Archive for the ‘relationship’ Category

Image from MediaBistro: Agency Spy

Aflac has been having a major identity crisis, having difficulty getting their audience to truly understand what it is that they do- if 100 people were asked, only 4 would know.  The duck has been the company’s image through all of their campaigns and when switching to their new ad agency they intend to keep the relevance of the duck. Their new challenge is to generate interactivity, utilize integration marketing, and provide relevant information. Their new campaign, “You Don’t Know Quack,” was launched in January and is an integrated marketing campaign where they, for the first time, are using new social media in addition to traditional media tactics. The “You Don’t Know Quack” campaign has strategies around four markets: consumers, business-to-business, product-specific executions and insurance brokers.  According to Jeff Charney, Aflac’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, they are striving to go from recognition to definition and a household name to a household need, as he explains in this interview with Forbes.

Since they are asking people to “get to know quack,” they want to give the audience a chance to share what they do know about Aflac. Their new consumer generated initiative is, “Aflac in 10 Seconds.” It is a challenge to the people to create a 10-second video describing what it is that Aflac does for its consumers. Videos can be posted to both their company website or on the Aflac duck’s Facebook page. The contest ends on April 18 and anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to win the $25,000 prize. The three-runners up will win $1,000 and all four winners will receive an Aflac snowboard like the one in the promotional video.

Why this campaign should be successful:

Aflac is not changing its brand image in their new campaign, only reconstructing their brand identity in the eyes of the consumer through user-generated videos.

Their goals of interactivity, integration and information are all tied together; they have a very interactive website, the information is given by both the company and users, who are the most widely trusted source, and they integrate the same message into all aspects of their campaign – billboards, social media, TV ads…

They are focusing on their relationship with their audiences. Since the audience is unaware of what Aflac is about, they are putting the power of the message in their hands, building trust on both sides of the relationship.

Ultimately, they are showing their transparency. Trust in their consumers and the idea that they are not changing who they are but be who they are and getting people to see that, stresses their aim to be transparent.


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The importance of one brand image and identity is important not only for your company in distinguishing yourself from your competition but also to hold onto your consumers – to not confuse them and to be perceived as a strong, united entity. Consistency in your brand builds trust, whether we are talking about traditional media or new.

Take for example Coca-Cola… they have had the same logo since 1885, that’s 125 years. Everyone knows Coca-Cola and can recognize their logo by the script font, the color, its use, etc. Kameron Hurley discussed a logo survey where segments of the Coca-Cola logo were taken and only the color was changed and most people could not identify it. When they pulled a segment from the actual logo, it was easily identifiable. This shows that the simplest f modifications to your brand can affect the way your audience perceives you.

Pepsi, Coke’s main competition, has changed or modified their logo about 11 times in 125 years while Coke has maintained brand consistency. This may account for the way that Coke has taken over the market and Pepsi has continually struggled to keep up. You don’t want to dilute your brand or confuse your consumers by not maintaining a steady brand identity.  Consumers build a relationship with your brand and your image is a huge part of that relationship.

Your brand image or identity stretches far beyond just traditional media or your logo; today, websites are a vital part of brand image. When people want to search for information about your company, more often than not they will type in “yourorganization.com” or do a Google search that will ultimately bring you back to your site as well. You want to reflect the same message, the same image, and your logo in the website as you would in TV advertisements, magazines, customer service or your product in general.

Also, as I’ve discussed in my previous post, Social Media Strategies, you also want to coordinate your internal teams such as IT, marketing, and corporate communication teams in order to better assist in your company’s strategies to reach your overarching goal. As with everything else, your audience will only see you as one entity and will get confused by different messages coming from different silos within your organization.   

H&R Block is a great example of how an organization should coordinate their brand silos around one specific goal, therefore one message, on entity, on brand identity. Their viral marketing campaign is targeted at people who do taxes themselves- they want to help that specific audience. They utilize an integrated social media approach, working with the entire company, to produce digital tax solutions in order to establish their singular brand image. In the video below Amy Worley from H&R Block discusses their leap into their social media strategy and the importance of one brand image.

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Generally, social media tools give you the power to connect to people, organizations, and companies that you want to follow or support, but it is usually impersonal, not face-to-face and you can create relationships without ever meeting. Some people believe that social media is much too computer based and it takes away from meeting people the “old-fashioned” way.

The Swedish mobile software and design firm, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), is attempting to bridge this gap with a new facial recognition application available for Android phones that will allow you to take pictures of individuals on your phone and through your app you can search which social networking sites that individual is participating on and gain access to their information.

