Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Ilana Rabinowitz, Vice-President of Marketing for Lion Brand Yarn Company.
Social media consultants often suggest developing a unified “brand voice” and creating a rulebook about how to interact on social media. This goes against two of the most basic criteria for success in social media: openness (transparency) and being yourself (authenticity). The parentheses are the buzzwords often used with these concepts, that are a pet peeve of mine.
Until my company started engaging in social media, all anyone knew of our 132-year-old brand was what they saw in our products on the shelves at retailers and in a few magazine ads. Very few customers ever spoke to anyone at our company because most of our business has always been through retailers.
- Image by On Hooks & Needles via Flickr
We got involved in social media because we were a faceless corporation and we needed to personalize and humanize ourselves. We wanted to present the human faces and voices of our people because there isn’t any way to create a relationship with a corporate entity or to connect on a personal level. We did it because people buy from people, not from corporations.
Working without a rulebook has worked for us for two reasons. First, the people who talk to our customers on Facebook, Twitter and the blog are our customers. Not only do we not pawn off our day-to-day conversations on an agency, but the people who talk to customers are passionate about our company and are often heavy users of our products. They don’t need to be told what to say or how to say it because they are members of the community and know intuitively how to speak to them. Of course, we have made a few missteps. Just like real life, relationships things can get messy. When we make a mistake, we apologize, learn from it and then move on.
There is a moment in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, when the defendant in a military murder case is being questioned by the prosecuting attorney. The defendant says he was only carrying out an order to perform a “code red,” an unofficial, but heavily ingrained form of punishment meted out to undisciplined recruits. The prosecutor asks the defendant to open the rule book and show him where it talks about this “code red.” Of course, there is nothing in the manual about this. Then Tom Cruise cross examines the defendant and asks him to point to the place in the book that tells him where the Mess Hall is.
His point was, that just because something isn’t in the guidebook, doesn’t mean that people aren’t being guided by it. The way to interact with other people, especially in our own small circle of friends, family and community, is known to us. We learn it by being brought up in that group, interacting with them, observing them, mirroring and responding to behavior and learning.
I’m not suggesting you let people loose on your brand’s social media platforms without any training, but if you need to develop a brand voice then you may not have the right people speaking for your brand.
Editor’s Note: We will feature occasional guest posts from smart peeps from time to time. The following is one from one, namely Ilana Rabinowitz, Vice-President of Marketing for Lion Brand Yarn Company. Her credits include having developed Lion Media, which includes a 1.15 million subscriber newsletter, a 1 million circulation “magalog”, aFacebook page with 137,000 “likes,” an award-winning blog with 50,000 monthly visitors, a YouTube channel with 1.3 million views, 4,800 Twitter followers, a podcast with 10,000 listeners and a website with 2 million monthly visits. Not too shabby.