Social media: what’s your excuse for NOT taking part?

geek_party_3It used to be that the only brands that got involved with social media were tech brands. Brands whose very premise was technology and web. So for them, the very idea of NOT taking part in social media was not an option. If there was a party, they had to be there. Fast-forward a few years, and the party is still alive and kicking, but it’s not only full of geeks. There are some bigger better-known types turning up. After all, everyone is invited; it’s an open door policy. But for some reason, brands are still slow to the party. Lame excuses probably include “…not sure what to say”, “…might look stupid”, “…do I have to?” blah blah blah.

But these excuses are starting to wear thin. There really is NO EXCUSE. A report out last week confirms what many have known for a while; engaging with your audience through the use of social media pays. Oh yes!

Money“… the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social engagement…”

So now we’ve got that out the way, let’s just get our heads around what engaging really means [clue: it's a lot more than just showing up].

Being seen in the right places

Well as with most things marketing, first you need to find out where your audience is hanging out. Once you know that, you can make a decision as to which channels you want to be seen in. But remember, to take part in a channel doesn’t mean you have to own it. It is OK to just hang out. Let me explain. Blogging might be really important to your audience, whether they read them or write them. But you don’t necessarily need to have your own blog, you can actively take part in their blogs; make comments, give prominent bloggers a preview of new products, submit articles and news. The important thing is to take part, and not just have a presence.

Listening

catjobphase4As I’ve said, just being in your chosen channel isn’t enough, you have to take part and interact (this bit is so important I decided to repeat myself - it’s for you skimmers out there) And most importantly, you have to listen. This is quite new to a lot of marketers, who usually too busy spouting outward. Used to focussing on getting their message out there, now they’ve got to learn to listen and converse. Before I hear too many marketers shout in protest, when I say listen, I mean listen as a daily activity, not an annual one. Listening needs to become part of the fabric of the business and not just an isolated focus group attended by a solitary marketing exec.

Make a commitment

This is really important. For a brand to engage with its audience, it needs to commit to it. Once you’re in, you’re in. So make sure you have a plan and a resource to deliver that plan. Sure, the plan can evolve. But at the very least make sure that someone owns social media in the business and is listening to the conversation. Ideally, social media needs to become part of the culture, right up to the top. But, one step at a time is fine at this stage.

So, what’s your excuse?

state-newspaper-excuses

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When Branding and Marketing collide

With news this week that Ryanair are considering making some of its passengers stand during flights in a bid to squeeze as many as 30% more people on board, I couldn’t help but think that Ryanair must be getting a little bit confused.

ryanair468x286On the one hand they are trying to make more money. Well, you can’t have a go at them for that. That’s what all businesses are trying to do. And, in this current climate, the airlines are having a tough old time. But on the other, each action they take to bring them closer to the money is moving them away from the long term win; a brand that inspires loyalty and trust. That is where the real money is.

There appear to be two forces at play here so let me introduce you to the terrible twins; Branding and Marketing. Twins because they are often confused for one another.

But first, let’s just go back to basics for a moment. What is Marketing anyway?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing, which is the world’s largest marketing body, defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Notice that last word, “profitably“. Also, notice the word “satisfying“. Mmmm.

ryanairSo, in the name of profit, Ryanair have come up with a load of ideas to generate more money;
Charge to use toilets on board
Get passengers to carry all of their own luggage onto planes
• Abolish check-in facilities and demand that all passengers check in online at a cost of £5.

Our favourite is the 2-in-1 sick-bag cum send-your-film-off-for-development envelope. Genius!

But what about the other twin, Branding? Well, a company invests in branding because of the benefits that come with a good brand. A good brand:
• Delivers your brand message clearly
• Gets your audience to think that you are the ONLY solution to their problem
• Confirms your credibility
• Connects to your target audience emotionally
• Motivates your buyer into action
• Builds loyalty over the long-term so buyers keep coming back

So, in the name of marketing, O’Leary is doing everything he can to squeeze more profit out of his operation. And he’s being quite innovative with it. The trouble is, it’s not the sort of innovation that wins brownie points (a.k.a. happy paying customers). It seems that when Ryanair had their brainstorming away day, the branding team weren’t invited. If they were, someone would have been standing up for the poor paying customers. Someone would have been asking some tough questions about why the customer experience is being destroyed. Destroyed so much, that there are now masses of travellers that will do anything they can to AVOID travelling with them. One angry blogger has even gone as far as setting up www.ihateryanair.co.uk.

It seems as though Ryanair just don’t get it. The whole branding thing I mean. If they could successfully engage their customers on an emotional level (preferably nice positive emotions like love and delighted, not emotions like anger and hate), then customers would choose to travel with them. Some might even pay a little bit more. Imagine that Mr O’Leary?

ryanair-staff-nappingSo, we thought we’d come up with a few ideas of our own. After all, it looks like he needs all the help he can get.

• Ryanair Express store selling over-priced packed lunch ingredients and sandwich fillings for customers to make their own lunch before coming on board. Advise customers that if they require a preparation surface they can use the baby-changing facilities.
• Sell customers oxygen masks and a choice of getaway devices, from slides to parachutes
• Charge customers a monthly subscription to access the website
• Oblige customers to undergo steward training, in preparation for the no-staff service.
• Sell customers Ryanair uniforms in Duty Free, in case the staff are free of duty and absent
• £100 soiling charge if you wet your seat from not paying the £5 toilet charge

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