Messaging in the Digital Age
Let’s work under the assumption that you’ve done your branding exercises. You’ve got an identity, you’ve settled for your values, identified your brand muscles, broken down your brand DNA to the smallest denominator, and established what type of personality you want your brand to convey. So, in other words, you’ve got your story. But how do you tell your narrative to the world?
In the pre-internet days, communications were pretty straight-forward, and more importantly, offline: print ads, outdoor advertising, some PR and trade shows – platforms that are considered ‘traditional’ now. However, that conversation was a one-way street. You essentially lectured your audience about your brand, with no type of ‘giveand-take’ whatsoever. With the advent of digital platforms and social media, the conversation is now key. Your message is now a source of engagement, and now you’ll have to work with a different set of rules. Today, content is not only king, it’s an absolute monarch; an unquestionable leader. The very fabric of digital means that marketing today is content-driven – what you say, how you say it, and where you say it can mean the difference between success and failure. Therefore, the rules have changed since the days of old. Now albeit, getting digital right is not a science; you’ll find that you’ll discover for yourself through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work. The below, however, will be helpful in getting your digital messaging off the ground:
DO NOT ADAPT YOUR OFFLINE ADS TO DIGITAL. This used to be the approach of many brands at the beginning of the digital era. A marketing plan was put together with budgets set for each channel that included “online”. Then a creative was worked on and “adapted” for digital. For example, a billboard on Sheikh Zayed Road would look the same as an ad on Facebook. That doesn’t make sense now, does it? Digital creative and content needs to be initiated with the digital channels in mind and not adapted from offline. Digital allows for conversations; offline doesn’t. So it’s important you tailor your content and visuals accommodate this.
ESTABLISH THE GROUND RULES. With digital, you’ll have multiple internal stakeholders that will have a keen interest in using social media for messaging. Digital may be used for PR, HR, marketing, customer service, and so forth. Therefore, having a social media policy is best practice. Your policy should include content guidelines, who has access to what, risk mitigation, and so forth. For example, do you know who handles questions/ comments? Who looks after getting the answers internally? And then who replies to the customer? Do you have a promise to your customers (e.g. always replying within x mins to any enquiry)?
A policy ensures that there are no questions of what to do should something out of the ordinary happen and establishes everyone’s roles within your organization.
CHOOSE YOUR DIFFERENT DIGITAL CHANNELS WISELY. Mapping out what is relevant to your brand in terms of channels requires a deep understanding of your customer base. For example, do your customers typically search for your product/service on a search engine? If so, then Google AdWords would be a good start. Do you focus on a young, millennial audience? Then social media is your way forward.
USE ONLY WHAT IS RELEVANT. And the key word here is ‘relevant’. If your brand, for example, sells CRM systems to banks, you don’t need Instagram nor Snapchat as it’s not a visually-driven product. In this case, something like LinkedIn or Facebook would work. Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t mean you should. Be smart about where you want the conversation about your brand to take place.
DON’T FORGET YOU’RE TALKING TO PEOPLE. The beauty of social media is that it really allows your brand personality to really come out. So, it is in your benefit to talk to your audience as if they were your friends. Don’t use big words as this risk you are being branded as arrogant. Speak to your audience in same way YOU like to be spoken to. Whether your brand is B2C or B2B, you are still talking to a person on the other end. Whatever your brand is, it is always B2H – business to human. If the person at the other end wears fine tailoredsuits or, alternatively, a t-shirt and cargo shorts, they are still people. Brands that fail to recognize this are doomed to failure.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TIMING. Based on your analytics and insight, when is your audience most active online? This is when you want to push your messaging. And do make sure that your content is relevant to the time of day or day of the week – that all but ensures an increase in engagement. Your core message never changes depending on the platform; it’s only the delivery that differs. With digital platforms, not only do people listen – but they respond. As you are trying to build traction with your brand, make sure to keep the conversation going online. It’s not easy and it can be a steep learning curve, but the rewards – when done right – far outweigh the risks.
By Dunia Othman
Co-Founder of mr.Usta