The new app is called Recognizr. There is a lot of controversy over privacy issues and opposition to this application, but according to TAT, it can only work if both parties have subscribed to the service and you can set specific privacy levels. Privacy concerns also bring up the issue that if you do not want people in social media networks or the Internet to have access to information posted, you should not post it at all.

How does this relate to organizations? Well, Recognizr is available for cell phone manufacturers and cell service providers to buy and distribute to their users; meaning this can generate better user experiences for their customers. You can also, when meeting people in person, take a picture of them and directly to connect to them on their networks. So whether you make a new friend or you are at a business meeting with a guest speaker, you can instantly begin your social media relationship.

Popsci explains how it works with augmented identity, but the video below seems to be the best visual demonstration.

Facebook is also using a similar application using facial recognition where it will search your friends and your networks for pictures with you in them and will tag them for you. It will also tag pictures of your friends and find “unknowns” in your network. This application is called Photo Finder; it follows the privacy settings already set to your Facebook page and also only allows people to see the auto-tagged pictures if they are using the application as well.

Do this mean that, if not now, that our future employers can search our name and see all of the pictures that have been “untagged” if our privacy settings are not as tight as they should be?

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You could have a very successful business, but being unaware of what not to do could end up tarnishing your reputation or destroying your company all together.

Along with Burger King, there were other instances of failure by companies attempting to use social media innovatively. Skittles for example changed their website homepage to their Twitter feed. It was a constant update of other people opinions but it was passive and not engaging – most importantly, they forgot about their audience and the need to reach out to them to establish the relationship, not the other way around.

This already breaks most of the guidelines I’ve shared before…. They led with a tool. There was no push to create a sense of community with added value in their social media tactics,  or to show interest not only in what your audience says but respond to them – generate a lasting connection deeper than brand recognition. They didn’t show you are listening, or build trust. Another element Skittle’s tactic is missing is transparency; it’s not a look into the company as a whole or into the life of the CEO – there’s no face, no value to the Twitter feed, when they aren’t interacting as well.

What you need to avoid when using social media to build relationships with stakeholders… Even if you aren’t going to implement a social media strategy, you want to listen to what your audience is saying; they are going to talk about you no matter what, avoiding it would only be a missed opportunity. Secondly, if you are going to respond to your audiences’ comments and interact, don’t be fake- you need to be a real person, with real intentions of establishing a relationship. However, you don’t want to be too “real” as to overstep the boundaries of the already established guidelines of these online communities – be an informed user. You also want to avoid thinking of this relationship as a short-term goal or a means to a sale. This means that you should not be thinking in terms of selling your product, but instead, understanding your audience so they make the decision to invest, buy, or follow your brand. Also, your company needs to approach social media together as one; avoid different teams using different media and sending different messages. Lastly, do not forget that you are trying to accomplish a goal with your social media presence; therefore you must have a way to measure your progress.

But it is most important to remember- you’re biggest mistake is fearing the use of social media. Yes, it does take time, experience, and extra responsibility and yes, it does put the power in the hands of your audience.  The risks do not outweigh the benefits. The value of transparency and more intimate relationships is greater than be afraid to allow your employees too much access to the internet during work hours. The negative criticisms are important feedback to work with in terms of bettering your company. A law suit is little to be afraid of if everyone has the right training on social media etiquette and as long as your guidelines for social media interaction reflect those already in place in your organization, the power to have a voice won’t be abused.

Skittles has since changed their website, full of YouTube videos, links to their Facebook and Twitter, eye-catching pictures and invitation to interact. This is a more successful way to engage your customers – plus, it’s an experience where you can almost “Taste the Rainbow!”

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As mentioned before, social media success doesn’t happen overnight- it’s a long-term plan, a social media strategy. Lois Kelly and BL Ochman lay out some tips for successful strategies using social media. Developing a strategy means that you have a goal in mind, a goal with measurable objectives which will provide the foundation to your social media presence. Without goals and objectives your organization could use different media incoherently, not accomplish much at all, and have nothing in the end to measure to see if the use of social media was beneficial or not. As part of your strategy, you must develop a coherent plan of action, meaning that all your agencies (IT, digital, marketing, sales…) must work together and not compete with each other. Working together will best drive traffic to your websites, and collaborating internal involvement is key to integrate your social media strategy into to overarching goal of your organization.

A key piece to putting together a social media plan is getting the “OK” from the top executives because down the line you will meet less opposition, which will expedite the changes to your company. You also want to involve the legal teams, who, along with execs, are sometimes hard to convince utilizing social media is the best strategy. Legal teams can put together guidelines for the best use of networking sites to ensure the protection of the organization. The next step then, is to educate your employees of how to properly use social media to their advantage.

