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Making Your Message Count

Posted by: Ryan Chanatry on April 28, 2010

If your brand is making the effort to invest time and money in creating a presence across various social media channels, your investments are likely to be better served by ensuring that your activities in each channel are complementary but not aggregated or duplicative of each other.

Aggregation does tend to make the super engaged tweeter’s life easier, as it allows the simultaneous broadcast of what they had for breakfast to all of their friends across their networks. This raises the question of why post the same identical thought to five different websites?  It then becomes likely that your group of friends, long lost elementary school pals, and Uncle Steve will all come across it multiple times.

The same sense applies to brands. If you bombard your customer everywhere they turn with the same exact copy, they’ll remove you from at least one of the channels they find to be repetitive. Instead brands must be strategic in how they integrate social media alongside the more traditional advertising and marketing methods they are currently engaged in, and consider how to best deliver a consistent message in the most appropriate way for these new and different channels.

Starbucks, the brand rated number one in the 2009 wetpaint / ALTIMETER study of Interbrand’s Most Valuable Brands, conducted the most socially engaged, smart, dimensionalized and integrated campaign in the U.S. last spring. While Starbucks had not traditionally undertaken much above-the-line advertising, it made the decision to launch a large newspaper, magazine, and billboard campaign in the U.S.

At the same time, it used Twitter and Facebook to ask its fans to take pictures of the new billboards and be the first to post them back to the group. The print campaign, which emphasized the quality of Starbucks’ coffee over their competitors, was supported by a YouTube video series in which coffee experts discussed what was special about Starbucks’ quality. Additionally, it ran one television commercial, and then re-posted it online, resulting in a frenzy of Twitter activity and many additional viewings.

Although it’s not clear what the campaign cost, it appears to have paid off. Q3 and Q4 earnings increased year over year and Starbucks’ stock price, which was hovering around US $13 before the campaign’s start, was up to US $23 by the end of 2009.

You don’t need to have a venti-sized budget to create an integrated social media campaign. A small Singaporean diner, the garden slug, maintains a presence via its dual website/blog, a Facebook and Twitter account, and a Flickr page. The blog serves to reinforce the diner’s brand through a mixture of photography and humor. The Facebook and Twitter accounts, while a bit duplicative, serve as a means to interact with the diner’s fans, and the Flickr page has become a visually pleasing repository of the diner’s interesting dishes, staff and events. By nicely balancing activities between these channels and ensuring the brand’s personality comes across through each, the garden slug succeeds in dimensonalizing its message. 

So how do you decide where to focus your communications, how to deliver your message in each channel, and how do they all work together to build big-picture brand value? The first step is to examine your channel strategy. For all but a few brands, you can’t and most likely don’t need to have a presence in every channel. How do you decide which channels to choose then? Here are a few areas to consider:

  • First things first: Is your primary web point of contact engaging and best in industry? If this (most likely your domain) isn’t doing its job now, you shouldn’t expand into social media until you get that right first.  
  • Know your audience: Where does your audience choose to spend time interacting online?
  • Focus your efforts: What will the primary purposes of your efforts be? Are you trying to build awareness? Helping consumers decide whether to purchase your products or services? Providing after sales support?
  • Setup for success: What do you sell? How does what you sell translate to each of the respective channels?
  • Active or passive?: How interactive do you need to be? Does your investment require near constant and interactive monitoring (Twitter), or can you use social media in a more passive way (YouTube)?
  • Be industry aware: What’s your industry’s state? Are you already playing social media catch-up?

Once your channel strategy has been decided, determining how each channel will be used is key. This is most likely best done as a strategy exercise, triangulating your current above the line activities, with your proposed channel presence, and how you want to deliver your brand message in each channel. When crafting your brand message, you should consider the following:

  • Every good party has a theme: Do you have a common marketing theme that can thread both on and offline?
  • Make every word count: Is your message relevant and meaningful to your audience? What is the benefit it offers to your consumer? Promotional activity? Entertainment? Information?
  • Thread it through: Do your Twitter postings help to drive traffic to another marketing activity or provide an end benefit to your brand? An offline campaign can come alive online through Facebook or Myspace activities. A Flickr group can quickly become a fervent fan hangout with the right task.
  • Grounded in brand: Don’t lose site of your brand’s personality. In the rush to embrace the next greatest online medium, it can be easy to misstep and forget what your brand stands for. Just as insincere offline advertising can derail your efforts, not holding true to your values online might mean a quick trip to the YouTube hall of fame in the form of mockery or expose.
  • Too much of a good thing?: Be calculated about your messaging efforts. Many brands today oversell their offer, airlines it seems especially. If you really have something to say, consumers will listen, but not if you’ve already sent them three e-mails, 43 tweets, and five Facebook notifications.

Social media can be a powerful tool to interact with your existing customers and reach out to the ones you’re courting. Ensuring that the channels you are using and the messages you are conveying are all synced is crucial to making the most of your digital platform. Whether you are at the top of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking, or just starting out, the beauty of social media is its ability to level the playing field and provide you with instant access to consumers, for a fraction of what you might spend back out in the “real” world.

This post is the 14th in a series called That’s Debatable: Social Media Edition – posts designed around oft-debated topics in our community, meant to spark conversation and gather different perspectives. Learn more about That’s Debatable, and take our social media survey, and join the debate on brandchannel.

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