biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: how social media can humanize your brand

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Andrea Baxter, owner of Bratface Marketing and co-founder of Smart Cookies, and Cristina Pagnucco, an account coordinator with Bratface. Andrea is a regular contributor to the Biz Ladies series, with posts on how to brand your business on a budget, trendsetters, influencers and connectors and sole proprietorship vs. incorporation. Today they’ll discuss how to use social media to humanize your brand. From monitoring comment responses to selecting the right social media platforms for your business, these ladies cover social media practices from top to bottom. Thanks, ladies, for such an informative post! — Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

How do you build a relationship with your customer in 2011? The huge push to become a transparent and social brand is ever prevalent in today’s consumer world, so how can you become visible in conversation while maintaining and strengthening your brand without having any negative effects?

The answer is you can’t. There will always be critics out there judging your product or service, but the important thing is knowing that you can quickly turn that around. The best way to do this is to make sure that you are an active participant in the conversation.

Re-Thinking Advertising $$
While large businesses boast enormously scaled advertising, small businesses have the opportunity to create smart ways of conversing with their online customers without the exorbitant costs. Consider if the word social media just meant, “speaking to your customer.” What a privilege to be able to engage directly with the people who “choose” to “like” your brand and find that you have some value to offer to them? That accessibility allows for a limitless forum of conversation, so utilizing affordable Facebook ads, engaging on Twitter and posting videos on YouTube are the ultimate advertising because they’re a choice factor. The customer chooses to like you.

Is it obvious that your brand is a small business? How can a customer tell? Sometimes it depends on how many channels you are part of. The more you participate and converse, the more presence you will have, and the size of your business won’t matter if it’s creating emotional connections. Social media is a way for smaller businesses to invest little up front and create the online exposure with audiences that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to take advantage of.

Taking Control & Listening
Once you’ve created a community for your customers, make sure that you’re proactive and listening. Answer their questions and develop a “we listen, we care” service ethic. Eventually you can spend less time worrying about what your customer is saying outside of your community because the majority of your fans/followers are in those online channels, talking about and to you (your brand).

What happens when we get a negative comment?

I have seen those Facebook posts in which the customer is angry and writes on the company wall, “I didn’t get my product on time,” “Your service was not up to par,” etc. The best way to deal with that is to answer and help the customer. Always respond in a timely fashion by taking their negative comment/experience and turning it into a positive one that results in loyal customers. Here are some tips you might find useful when dealing with this:

  1. Message the customer via their Facebook page, or if you have their contact information on file, use that route. If their comment was via Twitter, take the conversation to a private platform and DM (direct message) them to obtain an email or phone number. After this, the conversation shouldn’t be public.
  2. Post a reply to their comment thanking them for their feedback, and let them know that you would like to help them with their concern. Always use their name.
  3. Look into what the problem was, fix the issue and figure out a way to offer them something for their inconvenience.

Deal with negative comments as soon as possible and do it with class, professionalism and genuine concern. This allows you to take control of the situation, therefore providing your customers with an example of how you deal with any upcoming issues. It also shows that you take an active stance with social media and use it as an open platform for all customers, followers and fans.

What happens when you get a positive comment?

As much as we love positive comments, when they are left without a response, they can be just as bad as negative comments. You always want to acknowledge your raving fans that have good experiences. Make sure you are rewarding those who love your product just as much as those who have an issue. Consider it the power of free GOOD press and marketing!

A key point to remember is that humanizing your brand means you not only show your strengths but also that you are okay showing your weaknesses. It’s fine to be transparent because customers love that you care about your product and your customers. We would rather be in the conversation and give our two cents instead of ignoring what’s really being said. Since a large percentage of those people are now engaging online with their friends (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and creating their own connections, why not be part of that conversation?

The Balance: Integrating Social Media with Traditional Marketing
As a beginner, integrating social media into your marketing plan can feel as if you’re stepping into uncharted territory where the rules of the game are not so regulated. With social media, you do lose some of that control and step outside the comfort zone you have with traditional marketing. We’re here to say don’t worry, it isn’t that bad! It’s a gradual process, and you won’t learn it all overnight, but we promise, it will be worth the time and small investment.

We always tell our clients that it’s important to blend the two because traditional marketing should complement and support social media and vice versa. Often, companies feel that social media is the way to go because it’s cheap, and they ignore the more costly, traditional forms of marketing, but we disagree. There will always be an audience that responds to more traditional forms of marketing, so the balance is really just creating awareness for the two.

The Plan: Be Prepared
If you’re going to start engaging in social media then there are some preparations you need to make prior to taking it to the masses. Look at your business from the outside in and find out what your customer’s perception is. Doing your research first will show your online audience that you know your brand well and that you’re speaking directly to them.

Make your goals, missions and ideals match those with whom you surround yourself. As hard as it is (and it will always be a struggle), try to employ people who have the same passion and drive for your brand as you do. Ensure that the people who manage your social media channels understand your brand, services, products, core values and messaging. Your brand should develop one voice online and this should be apparent when customers browse your social channels. You don’t want to confuse them!

