At its best, a firm’s social media presence should be a major component of its voice in the world. A platform by which your audience can relate with your brand, one-on-one.
But to be at its best, a firm’s social media presence needs to be closely aligned with its brand. When social media and brand identity are out of sync, brand chaos can ensue. It may seem to your audience that a rogue Tweeter has gotten a hold of your account. So how can you make sure your social media efforts send the right message?
Understand your brand
First of all, it’s useful to take a step back. What is your brand? Is it well-defined? Do audiences associate your firm with a particular voice, a particular style or subject matter, or way of relating?
A strong brand should be memorable and it should differentiate you from others in your marketplace by projecting distinctive qualities that are true, relevant to your audiences, and supportable. Before you go about aligning your social media with your brand, be sure that you understand your brand and that it’s working as effectively as possible.
Make a (real) plan
Now, social media isn’t unique in its need for thoughtful coordination with your brand. Indeed, your brand image should be projected consistently everywhere your audience interacts with you, from your website to your business cards to, yes, your Facebook account.
You probably wouldn’t take an offhand approach to your website or your business cards – assigning them, say, to an intern who’s probably good with that kind of thing and then forgetting about them. Yet many firms take exactly this approach to social media.
Don’t be one of those “many firms.” (No offense to the interns. It’s not their fault they just started and got saddled with the whole social media effort.) Identify what you wish to accomplish via your various social media channels and establish a social media strategy and guidelines to help shape your efforts.
We’ll talk about the strategy more in a moment, but the guidelines should make clear exactly what sort of tone to adopt, what sort of content to share, and how to interact with audiences for anyone working on your social media outreach.
You gotta keep ‘em coordinated
As you develop your social media strategy, coordinate it with your overall marketing strategy. What does this mean in practical terms? If your firm is producing educational content like blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, or videos, share that goodness with your followers and connections. But take care not to overshare, observing the dictates of the 80/20 rule: only 20% of your social media content should be self-promotional.
Social media should be one cog in your larger marketing machine – it shouldn’t feel like a strange parallel universe of non-sequitur retweets. A social media calendar (coordinated with your overall content calendar) is an important way to keep everything straight, aligning big content releases with effective social media practices. A calendar will also help you take a bigger picture perspective, ensuring that you’re providing an interesting variety of content that, taken together, aligns well with your brand identity.
Putting it into practice
What does this all look like in practice?
At Hinge, we’ve built a reputation for being data-driven and approachable, tackling questions in the professional services marketing space through both research and conversation. Our presences on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn take carefully calibrated approaches to sharing our brand and our research.
On LinkedIn, for example, we’ve started the Professional Services Executive Forum, a space designed for professional services executives and marketers to share thoughts, ideas, and findings on marketing strategies and trends. It’s closely aligned with the Hinge brand – data-driven, approachable – but it’s also taken on a life of its own, becoming much more than a “Hinge platform.” Today, it’s a vibrant community that we help to cultivate and lead.
And that’s a key thing to remember about social media and brand alignment. Making your social media presence reflect your identity doesn’t mean making it all about your identity. Participate in the wider community with a careful eye toward your image as a firm, but remember that social media is social. Understand your brand, make a thoughtful plan, coordinate your efforts, and let the conversation develop. If you can manage this, your firm will be ready to build a bigger and bigger audience.
About the Author:
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.
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