Brands As Publishers: Building Brand Personalities Online Through Social Profiles
There is a well-documented seismic shift going on in the dynamics of the relationship between individuals, communities and brands. The old model of powerful, faceless company and impotent consumer is long gone due to the rise of social media, and online communities. Brands as publishers means that those companies who can build up followings via the ‘personality’ of their social profiles will be the companies best positioned to distribute and gain engagement for their on and offsite marketing content.
Social profiles: The Great Leveller
Never before have brands been so vulnerable to, not only their customer’s shifting opinions, but also those of their potential detractors e.g. environmentalists or anti-capitalists. But neither have they had such an opportunity to promote their ‘personality’ and encourage measurable fandom. Brands have been miniaturised and personified into social profiles, and consumers have been magnified into the same.
The social profile brings a new element in the brand / consumer relationship. It has, to some extent, levelled the playing field in that it provides a public, searchable communication portal, open 24/7 between individuals, brands and individuals-at-brands. The two-way communication via these portals has the power to influence whole online communities, not just in real-time, but over the longer term too. The fact that most platforms are indexed by search engines means that social conversations can become a permanent feature on a brand’s search ranking landscape.
As Roger Ebert famously stated in a recent TED Talk “Because of the rush of human knowledge, because of the digital revolution, I have a voice, and I don’t need to scream”. He’s talking in a different context (he really did lose his ability to speak following illness), but it’s still relevant. Everyone now has an online voice, and if they have the right following, message and content, then they can have their amplification turned to 11.
Two-way communication with companies, celebrities, politicians, etc. is now not only possible, but also expected. Just look at the effect that Twitter has had on customer service – previously a complaint was a private communication between a customer and a brand. If you weren’t happy with how you were treated you would perhaps tell 10 people about it. Now, however, a complaint can be seen, discussed, mirrored, and a brand judged by millions on a global level. For a brand to be able to withstand and even benefit from this it must have a strong personality.
Cultivating a Sparkling Personality
Brands being publishers means that the way in which brands talk with their audiences has to be much deeper than the thin advertising and shallow corporate communications styles of the very recent past. Brands need to use their onsite and offsite online content to build personalities and character in order to be able to engender trust and withstand criticism. By creating valuable, targeted, persona based content, strategically timed to an editorial schedule (whilst remaining agile enough to adapt to the external news agenda) brands are able to become involved in influencer discussions, and get invited into the spheres of attention of their target audiences.
An interesting example of the increasing importance of the personality of a brand is highlighted in the difference between perceptions and the utility of ‘face’ profiles, e.g. @TetradGus, and ‘logo’ profiles e.g. @QuadLondon, and how, as we become more sophisticated in our use of social media these two types of profile are used to achieve widely varied sales and marketing objectives. Face profiles are essential for one-to-one conversations and are ideal for building loyalty through genuine relationships and promoting brand representatives. Logo profiles are more useful for sales promotions and company news style communications as this is more in line with what users are expecting from a purely corporate profile.
All brands need to be using a combination of profile types to support their brand personality, leveraging staff and key individuals within the business to create face profiles and provide additional reach for branded messages. This means that they can deliver sales generating messages intelligently so that these touch consumers in a way that uses the brand’s social relationship equity to maximise engagement and drive users to follow calls to action. Brands as publishers means that all companies who are taking social seriously need to look at the online personality of their brands, check this is a fit with their target audience and ensure that there is a consistent content marketing strategy in place to support this social profile marketing.