Performance is essential in social media. Nothing moves in a peer-to-peer environment unless a behaviour is impacted.
No matter what you may say your brand is - through deeply-thought positioning, emotionally charged TV advertising or carefully crafted copy, what your brand actually is, is what other people say it is.
And what other people say it is, is what people experience it is: How it performs and how they say it performs.
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That's the message you'll find in Chapter 10 - Trust, in my forthcoming book (Palgrave-Macmillan, January 2014) -The 10 Principles of Open Business.
It's the same position arrived at by Google and Brian Solis in their work on The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and - more recently - Brian's Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT).
ZMOT asserts we start our path to purchase in our perception of the expression of experience of others in our social circle. We hear good things. We hear bad things. We act accordingly.
Our own research (at The Social Partners) supports the idea that social media (which can almost wholly be defined as the expression of shared experience by our peers and people like us, as viewed from a variety of individual perspectives ) is THE place we turn to for evidence of performance: Advertising makes the promise, social delivers the truth.
Brian's UMOT is a neat expression of a concept I have been applying to my own work in social media strategy: Building trust through performance at the level of the one-to-one relationship.
Since the brand is what people say it is, having experienced it, how do we encourage people to express their joy? What we do know is that people don't express their meh! So-so performance, mediocrity, blandness - of these we have nothing to report to our peers through social. The technical barrier remains that little bit too high. We don't tweet 'coffee in Starbucks was, you know, ok '. We do tweet 'awesome service in Starbucks today' or 'Starbucks was super sucky this morning'.
We go to the effort to report the out-of-the-ordinary, not (yet) the ordinary.
Brian's response is to encourage expression (reporting the out-of-the-ordinary) we must engage them - by which he means do something to make them love you (and that is most assuredly NOT clicking the Like button or browsing over your centre-out messaging content).
My own work in relationship marketing suggests similar (indeed the whole concept of Open Business shared in The 10 Principles of Open Business is about taking customer engagement to a whole new level by making partners of customers in everything you do).
Engagement, Brian argues, is about emotion.
Again, agreed. And here's the thing to guard against: Social Media is not good at broadcasting emotion - just as it can't broadcast trust.
Emotion resides in the individual and in their interaction with their peers. Winding up a John Lewis Christmas TV ad and setting it off among your targets won't do the job.
You have to provide the out-of-the-ordinary. You have to build trust in your performance, You have to build the relationships, one person at a time.
This may sound expensive but we are already finding methodologies to track the effectiveness of this over-delivery, of how far and for how long the emotional impact of feeling a little bit of love resonates.
My belief - one for which I am busy gathering evidence (and there are many anecdotal examples) is that being 'insanely great', as Steve Jobs put it, pays massive dividends.
At the end of the day since the aggregate output of what other people say is what your brand is, then this is where you should be focusing your brand budget.
All the rest is just a promise.
All the rest is just a promise.