It’s time for another round-up of the best brands in social media. Along with old favorites Facebook and Twitter, this time I’m looking at Pinterest, now the third-most popular social network in America, and Google+, which is finally gaining traction among brands. Who’s the best – and why? Read on.
Pinterest – Michael Kors
With 23 boards and more than 750 pins, Michael Kors’ Pinterest gives his fans a lot to look at. But only about half his boards are about the products themselves, such as watches and shoes. One board is “Style Tips,” a great resource for fashion enthusaists, while others like “Travel Diary” offer a sneak peak into the designer’s glamorous lifestyle. “Michael’s Milestones” feature photos of Michael’s past, including his child-modeling work in the 60s. “On Broadway” presents Michael’s favorite shows, while “Eat Up” presents his favorite foods. It’s clear taht Michael Kors is using Pinterest not just to sell his products but also to connect with fans and give them an inside look at his life.
Twitter – Whole Foods
Named one of the Top Ten Twitter Brands of 2011 by Social Fresh, Whole Foods boasts more than 2.6 million followers. What makes them so popular? Their profile description includes this promise: “Ready to answer you questions Mon-Fri 9am-5pm CST!” I constantly remind clients that social media is a two-way conversation, and Whole Foods has embraced that idea by invitingquestions (and, most likely, complaints). Whole Foods also tweets plenty of cooking tips and recipes, and dozens of images – not only of food but also of branded events, like its “Ring of Fire” ski tour of Pacific Northwest volcanoes. And the chain makes good on its guarantee, responding to comments and questions throughout the day. It’s a fun, enthusiastic, helpful channel, which is what every brand should aim for.
Facebook – Starbucks
Starbucks is one of the brands most engaged with its audience, according to social marketing firm SocialBakers. Their Timeline is filled with responses to fans’ posts, ranging from “Is your decaf coffee decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process?” to a complaint about a rewards card that hadn’t arrived. In some cases, Starbucks takes a day to reply; in other cases, just minutes. The brand keeps things simple on Facebook, with no apps or games except for a tab that allows fans to send Starbucks Card eGifts to friends. There are plenty of photos and videos, though, featuring employees, music, and Starbucks’ scrumptious products. Best of all, the brand devotes one of its eight tabs to job-seekers, with a job search Facebook app that’s intuitive and easy. The result is more than 30 million likes, making Starbucks the second-biggest brand Facebook Page in the world.
For one thing, BMW has constructed a photo of its new i8 Spyder concept car through a clever use of its four profile images – which some brands are still struggling with. The carmaker post lots of photos and videos of its products in action. Like Whole Foods, the brand is rewarded for engaging fans; its simple question of what rims to put on the new Gran Coupéelicited 433 answers. There are user-submitted photos, too. And while BMW may be a luxury brand, it never talks down to its fans on Google Plus, covering racing along with its high-end cars. Such compelling content and breezy conversations have garnered BMW 491,000 +1’s, and the brand is in 490,000 people’s Circles.
At Brandemix, we use all these social media channels, along with YouTube, LinkedIn, and others, to reach consumers, donors, employees, and job-seekers. If you’d like to learn more from our research into social media best practices, contact us.
My company has been working with severalnon-profitslately, and I’m constantly asked how branding in that space is different from “regular” branding. There are similarities, but also some important differences. Here’s what non-profits need to know about branding, based on my experience and research.
We start with “free.”
I understand that non-profits don’t have the marketing budgets of corporations so we start by leveraging every existing asset. Rather than creating new social media channels, how can we enhance the channels you’re already on? How can we repurpose your photos and videos? What are some past concepts or campaigns that could be revived with a compelling new angle? My fantastic staff and I have a knack for finding creative ways around limited budgets. For example, we’ve taken a stack of photos and turned them into a beautiful, moving slide show.
Talk to both the head and the heart.
Unlike other brands, non-profits aren’t selling a product or service; you’re selling a cause or a belief or a goal, which can sometimes be hard to define or quantify. This requires creating an emotional bond to donors, employees, and the people (or animals!) you serve. It is important to research that bond, deconstruct it, and examine it from every angle – and articulate it as your brand. As an example, see the World Wildlife Fund, which pairs its logical mission, “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth” with an emotional image, the giant panda.
Stay true to yourself.
As Nathalie Kylander and Christopher Stone point out in their recent study, non-profits run the risk of violating their own ethics or identity when they brand to a wide audience. They give the example of Acumen, which presents photos of proud, dignified individuals instead of pitiful images of poverty which “dehumanize the very people Acumen is trying to help.” I discourage branding from vanity, or because you just want a new logo. Branding is about the heart and soul of your organization and can’t be taken on and off like a shirt.
Tell a story
Storytelling was the #1 topic at SXSW and it works for non-profits as well. A strong brand is supported by good stories which allow people to connect to your mission. Brandemix helps non-profits find those stories, whether they’re about important milestones in your history, the life and deeds of your founder, or the success stories of the people you’ve helped. For example, the Sierra Club offers a blog called Explore, which features “stories of personal encounters with the natural world.” This turns large, complex issues, like hydraulic natural gas fracturing, into personal stories of triumph, wonder, and survival.
