Do you enjoy following a brand in social media? If that's the case, it's doing at least one of three things:
- Connecting with one of your passions and/or interests
- Entertaining you with its engaging personality
- Providing interesting and/or important information to you
If you're a small-business owner, you may want to consider which of the three strategies you're following. You might also mull following one of the strategies exclusively. However, it's fine to dabble in each. "These approaches are interchangeable, and a brand can not only switch back and forth between them, but also use two or three at the same time," says Caitlin Francke, SVP and director of social strategy at Publicis Kaplan Thaler. "The most important thing is for a brand to stay true to its DNA, identify what it's best at, what it can offer the consumers the most of, and focus on that. That will be its strongest play."
Here are some big brands succeeding at these three strategies—passion, personality and transparency.
1. Passion Brands
No matter how much you like it, it's hard to get worked up about an energy drink. But that drink may be just a part of the optimum experience that you associate with that brand. For example, for some, Red Bull conjures up images of action sports. This is no accident, since the brand has worked hard at tying the brand to images of young people risking their lives on extreme outdoor activities. The cover photo on the brand's Facebook Page, for instance, shows a guy on a snowboard.
Another consistent brand is Nike. Though the brand's social media communication highlights both professional and amateur athletes, the underlying point is the same: celebrating athletic achievement. Adidas' feed is also consistent and differentiated from Nike in its international focus.
Finally, a good example of a passion brand in another category is Whole Foods, whose social media stream consists almost entirely of recipes so fans can indulge their love of cooking and epicureanism.
2. Personality Brands
Not every brand can connect itself to a pastime the way that Nike could. What do you do, for instance, if you're Oreo? Oreo's not associated with much besides milk and perhaps binge-eating. But Oreo and interactive agency 360i aren't interested in connecting Oreo to a particular passion. Instead, they've infused the brand's social media activity with personality. Oreo's 31 million-strong Facebook feed shows the familiar Oreo looking slightly different in the name of a visual pun. The daily updates are sort of a variation on Absolut's long-running ad campaign that featured the bottle against unusual backdrops for the same witty purpose.
Another personality brand is Skittles, which has racked up 24 million followers on Facebook with whimsical, stream-of-consciousness status updates like "The frenemy of my frenemy is my enefriend" and "Beavers are excellent at making pancakes, omelettes and anything that needs a spatula."
3. Transparent Brands
Transparent brands want to tell you about all the stuff they're doing in the real world. A good example of such a brand is IBM, which hosts some 32,000 individual blogs from its employees and produces a firehose of content about all the technologies it has unleashed on the world.
The transparent positioning seems to be the default for tech brands in social media (well, except for Apple) as Intel, Google and Microsoft all take the same approach. A Feb. 6 Facebook status update from Microsoft, for instance, talked about 4Afrika Initiative, "a new effort through which the company will actively engage in Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness."
Auto brands are also apt to use the transparent approach, as are financial services brands like Fidelity Investments. The strategy seems to work best for brands and categories in which consumers are serious about the information they want but are not necessarily passionate about it. Also, note that passion brands are about activities that a brand is associated with, not for activities the brand actually performs. For instance, Nike makes athletic equipment, not sports, but Ford makes cars and driving is an end to itself.
Francke says following one of the three strategies will help clarify your social media strategy. "In social media, brands need to focus on engaging consumers by offering something of value and capturing their attention," she says. Francke says that new forms of media like Instagram and Vine underscore the need to hew to an overall positioning strategy.
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