Have you ever wondered how the most successful brands, like Coke, Starbucks, or Nike, create armies of customer ambassadors who passionately promote their business? Here are eight key steps you can take to become one of those contagious social brands: Recognize the new marketplace. We’re at the center of a new economy, new customer behaviors, and new social technology- and the speed of change can be overwhelming. But we all must develop an enduring curiosity for new technology that can build engagement and profits. Stay educated, don’t be afraid to try some new channels like Pinterest or Vine, and most importantly, talk to your customers. Observe how they relate to their peers and openly ask them how they’d like to interact with your company. Understand your audience. Here’s the dilemma: “You can’t see the label from inside the jar.” It’s easy to get so caught up in your company’s products and services that you forget what moves your audience. But according to Edelman, 53% of global consumers say that when quality and price are equal, social purpose ranks as the most important factor for selecting a brand. That means you must identify your brand’s core values and then go out and ask your customers what they value. Only then can you find a common purpose to make the authentic mission of your brand. Define your brand. What’s your ‘Why’? As Simon Senek says, most organizations know what they do, but very few know why they do it. What’s your company’s purpose, why does it even exist? If you can’t articulate your company’s vision for the world, it’s hard for consumers to understand or want to join in and help you. For example, here is our Manifesto, Values and Beliefs at We First, which helps us frame our company and community culture that ultimately drives our bottom line and social impact. Balance story and telling. So many companies rush past telling what they stand for and get lost in the specific marketing tactics (Facebook ads, email marketing, etc). But I’ve found that story transcends technology, and the success of your business will be in direct proportion to the emotional impact you have on your customers. So enough about your product- tie it into how you change the world. Coke unites around \"Open Happiness,” IBM wants a \"Smarter Planet,” and Starbucks says it’s a \"Shared Planet.” What’s your rallying cry? Align contribution. Only tie your mission to a cause that truly reflects the core values of your brand. Otherwise, consumers will easily sense your insincerity and you could be perceived as \"cause washing.” A great example of aligned contribution is United by Blue - for every product sold, they remove 1 pound of trash from the ocean. Did the world need another beachwear company? Probably not. United by Blue has made themselves much more than a product company. They’re a movement for change. Engage customers consistently. Too many companies out there are suffering from brand schizophrenia because they think a flurry of marketing activity in itself is the goal. But disjointed or conflicting messages will confuse or even alienate your audience. Instead, turn it around and let you and your customers’ common purpose guide your marketing activities and the channels you choose to leverage. Grow community. There’s nothing worse than building momentum only to watch your community erode after your campaign ends. Identify brand ambassadors or mega-fans, and let them co-create your brand with you. Take a look at what Ikea did: While researching what consumers were saying about their brand, they found a funny Facebook group with almost 100k members called \"I Wanna Have A Sleepover In Ikea.” So IKEA hosted a sleepover in one of their stores that included treats and bedtime stories read by celebrities. Needless to say, their customers were extremely surprised and delighted! Measure and Manage. To get the best ROI from your social marketing efforts you must commit to pinpointing which tactics work best for your brand. Get together with your team to define your success metrics, create a dashboard to for easy reporting, and adjust your strategies based on some cold, hard facts. No more flying by the seat of your pants! While big brands may make their customer community engagement look effortless and organic, make no mistake- it’s always the result of careful strategy driven by a deep understanding of both themselves and their customers.
Simon Mainwaring is the founder and CEO of the social branding firm that helps companies tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their business. He is a member of the Sustainable Brands Advisory Board, the Advisory Board of the Center for Public Diplomacy at the USC Annenberg School, the Transformational Leadership Council, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London and was included in Trust Across America's, 'Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior for 2012.' His New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller, We First, was named Best Marketing Book of 2011 by Global Management Magazine, strategy+business and has been translated into 5 languages. He also contributes to Fast Company, Forbes, Huffington Post, Mashable, and GOOD Magazine on branding and social technologies. Prior to We First, Simon won over 60 international creativity awards at the Cannes Advertising Festival, British Design & Art Direction and U.S. One Show among others, as a Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy and worldwide creative director on Motorola at Ogilvy. Follow him @SimonMainwaring, read his blog at SimonMainwaring.com and for your Social Branding Blueprint