Digital Conference

Five Tips for Building Your Brand's Social Personality

Observations From Ad Age Digital's Social Track

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Brands and agencies know that they need to be active in the social realm, but many trip up when it comes to building their brands in social media or knowing what to talk about there.

Randall Brown
Randall Brown

At the Ad Age Digital Conference, Randall Brown, global director-digital strategy at Gatorade, provided some insight into his brand's approach in the social space and the importance of thoughtful preparation. Noah Brier, founder-CEO of Percolate, a startup that helps brands sort and curate web content, had some thoughts on what to say when you manage to get online.

Here are five observations from the social track at Tuesday's conference.

Customers Have a Different Understanding of Brands Today
Understanding how consumer behavior has changed will significantly affect how brands activate in the social realm, said Mr. Brown. Brands are breaking the "fourth wall" and talking to customers directly, while customers have a strong voice and consciousness of marketing. "They can say, 'I know what you're doing, brand,' " said Mr. Brown, and that "changes the game."

Defining Your Social Purpose and Behavior Has to Be the First Step
As Gatorade began its brand refresh, it needed to shift consumer perception from the drink as a "hangover cure" to something that boosted athletic performance from the inside. "My brand's purpose is my social purpose," Mr. Brown said. But once it figured out its purpose, it had to decide what type of behavior it was going to follow in social media. Mr. Brown gave the example of two starkly different models of behavior -- Snooki vs. Mother Teresa -- to illustrate the point that the right choice isn't always obvious. If you're a nightclub brand, for example, you might choose to emulate Snooki's behavior.

Create a Regimented Calendar of Social Engagement
Every brand has to program itself for consumer relationships, said Mr. Brown. "Have a regimented, planned-out calendar of engagement, which is different from your social-campaign calendar," he said. And then practice test -based experimentation. Give your core customer group a certain type of content, then find out if it works. "Form hypotheses, define your variables, test and experiment," Mr. Brown said.

Brands Naturally Find it Difficult to Get into Social
Mr. Brier said that social is natural to human beings because our tweets and Facebook updates are the "breadcrumbs" of our daily activities. Something like that is difficult for brands to learn and replicate.

Maintain a Balance Between Selling and Non-Selling Messages
Mr. Brier shared his stock vs. flow analogy. "Stock" are the durable observations that brands can make -- the high-production-value messages that brands are already good at producing. "Flow," on the other hand, is more fleeting, the "breadcrumbs" that brands aren't good at getting a handle on. While stock attracts new customers, flow is what keeps them engaged. The challenge is to find a balance between both of them, said Mr. Brier. "What we do in marketing is sell stuff," he said. "So when you think about your social content, you have to think about how you're going to break down the selling and the non-selling."

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