In this guest column, Wise Marketer North American practice leader Bill Hanifin looks at the importance of crafting the right tone and message in your content marketing and social media strategy to ensure that your content provides real benefit to your audience rather than ham-fistedly trumpeting your brand in a way that turns them off. To use content to build engagement, Hanifin writes, it's important to put yourself in your audience's shoes.
Celebrations in professional sports can run from muted to outrageous, with the outcomes as varied as the personalities of the players themselves. They are also a flash point for controversy. Some fans prefer the old school approach of "acting as if you've been there before", while others feed off the excitement of living in the moment where anything goes. Visualise the difference in approaches by Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Draymond Green and LeBron James and you get the idea.
Brands like to celebrate too. Most marketers agree the "consumer is in control" and not easily fooled. To make connections with these empowered consumers, brands have embraced content marketing strategies to promote their brand image. While brands share common goals to express brand promise and build credibility with consumers, their methods are as varied as the on field celebrations we see in professional sports.
As a brand marketer or an executive responsible to build customer loyalty, how can you craft the optimal content and social media marketing strategy to reach your objectives? You may or may not be able to root for Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Draymond Green or LeBron James, but their individual behaviors provide lessons you can use to create stronger brand impressions and realise better results.
Teammates on the Seattle Seahawks, Richard Sherman is all mouth, while at times we're not sure if Marshawn Lynch has a mouth. Draymond Green is the well-documented emotional leader of the record setting Golden State Warriors in the NBA, while LeBron continues to operate smoothly as the consensus "best basketball player on the planet" (sorry Steph, you've got a ways to go to claim that title).
Sherman talks constantly throughout a game and gets "in the face" of opponents while somehow keeping it amusing. Maybe not every opponent sees it that way, but my view is that Sherman is loud but sportsmanlike. Draymond's emotions fuel his performance and that of his teammates, but his celebrations can cross the line to taunting, evidenced by his accumulation of flagrant and technical fouls during this season.
Marshawn Lynch opts to let his play speak for itself. Remember that he's "all about that action boss" and runs from media interviews at every opportunity. LeBron has embraced a statesman-like role, giving time and thoughtful responses to the media in measured tones. LeBron also knows when to focus, shutting down his social media channels as post-season play begins.
What can we learn from this famously athletic foursome that we can apply to successfully celebrate our own brands through content and social media marketing?
1. Keep your agenda trustworthy: Strive to strike a more effective balance between promotion and hype. An easy first step is to stop mis-labeling content in ways that undermine credibility. Not every article over 500 words in length should be called a "White Paper". Your research conclusions should not always map to your product capabilities presentation. In a world of information transparency, consumers won't be fooled for long and they will penalise brands who walk them down a rosy path only to find a bed of thorns.
2. Resist hyperbole: Having attended two conferences in the past week (the National Restaurant Association and Loyalty Expo), I encountered many companies claiming to be "thought leaders", "globally recognised" and just generally "the best." Challenge yourself to find more creative words to describe your corporate focus, and work harder to hone in on specifics that differentiate you from the rest of the market. If you can't find these words, then an investment in your core value proposition might be warranted.
3. Be aware of your volume: Resist buying into the belief that more noise leads to results. The temptation to equate high frequency content production with brand building can lead your efforts astray. To be fair, publishing lots of content will get you noticed, but not always with the memorable and trusted impact you are seeking.
4. Be yourself: Resist the urge to sell ahead of capabilities. This might be anathema to executives in today's start-up culture, but we are entering a business cycle where authenticity will be highly valued. Your content should reflect what you can deliver and execute with excellence.
5. Personalise your killer instinct: There are many ways to express your focus, intensity and commitment to excellence in business and you will benefit by resisting stereotypical expressions of “Type A” behavior. Draymond may shout the loudest, though Marshawn has accomplished arguably more in his sport. Sherman needs to shout to play his "A" game, while LeBron finds that limiting his social media interactions allows him to focus better in the playoffs. "Type A" can come in many packages, and the lesson here is to find your own way to express your killer instinct. Remember that while the marketplace might tell you humility is a sign of weakness, it can in fact be a conscious way to express strength and confidence.
The stated objective of most content and social media marketing strategies is to establish the brand as knowledgeable, authoritative, helpful, and friendly, leading to creation of trusted bonds between brand and consumer. The byproduct of this trusted relationship is winning share of mind with current and potential customers. One day, maybe today, next month, or next year, that share of mind can pay off as the consumer gives an unconscious "right of first refusal" to the brand when ready to make a purchase.
The evolution of the content and social media marketing game has diluted results for many participants. The more content they produce, the more their intended audience becomes numbed by the volume. If you believe that consumers will continue to exert heavy influence in brand relationships in the future, then you should expect them to seek out trustworthy sources of information to make purchase decisions.
Though most brands share similar goals in content and social media marketing, each should set its own path to optimize connections with consumers. The opportunity for most brands to improve execution in content and social marketing is immense, and maybe the lessons learned from our 4 athletes might unlock some real celebration for your brand.
Bill Hanifin North American Practice Leader for the Wise Marketer Group. He is also CEO of Hanifin Loyalty LLC and publishes LoyaltyTruth.com (c), established in 2006 as a source of independent and unbiased insights in the customer loyalty, strategy, and management industry.