September 15, 2012

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest , etc. You’ve got your audience’s attention, now what?

I’m often asked my professional opinion about if, when, and how a brand should incorporate these various not-so-new-anymore engagement vehicles into an overall marketing strategy. Much has been written on the subject, and by people far more specialized in the topic than I. But I find when asked, I cannot resist the opportunity to redirect the question to an often overlooked aspect of social marketing – once youyou’re your audience’s attention, what will you do with it?

As with every other marketing communication tool and tactic available, it is important to consider what your message will be, and how it will support your larger brand story. Only then can you determine if that message is best communicated through a status update, a tweet, a post, or something else entirely.

In the absence of developing a comprehensive brand positioning and messaging platform (which is naturally the recommendation of a brand consultant), I suggest abiding by three core principles of brand storytelling: Understand your audience, know your brand plot, and maintain a consistent tone of voice.

1. Understand Your Audience

The difference between your sweet-spot customer and your audience is this: your sweet spot customer is what drives decision-making about product features, positioning and the like. Your audience is a group of people (hopefully comprised of many who satisfy your notion of a sweet-spot customer) listening to your message at any particular moment. It is important when crafting your message for a social marketing audience to go beyond understanding who they are, why and where they buy to explore the relationship they have with the medium; the role it plays in their learning about and engaging with a brand. Audience understanding is always important in targeting messages, but nowhere more so than in social marketing where you have a public and dynamic relationship with current and prospective customers.

2. Know Your Brand Plot

This is a fancy way of saying that every social marketing message should ladder up to the bigger brand story. That’s not to suggest that every tweet or post simply restate the same thing over and over. But it does mean that every action has purpose in supporting the brand’s position and plot – be it to educate, engage, or simply entertain. Understand the strengths of social marketing and the role it plays in your overall marketing mix, then map its strengths to your brand story and determine which aspects of the plot make sense to communicate in this way.

3. Maintain a Consistent Tone of Voice

There is no easier and more cost-effective way to perpetuate your brand’s position than to speak with a clear and consistent voice across all marketing efforts. This includes the tone in which you present your message. Just because a brand uses social media doesn’t mean it should adopt a different attitude or persona than it employs in traditional media. Adopt a tone that is inconsistent with your offline marketing may come across as insincere and inauthentic.

At the end of the day, the decision to implement a social marketing program within your overall marketing strategy boils down to marketing objectives. It’s not enough to implement a social marketing plan just because everyone else is doing it (although that may lead you to investigate why). Social media is a powerful, often misunderstood, and far-too-often misused marketing tool. I would encourage any company or brand entering in to, or revamping, a social media effort to consult with an expert in the field. But before doing that, be sure you have a clearly defined, well-articulated brand story so you won’t leave your audience wondering and wanting once you have their attention.