Big Brands, Passionate Causes, and No Names

originally posted on Concept Hub

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with organizations of all sizes; from projects for Fortune 100 well-known brands to consultations with solo-preneurs. Although there are some basic rules that apply to social media no matter the organization, the approach and expectations are vastly different based on your industry and how your organization is positioned in the marketplace.

This is why I often cringe when clients or peers reference what big brands are doing in social media as an example of how they would like to build their strategy. Besides the fact that big brands tend to have more money to experiment with and access to large agencies, the challenges, and opportunities that a big brand faces are vastly different than what a startup or even a mid-sized company is facing. This is also why, when choosing an agency to help you with your social media plan, it is best to work with someone who has already experienced the challenges you will be facing.

In a recent course I delivered I segmented the types of challenges that each of three different types of organizations faces and where their focus would be.

Big Brands

For big brands, we are not just talking about the size of an organization but also how well they are known in the marketplace. Think Coca-Cola, Chick-Fil-A, Nestle.

For these brands, there is already a  large volume of conversation about them happening on the web whether they choose to participate or not. The goal is to understand what is being expressed in order to capitalize on the positive sentiment while managing any negative backlash. This is something that Nestle did not do very well when launching their Facebook Page.

Secondary to understanding the brand’s social strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is to maintain brand integrity while amplifying the conversation, rallying the community around a goal, cause, or product, and measure the effectiveness.

Big brands have a lot to get their arms around when leveraging social media, but creating buzz usually isn’t one of the big hurdles.

Passionate Causes 

I have to admit, I have the most fun working with companies who are building a community around a passionate cause.  Oftentimes I get to work with passionate causes through a nonprofit client.

A passionate cause can be anything from curing cancer to running. It is a cause or activity that people are consumed by. They are involved in the community, not for money, but for the greater good (personal or global), to make a difference, and to be part of a community. This is the kind of stuff that social media was created for.

Like big brands, those organizations that are part of a passionate cause have a huge community of people already involved in social media. The challenge is, they may not be involved with your organization. There are so many competing groups, events, organizations, and chatter, it takes work to get people focused in one direction. When working with nonprofits the challenge is compounded by a lack of time and resources to nurture the existing communities. Too many times groups have fallen for the idea of “build it and they will come” hoping that a plug and play social media platform will solve all the problems.

The goal should be to focus on building a community, starting with each person that is involved with the organization. Toss aside the marketing speak and share stories. In the case of the passionate cause, my most relevant  twitter-sized philosophy is:

Your best assets are hidden. Locked away in your heart, mind, & experiences. Social Media is a place where you can set them free.

I recall sitting in a staff meeting at one of the nonprofits I was working with and just feeling the passion from each team member. They knew, without a doubt, the difference they were making. When I shared with them ways they could release that energy from beyond the walls of their building  I could see the excitement. In a few short months, they have done an amazing job telling their stories and inspiring clients and volunteers to share their stories as well. They have also taken steps to participate in other communities, sharing ideas and stories and thus expanding their reach exponentially. For a passionate cause, the goal is to rally the community to contribute online and to share their passions throughout the web.

No Names

No Names could be a start-up company, but it could also be a large company in an industry that no one really thinks about often in their daily lives, such as Retirement Planning.

The challenge is to build trust, create relevancy, provide daily value, and to tie it back to the organization’s bottom line. For me, this is where I wear my consultative, relationship building, sales hat. But it has to be more than a hat, it has to be authentic.

When you are building your brand name you are networking (social networking). You are getting to know people are their terms, caring about what they care about and sharing stories and information that help them achieve their goals. It is all about service. I am reading the book about Zappos, Delivering Happiness.  Their story is the perfect example of how to build a brand and build a community through the heart of a servant. Zappos sells shoes, online! and they survived two significant recession and continue to thrive. They did this by caring about people. They cared about people before social media and then through social media. When you are working on a social media strategy for an organization that is a no name, don’t worry so much about building your name. Instead, consult, serve, and entertain, and your network will build your name for you.

No matter your organization, always remember social media is always about people first.