Customer Service
Perform a customer-service audit of your favorite brands and look at the ones with which you have an emotional connection. Do you get that warm, happy feeling every time you step into their store? Are their product and service consistent each and every time? What is it about the brand that keeps you going back? These are the elements most people relate to when they describe their favorite brands, and that is how you want your customer to feel. After being a business owner for a period of time, you may forget what it feels like to be the customer, so it’s something you should remind yourself of. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes — what would you change and what do your customers want?

Cherry Picking: Which Social Media Platforms To Use
Before signing up for every social media platform, determine which ones would be most useful for your business, which ones best support your brand and which ones your target audience uses. Facebook is great for a business based on the simple fact that it has the most users (over 500 million!). In putting a face to your brand, Facebook allows you to talk directly to your customers and address any of their concerns, plus it’s open to anyone with a Facebook profile! There are tons of options for monetizing your brand on Facebook — from customized landing-page tabs to Facebook ads where you can target customers by country, age or interest to picking the daily pay-per-click price.

Facebook Insights is also a valuable resource to help you with ROI (return on investment) because it tells you who your audience is, how many visitors and impressions you have and more. This allows you to tweak your page and messaging based on the stats provided.

Twitter is another useful platform to use, but be forewarned: if you just use it to post 140 characters of product information and coupons without any conversation, then you’re not humanizing your brand; you are simply contributing to the noise. Converse with your followers, answer any mentions (this is when people actually mention your Twitter handle — @BratfaceMrktg — in their tweets) and provide interesting information you know your viewers would want to see. Don’t be afraid of negative comments/feedback — use this opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, win customers over and maintain their loyalty.

Two other great social media channels we use at Bratface Marketing are LinkedIn and YouTube. LinkedIn is a great for like-minded business people to network, swap business ideas, join groups, post feedback and comments to groups and more. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn allows you to list your other social media addresses so people can reach or follow you there. It’s all about connecting the dots, creating conversation and building your network!

YouTube is wonderful for virality! It’s amazing how many videos go viral these days. The truth is, people are visual, and they love to see what it is you are saying or selling. Demo videos, short introductory videos of your business and what you do — you name it! It shows that you are taking the time to educate and inform your audience about anything business related — in other words, adding that “human touch” to your business. The ROI will be limitless!

Is It Working?
Social media’s ROI can only be determined by the amount of effort, time and genuine interest you put into it and how your ideal customer responds over time. It’s the emotional connection that creates a lasting memory in the customer’s brain, but like anything, that connection must be nurtured and the attention must be consistent in order to see the positive effects. It all results in humanizing your brand.

We love hearing how other small companies are using social media effectively and how it’s helped grow your business. How are you connecting with your customers via social media? Email us at andrea@bratfacemarketing.com.

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  • This is a great article! I love having conversation with my shops Facebook Fans and just being silly sometimes —It’s nice when they come in and mention the post or come in for a product that I mentioned on Facebook/Twitter/Blog. It makes my job a lot more enjoyable.

  • Hi Grace! Just re-tweeted your genius article. I’ve been attending different types of social media conferences over the past few weeks and at the end of each session it’s just TMI. Your article was really refreshing to read, as it helped me to summarize pages of notes and put things into perspective in the context of my business. Thank you for helping me to organize my thoughts in a nutshell.

  • Great post! Especially liked the part about responding to the good comments as well. I think that’s something you could easily overlook.

    For a small business, what would you recommend for traditional media? I’d love your suggestions. Thank you!

  • Hi Alesya,

    For smaller businesses with smaller budgets email marketing is still considered ‘traditional marketing’ even though it is technically online and not printed. You can still graphically create an image that gets emailed to your database and customers – this can be done affordably. Guerrilla marketing is also a fantastic medium because it allows you to be creative, get in front of mass audiences while spending very little money. Lots of companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? (where i used to work) started marketing using guerrilla marketing when they first launched because it was cheap and widespread but it can also get media attention. Also, with everything online and so easily & readily available, most people can now have things go viral online which is also a great marketing tactic. Even what I am doing by positioning myself as a marketing expert and posting articles online here, is a great way to market but you want to make sure you market where your customers are and not just anywhere just because its online.

    Hope that helps!

  • I really liked what you said about being strategic about which social media platform(s) you choose to use. I’m a big fan of picking just one (or maybe two) social media networks, getting real about how much time you want to make for it each day or week, figuring out what your goals are for using it, and then using it consistently to connect with people who are interested in what you create.

  • I always find it interesting that people find it scary to use facebook to communicate about a brand. Then again I’m wary of twitter & avoid it. I think I need to focus on the ‘strategic’ use though. Thanks for the reminder.

  • thank you for this great article. i appreciate your insight. and, too, appreciate that ‘the ladies are doing it for themselves!’… i say here here to women being smart and savvy business people.

  • It was great seeing you on the Nate Bercus show this morning…I yelled …HEY!…I get their emails….He’s right, the site is wonderful….smiles to you Christine

  • Thanks for the great insight! More eloquently put than I could do for my own clients, so hope you don’t mind if I share with them!

