7: Brand Impact and Brand Success

The chapter introduction mentions the topics the author intends to cover, which seems a bit of a shambles that includes various elements that lead to "success," corporate policies, internal audiences, legal aspects, and brand migration.

Social Media and Expectations

Firms that bring to social media the traditional approaches that were successful in other channels often find that they do themselves serious damage. So long as they stubbornly cling to what is familiar, they will dif themselves deeper into the quagmire. Likewise, simply adding a social channel to the "scatter gun" approach of pumping out information through every available medium is a recipe for failure.

Social media requires a firm to know its audience, not as a vague pool of people defined by broad statistics, but engaging with them one on one. It's less about reaching the masses than it is about connecting with key influencers who will spread your message across the networks.

At the very least, you should at least refine your tactics to be more focused on smaller groups of people who are more accurately defined. This means interacting with different groups in a different manner, but remaining consistent to the core message.

Given that a small number of firms have done so, customers have the expectation that all will do so: to use the information at their disposal to understand the customer, who they are and what they want, and speak to them in a way that is relevant to them as an individual. If you are not doing so, and your competitors are, you will lose customers, even if you redouble the amount of effort you put into methods that were once effective, but are now outmoded.

Case Study: Dell and Twitter

The author suggests that Dell is a great example of an organization that has leveraged social media. "Dell has blogs, four Twitter accounts, several Facebook pages and a YouTube channel."

Dell uses Twitter as a method of promotion - posting limited-time special offers. Customers who wish to take advantage of these deals must subscribe to the Twitter feed, which grew from 117K to 1.5M subscribers in less than a year. The author mentions that "many" followers re-tweet the offers to others, but does not provide any specific numbers. Even so, it's a reasonable claim and is likely useful in increasing subscribership.

The twitter channel is of greatest value to their "outlet" operation that seeks to liquidate outdated merchandise and unload refurbished equipment, merchandise deemed second-rate and undesirable by Web site visitors, but highly attractive to bargain shoppers. The twitter feed is a highly effective way to reach these subscribers (Dell credits it fro generating $3M in revenue in one year) without compromising the experience for its mainstream customers whose motivation is more related to quality than price.

Dell continues to experiment with this practice by creating other Twitter feeds for niche markets (UK, Ireland, and Mexico are mentioned) as well as specific market segments.

Corporate Guidelines And Policies

The author mentions that corporate guidelines and policies for social media are a quagmire. Many prohibit, under threat of termination, any use of social media in the office, and even block access to social media sites. Some companies even intrude into the personal use of social media outside of the office.

The author considers the social media policies of ESPN, a cable television channel devoted to sports, as an example of horrible, vague, and draconian corporate policy: The firm publishes a general ban on publishing any sort of sports content on personal websites and blogs. For social media, the employee must receive permission from a supervisor and department head before making any comment dealing with sports. Employees are forbidden to mention any sporting event covered by ESPN in personal communications. They are also forbidden to mention any sporting event not covered by ESPN. Other components of the policy are mentioned, but the bottom line is that employees of the company, who are likely very enthusiastic about sports, are forbidden to mention the topic in any way, even in their personal communications.

The author considers prohibitions against social media foolish. Just as with prohibition of any kind, it doesn't stop behaviour, just drives it underground. And so, rather than leveraging the enthusiasm of employees through official channels, it forces them to seek out "illicit" outlets of communication, use personal mobile devices to engage in digital conversations.

(EN: this seems a bit melodramatic, but is likely true that a person who is enthusiastic about a topic and who wishes to engage in discussions will adopt a false identity to do so - and will likely not have positive things to say about the reason they cannot be open about their identity.)

The author contrasts this to an Australian media firm, that provides guidance for employees in their use of social media. There is no threat of termination, nor does it consists of broad-based statements of prohibition. Instead, it encourages good use of social media: be respectful of others, be honest and accurate, be respectful of corporate intellectual property, be humble, be generous, be careful, etc.

(EN: this example swings too far to the opposite extreme. It provides common-sense guidelines for interacting with others online, like an etiquette guide, but does not clearly state the company's concerns. My sense is that an employee can keep to these guidelines, but still behave in ways that would be damaging to the firm.)

Twitter guidelines

The author gives specific consideration to having a special set of policies for Twitter. (EN: This seems a bit silly, as the tool itself is incidental, and these guidelines are applicable to most interactive/social channels.)

Legal Concerns

The author refers to the information that other people post to the social network: your daughter mentions that you're upset about something that happened at your work, someone you barely knew in college posts a story about something you did at a party, you're visible in the background of a complete stranger's holiday snapshots. These things may not reflect well on you, and it may upset you that they are out there - but ultimately you have to accept: you do not own them.

(EN: It is mentioned in terms of personal situations, but the same is true of companies and brands. Those who feel that they have the right to silence their critics by threat are, in most legal systems, completely wrong about that. Not every negative mention of a brand is libel or slander, and people have the right to speak the truth. Attempting to bully people with legal threats generally does more harm than good.)

There are also instances in which firms have attempted to claim ownership of a word. For example, one person attempted to claim ownership of a Twitter hash tag (#uksnow, used by many media outlets to call attention to posts about snowfall in Britain). The author is vague about the outcome, but I don't expect the claim had any merit: you cannot claim ownership of a common term just because you happen to use it.

Given that re-tweeting and re-posting are common practices in social media, it's doubtful that you can claim ownership of your own posts to social media: it's understood that this will happen, and there is no legal precedent for an instance in which a person may make a comment and prohibit others from quoting them. Trademark and copyright infringement are very difficult to defend in the social media - specially given that the legal definition of copyright specifically excludes short phrases taken out of context.

(EN: The author goes on for a bit longer on this, but the boundaries are vague for much of social media simply because of the nature of the content and the venue. I'm certain the line exists somewhere, and there may be an extreme case of an individual who habitually copies the content of others and posts them without any reference to the originator, but I'm not aware that this has been considered by the legal system as yet - so it's all speculation as to where the line should, or will, be drawn.)

Managing Rebrands and Brand Migration

The author asks: "Have you considered the reasons for your rebrand?" There are significant differences between a rebrand that is done for valid reasons (a merger between firms, a significant change in the product, etc.) and a rebrand that is done simply to dodge a negative reputation (especially when a brand does something that deserves a negative reputation).

Even before social media, attempts to rebrand a service don't always work, and companies spend millions of dollars in doomed attempts to change customer perception.

The author doesn't mention the role of social media in rebranding, but speaks of the process in general terms, that the rebranding must be "effectively handled" - plan the change, communicate it internally, then communicate it to the market. Social media can help communicate the change to both internal and external audiences, but this doesn't mean that people will be more or less likely to accept the change simply because of the tool used to communicate it.

Some random tips are offered:

(EN: The author seems to use "rebranding" and "brand migration" interchangeably - but I understand them to be very different things. A rebrand means presenting a new brand to established customers, whereas a brand migration is presenting an established brand to new customers. They are very different and require different approaches. As such, the information here seems pertinent to rebranding, but not migration.)