Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable, a social media agency that has worked with more than 200 leading brands including 1-800Flowers.com, Verizon and Neutrogena. He is author of Likeable Social Media.
We all intuitively know what likeability means. We have friends who are easygoing, good listeners and there when we need them. But what does it mean for a brand to be likeable online? Now more than ever, when a “Like” is arguably more important than a “link,” brands must demonstrate core values of responsiveness, transparency and likeability across Facebook and other social networks.
Listen to your customers and prospects. Deliver value, excitement and surprise. And most importantly, truly engage your customers and help them spread the word. Here are 10 universal laws for brand likeability in social media.
1. Never Stop Listening
The number one benefit of a brand’s involvement in social media is the ability to listen to conversation about its brand, competitors and target audience’s wants and needs. Listening is 50% of communication. Just as nobody wants to be out on a date with someone who isn’t a good listener, consumer don’t want to feel ignored by brands on social networks.
For a good case study on how listening in social media has impacted millions of dollars worth of sales, check out IBM’s Listening for Leads program.
2. Leverage Facebook’s EdgeRank Formula
EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm for determining what appears at the top of people’s News Feeds, might be the single most important online innovation of our time. EdgeRank uses multiple factors to determine what’s relevant and appealing to users. So unlike email, through which we receive a constant barrage of pushed messages all day, every day, Facebook updates surface to the top of our feeds based on how likeable and relevant the updates are.
At any given time, as a brand, you’re competing with all of your fans’ friends and other brand pages for attention. This is a great thing for consumers because it means they’re not spammed with irrelevant, sales-heavy messaging. But it’s also a challenge to marketers. You’ll want to use photos and videos, keep the text short and drive as many Likes and comments as possible.
3. Improvise Your Engagement
There is a difference between talking at people and engaging with them. I often use the analogy of a Broadway show versus an improv show. TV advertising is like a Broadway show — a one-way communication in which a huge production and great creative can make a strong impact. Social media marketing is more like improv comedy — a back-and-forth between performers and audience, different every time yet totally effective at a fraction of the cost, when done right.
One brand that does an excellent job of engaging in social media is Zappos. Zappos goes back and forth with customers on Twitter and Facebook, discussing its product — shoes — or anything else customers want to talk about.
4. Respond Quickly to Negative Comments
Customers have taken to social networks to share their frustrations. Unlike 10 years ago, when you could get away with putting people on hold for an hour or responding to letters on your own schedule, negative sentiment can spread lightning-fast on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The faster you can respond, the better.
The best practice is to respond publicly, indicating that you’re addressing the issue through a private message. The customer will feel that he or she is heard, and most important to your brand, the public sees that you care and are responsive. “I’m sorry” are the two most powerful words for brands in social media.
5. Respond to Positive Comments, Too
Many brands are not yet leveraging this opportunity, but your positive comments on Facebook and Twitter are likely from your biggest brand advocates, capable of spreading your messages far and wide and defending you against naysayers at no cost. If you owned a retail store and a customer walked up to you and said, “I just love all your products and have been shopping here for years,” would you ignore them? Don’t ignore them on Facebook either. “Thank you” are the other two most powerful words for brands in social media.
6. Be Authentic and Transparent
Take a guess at what actor has the most likes on Facebook. Is it the most famous, most talented or best-looking actor?
With more than 21 million fans, Vin Diesel is the most-liked actor on Facebook, probably because he’s the most authentic. He shares pictures of his family, videos and inner thoughts. Brands can learn from Vin: Share insights from real people, behind-the-scenes footage, and your brand’s personality.
7. Provide Value (for Free!)
Brands that provide real value to consumers will see long-term dividends, build trust and credibility, and grow contagious excitement. While 10% off is not value (it’s marketing), 50% off is value. Free is value. Business-to-business brands can give away white papers, share articles or do free webinars. Business-to-consumer brands can give away products or deep-discounts, hold contests and share entertaining content.
Extra Gum gave away a pack to every fan on Facebook — now that’s value.
8. Share and Inspire Stories
Stories bring brands to life in a way that nothing else can. Stories can be about the founding of the company, an employee who has overcome struggle, or a customer experience with your product. In order for brands to tell a story at scale, they used to have to buy a 30-second TV commercial. Today, you can tell a story through tweets, photos and Facebook groups.
Check out this Facebook group, inspired by a local McDonald’s employee in Chandler, Arizona. More than 1,000 people sing Mary’s praises and organically spread the word about McDonald’s.
9. Consistently Deliver Surprise and Delight
This is a marketing principle more than a social media principle. When brands surprise and delight on social networks, it’s public and part of an ecosystem where things can spread very quickly. When Cumberland Farms’ Chill Zone Facebook Page had 30,000 fans, they announced that if the page topped 75,000 fans, they’d give away a free Chill Zone to everyone on the Page. A few weeks later, without any advertising, the page was at 100,000 fans.
10. Don’t Sell
Just make it easy and compelling for customers to buy. While it’s essential for brands to create likeable, engaging communities on social networks, every CMO needs to move the sales needle. But there’s a huge difference between using social networks to aggressively sell versus making it easy for consumers to buy.
Flash sales provide urgency and excitement on social networks. One way to make it easy is in-Facebook commerce.
Ultimately, the most important rule for brands to remember is the Golden Rule: Take off your marketing cap and put on your consumer cap — would you click Like or RT?
Disclosure: Cumberland Farms is a client of the author.
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