    Would love your take on how to manage the occasional unsolicited negative comments that are not related to a recent brand experience…especially once others have “liked” &/or commented on them (translation: more eyes are on them than just yours). I find this very challenging to help manage when dealing with clients who’s “community” appears to have a very positive view of the brand.

    In general, I’ve been able to turn these “incidents” into a positive, but the instinct is always there to delete…and without my assistance, my clients (all of whom are small, family run businesses w/limited manpower) would certainly not know how, nor would they have the time/energy to bounce back from these…

  • This is really helpful this article. Have just started my own small online interior design business and the articles about social media are very insightful and helpful as I’m looking for cost-effective and sustainable ways to drive traffic to my site whilst doing normal marketing too! Really helpful … thank you!

  • I have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account, but I don’t use the Twitter that much. However, I use the Facebook page frequently, but find that I don’t get much interaction from my fans. I know they are there and are looking at my posts (thanks to FB insights), but I’m not getting any ACTUAL interaction….. =(


  • Kristel

    Great question and yes its always difficult to handle the ‘unsolicited’ comments. THat being said, deleting is always an option if you feel that it is demeaning or rude or has profanity – sometimes it just happens!

    In that case, I would reply to the comment with a simple “Sorry to hear you feel that way” kind of intro (depending on what they commented) and then offer to take it offline and give them a general info email address so that it remains fairly anonymous. This way, you can turn that nasty, negative and handle it offline AND the viewers who can see the comment will also see your nice reply of handling it offline. it shows that you still care, you didn’t delete just because it was negative and you are taking charge.

    I’ve had to do it before but at the end of the day, the gesture is nice to just acknowledge the comment & will handle it appropriately. This way, the client knows you are handling it and you can always show them examples of where you have taken a rather negative comment and turned it around. It will prove to them that it is indeed possible:)

    Good luck and thanks for the comment!


  • Kasey: I feel your pain – it can definitely be a challenge having the fans interacte. What we have found super helpful with our Smart Cookies fan page is engaging them by asking questions. It certainly helps to get their opinion on things because it shows that you value their opinion plus, its a great way to do surveys for you when asking them certain questions. You can even do this when you post an article or blog – ask them if it was helpful? Ask them what they would like to see on your page, site etc. OR you can do draws or contests to engage them if that is something you can do in your business….

    I also find that ‘limited time offers’ work. I.e. for Smart Cookies we do lots of online webinars and we only make them available for a certain period of time for them to sign up – creates that urgency. We do the same for eBook guides as well.

    Hope that helps!

  • Sorry I am responding so long after this was posted, but it relates to my comment.

    First, let me thank you for your valuable insite. It is so necessary these days to understand the potency of social media.

    But how does one person, trying to just get started on a near $0 investment find the time to both make all of your product, alone, and spend so much time trying to be seen in the sea of small home made businesses?

    I get online just to check my email (I have several related newsletters sent to me both on what my biz does and how to do biz online). The next thing I know it’s 2 am and I feel I haven’t accomplished anything as I spent all my time online.

    And as a consumer, the places I visit (again, related to what I do) are asking for this or that to get published on their forum/site. Some days I just don’t know if it’s possible to do it all!

    If anyone is still responding to this particular article, is there something I’m missing? Is there a way to start out in a smaller, less expensive both financially and time consuming way?

    I believe I have product people want. I spend lots of time learning how to promote it. But I’m so worried that I can’t keep up with the social media end of it, I haven’t even taken the leap to get on Etsy, a blog, or a website. I’m pretty confident tons of others started out like me; how do you get to where you speak of time wise?

    Sorry so long! Thanks in advance to any insight anyone might have. :-)

    • hi pkae

      it’s really all about balance and efficiency. most of us running our own businesses keep insane hours to make it all happen, but that’s sort of part of the cost of getting to be your own boss at first.

      i’d suggest looking into a real schedule for your day so you set aside time to tweet/facebook/blog and consider it part of your informal marketing plan. if you view it that way it might seem easier to integrate it as part of your normal work load.

      but i’d also suggest looking into david allen’s “getting things done” method. my husband uses it and is a phenomenally efficient and organized person.

      i use a little widget called “the pomodoro method” to make sure i’m efficient about my time.

      i also wrote a post on being efficient/focused with your business- hopefully this will help you carve out a little time to invest in the world of possibilities that exist with social media.


      grace :)

  • Thank you a million times! You hit the nail on my hard head :-)

    I REALLY APPRECIATE your taking some of you “up and online” time to help little ole me ;-) I can see clearly now how I am so far from a schedule! And how logical, really! Being ‘boss’ means one needs a sched even more!

    I was so over-whelmed and just couldn’t break out of it that I decided to redo my entire studio! Nope, don’t have time for painting, moving work tables, or reorganizing my “stashes” but just felt I needed to do something totally diff from the ‘grind.’

    And now I see how necessary it has been, already (only have the major wall done, but assigned daily baby steps so I can pat my back each time I get to cross out one)! I’ll send you before & afters when I’m done ;-)

    Just can’t thank you enough for your help during YOUR busy day, but know your words, written and spoken, have taken a great burden off my back!

    You so rock! <3

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