Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Presidential-Size Opportunity Presented by Social Media

As a result of social media, we communicate in a different way than just 10 short years ago. We view fans and followers with heightened attention. We conceptualize ideas in terms of images and photos in a way we never did before, and BYW, we speak in capital letters rather than complete sentences.

While many individuals have developed a personal digital footprint, businesses – small, medium, and large – have also developed a presence on their preferred social platforms, some based on a specific industry. But where are all the Presidents of mid-sized businesses? If your company leader is AWOL from social media, isn’t it time for your brand to benefit from his or her participation?

Have you heard of Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk? They’re the leaders and key storytellers of Virgin Atlantic airlines, the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, and the Tesla electric vehicle. But in addition to their countless accomplishments, they are also active in social media. All three are prominent on Twitter, which means that if they have product news, event news, or even a simple response to John Q. Public, it’s available for the world to read – in real time.

“Leaders who don’t understand social media are placing their company at risk of not capitalizing on business opportunities, as well as exposing it to unnecessary risk,” says Walter Adamson, a social media strategist of Kinship Enterprise in Australia.

And isn’t your President/CEO the number one brand ambassador among all of your employees? He or she could use the social platform of choice – whether Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn – and provide industry tips, interviews of employees, interviews of industry experts, commentary about industry news, and the list goes on and on. Depending on the platform chosen, the posts could be short or long.

Employees would notice that the top brand ambassador has a social presence and that he or she wants to engage with both internal and external stakeholders. This would result in more social activity by employees, customers, and others. Media might even become interested in your brand, and that could yield media coverage.

So the question for all Presidents/CEOs is this: Do you have 10 minutes a day? Pick a social platform – probably Twitter and Facebook would be the best places to start. Then ask yourself, what you would say if you encountered Bill Gates in an elevator for two minutes? How would you describe your competitive advantage? What news would you share about your business? What advice would you seek? Now share some of that conversation on your preferred social platform – but be brief. See how easy that was? And here’s the secret: repeat tomorrow, the next day, and the next. 

You’ll be surprised by the rise in fans and followers, your brand awareness, and maybe, even in your sales.


To read more, check out:
Weber Shandwick Study on the Social CEO:

“Is Your C-Suite Social?” by @JackieFunk

“Five Reasons the C-Suite Can’t Ignore Social Media” by @Damian_Corbet

“Top 50 Social Chief Executive Officers on Twitter” by @ValaAfshar

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Do You Create Brand Experiences?

Brands stand out among the competition for a variety of reasons. Your customer service may be exceptional.  You may offer discounts or buy-one-get-one-free offers. Or you may have partnerships with other trendy brands. But in today's social economy, one way to generate interest in your brand is to create a “brand experience.” According to Marty Neumeier, a brand experience is "all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization; the raw material of a brand."

I’d like to introduce Chris Beninati to my blog. Chris is the founder of Social Demand, an experiential marketing agency in Southampton, New York. Social Demand creates unique experiences for lifestyle brands through campaign development, brand strategy, and special events. Chris and I met through Twitter and after several conversations in 140 characters or less, we decided we had much more to say. Connect with Chris on Twitter @cbeninati and learn more about his company at www.socialdemandny.com. Highlights of our conversation follow below.

QUESTION: How do you define a brand experience?
CHRIS BENINATI: My team and I ask ourselves this question on a daily basis because it's at the heart of why we do what we do. No matter what you sell, you must realize that your company is now a lifestyle brand: a brand has a consistent style and voice across multiple social channels, expressed to millions of consumers. If you aren't looking around and asking, "How does our brand fit into our target audience’s lifestyle?," then you're losing.

QUESTION: What makes a successful brand experience? Please provide three examples.
CHRIS BENINATI: The best brand experiences are when the brand allows the audience to take the reins and, for example, connect with each other at an event. Too many brands try to plug themselves and give too many up-front calls-to-action. The most successful campaigns come from putting the audience first -- find out what they enjoy and provide that joy to them. When people realize that a brand made an amazing experience happen, they'll be more likely to engage in positive word-of-mouth and further support the brand.

Three examples I like are from brands who gave back to their consumers and incorporated the lifestyle of their target audiences within their campaigns.

[1] The app Uber used Ice Cream trucks to promote its brand and service. It gave consumers a call-to-action to download the app and request “Ice Cream.” If they were lucky, a truck soon arrived with free ice cream. This was great because it showed people how to use the service in a fun (and delicious) way. (Check out the details: http://blog.uber.com/2013/07/17/ubericecream)

[2] I loved the Canadian Airline West Jet “Christmas Miracle” campaign. The airline asked travelers traveling to Toronto what they wanted from Santa. When they arrived in Toronto, all of the requested gifts were at the airport when they landed. Big time emotional connection and social advocacy with a video that went viral overnight. No one who has seen the video will ever forget it. (Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/zIEIvi2MuEk)

[3] I also loved Heineken’s “Departure Roulette En Route” campaign offering travelers to take a risk and travel to a new country or city unplanned. This showcased a sense of adventure and living with an open mind. (Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/HqXOiQ1c42c)

QUESTION: Why should mid-sized businesses be especially aware of the brand experience in today’s social era?
CHRIS BENINATI: Today, many mid-sized businesses are winning over gigantic corporations because they essentially "never turn off." Due to real time social connectivity, brands are exposed more than ever. This is a good thing for companies with the ability to be available 24/7 – or with fewer layers of management for decision-making. They are also aware of industry trends or shifts and are able to adapt or change directions quicker.

QUESTION: With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space and why?
CHRIS BENINATI: Social ROI is important, but everyone’s metrics may be different based on their objectives. For me, content engagement is big because we want people not only to be exposed to what we're doing but also to join the conversation. Although it's becoming less of a key metric as our social knowledge grows, I think follower count is important - always aim to grow an audience that is interested in what your brand brings to the table.

QUESTION: What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
CHRIS BENINATI: Next year, I believe we'll be talking about new technology to measure the quality of our engagement on social channels. I also think focus will grow on how user-generated marketing can fit into brand and product development, at the first step instead of the last.

Will you now allocate marketing time and dollars toward creating brand experiences? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.