Brand management in the current era means not just keeping an ever-present eye on the social web, but also engaging in meaningful ways with brand advocates and detractors. Professionals in the field have come to accept social media as crucial to their jobs, but most know that managing a company’s brand on the web is so much more than setting up shop on social sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Here we’ll give you an inside look at the strategies of avant garde industry leaders who’ve spent years figuring out how to move beyond social media hype and implement practical management practices into their daily work routines.
Brad Nelson, Jeremy Thum, Joel Price, Joel Frey and Bowen Payson are all marketers behind big brand names. They’ve done the dirty work. Their lessons and words of wisdom range from finding ways to unify digital assets to knowing your niche, and each tip should be heeded by those looking to follow in their footsteps.
1. Let Someone Else Say It
Starbucks is at the forefront of mastering the social web. The company is one of the most popular brands on Facebook, is adept at social media to drive foot traffic to stores, is a beta tester for Twitter’s Promoted Tweets platform and was the first big brand to offer a nationwide Foursquare special.
Product Manager Brad Nelson is often the genius behind the company’s online and social media initiatives, he’s also the primary person behind the brand’s very popular Twitter account. Much of his day-to-day responsibilities involve online brand management, and as such he’s learned that sometimes the best way to say something on the social web is to, “have someone else say it.”
Nelson advises other brands to take the same course of action. “If you can find a tweet, photo or blog post that says what you’re trying to say then use that instead of writing it yourself. It does a couple of great things. Your readers will see it as an external validator, so they’ll be more likely to respond than they would if it was a billboard on the side of the road. It also makes the original author happy. Everyone wants to see their content get exposure.”
In fact, Nelson says that he tries to “find things to retweet every day.”
Recently the coffee retailer started a Treat Receipt promotion; customers that purchase coffee during the day can return after 2 p.m. for a $2 grande cold beverage. Of course, Twitter is proving to be a great medium to promote the campaign, and Nelson is employing his own strategy by retweeting tweets like this one from @jaredbtaylor: “This whole go to @Starbucks before 2 pm and get a $2 grande drink after 2 thing is pretty sweet.”
2. Unify Digital Properties…
Any online or social media brand manager has more than a single audience to worry about. There’s the company website, corporate blog, Twitter account, Facebook Page, YouTube channel, Foursquare presence and so on and so forth. Staying competitive in today’s social media landscape means setting up shop where your fans are.
While the go-where-the-people-are strategy is an effective way to reach more brand fans, it’s also the quickest way to dilute the brand as a whole. That’s why as the Director of Interactive Marketing for the Chicago Bulls, Jeremy Thum says that the company is now focused on unification and tying together each of the disparate online identities.
The Chicago Bulls Interactive Marketing Department has been busy redesigning Bulls.com, launching the made-for-web BullsTV and working on social-media driven live fan chat sessions during this past season’s regular and post season games. The team has so many online initiatives that unification — providing “a consistent fan experience” — has become a must when tackling online brand management.
Part of the unification process has been to build BullsConnect — a custom commenting platform with Facebook integration — to create a singular login and commenting experience across their online properties. In the future, they’ll be incentivizing fan activity with a Chicago Bulls points-based loyalty system to draw attention to this unification initiative. Moving forward the team will also work to bring a “Lite” version of BullsTV to their Facebook Page, as well as use it to spruce up their “dormant YouTube channel.”
When it comes to the bigger picture, unification is just one part of the process. Thum says that, “during the last 12 months, we have been focusing on building or re-building our fundamental digital marketing components, unifying them and creating unique opportunities to engage with fans on our web presence.”
3. Leave Your Ego Behind
Social media is very much an ego-driven space. The most successful social media platforms use ego and game mechanics to drive engagement, and both people and brands are often measured in fans and followers. Success is often attributed to retweets, likes, shares and various other influence metrics.
With so much of what happens on these sites fueled by this type of behavior, brands need to be careful when it comes to the employees they trust to represent them online. Social media staffers need to leave their egos behind, says Joel Frey, Travelocity’s senior public relations manager.
Frey is one of the sophisticated minds at Travelocity helping the company engage in social media travel chatter with creative initiatives on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Chatroulette. The company’s day-to-day online brand management strategy is fairly straightforward and involves an aggressive use of popular Twitter and social media application, TweetDeck.
