Here are six new rules of engagement, based upon an analysis of brand successes, behavioral psychology, and trends in consumer marketing and the social context…….
1. You See Numbers, People See Themselves
Marketers who are trained in the nuances of insightful segmentation and consumer nuances seem to forget all that when marketing through social media. They blast one message to hundreds of thousands of people. Even millions. But creating a brand evangelist starts with a personal connection, and personal connections can’t be built with impersonal messaging. Acquiring giant quantities of friends makes this more difficult, but the growth of Big Data and customer intelligence solutions makes it possible.
2. When People Share Values, They’ll Share A Lot More
Brands today are complex, impressionistic constructions of product, performance, perceptions, and belief systems. More and more, brands are taking stands on social and even political issues; companies like Whole Foods and The Container Store, for example, are active members of the Conscious Capitalism movement.
Brands can also share values through the choices they make in how they communicate. Style is substantive. Zappos is widely regarded as brilliantly adept at creating wildly devotional brand partisans, and the Twitter feed of its CEO, Tony Hsieh, is a large part of that.
Here’s a perfect example of that; a Tweet he made last July. No sell, no offer, in fact, an anti-consumption message: Want happiness? Don’t buy more stuff—go on vacation!
It was preceded by a Tweet about research on getting kids to consume more vegetables, and a quote from Ann Frank. This random glimpse into the mind of a CEO displays an emotional transparency that builds loyalty. You know that it wasn’t rubber-stamped by a Twitter Approval Sub-Committee.
So social media is the ultimate platform for communicating your values and energizing people around them. Of course, you can’t satisfy everyone, but the process of creating brand acolytes means that you cannot be equally meaningful to everyone. Deal with it.
3. Lameness Can’t Create Loyalty
Have you noticed how much social media is represented by Tweets and posts like this triteness display from McDonald’s:
Morning! How’s everyone’s week going so far?
24 Jan Favorite Retweet Reply
Would you want to be friends, and hang out with someone who always feels obligated to spout something, even when they have absolutely nothing of interest on their minds? So if you want to create evangelists, start with being excruciatingly demanding about every single thing you say. And how you say it.
4. Real Friends Don’t Impose—Unless There’s a Good Reason
Offline relationships are the psychological model for brand “friendships.” Well, before you ask a friend for a favor, you think through the implications. How important is it to you? How difficult or emotionally fraught might it be your friend to act on your request? When does the request over-stretch the implicit boundaries of the relationship?
Brands need to go through the same social calculus, but they seldom do. So a brand will ask you to forward something to a friend, or invite a friend to join a group, without really thinking through the implications. They are pushing hard, if not violating, the natural limits of the “friendship”—and then they are surprised when they don’t get the results they expected.
To create evangelists who are ready, willing and able to use their social graphs to advance your brand, you need to develop some rules of reciprocity, and real customer intelligence about which of your current fans and friends are most likely to share. For example, those who have large networks, and high Klout scores, might be better evangelist than those who keep to themselves. But are you treating them all the same?
5. Surprise Everyone, Including Yourself
We become emotionally attached to those who bring unexpected twists and surprises to our lives. That’s because disruptive surprise and intrigue release dopamine, which creates pleasure (and its evil cousin, addiction.) Insufficient novelty creates dopamine boredom.
Surprise can be the way you say something (style) or what you give them as far as rewards or incentives go (content). It’s a rich area for innovation.
Trouble is, many big brands see surprise as a risk, because it requires unexpected behaviors, which by definition, haven’t been done before and might be considered “off-brand.” Dopamine boredom is always safe. Hence the paradox of evangelists: to create them, you need to push on the limits of institutional norms. But if you do so, and surprise them and yourself in the process, you might actually find your dopamine will be flowing as much as theirs.
6. Go Out Of Your Way For People, and They’ll Go Out of Their Way for You
One of the most powerful ways to create evangelists is to behave with breathtaking responsiveness. Many are halfway there. Increasingly, more and more companies are turning to social media to address customer service issues. So we’re seeing tons of responses like this from Target:
@XTEDDIX That’s frustrating! Thanks for letting us know. We’ll be passing your comments along to our Store Leadership team. Matthew
But what we’re not seeing are a lot of results. The average friend or fan is exposed to a torrent of problems, not solutions. So in the interests of being a responsive organization, brands can come across as customer-service train wrecks.
Wouldn’t it be cool if a brand posted, each day, the resolution of its most triumphant, confounding, and amusing customer services issues.
via Fast Company