How Do You Socialize an Already Social Brand?

For many smaller businesses who have no real online reach or visibility, social media is a blessing that can establish the business rather easily once you connect with the right people. For other businesses, their brand is already so well known that they may feel that they don’t have to step into social media at all.

I’ve been working lately with several brands who already are mainstays in our households, brands you’d be surprised would want to advertise at all since their products and services might already speak for themselves with their national or even international reach. (You may ask, “Why advertise at all?”) But every business realizes that to continue their growth, there’s much more to be done. Here’s what you can do to grow that brand even farther — and to make people feel great about you:

Engage Your Followers

A well known news outlet contacted me a few weeks ago asking for advice on building visibility to her articles that were submitted to a social news site where I help moderate. The site’s articles were good — they’re not a well known news brand for no reason — but she fell into the trap of submitting and forgetting. Social media is social, and this requires a regular commitment to engage with the people who are or are not your constituents.

For all brands, even if you own a hockey arena or can afford a 4 minute spot on the Super Bowl, there’s much to be said about doing more beyond the basic broadcast. There’s more to be done, such as listening to your community and actually speaking amongst them (and not just at them). Building these strong relationships gives users a renewed faith in your company and causes them to help be your vocal advocates. If you empower your customers, they can be your unofficial brand ambassadors. And that’s just one of the great benefits of social media marketing thanks to the cheap technologies that make it all possible.

In fact, a little self-promotion doesn’t hurt; your customers are likely following you because they know you — they love you — and they’re looking for more. Give them more! The best way to make them feel great about you is to give them some visibility too. Show them you’re listening by responding and giving them what they ask for where and when you can.

“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t quite hold true in the social media space. They will come to big brands — but they can come with greater momentum and enthusiasm if you give them reason to.

San Francisco, actually

Run a Creative Campaign

Social media is an ongoing task, but those occasional visibility campaigns can help people spread the word about your products. When Windows 7 was launched, Microsoft encouraged fans to create their own launch parties (and free product was given as well). Chase Bank ran its Chase Community Giving project which brought awareness to its brand while also encouraging you to vote for your favorite charity who would receive up to $1 million in funding. Coca-Cola Village in Israel created a social experience by giving visitors an RFID bracelet and having them visit certain parts of this resort to “Like” them. These actions were posted to the wearers’ Facebook walls. Visitors who were photographed at the resort actually had their photos pre-tagged on Facebook as well.

When smaller brands do this, they must be mindful that they don’t have a leg up in visibility compared to larger brands, so regular involvement and being social on a frequent basis is still really important. With bigger brands, it’s a little easier for them to get away with these one-off social engagements. For larger brands, it’s a constant reminder that the brand is present and working for you.

Customer service is the new marketing. Social media brings customer service to a higher level, and in fact, it also reduces costs. It’s no wonder that we’re now trying to award people for the best social media customer service; some companies are doing a wonderful job by taking concerns seriously and showing that they genuinely want to help. Are you representing a magazine and hear a tweet where a customer complained that her magazine didn’t arrive last month? Take initiative to set things right. If someone is offering advice about the software product you created, thank him for his feedback, and if practical, escalate it to the teams who can make it happen. With big brands, there may be a better process — perhaps you can offer a URL for the customer to send product feedback. Either way, don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

Humanize the Brand

Big brands are, well, big. Their presence might permeate your household — you might have some products in the cupboard and in your fridge, you might be flying on their airline in a few weeks and then again in three months, you might have some clothes in your closet and in your hamper. With social media, you might want to associate with them, and you definitely think of them just a little bit when interacting with their product or using their service, right? But most people who use the products or service probably also think nothing else of the brand. “It’s cool,” “I like it,” “I love their hospitality,” “I always buy from them!” Those are probably the thoughts you have running in your head. With social media, though, there’s a huge opportunity to get to know the people behind the brand, the people who make the brand tick and thrive every day.

Brands can now make themselves super approachable, and businesses can leverage that to show that they are just like us: they are human. Southwest Airlines has its famous Nuts about Southwest blog which is a blog promoting an airline and a whole lot more. In this blog, employees of the airline share personal stories mixed in with company news and announcements. It gives customers and readers the opportunity to meet the people behind the Southwest Airlines name and lets them know that they are dealing with people just like them. At the end of the day, that’s what most of us want anyway.

Big companies definitely have an edge due to their visibility which was probably a lot harder to achieve in those pre-social media days! Still, though, despite their massive pervasiveness, brands still have an opportunity to become much more social, and they should! Speaking as an social media enthusiast, I welcome all brands who realize that there are so many ways to connect with customers using various forms of media and networks. As more and more companies are starting to see the value in social media, even if they were hesitant once before, it becomes clear that this is serious business, and companies of all sizes need to take part in this (r)evolution.

