The problem. Let me start this column with kind of a negative paragraph: social media marketing for many companies is a sort of catchall content distribution bullhorn. It serves many masters including corporate marketing, product marketing, customer service, corporate social responsibility, PR, and even HR. The result is often a social publishing hodgepodge of materials based on real-time opportunity and whatever content may be on hand. We are all part of this practice and typically push out all this stuff on our blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites in the hopes that we get that coveted instance of engagement - the like, share, comment, or retweet.
The current situation. So now we have all done a great job in creating, identifying, and nurturing this wide variety of content sources. These sources both exist in our organizations and outside our organizations. We publish content about our communities (locally, nationally, and internationally), our products, and our industries, and post offers and things simply to make people laugh and give our companies a human face. This is all well and good and I must confess that I am one of the marketers who advocated this approach and practice it. Variety is the spice of life, and who wants to be friends with a person who talks about the same thing all the time? So mixing things up in your social platforms is good, right?
The challenge. With all this posting and variety at what point do we stop and ask ourselves what we are really trying to say about our brands? What space are we trying to own? What values are we trying to promote? And most importantly, what are we trying to get other people to say about our brands? In the midst of all this diverse social publishing we do, one of the greatest challenges is actually giving your social media marketing a singular focused direction. How do you apply a mantra, goal to your social program?
The solution - create a brand drumbeat. A "brand drumbeat" is a consistent flow of content designed to influence people's perceptions of, and conversations about, a brand. It's the subtext of social media publishing that conveys value. It could come from a positioning statement, but it is not a tagline. It's an idea. It's the one powerful thought or statement about your brand that the class of content you put under the brand drumbeat must map to. It must have universal appeal to all your audiences and convey the value of your existence and the value of your social connection.
So for example, a unifying brand drumbeat idea for ClickZ might be:
"ClickZ will make you a better digital marketer and more successful person."
This is different from ClickZ's descriptive tagline that goes next to its logo "Marketing News and Expert Advice." That is the "what" behind ClickZ and appeals to our rational side. But the brand drumbeat has to convey a benefit. It is the "why" behind the value of your brand and must appeal to people's emotional side. It must appeal to the side of the brain that drives desire, media consumption habits, and decision-making behavior. It's the glue that gives your social content and your brand perceived value.
Implementing a Brand Drumbeat With Two Classes of Content
Now, a brand drumbeat can be a little harder to get your head around compared to traditional ad campaigns where a singular idea, look, and feel are consistently applied to a variety of creative pieces such as banners, print ads, landing pages, and television commercials. Social media by its nature is all over the place, like conversations in real life.
So, the first thing to do is to realize that you are going to have two classes or layers of content - those things that directly map to the brand drumbeat and those things that either orbit it or don't map to it at all. (See the image and explanation below.) This is OK and you just need to accept it.
Layer 1 - Diverse Content Publishing
The first layer is all the opportunistic content and news that you might push out that was not specifically created to map to your brand drumbeat. It might show that you are part of a community, show products, promote your thought leadership, or even push an offer. It might even be a real-time response to something happening in the news. But what puts it in the top "non-drumbeat" layer is that the content taken together is not focused, it's all over the place from a directional standpoint. Now just to be clear, certainly some of this content can map to what you are trying to say about your brand and your selection of content can be grounded in your drumbeat. But things like job listings and photos of your company outing might not fit in there. This first layer is the casual content that is perfect for rapid conversational social publishing but it was not specifically created to beat the brand drum.
Layer 2 - Brand Drumbeat
This is the layer or class of content where the magic happens. This is the layer you plan carefully and ground it in the idea you are trying to convey about your brand. As depicted in the image above, it all points in one direction. It can be planned and written in advance and crafted into a purposeful publishing schedule. It is also not just about Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, either. This is the layer that should drive the production of your more substantial pieces of content such as white papers, guides, infographics, videos, and more. This is the layer of content that requires real thought and creativity. This should be the foundation of your social program that creates and publishes content specifically to beat a brand drum.
The Good News
The good news about a brand drumbeat is that so much content can map to it. It's not meant to restrict content, it's meant to guide and focus content development. It can remind people to add the little nuances that link a post to the idea and to emphasize the value of the content you're publishing. The reality is that most of the content you push out should already at least be in the orbit of your brand drumbeat idea.
Don't Overthink the Brand Drumbeat
In conclusion, the other key to this is not to overthink it. Too much contemplation will slow you down. Just a) think of that core brand ideal or idea that you can see your organization getting behind for a long time, and b) make sure that you create or source a consistent stream of content that you can easily connect to that idea.
A good brand drumbeat can live seamlessly within the variety and diversity of opportunistic social content and not necessarily restrict you from deviating from it. That's why it's a drumbeat. It's in the background and lets other instruments (or topics) chime in - but it is loud and persuasive enough to hear a rhythm.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.
Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.
Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.
March 19, 2014