Social Media = car. Brand = gas.

social-mediaOnline Spin just released an article about succeeding with Social Media and how the answer isn’t in advertising, Facebook pages or Twitter profiles. To this statement I only have one thing to say:

Duh.

Online Spin has it right. But is this such a revelation? Why is it that so many social media ‘experts’ out there don’t understand the fundamentals of brand engagement? When people talk about your brand, or friend/fan your brand, or tweet about your brand, it’s because they have bonded with your brand, not because you simply exist. The principles of brand strategy and engagement have never been more essential today, yet these social media tacticians have many clients believing that they’ll reap financial rewards if they just set up a fan page on MySpace.

The only companies that do well in social media without clear brand support are the ones who innovate in social media. Companies like Naked Pizza who put up a Twitter billboard out front of their location to give followers special deals. The desired brand effect was a pizza for early adopters (go figure, the pizza is 100% organic).

If you’re living up to your brand promises at every touch point and creating advocacy with your customers, then your elevated presence in social media is assured. Not only will people flock to your social media sites, but they may even create their own fan sites as well. I recently flew Virgin America and loved it so much, I devoted a whole article to it. And I don’t even know if Virgin has a Twitter profile.

My advice is this: get your brand in order and build some loyalty. Until you do, your social media presence won’t do much for you. Think of it this way. Social media is the car and your brand engagement is the gas. Without people who love you, your social media ain’t goin’ no where.

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I’m NIKE! Or at least you think I am

swooshAuthenticity is going to be the new battle brands will have on their hands. With the rise of social media and its low barrier to entry, companies that don’t take steps to protect themselves by registering their names on the major sites risk allowing someone else to control their brand name.

Which makes me realize that there is going to be a market for these identities, much like there was a business for Domain Squatting in the late 90s. I wonder how much Nike would pay for the @Nike handle on Twitter (with its legion of followers), especially if Twitter continues its meteoric rise in social media.

If you haven’t already, my suggestion is to register on the following sites and ramp up your privacy settings until such time as your company is ready to move forward.

Twitter
Facebook
MySpace
Friendfeed
Youtube

2 things every company must do before using social media

Companies are looking increasingly at social media as the answer to their declining marketing dollars. Just as the recession has exacerbated the decline of traditional media, so it has given meteoric rise to social media. The reason? It’s cheap. But unfortunately, many companies don’t know enough about social media – and she is a fickle one, because she’s controlled entirely by your customers. Some love you, some hate you – and they all have an equal voice.

Any company that is thinking about getting into social media should, but not in the way many think. Forget launching a Facebook page or holding a contest where people can make their own commercials about you. Instead, just monitor what people are saying about you.

1. Go to Google Alerts and enter your company’s name in the Blog Search area. Google with then monitor all mentions of your company and send you an email. There are a couple of other search engines for this, but Google does a pretty good job.

2. Visit Twitter Search on a regular basis. Enter your company’s name and you’ll see, in real time, what people are saying about you.

Anyone not doing this and thinking about social media is insane. These two tools can provide any company with basic means of monitoring their customers’ feedback. And here’s the best part – you can respond. Here are a few examples of what’s being said about a company in our area. Ask yourself what you would do if you saw these comments:

1. Jan: Is glad to be home after nearly being stranded. First experience with XXXXXX and the flight was cancelled!

2. wineb: Just got ‘free’ tickets on XXXXXX! NEVER been on a plane before– I AM SO EXCITED!!!

A quick note back to Jan could make her realize that the company cares about her cancelled flight (and provide incentive for a future flight). Another note to wineb could share in her excitement about a first time experience. By reaching out to these people at the right time, not only will they become more bonded to the company, but they’re well on their way to sharing that goodwill with their friends through these social media tools.

And you wondered why no one was joining your Facebook page.

Do you have any positive social media stories worth sharing?

Help! My mom just Superpoked me!

facebook1What rhymes with ‘Privacy Settings’?

I’ve been a Facebook member for a little over two years now, and have experienced its phenomenal growth over that time, both the good and not-so-good. It seems like overnight I went from 2 to 135 friends (some I haven’t spoken with in over a decade, but I digress). I used it as the main vehicle to get in touch with my friends. I posted pictures, wrote on friends’ walls and made cheeky comments. But that all came to a crashing halt a few months ago, when I was over at my mother’s house for dinner.

While passing the carrots she casually mentioned that next time I go out with friends I probably shouldn’t double-fist my drinks, and that if my friend, ‘Dave’ (name withheld to protect the innocent) thought ‘Renee’ (again, name withheld) was so ‘do-able’, he probably should just ask her out.

After the blood drained from my face, I realized that this embarrassing exchange with mom was inevitable. Not because I habitually pound two beers at a time or because Renee is so damn desirable, but because I didn’t have my privacy settings on FB set to maximum. Lesson learned – At least she wasn’t my employer, or worse, a client. But, I have to admit, I can’t wait to have Dave over to mom’s for dinner.