Frey and team are quick to chime in and involve customer service reps when anyone voices a problem or concern. But, Frey cautions against team members acting too rash or letting their ego get the best of them. He also warns against taking a sarcastic tone when speaking with customers online. Both tips seem obvious but are fast-forgotten when reacting with “gut instinct” in the real-time world of social media.
Frey’s policy is to, “treat my interactions with customers on social media as I would with any media interview: I get to the point, I tell the truth and I recognize that a customer’s time is valuable and that it’s important to help them get their issue resolved as fast as possible.”
To avoid any hint of attitude in your tone, Frey also recommends having, “someone proofread your work before you post, especially if there’s any risk that the content might be deemed offensive.”
And as an alternative strategy, Frey has no qualms about sending out Roaming Gnome statues. It’s a “once in a while” gesture the company employs to make a random, “I wish I had a Roaming Gnome of my own” Twitterer’s or Facebook user’s day.
4. Know Your Niche
Like Starbucks, Virgin America is one of a select group of brands testing Twitter’s Promoted Tweets advertising platform. Shortly after the platform first launched in March, the company made a bold decision to announce its expansion to Toronto, Canada entirely through Twitter, using Promoted Tweets to help spread the word.
Clearly, Virgin America felt confident enough in their online brand management skills to pinpoint Twitter as the right medium for their big announcement. Online Marketing Manager Bowen Payson attributes this confidence to the company’s ability to understand their online customer base well enough to reach them in the right ways.
Payson advises other companies to keep it simple and find just the right niche. “There is often the temptation to over-complicate, so keeping things fresh and brand-forward is important, but you also have to keep it clear and targeted to the customers you want.”
Payson dates Virgin America’s niche-focused strategy back to their Boston launch in 2009. Instead of going for a large, broad media push, the airline opted to stay small and focused with their media plan.
“We worked with the likes of Gothamist (Bostonist, SFist, and LAist), going.com, Flavorpill, Boston Phoenix, and Curbed to reach an audience of influencers … It was so successful that we applied this same approach for the Fort Lauderdale and Toronto launches while adapting to those unique markets.”
At the end of the day, Payson says the key to success is “understanding how guests respond differently in niche marketing efforts than other broader efforts. So it is not only about smarter targeting and ad placement, but also about brand and demographic alignment.”
5. Don’t Wallow or Gloat
Social media is exploding in the world of sports. Athletes and teams are savvy to social mediums that inspire fan-reaction, and fans are finding that their voices are amplified with the help of Twitter, Facebook and their online friends.
Sports fans are an enthusiastic bunch to say the least, and this enthusiasm tends to swell when a team or player is either doing remarkably well or dreadfully underperforming. No one knows this more than the social media manager for a professional sports team. As the San Diego Chargers’ Manager of Internet Services, Joel Price regularly faces emotional outbursts of both love and hate from Chargers fans.
“In sports, you win, you’re beloved. You lose, you can’t do anything right,” says Price.
Price admits that often times the social media team is tasked with trying to bear the weight of a win or loss and “carry everything on their shoulders,” an overwhelming endeavor to say the least. To counteract that pressure, Price advises others to, “Realize you’re the conduit to the organization or company. Some issues can’t be resolved by you, accept it.”
In his own work, Price finds it “delusional” to use social media as way to try and convince fans of success following a tough loss. Price and team hope to inspire Chargers fans to take the “get ‘em next week” attitude by leading through example.
“Emotions run very high in the sports business and nasty things will be said. You might not be able to change everything that people would like, but by at least paying attention, you’ll gain respect for the brand you manage.”
The same strategy should be applied to moments of greatness according to Price. “When you win those big games don’t gloat. Leave that for the fans.”
Series supported by IGLOO
This series is supported by IGLOO, a leader in helping organizations improve business processes, increase employee productivity and enhance stakeholder engagement inside and outside the organization using social technologies.
IGLOO is a social software company that builds online communities for business. Uniting content management, collaboration and knowledge sharing tools, within one secure social networking platform, IGLOO enables organizations to overcome the barriers to communication and collaboration that emerge because of size. Whether the obstacles are organizational or geographic, a more open and connected business improves employee productivity (Workplace Communities) and helps to foster better relationships with customers, partners and suppliers (Marketplace Communities). Learn more about how IGLOO is socializing the workplace and helping organizations build successful online communities through the IGLOO Social Media Playbook.