A great example of a well-implemented social media strategy is through Best Buy Co., Inc. Gina Debogovich, manager and communities/social media strategist for Best Buy, created a presentation outlining Best Buy’s social media engagement. The overall goal is to show that they are concerned and connected retailers in online community relationships, through objectives such as educating people about the technologies they supply, decreasing sale-related stress, and drive product discussions in their online blogs, forums, and other available networks. Barry Judge is the CMO for Best Buy and in the video (below) expands on the intentions of their social media plan. They developed a campaign called “Dream Support,” which creates an experience in and out of stores to know the reasons why consumers buy the products they want, to see technologies “come to life,” and to show customers how to use their products to make their dreams come true. Judge expresses the power of transparency in building trust – the more of both good and bad that are shown the better.

Judge himself has a blog where he provides unfinished ads, asks for feedback, and provides rooms for opinions and comments, but a large amount of Best Buy employees are also blogging, tweeting, and on Facebook and are encouraged to do so. Internally, they use forums, wikis, and Voice Box. All of this involvement in social media has driven over 1 billion visitors to their websites every year.

Best Buy definitely knows the importance of digital communication to ensure a successful social media presence. They extend their buyer/seller relationship to be more meaningful through these different technologies and participation in social media. For Best Buy, they really showcase that it is all about better reaching their audience.

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Creating networks with social media is not something that will happen overnight – it is a commitment, something that takes dedication, time and resources.

Leo Babauta, author of The Power of Less, wrote a guest post on Darren Rowse’s blog explaining the 7 steps it takes for building relationships with social media, blogs particularly. You can’t expect your audience to be sitting around waiting for you to finally start a blog, forum, or some other medium and come to you immediately once you do – you must go to them. You must reach out to your stakeholders. Liana Evans expands on this point, saying that if you communicate often, your community of followers will in return start to trust you will be there and will rely on you to have a post, comment, or tweet. You’ll know then that you have established a connection to your audience.

However, trust comes from more than just “being there” and being reliable to respond. You have to remember that people are taking time out to look at your blog, your Twitter, or maybe Facebook page. Responses and posts must be helpful to your readers; these are made for the purpose to get to know them better, so don’t forget that it’s about them, not you. You also want to encourage discussion, don’t only post your thoughts and facts, but ask readers what they think as well and always remember to thank them for their time, input, and comments.

A thank you always goes a long way and so does positivity when trying to build relationships. A positive attitude toward involving yourself in social media will not only make your networks more attractive, but will also help when presented with negative comments or criticisms. You want to accept criticisms and use tact to reply to them. You do not want to ignore criticisms because then frustration only builds and with social media, you may even be able to help in an immediate and direct manner. FedEx has learned through social media that you can uncover opportunities, and you can do it fast. They have been able to help with shipping frustrations as well as see and track packages within hours of shipping; all which they say could not have been done without their networks.

Like FedEx, you want to show you are listening. Communication is a two-way street and relationships depend on successful communication, therefore you probably want to use other channels than just a blog, or just a Twitter page. E-mails, e-newsletters and the like may give people who don’t have the chance to see every update on your blog a way to still be a part of the communication and to stay involved with your organization. That being said, you also want to involve yourself in others’ blogs and forums. Giving back on blogs will help develop and establish both a community of bloggers and a deeper connection and relationship to your audience – after all, people who respond to blogs, often have their own. Another benefit of being active with social media is that you may be able to pick up on a hot industry topic before many others do, and you can get a jump-start on early communication of that topic!

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Social media is imperative in building relationships with your stakeholders; the success of your social media strategies depend on how well you know your audience and the “face” behind the organization that wants to get to know them better.

Once you realize that the reason to use social media is because that where your audience is, you can then ask yourself “What is the best technology to reach them?”

You can understand the necessity of utilizing social media tools to grow as an organization in today’s society, but understanding your audience is key – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn may all be great outlets, but unless your audience is there, you won’t have much success.

Relevant Social Media (video below) tells us that Generations X, Y, and Z are all prevalent on social media networking sites as well as the Baby Boomers, and the World War II generation- that’s all ages ranging from around 13 to 65 and over. The trick is to locate them; target audiences are not only divided by age but interests, professions, location etc.

We all want to create relationships with people who are interested in us as much as we are interested in them – it is no different for an organization. The age of the one-to-many communication is over, organizations must be inviting and engage their audience on a personal level.

The goal of social media is to create a sense of community by providing added value through your social media tactics and build trust with your stakeholders to establish a foundation for a relationship. Relationships with your audience will keep customers or employees coming back, generate word of mouth, and allow the audience to interact with the organization – through this, they are the ones to build your brand.

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