Why is social media so critical to personal branding?
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Why is social media so critical to personal branding?
NOTE from Phil: Today’s article is from one of my favorite people, Jeannie Walters. She is a customer experience expert who lives not far from me in Chicago. Her insights always make me think hard about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it for my customers. This article is another example of that.
Running a small business and growing it are two separate ideas, believe it or not. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily business of running the business. Staffing, servicing clients, paying bills, invoicing, banking, scheduling and emptying the trash all require time.
Growing a business means planning ahead and setting a vision. Growing a business means understanding where you want to go first, then working at tasks to make that happen each and every day.
Easier said than done!
When an entrepreneur starts the business, the experience he or she delivers is based on WHO and not what. Joe might sell widgets, but people buy them from his company because of Joe. Joe’s concerned about EVERY customer when he starts, and the customers feel that.
Then size happens. You’re hiring fast. You’re growing with your customer base. And some customers are starting to notice some changes. These customers rarely tell you directly until it’s a problem. Here are a few things they might say:
“I understand they need to put in more layers, but I really liked working directly with Bob/Brenda (CEO). I miss that. We were buddies.”
“You know, our relationship with Theresa (Sales Manager/Account Manager/All-Around-Great-Gal) was so good. It’s hard to move on.”
“I love those guys. I recommend them to everyone. But I’m worried they’re getting TOO big.”
So what do you do as you scale as an organization? First, you need to accept that the scale of cloning you isn’t realistic. Take the time to document and train to the customer experience you want to deliver. Saying “be nice” is not enough. You need to hire, to expand and to serve more customers. But you also need to keep your top people without burning them out.
There are entire books tackling this subject, but I’ll offer one tip to help during those days of growth.
Communicate your mission, vision and brand promise to every employee every day.
I distinguish these this way:
1. Mission – What is your lofty goal as an organization? What’s your cause?
2. Vision – Where is the organization going in the next year to 5 years?
3. Brand Promise – What does your brand promise to your customers? What expectations are made?
This is what so often gets lost in growth. Suddenly, the unwritten rules about how you treat customers, how you treat colleagues, how you get things done and what promises you’re keeping need to be written down. But don’t get hung up on that. Just be sure that the top level is getting the word out to keep talking about these vitally important items. Hire according to them. Create processes around them. Don’t let go of passion for productivity.
There are lots of other things you can do to help with scale.
What would you offer?
About the author: Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.
When users of a consumer software vendor’s product took to the company website to complain about a recent update, they did something unique. They got the software developer to visit the forum for a question and answer session that lasted for an entire week, covering everything from why the UI had changed from previous versions, to why certain features were added or removed.
In the end, not everyone was satisfied, but a few product evangelists came out on social media to talk about the success of that question and answer session.
When critics of your brand can launch viral campaigns alleging misdoing by your company, you need effective reputation management that can respond quickly to pressure. Public relations has become more than just a one-way speaker; you must now formulate a comprehensive strategy that looks at how your brand interacts with its audience and ways to increase that engagement.
Studies from top ORM companies like Brand.com suggest that the content you write directly impacts your search engine standing. Longer content that cites published research from high quality sources tends to score higher in Google’s recent updates. Blog posts that are more than 1,000 words and contain references and links to obscure research data perform well and are considered “high quality” by search engines.
You should not write to the search engine, but include some cues for it to understand what you’re doing. Include keywords in the title, and feature a headline if it’s applicable to what you’re writing about.
The most difficult aspect of reputation management is mastering the ability to actually find the feedback that is having the most impact on your business. For mega brands like Macy’s or Wal-Mart, the community feedback is immediately apparent. Of course, most businesses are managed by just a few people, with mid-sized businesses containing less than 250 employees. That’s why you need to automate as much of the information-gathering process as possible.
You can set alerts through Google or Mention (sweet iPhone/iPad app, just search for it) to have some of this information delivered to you, but it helps if you establish your brand in places where your customers hang out. Some nuts are tougher to crack than others, but giving customers a place like your Facebook page to convey feedback helps connect you with your customers AND do an easier job listening than if they have nowhere to post their thoughts.
Reflect on what you already know about your audience. Look closely at the metrics you have and plan ways to gather more information about them. Can you add a simple yes or no question to your email submission form that would tell you something useful about your customers? The smallest changes, requiring minimal effort from the user, can help you craft better messaging.
Asking simple questions like “Are you in debt,” or “Do You Own a Home” or “Are you married?” may tell you valuable information about the customers you are dealing with. It also doesn’t require them to do more than check a box.
Warning: Be sure to slowly collect feedback. Virtually nobody is going to fill out a 15 minute survey for you. One or two questions at a time is plenty.
You should be measuring every element of your marketing efforts. From the moment the customer enters your site, you should know where they came from, the kind of browsers they are using, and form a rough idea of their demographics. Google’s Analytics deliver some of this information to you, including real-time data about who is clicking which links. You can also create events to track more difficult to quantify actions, like clicking play on a video.
Public relations, by definition, also measures your interactions with the public via social media. Measure the rise and fall of your Twitter and Facebook followers to pinpoint specific types of content your audience responded to. Just having a Facebook page means nothing if you can’t measure or explain its impact on your business.
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