“If your brand was a person, how would you describe him or her?”
The above may sound like an entertaining question, but I can assure it comes with great validity in the age of social media. Whether used for personal or business reasons, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular channels have one major characteristic in common: encourage people to connect with each other in a very direct way. Brands who enter are wise to come armed with a proper understanding of the underlying playground activity.
Social media is not a free platform for brands to broadcast their carefully crafted (corporate) message. Some marketing gurus compare social media to a cocktail party; it’s all about connecting. Mark Bonchek, in an excellent article on brand evolution for the Harvard Business Review, writes that current brand thinking should focus on building reciprocal, symmetrical, and personal relationships. The above statements suggest a personification of the ‘abstract’ brand concept. Then let me rephrase the question: what kind of personality does your brand bring to the table?
Imagine your brand (as a person) enters a business cocktail party, keen on doing some networking. How will you introduce yourself? Will you shake hands, exchange business cards, and move on? Will you strike up a conversation? Would you start by telling a story about yourself or would you rather ask questions to break the ice? What would you like to know about your conversation partner? What would you like them to know about you? Are you finding common ground that could lead to some interesting follow-up conversations? Believe it or not, the same questions arise when your brand makes an appearance on social media channels …
Just as self-awareness in people increases self-confidence and fosters more authentic relationships, so will brand self-awareness. What lies at the core of your brand? What is authentically you? What would you absolutely stand and/or not stand for? Yes, this is definitely part of and based on your company values, but as a personification, it takes those values a step further. Some examples: are you formal and authoritative? Are you fun and quirky? Adventurous? Intellectual? Spontaneous? Traditional? Open-minded?
Thoughtful answers to the above will help establish important guidelines for your communications style. The more self-aware you are as a brand, the more consistent the way you interact with others and the clearer your message (and actions) will come across. It is no secret that a consistent communications style will instill more trust, and a trusted brand will be more successful at building long-term relationships and continued business success.
A brand is more than a recognizable logo and a consistent visual style. Just as you would take the time to officially formulate your brand’s values, purpose, vision and mission statement, it equally matters to analyze and develop your brand as an authentic personality. In the age of social media, personal interactions increasingly enter on a branding level as well. The parameters of your brand personality will inform a consistent communication and interacting style. Think it through, do write it down, and internally spread it out so anyone representing your brand would know how to speak, write, act and react … on social media and beyond.