Reports & Whitepapers Social Media

Introducing the 7 Habits of Highly Digital Brands

January 2, 2013

This is Part I of a week-long series that explores the seven core attributes of successful brands in the Digital Age. Chloe Mathieu-Phillips is a Community Supervisor at 360i.

Digital has fundamentally changed the way brands behave, as well as the way they organize and optimize their marketing efforts. To be successful in connecting with people in the digital age, brands must adopt new habits and, in some cases, behave more like people themselves.

While the personalities of individual brands are varied and unique, there are commonalities across strong digital brands that can be identified as critical to success in the new marketing landscape. We looked at some of the most successful digital brands and idenfified seven shared traits across the board. Each day for the next week, we’ll uncover a new “habit” and explain its importance to brands.

The first part of our series explains that strong digital brands don’t just know how to talk – they know how to converse, that is, build relationships through their messaging and content.

What it means to be a skilled conversationalist

Being a skilled conversationalist means viewing digital as more than a broadcast medium – and understanding the powerful role that listening can have in engaging in relevant dialogue with consumers. In social, listening goes beyond customer service and responsive messaging. Real-time data collected from social communities will show you which types of content resonate with your audience, or even uncover new audiences that you had not previously considered.

As such, listening can and should inform ALL content published within social communities. Insights gleaned from social listening can also be applied more broadly – to overall brand strategy and even product development.

Another key ingredient to being a skilled conversationalist is having a well-defined social tone of voice that is both true to the brand’s personality and reflective of the audience. Establishing a voice allows brands to be nimble in social spaces and set boundaries as to what can or should be said in organic conversations with consumers.

For example, Hanes – a client of 360i – developed a social tone of voice used to inform how the brand engages people via Twitter and other social platforms. Not all of the brand’s messaging is responsive (as is the case below); however, the brand’s personality shines through no matter what conversation @Hanes is having at the moment.

Why does this matter?

As social communities mature, interactions between brands and consumers are becoming increasingly commonplace. People used to delight in receiving a mention from one of their favorite brands; today, this type of personalized communication is generally expected. When people reach out to brands in digital, they are not always looking for customer service; sometimes, they are simply seeking entertainment or validation. This adds yet another responsibility to the community manager’s job description: social copywriting.

People are also dealing with more noise than ever before. Social is no longer a novelty, and emerging platforms like Tumblr are no longer reserved for the early adopter set. As these platforms reach critical mass, they are pushing brands to raise their standards. Today, marketers must play at a new level where content is ultra-relevant and timely or, in other words, conversational.

Three keys to being a great conversationalist

1. Plan for the unexpected. Change your approach to content planning and build flexibility in the editorial schedule. When planning your content calendar, leave room for organic, conversational posts. Instead of guessing what users would like, give yourself room to engage them: make them tell you what they want, and deliver it to them in a timely manner.
2. Use community insights to inform strategy. Use conversations taking place in your community to shape upcoming content, and make your messaging as timely as possible. You might have planned for great content, but if people are already engaging around one topic, you’ll be more successful joining the existing conversation than trying to create a new one.
3. Invest time in developing a brand voice. While developing a brand voice can require increased time and effort, it quickly pays off by allowing for effortlessly genuine, human and personable content. A brand voice exercise will not only allow your team to identify a muse, but more importantly will help you set a list of filters, or attributes, which almost eliminates the risk of content being “off-brand”, no matter how quickly it is created.

Tomorrow, we’ll share Part II of our 7 Habits of Highly Digital Brands series.

Cover image: Roy Lichtenstein via the Art Institute of Chicago