If there is one thing we’re all really really confused about, it’s how does a brand interact and build a relationship with a person? Is it through posting compelling content? Maybe it’s about talking to them as a person, not a customer? Mayyyybeee it’s about giving them free products and seducing them to write a bias blog post about them, because.. well you’re giving them something for free so they’re kind of obligated… right?
Wrong Wrong Wrong.
The truth in this situation is that a BRAND can’t create a relationship with a person (hold on… just breathe, I have a reason for saying this).
Only a PERSON can create a relationship with that person. And one point of contact (ex: Twitter) is not the wheel, it is a spoke in the wheel. I mean think about it. Someone is not your friend simply because you are friends with them on Facebook, right? You have to nurture that relationship through various other channels in order to validate and maintain it. Seeing that person, having a real conversation with them over the phone, talking to them on twitter, Facebook, AND email is the only way to sustain the health of said relationship. Right?!
I guess what I am trying to say is pushing yourself (as a brand) on everyone, everywhere, without ever really caring what they say (“if it’s bad we won’t respond”) will not a relationship make. You need to understand who that person is, find a common ground to build a relationship on, and nurture the hell out of that relationship. If you don’t have anything in common with that person – than you won’t be able to build a relationship with them – I mean what the hell will you talk about?
My advice for brands is this:
1. Qualify, qualify, qualify: And I don’t mean this in a salesy way, but you need to understand who these people are and why you want to talk to them. Find out their likes, dislikes, impact and influence they have on their community, and how you can connect your brand with that person.
2. Engage in conversation: By this, I do not mean pitch. Have a conversation with this “influencer” as a person, not as a brand. If it means using your personal social properties, or email – then so be it. Don’t have a conversation about your products, either. Try having a legitimate conversation with them on topics that they (and preferably you) are interested in. Note: Just because you RT or @ mention someone, doesn’t mean that you are having a conversation. Commenting on a blog or having one email exchange is simply not enough. A relationship takes time to build just like anything else, so invest in it.
3. Do NOT default to throwing free stuff at them: Contrary to popular belief, just because you give someone something for free does not mean that they will become a brand advocate. Make a connection between your products and that person. Give it to them if you have to, but let them know that this does not mean they have to write an obligatory blog post about your product (because most of the time those blog posts sound forced, anyways). Tell them to try it, and if they don’t like it – that you’re willing to hear their feedback and send it in the appropriate direction. You have to be able to take criticism, every good product and company is willing to adapt to what customers and people in general want.
4. Showcase your people: Like I said before, people relate to people. Most companies have mounds of talent hiding in departments like manufacturing, engineering, production, etc. This is your intellectual capital, and these are real people – not trained in how to talk to people. Like I’ve always said, a brand = the sum of its parts.
This post is half rant, half verbal diarrhea – so if I didn’t make sense, let me know below. I’d also love to hear your opinions on this subject so leave a comment!