Non-profit branding is different from other types and requires a specialist. Brandemix has a history of giving back to the community by partnering with organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation of Long Island, the Legal Aid Society, and Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State Metro Services. Non-profit branding is a specialty. Call Brandemix if you’re looking for a specialist.
I follow some great HR accounts on Twitter which are always sharing the latest news and innovations in talent acquisition, retention, benefits, and related topics. I retweet as many of these insights as I can, but sometimes the gems get buried in the constant stream of news. So here, in the relaxed atmosphere of BRANDEblog, I thought I’d share some of the week’s most important HR tweets.
A number of major HR thought leaders, including host of the HR Happy Hour Show Steve Boese, were tweeting their answers to the question Who Does Your LinkedIn Profile Belong To? This post, by Jessica Lee on the terrific Fistful of Talent blog, brought up the issue that, since HR professionals are the face of their companies, their LinkedIn profiles should use the same branding, language, and voice that their companies do. But some HR personnel resist, believing that their LinkedIn profiles are personal and that their companies have no say in the matter. It’s an interesting debate that’s still happening on Twitter. Where do you stand?
Both HR Bartender author Sharlyn Lauby and Leute Management Systems CEO Tom Bolt tweeted about Steve Boese’s article, Disconnect: When What You Offer Is Not What They Want. Steve points out that a company’s benefits don’t always match employee needs. He gives the example that the main obstacle employees give for relocation is their spouse’s work situation. Yet the most frequently offered relocation benefit offered by companies is moving expenses assistance, which doesn’t address that obstacle at all. His solution? “Actually ASK the constituencies that they are trying to serve and support what is important to them.” I agree. Why conduct surveys like the one Steve cites if you’re going to ignore the results? As an HR professional, you owe it to your employees to ensure that management interprets the surveys in the right way.
HR professional Melissa Fairman (known as HrRemix on Twitter) tweeted about a fascinating article she wrote called Down With Work-Life Balance. In it, she prefers the term “work-life integration,” with the goal of harmonizing employees’ careers with their personal lives. Many workdays aren’t “balanced” at all, as employees either stay late at the office or do personal tasks on company time. Melissa argues that companies should give their employees more control over their time, and customize schedules and workloads for each individual. “Integration helps an employee understand themselves and their optimal working environment, and in the best scenario, employees can make informed decisions and work directly with their managers/teams,” she says. Do some of your employees blend personal and work tasks? Then they’re “classic integrators” and should have their work-life balance re-evaluated.
For more thought-provoking HR tweets, be sure to follow Steve, Jessica, Sharlyn, Tom, and Melissa – along with Brandemix and my personal Twitter, of course. And if you know of more HR Twitters worth following, drop me a line.
Pinterest has proved that there is still room for innovative new sites on the social media landscape. Like Facebook and Twitter, it’s a simple idea that seems obvious in hindsight.
So what social media sites are on the horizon that might be the next Pinterest? I’ve scoured the internet to find three sites to keep on your radar. (No need to thank me.)
Chill is like Pinterest for videos. You can comment on or share others’ videos, just like Pinterest. Chill gives you several options for “like” – you can give a smile, laugh, wow, frown, or love. You can also create video groups, like a pinboard. Note that you’re required to link your Facebook account to your Chill account when you sign up.
How your brand can use it: Chill is wonderful if you have lots of video content that you want to host somewhere besides Facebook, where videos get forgotten by users, or YouTube, where they’re buried under thousands of new posts. Chill is a more organized site, distinct from the noise of YouTube or the professional films of Vimeo – a perfect place for a brand to grow an audience.
Caterina Fake, the co-founder of Flickr, created this Foursquare-like app that lets you attach virtual notes to real places. You can leave notes or photos publicly or just for friends. Pinwheel’s interface promises to be even easier than checking in on Foursquare or Facebook. Notes can be anything from travel tips to restaurant recommendations to scavenger hunts. The site is still in beta, but anyone can register for an invitation.
How your brand can use it: Shops and restaurants can post stories, images, ads, or discounts at their locations on Pinwheel. Real estate firms can post information about their properties around the city. You can network with relevant local businesses – or attractions or landmarks – by posting a connection that your brand shares with those sites. All of the local discovery generated by services like Yelp will apply here, with an even stronger social bond.
Prismatic is a newsfeed that sends you stories based on who you follow and retweet on Twitter, what posts you like on Facebook, and any other topics you select. Each item includes an excerpt, an image, and a few quotes from any friends that have shared it. It’s like a more advanced, focused version of searching for keywords on Twitter.
How your brand can use it: You may be missing out on news or content that’s related to your brand. Prismatic can find that information and bring it right to you. Twitter’s newsfeed can be too fast and Facebook’s can be too slow; Prismatic hopes to find the balance and show you a wider array of information that’s relevant to your brand’s needs.
Keep your eye on Chill, Pinwheel, and Prismatic in the coming months. As unique sites that combine familiar functions in imaginative ways, they’re the perfect places for your brand to stake a claim before your competitors move in.
**Don’t forget: Mother’s Day is Sunday. It may be time to post those baby videos on YouTube! **