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Make Your Brand A Wallflower: Why Social Media Demands You Step Back

by Kevin Lund, CEO of T3 Custom and author of “Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human 

I have a challenge for you. Write a short blog post that solves a problem in your industry but doesn’t mention your company or product. Not even one time. Sound hard? Try doing it every day for a month.

If you’re questioning why you would publish anything without talking about your own brand, that’s understandable. As marketers, we’re not only encouraged to call attention to ourselves, we’re wired to do so. After all, we’re in business to sell products and solutions. Why not scream from the mountaintop about them? (“We’re better than the other guy.” “We provide impeccable service.”)

In the age of conversation, however, using the same old megaphone isn’t enough. Today’s social media audience demands that companies participate in the 24/7 conversation. And when you do participate, know the rules. First and foremost, talk to your audience, not at your audience.

As a marketer, your task is to rise above the noise, not by calling attention to your brand or product, but by addressing your audience’s problems in a way that’s human, humble, and engaging. You can do this by telling the right stories and suggesting solutions. As your audience comes to know you and respect your insights, their interest in your product will grow organically and they’ll want to hear what you have to say. This is “conversation marketing,” and it puts conversation ahead of raw promotion.

Selling Soap without Getting Sudsy.

Consider Dove, the global beauty brand. In February 2015, it launched its #SpeakBeautiful campaign to change the conversation about beauty from judgmental to supportive and positive on social media. The plan was simple. Through #SpeakBeautiful, Dove would encourage women to speak positively about themselves and others on social media. And there was no mention of beauty products — anywhere.

The campaign eventually drove 800 million social media impressions and helped change the conversation regarding beauty and body image.

Dove’s campaign shows that by listening to what your audience is saying, you can make your mark in social media and raise brand awareness without touting yourself. The company earned attention by talking about a subject in ways no one else was doing so, allowing it to rise above the general social media noise.

You may not have Dove’s worldwide sales and brand awareness, but you can still use its tactics. That means not being a follower, but a leader who finds the best angles, crafts the right stories, and draws in an audience that’s more likely to stick around. Consider these three tips:

Tell A (Great) Story.

A good story might get you heard, but a great one can get your audience to do something. Be a thought leader and dig to discover the unobvious. This might be incremental knowledge about topics your audience didn’t realize they wanted and needed to know.

Imagine you’re the owner of a pest control company. Instead of writing about how your product stamps out insects better than the other guy’s, consider writing educational posts about major issues in the industry. Maybe you’re hearing customer horror stories of insect infestation caused by pests migrating due to climate change (This may not actually be happening; maybe an entomologist can weigh in). You might tell this story, highlight how it’s harming people, and offer advice about what to look for if you’re worried about this pest invading your home.

After a few posts that tell interesting customer stories and pepper readers with useful information without mentioning your product or company, you’ll quickly become the respected authority on the subject. People will be more likely to reach out to you if they find a new creepy crawler in their basement. They’ll see you as a problem solver, not someone who’s putting self-interest first.

Do the Unexpected, If You’re Going to Break the Rules.

Drawing in your audience can mean doing something unexpected that strikes a humorous chord. Humor can work, as demonstrated by The Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades are F***ing Great” viral video. Unlike the Dove campaign, this brand did promote itself, but it did so in a funny way that connected with the conversations its audience was having online, and it earned itself nearly 26 million views. Saying in capital letters that your product is “F***ing” great parodies traditional megaphone-type ads, something that can attract Millennials. The tone wasn’t promotional, but rather a parody of promotional, which can work well on social media.

Remember Humility.

In this age of conversation, brands need to speak with a human voice in the noisy marketplace. This means putting your audience’s needs above your own. Remember, the social media crowd expects you to solve their problems. They’re not going online to hear how great your product is. Try to step away from yourself and acknowledge your audience’s human value and needs. Lead your content ideation with the question, “How can I help you?” Invite conversation and engagement, instead of merely informing by saying, “Here’s how I help you.”

None of this is easy. You’re in business because you have something people want and need. But the rules of content marketing are different from traditional marketing. Starting with some basic principles of one-to-one conversation — earning attention, good storytelling, and being humble — will work better to build trust in your brand so you can be heard, rather than shouting through the white noise about how great you are.

 

Kevin Lund, award-winning, content-marketing pioneer, is the CEO of T3 Custom. He is the author of “Conversation Marketing: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human“.

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