How can we engage our customers in an online conversation if they're not interested in talking about our products or brand?
Your brand speaks to an underlying value or values. Maybe it's family and personal belonging. A sense of place. Achievement. Or respect for the natural world. Those are subjects your customers are going to find interesting - because if your brand resonates with them at all, it's because they share those values.
Your goal, then, is to identify those shared values and convene a conversation around them. Create an innovative, compelling social media concept to support that conversation, and you're well on your way to a successful project that reinforces the link between your brand and those values - as well as building a whole new kind of valuable relationship with your customers.
Vancity's Webby-nominated Change Everything won kudos as soon as we helped it launch. The blog OpenSourceCU called it "the best example of any financial institution successfully using the social web (blogging, user-generated content, building a true online community).
For their first social media foray, BC Hydro headed to where people are already participating in droves: Facebook. We helped Hydro launch Green Gifts, a Facebook application that lets you send a free virtual gift that comes with a practical tip for conserving energy and reducing your environmental footprint.
Unless you have the kind of customers who are willing pay for the privilege of wearing your logo, don't build an online community around your brand. Instead, create a community that resonates with your brand... but focuses on something your customer cares passionately about.
Conventional wisdom suggests that when you sponsor an event, you get the most marketing bang for your buck by slapping your logo everywhere you can, the bigger the better. But online communities – really interesting ones – are a lot less likely to grow and thrive if you brand a site so heavily that users never feel any ownership over it. Here's how to acknowledge your role in sponsoring a community, and then step out of the way, allowing the community's success to speak for itself... and reflect well on your brand.
For a few lucky brands – like media companies, Nike or Apple – customers care enough about the product or brand that they’re happy to come and talk about your products. For everybody else, the best way to tap the power of Web 2.0 is to create an online community that has intrinsic value, and let the activities of that community reflect positively on the parent company's brand. We call this approach reflected glory marketing.
Being "too corporate for YouTube" isn't just a question of slick production values. It's all about conversation... and giving your audience something of value to them.
Vancity, the Vancouver-based credit union, has launched a new wiki about microfinance: small-scale financial services provided to low-income people. It's not just a terrific resource on the subject; it's also the latest social media venture from a leader in online innovation.