Brand Building: Connecting With Consumers Through Social Media

Social media affords us a great opportunity, the ability to build relationships directly with consumers. It's something no amount of media targeting has been able to achieve.
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Over the past seventeen years, I have dedicated a great deal of time to building brands. When I ran my own digital marketing agency, I was driven by one mission -- helping brands build long-lasting relationships with customers. Since then, I have been a part of the Burger King Corporation and, most recently, I joined MAACO. Through it all, I remain convinced that it's imperative to build memorable experiences and conversations with consumers using all brand touch-points.

Social media affords us a great opportunity, the ability to build relationships directly with consumers. It's something no amount of media targeting has been able to achieve. I believe in the power of social media to help develop an emotional connection between a brand and its users. Without a doubt, creating and fostering relationships with consumers via social platforms continues to be irreplaceable when it comes to the success of leaders and companies alike.

But it has to be real. It has to be done right, with a genuineness of purpose if it is truly to be a two-way communication and not merely another brand monologue. Brand leaders need to listen and respond to our most valuable asset -- our consumers -- on many levels. That's why I make it a priority to screen all of our social media communications against these four principles:

1. Be Authentic: Be original and genuine in approach, personality and voice. U.S. News blogger Hannah Morgan said, "There are two key things for the entrepreneur to ask him or herself: 'What network takes advantages of my skills and would be a good place to showcase what I know?' and 'Where are my potential clients and customers spending their time online?'"

2. Remain Relevant: Have a point of view and continuously monitor trendsetting changes in consumer behavior. While you want to maintain your original and genuine approach, any and all social media strategies must be in response to what customers or prospects want or need. The most important factor here is to listen. Get on social media sites and websites relevant to your brand, product or service... and listen!

A great example of this is how Oreo leveraged the blackout during the Super Bowl. When they tweeted "You can still dunk in the dark," they captured the moment and sparked conversation nationwide. Now that is relevant. What's more, their tweet translated into real results, with 15,811 retweets and an increase in 2,200 followers.

3. Be Persistent: Be smart on the frequency of messages. You should ensure your frequency is moderated and appropriate to the needs of those you are trying to reach as well as the channel you are using to reach them. Ted Rubin, CMO of Collective Bias, said: "People are being sold on social media as a place to generate leads, but it's really a place to build loyalty, answer customer service questions and to build a community." This takes time and commitment, and they require the creation of trust between you and the customer. The payoff -- trust leads to loyalty, which leads to increased engagement and spending. Ultimately, it's about quality, not quantity.

4. Be Consistent: Use the same perspective and tone across all mediums. This requires that all stakeholders working with your brand have the same approach on social media that they would have elsewhere. Communication on social media should be consistent with your brand's core values and the way you build relationships with customers outside of the social marketplace.

These principles hold true for both brands and individuals in any industry. This year, we saw superstar performers, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, become the first artists to use Facebook to premiere a track. With a combined fan base of over 42 million, the duo provided a listening experience more memorable and personal than radio. It also allowed their followers to share the song and video with potential non-followers, amplifying their music and the listener base well beyond the norm. These are the principles I live by as I engage in the social conversation.

As I travel around the country meeting consumers and visiting franchisees, I make it a top priority to continuously chronicle my travels and experiences through social media. Whether it's LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, I engage with my diverse network.

Our consumers are everywhere and if I really want to know what they think, and put it to use to elevate our brand, I must be actively engaging in conversations where and when they happen. Only then will the MAACO brand achieve its goal of becoming a truly customer-centric business.

Perhaps Philip Kotler, marketing guru, author and faculty member at Kellogg School of Management, said it best: "Old marketing that involved mass production, mass distribution, mass marketing and lots of 30-second commercials which would put everyone to sleep is now dead."

The future success of brands and individuals relies on creating memorable and individualized experiences. My key takeaways: Live social. Your brand will thrive.

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