This guest post is by Samuel
Establishing and maintaining a consistent brand personality is a crucial component of any marketing strategy. Yet, while most successful companies manage to achieve this with their traditional mass marketing campaigns, a surprising amount do not succeed in extending it to their social media presence.
The main reason for this is that social media is a fast-paced, reactive medium. Employees are often placed in the position of speaking on behalf of your brand, and there is no time for each bite-sized message to be filtered through the usual marketing channels. Even if they post with the best of intentions, the post might not be consistent with your brand voice, and in a worst-case scenario, could be catastrophically off-message and require some serious PR smoothing. If you’re lucky, you can avoid something like this being posted on your behalf:
“All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing some Gap.com shopping today. How about you?”
Unlike many social media gaffes, this was not a hoax, but a genuine promotional tweet coming from a Gap employee in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Needless to say, piggybacking a cheesy sales message onto a tweet about a hurricane that had cost 253 lives and caused around $65 billion worth of damage did not go down well with the online community. The clothing giant issued a formal apology and donated $1 million to the Red Cross, but the damage was done.
Of course, this is an extreme example, but it shows you the potential for getting things wrong on social media. The transparency that comes with actively engaging in social media can pose its own dangers, as Gap found out to their cost, but it also presents many opportunities for social-savvy companies to build consumer trust and grow their market share.
In recent years, the banking industry has had more ground to make up than most in terms of consumer trust. The financial crisis, coupled with events such as the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal of 2012, has made consumers increasingly distrustful of banks, and the financial industry as a whole. Social media provides a way to rebuild some of that lost trust, yet very few banks in the UK have managed to implement a successful social strategy.
One of the few banks that have managed to achieve this is first direct, an online and telephone-based bank with no physical branches. Without face-to-face interactions, banks of this nature have to go the extra mile to establish trust, and this is something that first direct has succeeded in doing. In the past, this has been achieved through a combination of consistent branding and putting a concerted effort into recruiting and training skilled communicators to handle the customer service end of their business.
This approach has been successfully transferred to their social media presence, but the company has recognised that this brings a whole new set of challenges. To this end, they commissioned a report to look at best practices for establishing a consistent tone of voice in a communications medium where voices can’t be heard, as well as highlighting the brand management issues that an organisation faces in the social era.
Check the full report which was authored by social media consultancy.
The report argues that social media has entered an era of maturity, and has become an integral part of everyday life. Customers have come to resent their personal interactions being hijacked by marketing, and are more likely to trust personal communications that come from employees or informed experts than mass communications from authority figures such as senior managers and CEOs.
This means that a company has to be able to rely on its employees to communicate the right message in the right way when speaking on its behalf. However, if too much emphasis is placed on creating an artificial brand voice, it might make it difficult for employees to come across as being genuine when they communicate with customers. This erodes trust, which is hard to establish in the first place, and can have an alienating effect on consumers.
The key is to create a strategy that enables employees to communicate in a natural way without compromising the brand. Ultimately, human qualities such as humility and, where appropriate, humour have to be allowed to shine through, and you need to have a strong sense of what your brand stands for and how that can be implemented in the social age.
What do you think? Is it necessary maintaining a consistent brand personality in the social era?
About guest blogger
Samuel is a passionate personal finance blogger, who regularly writes for financialconfession.co.uk. His favourite topics are career, investment, saving and insurance.