Photos by Shutterstock.

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

26 Comments

  • December 1, 2010

    Ashley K. Edwards

    Great article, Tamar! I think those brands who don’t “get” social media need to take a step back, and understand it’s not about advertising at all. That’s why it doesn’t matter if said big brands “don’t need to advertise” because they are household names.

    Social media is about building relationships, which will [hopefully] lead to lifelong brand loyalty. That’s better and more valuable than any advertising or marketing campaign.

    • December 1, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Thanks Ashley. I love the way you put it. :)

  • December 1, 2010

    Gareth Rees

    Great post Tamar. I think it could be considered even more important when a large brand interacts with you. Everyone loves to be made to feel special, and having a brand like Coke interact with you could be like a movie star stopping in the street to say hello. (Maybe that’s a bit over the top, but you get my point.) hopefully.

    • December 1, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      That’s really true. I love being paid attention to — and by a “celebrity” of a different space? Sure, it’s hugely empowering. Great analogy, Gareth!

  • December 2, 2010

    Monique Neeley

    Thank you for reiterating what holds true for social media in business. Thanks for pointing out customer service, running creative campaigns, and most importantly ENGAGEMENT! =) Love it! Sharing on my blog! =)

  • December 2, 2010

    Sharel

    Love this post (and the images).

    This point of view is interesting, understanding that there are brands who have social media presence, but dont value it over time…

    Interesting to think that “Social media is about building relationships”, and why brands dont see the value in it over time when the relationship was already build …

    “Customer service is the new marketing” show real value for brands, maybe its a matter of education..

    Thanks!
    Sharel

    • December 2, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      I think it might be. I also think employees affiliating with brands take it for granted. There’s much more to be done! Thanks Sharel. ;)

  • December 2, 2010

    Ching Ya

    It’s an enlightening read, Tamar. You’ve stated some important points here that all big/small business owners should be aware of. Especially the part about how smaller brands need to be reminded that they don’t have the visibility and fame so they will need to work on the regular engagement with the followers. This is sometimes overlooked as we have always heard about how we should learn from the big brands – and sometimes, they do get away with ‘one-off’, which may not be applicable for smaller brands that need to start brand- and fan loyalty-building from scratch. I’m glad you point that out!

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging Tracker

    • December 2, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Yup, it’s harder for a smaller brand, but the opportunity is there for both. Big brands can still make social media work for them — and they should. Thanks! :)

  • December 3, 2010

    Lisa Attias

    Marketing is conversation.

    • December 3, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Well, actually, conversation is marketing. Or as Chris Heuer puts it, participation is marketing. ;)

      Thank you Lisa.

  • December 3, 2010

    Ashley K. Edwards

    Agree with you, @Tamar.

  • December 3, 2010

    Monique Neeley

    Ditto Tamar!

  • [...] How Do You Socialize an Already Social Brand? – Techipedia [...]

  • December 7, 2010

    Nick Stamoulis

    Great post Tamar, these are the sentiments we try to pass on to clients looking to get into social media, engaging with your audience is the key to ensuring your efforts pay off. Social media is the way to keep your brand in the public eye, and that is why even the big brands find value in it. They don’t necessarily need major efforts, but any brand no matter the size should dive in to social media.

    • December 7, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Yep, it’s not hard either! Thank you, Nick.

  • [...] How Do You Socialize an Already Social Brand?This is a great post about how to continue to grow your brand in social media. [...]

  • December 10, 2010

    Carl Brown

    Great Stuff Tamar,

    I think something we all need to keep in mind is that at the core marketing is a social activity and all brands are social in some way or another. Social media tools bring new ways to the table to leverage the social aspects of a brand in a more visible way.

    • December 10, 2010

      Tamar Weinberg

      Yup – life is kind of easier. And harder. Heck, it’s definitely more fun. :) Thanks Carl for commenting.

  • [...] How Do You Socialize an Already Social Brand?This is a great post about how to continue to grow your brand in social media. [...]

  • December 12, 2010

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  • December 17, 2010

    Firdaus

    That’s truely true. Well, not every one could get jump into the bandwagon.

    Keep all thing in right mind.

  • December 18, 2010

    Sherman Unkefer

    I love the “top brand” interaction thoughts here. Thanks for the excellent article, will definitely keep coming back for more.

  • [...] now able to build real relationships with people who can truly make a difference. Even if you are a very large brand, there are still ways to engage your followers and show them you care. (Asking them to follow you [...]