Branding or Connecting: How About Both?

Big brands have woken up to the power of online and are now buying billions of impressions to build and reinforce their brands. So let me propose adding another level of interaction to the mix. Instead of brand impressions, clicks, and actions, let’s encourage and measure “brand connections.” Until recently, about the only way to make a lasting online connection with a target audience was to have them join your e-mail list. E-mail is all well and good. But the explosion and adoption of social media provides marketers and media professionals with opportunities to make genuine and lasting connections with customers and target audiences.

We can now make lifelong connection because people’s profiles and social accounts rarely change. We can embed our client’s brands, content, and messages into the social environments where their target customers congregate. We can enable consumers to make our clients’ brands part of their online identities and help them talk about our brands in a way that our clients want to be talked about. And here is the big part: our online media can add serious octane to this potential. Use online media to encourage brand interactions and connections in the social space and watch the lasting value of your impressions and campaigns go through the roof. Watch the benefit of your impressions turn to valuable lasting connections! Brand marketers should be super greedy about amassing brand connections.

OK, so some quick tips on making this happen:

  • Ensure you set up and maintain the foundation of a social media marketing platform — basically your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts. There are more, but these are the big ones you should have right now.

  • Try to promote the fact that consumer interaction on these branded profiles and channels that live off your client’s official Web properties are in many cases more valuable then ones that occur on their sites. Get your clients to think of their Facebook page or YouTube channel as an extension of their site.
  • Establish a maintenance plan for your client’s profiles and channels. Don’t make them campaign specific. Help them develop lasting Web sites and brand assets that evolve as new campaigns are deployed around their brand.
  • Get clients to think of friends and fans on Facebook and MySpace as the same as people opting in to an e-mail database.
  • In your banners and landing pages, use chicklets. These are little icons that people can use to post content to their blogs, profiles, and social bookmarking sites. Chicklets, which are the glue of the social Web, allow people to instantly connect to your brand and share it with friends. (See example of chicklets consolidated by ShareThis and Clearspring SnaggableAds ads.)
  • Use media to promote interactions in the social space like watching videos on YouTube, becoming a friend or fan, or posting your product or video on a blog or profile. For example you can buy Engagements Ads on Facebook that let people become your fan with one click.)
  • Finally, and most importantly, incorporate things like YouTube video plays, profile page views and friends and fan signups into your reporting metrics.

So here are some links and examples:

Making Brand Connections

OK, please excuse the self-promotion but here is goes. I want to connect to all of you and encourage all of you to share some of our valuable content. So this is simple: I could tell you to visit our site but I would rather we connect forever in the social Web and encourage you to distribute our content. So imagine I am any brand and here is what I am promoting:

  • Become a fan of ours on Facebook.

  • Follow us on Twitter.
  • Download our social media map, see below, and use the chicklets (buttons on the left) to share it:

These are the kind of things we promote in our e-mail, PR, and advertising and so should more major brands.

Want to see more brands making connections online? Check out Peter Kim’swiki of companies using social media marketing.

Chicklets

So many people still look at these little icons all over the Web and never click on them. Want to see what they do? Click on them and find out. Start with the things you might already have like Facebook. Then, see what happens.

Here are a couple examples of chicklet applications in action:

ShareThis

ShareThis is a free application that has consolidated many of the Web’s chicklets into one neat button so you do not have to clutter up your page with a ton of little buttons.

Now the cool thing is you can actually embed chicklets into your rich media ads using services like Clearspring, which works with PointRoll:

See the gallery, here. I like the Snickers ad with Mr. T. Click on “GRAB IT” to see the chicklets. You will get the idea.

Private Social Communities

One last thing: I know I am leaving out doing your own social community on your site using Ning or other platforms and here’s why. That’s a big topic and my focus in this column is how to leverage existing (and often free) social Web assets and applications that consumers are likely to be already using every day. Setting up social profiles and channels is easy; setting up and populating private online communities is a bigger undertaking.

However, this is not an either or proposition. A company planning to do a private community should do both and draw consumers in from the social media landscape. These people are already online socializing and will be more likely to join your network and share it with like-minded friends. Brands should integrate their private communities with the public social realm as much as possible through applications like Facebook Connect and creative. The communities companies create on their open platforms should be connected to the social world at large as much as possible.

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