparent, and credible.
Ready? Not quite. Have you taken the time to listen to how your stakeholders perceive your brand now and how, or if, they’ll engage with you in the future? When you’re ready to get this far, listen to them and, here’s the catch, fix your vulnerabilities – from operations to marketing – dip your toe into the pool and deliver value.