With nearly 600 million people on Facebook, 300 million on Twitter, 80 million on LinkedIn, and 2 billion videos viewed daily on YouTube, it's hard to argue that your brand shouldn't join the social media party. But should your brand be at every party?
Social media is largely a popularity contest, where brands want more friends and everybody wants to be associated with the right clique.
But truly successful brands think beyond “getting fans.” They take the time to rise above the draw of popularity and think deeply about when, where, and how they should participate in the social media world before they engage.
There are five tenets of social media that every brand should remember when taking the social media plunge.
1. Know before you go. Brands need to know where their audiences hang out online.Strategic brands look for social media outlets that will appreciate their brand's unique qualities and have users who will be inspired to spread their brand message.
2. Listen. And then listen some more.Once a brand finds where its audience is, it needs to stop and listen. Listening before participating will help it understand who its audience is talking to, what they are talking about, and how its audience is interacting with each other. Are they active during the weekday but silent at night? Do they prefer to engage with a brand or with like-minded peers in a branded environment?
3. Add value, not noise. Brands that succeed at the popularity game do so because they add value to the conversation. They draw on what they have learned through their listening and create an experience that is interesting and relevant to their audience's interests and needs.
4. Be sensitive to the regulatory environment. As much as it doesn't seem like a lot of fun to get your lawyers involved in your social media efforts – in this case, it's wise to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
5. Fail fast and move onto success. Brands rarely get it right the first time. The trick is to quickly identify what's not working so you can refine your strategy and move things in the right direction.
Planning your brand's social media efforts may take the spontaneity out of your participation, but it will go a long way in building a sustainable online presence that can withstand the fickleness of a popularity contest.
Nada Arnot is SVP and chief digital officer at RF Binder.