19 February 2009

Gigya, Twitter & Me: 7 Steps to Social Media Brand-building Success

We're using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr & more
to find the edgy young creatives who will champion
our Nonhuman Communications brand in socialmediaspace.
Graffiti stencil cut by Srayla Tip, illustrator of The Concrete Jungle Book.

Seven key brand-building lessons emerge from my encounter this week's with Gigya, http://www.gigya.com/default.aspx, on Twitter.com, leading to a conversation with the widget distribution company's president and co-founder, Rooly Eliezerov.

Be fearless. Gigya sees the value of participating in the emerging socialmediaspace, demonstrating a willingness to assign resources to a new branding theater of unproven value. Because they weren't afraid to explore this new online community, they have found in Twitter.com an important brand-building arena for start-ups, especially, but also for established brands. Gigya couldn't have discovered this had it taken the wait-and-see approach that many companies now exhibit towards Twitter and other new social media sites.

Don't just observe, pay close attention.
Gigya has been able to see past the apparent "chaos" of Twitter's chat room on steroids, realizing that they can learn a lot about the way their customers perceive their brand, simply by watching what people write about it in their tweets. Twitter's Search tool lets you find out which specific people are talking about a company and its topics of interest. Had Gigya NOT been paying attention to and particpating in the Twitter discussion, the company would have missed an opportunity to help me come to a better understanding of their product and service offerings. Not that I'm an important person, because I'm not, but because as leader of a breakthrough digital book publishing and technology start-up company I am building a significant online community comprising the next generation of Web architects, tool builders, and content creators.

Make discreet, respectful direct approaches to individuals who can help build – or hurt – your brand. Gigya took the time to read our "Digital Books in Social Media" article series, after we tweeted the link. A Gigya executive then sent our team leader a Direct Message to engage him in a conversation about why Gigya's "Post to" widget wasn't meeting our needs in our ambitious read/collaborate demonstration of how to publish digital books and engage customers online with social media and creative tools ongoing at http://TheConcreteJungleBook.com. Make sure that you identify yourself clearly and say you are approaching the Twitter member as a representative of the brand. Twitter members are, unfortunately, used to being bombarded by Direct Messages from people trying to sell get-rich-quick scams and all the rest of the in-your-face sales pitches that U.S. citizens have already had the good sense to forbid telephone sales people to make. Make sure Twitter members don't have the opportunity to perceive your social media brand-building efforts in this light.

Listen patiently and carefully: social media gives every company employee, representative or other stakeholder, the opportunity to interact with customers as human beings. Your customers, and potential customers, come to social media to make connections and to interact with other humans. Make you participation in socialmediaspace personal, one-to-one, taking cues from your interlocutor about style (informal or formal) and content of what you say once you've initiated an online brand-building encounter. If the person you approach has been trash-talking your brand online, don't attack, that will probably just frustrate the person even more. If your brand isn't meeting this customer's needs, find out why. Listen carefully to determine if the customer has a legitimate complaint instead of immediately launching into a defense of the brand.

Spend time learning from a customer or potential customer who can articulate clearly the business challenges he or she faces, in order to discover how to improve your product, or to spot the potential for a new product or service offering. A really articulate and experienced customer can help you scope an upgrade or new launch strategy. If you wind up talking with somebody who really knows his corner of the marketplace, you may discover new markets and new, incremental revenue opportunities. Because it took the time to listen, Gigya was able to learn from us about the success we've had in identifying and creating online relationships with the emerging "young creatives" digital tribe who remain off the radar screen of most brand executives yet meet daily at http://TheConcreteJungleBook.com, at the intersection of book discussion, visual storytelling, comics, graffiti, streetart, edgy scrapbooks and mad painted poetry and art journals. In this community are the next generation of

After finding and creating relationships with customers on Twitter, and in other social media sites, give them ways and means to help evangelize your brand in socialmediaspace. On Twitter, prepare tweets that will appeal to the various constituencies you seek to influence, be sure they are easily "retweetable", and get them directly to the Twitter members who want to help you spread the word. You cannot pay for this kind of trusted, word-of-mouth referral, but you can enlist the support of these advocates. These are the people that we identified as "community captains" in oiur book, Firebrands: Building Brand Loyalty in the Internet Age by Michael Moon and Doug Millison. They usually don't want any form of payment. Instead, they derive satisfaction from helping to promote a brand they love, and from sharing their expertise and experience with other members of this brand-using community.

Accompany your customers, partners, allies, and detractors, in all the social media spaces in which they act. Gradually, a brand vendor can thus enmesh itself with a thriving community of human beings who will help find new markets and profit possibilities, and who will proactively work to build brand loyalty in socialmediaspace.

Our efforts in recent weeks at Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and http://TheConcreteJungleBook.com have resulted in a virtual community that numbers more than 3,000 people who claim a relationship with our company, our book, or the characters in our book. This group includes many of the next generation of Web architects, tool builders, and content creators. Many of these individuals are actively evangelizing our project, helping us build our brand, bringing more potential customers to us, spreading the word about what we're doing and why it matters. Given our situation as a small start-up company, self-funded, on a shoestring, a wing, and a prayer, we have been happily surprised at the way these and other social media sites have helped us develop a brand reach far beyond what we expected at this point in our history.

Thank you for your kind attention.

All feedback welcome, Comments open!

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