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Digital technology in marketing is no longer a new concept, and social media platforms are being used more and more often. We all get that. What's still developing is how these new social media channels affect your brand.
One area that's being flushed out is how to keep your brand consistent when your social media strategy calls for the addition of a blog, a Twitter presence, a Facebook page, and a YouTube Channel and so on.
Brad VanAuken at Branding Strategy Insider can't overemphasize the importance of brand consistency enough:
"....when it comes to brand identity, I learned a long time ago that consistency is the secret to success. With enough repetition, people encode the brands identity... in their brains, preferably linked to things that matter to them. If you mess with the... brand, these linkages and associations are likely to break down."
When that happens, you lose brand awareness, brand loyalty, and, ultimately, brand equity.
What new problems does the addition of managing multiple social channels present?
- Presence in "unclaimed channels." Part of starting a social media program means you put your brand in channels that you have limited or no ownership over - Facebook, Twitter, Yelp. Out there, people - lovers or haters - have a lot more input on how your brand is perceived, and you have only so much control.
- Brand responsiveness and shift from traditional push marketing. You can't just talk at people anymore and consider it done. People expect an ongoing response from you, one you may not have normally elicited under traditional marketing rules.
- Unclear internal channel ownership. Social media makes use of tools that are sometimes used by different internal departments with different agendas, and things can get a little chaotic. Organizing and managing your content and where that content goes is a lot more difficult to streamline.
- Larger number of "channel managers." Because some channels require multiple people to implement, there's a lot of coordination that has to happen to execute your social media strategy. Communication to everyone involved becomes more difficult when you start adding managers, departments and initiatives. Is everybody working together or running over each other?
- Conversation. The big item that signifies a major departure from traditional marketing is that you're now required to have a whole lot more conversation. You've got to respond. "What, my brand has to talk now?" Sure does. And it better be good talking because it matters a lot more to customers. This may be old news to many, but actually implementing a good "conversation plan" is something a lot of marketers haven't had to think about.
Sound like a lot to handle? It is, but if you think about the following two elements, you should be able to develop a strategy that guarantees brand consistency in the social media space.
Your Visual Brand
For any seasoned marketer, this part should come easily. The visual aspects of brand management are little-changed from traditional marketing - logo, colors, shape, etc. - and luckily they're pretty easy to manage online.
However, they aren't impossible to mess up. Never underestimate not only the power of your logo and the need for an easily identifiable image that connects directly and uniquely back to your organization, but also the way that logo is used across mediums.
For instance, your website, Twitter account and Facebook profile should all have the same overall visual features so your audience hardly feels like they're shifting platforms. All content that goes out the door in digital format should look the same, and it should look like all the other collateral that goes out as well. Invest the time and money in digitally sound design work, and it should become plug-and-play across platforms.
Your Voice Brand
Until now, voice has had only indirect effects on most brands. If it has come into play more directly for some of you, it's been as part of the recognition component of your brand. Maybe James Earl Jones is your spokesman... should you be so lucky.
Voice means something new and more important in today's social marketing landscape, where you're required to engage - have conversation, respond and develop two-way relationships.
Your voice is now directly related to the connection your audience makes to your brand, and it has a direct effect on your brand image. It should be considered as strong an influencer as your logo, your tagline or your product quality.
For your audience, it's more than recognizing James Earl Jones, but identifying when a brand has a good or bad conversation with you or, or whether it responded in a positive or negative way.
One of the oldest trends in social marketing - and one that isn't going away - is the creation of valuable content. As content is being made available online by organizations and being published on multiple platforms, voice is becoming that much more important.
When you're publishing content, you want people to interact with that content, and you're inviting them into a conversation. How your brand is going to sound and respond and converse across multiple channels needs to consistently reflect your brand.
If you're a larger organization, with more people handling social media, it's important to not only build consistency and centralization into your social media management tools, but also communicate your voice brand strategy across the organization. When those two happen together, your platform management system will be much more likely to support overall brand consistency.
Your visual brand is already important, and your voice brand is going to be a lot more important moving forward, so make sure both are built into social media strategy with equal strength. If you do, you'll be well on your way to keeping things streamlined and lasting.