I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a river is such a perfect metaphor for branding with a blog and social media. Water that flows through nature can’t be fully contained or controlled, but its power can be harnessed. Digital branding marketers often find ourselves able to maximize ripples when we produce a steady flow of relevant messages and let go, seeing where things end up as they float downstream. Like the metaphor? Cool. Because I’m going to continue with it.
The stream is asynchronous
As social content consumers and purveyors, we aren’t meant to be able to process the entire stream. There’s just too much volume of posting flowing by at all hours. By nature it’s “Asynchronous,” meaning that unlike email, for example, your feeds keep rolling by even when you aren’t looking. You stop by, dip your feet in, see what’s going on this minute – and maybe a few minutes back – and move on to the next thing.
Branding on social media isn’t about reading and reacting to everything – it’s about using it wisely for the right types of engagement. Filtering your tweets into custom timelines, for example, with saved searches or lists, can help manage the flow of information by giving you only the updates you care about. Another way to stay in control is to designate specific amounts of time to social media (20 minutes a day, in four five-minute bursts, for instance), so you get your feet wet but don’t drown.
The ongoing current
Social media and content marketing are fundamentally different from other types of branding, which are about making big splashes all at once with finite campaigns. With blogs and social, brand managers focus on themes to explore with an ongoing flow of storytelling and engagement. No one-offs here – just endless manifestations and iterations of the same distinctly flavored concepts.
If you keep the messaging light, useful, generous and entertaining, the flow won’t dry up. This takes proactive strategy in addition to execution. Know what shores your audience gathers on. Each platform has its own etiquette, functionality and user expectations, and it’s important to get a handle on these before you start posting. Remember that you need a constant stream of dynamic, branded content for distribution via social media, so don’t dump it in all at once. Bad idea.
Flow from top to bottom
Who owns a river really? No one. The idea of owning a body of water that flows between properties is a face if you stop and think about it. Why should one person or one team own a company’s digital branding efforts? It’s an outdated construct that just doesn’t work anymore. When one cubicle in the marketing department or agency is solely responsible for maintaining the stream, it lacks depth. The most effective social media presences and blogs benefit from rich contributions from many voices and perspectives.
Ideally, ideas flow throughout the various departments, leaders, partners, stakeholders and teams. In fact, the best way to succeed at social is to have social media and content experts embedded in every department, who also answer to the head of marketing. This way, all the content marketing is tuned in to what is going on in every part of the company.
The transparency standard
To be trustworthy, a river’s water should be clear. Likewise, your social media and content should reflect on your values and what your brand represents.
Does your brand represent an underdog, a challenger, an authority figure, or something new and refreshing?
Craft a strategy that showcases the essence of who you are, and don’t try to hide behind a poser’s persona. Whatever it is that makes you or your business special is the thing that will hook your audience and have them coming back for more.
Authenticity is one of the few intangibles that comes across in digital engagement messaging.