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Think fast! Your social media followers do

With the power of social media today, brands have to think, create and react more quickly than ever before. Conversations are happening, and social media allows people to perpetuate these conversations about your brand, both good and bad, instantaneously. As a brand, it has become increasingly important to not only participate in these conversations, but to find ways to own and guide them.

I was recently inspired by one brand’s example. At the end of the 2014 World Series, Chevrolet representative Rikk Wilde nervously presented the MVP with a brand new 2015 Chevy Colorado, saying that the truck “combines class-winning and leading, um, you know, technology and stuff…” Well, the conversations started immediately, aided by video clips and memes. Soon, #technologyandstuff, #ChevyGuy, and #andstuff were trending. What a PR blunder, right? Here is a brand launching a new truck and making strong claims about its features, and #ChevyGuy nervously boils it down to “technology and stuff.” Here’s where I was inspired. The very next day I caught the TV spot for the Chevy Colorado, which confidently ended with the voiceover line, “The all new Chevy Colorado. You know you want a truck…and stuff.” And their print advertising said the same thing. They also took to social media with it, joining in on using the hashtags mentioned above.

PR blunder? No…or at least, not anymore. What Chevy did was brilliant. So Rikk flubbed a few lines and got the world talking about it. That’s the key: he got the world talking about it. About the incident, about Chevy, about the new truck. And Chevy joined right in, poked a little fun at the incident themselves, and proceeded to take ownership of a portion of the “and stuff” conversation.

This inspired me because it served to prove the importance of certain elements required to maintain a strong, authentic social presence – elements that we work closely with our own clients on.

Converse in a timely manner

Our expectations as users of social media are for direct, real-time interactions. Time and time again we see consumers turning to a brand’s social channels to ask a question, air a grievance or find information. Social channels are quicker than customer care lines, and unlike websites, they don’t require us to navigate away from an environment that we’re already spending so much time in. Consequently, when a brand does not respond in a timely manner, they lose authenticity in the social realm and are not seen as an entity with which a customer can develop a direct connection. According to Mike Colias’ article in AdAge, Chevy’s social media team joined the “and stuff” Twitter conversation within a few hours of Rikk’s speech, tweeting:

“Truck yeah the 2015 #ChevyColorado has awesome #TechnologyAndStuff!”

Chevy Truck

And this was just the first of many times Chevy participated in the conversation via their social channels. By joining the conversation and being active in it from the start, Chevy quickly gained authenticity as a contributing member. With additional support from TV and print ads, all incorporating “and stuff” language, Chevy’s U.S. marketing chief, Paul Edwards, reported that traffic to the Colorado truck’s site grew sevenfold and that at its peak, the Colorado dominated 70% of the online conversations about trucks. By joining the conversation in real time and making relevant contributions to it, Chevy was able to connect with followers and drive them to further consume and discuss brand content.

Be human (you’re having a conversation, after all)

Social media channels are incredible tools, as they allow you to connect with and talk to your customers directly. But people like to interact with things that they can relate to. Using social media simply as a one-way vehicle for a marketing message is no longer enough. And while humanizing your brand through your social channels to incorporate a more relaxed, personal, conversational, and yes, even sometimes humorous tone may be new and seemingly risky territory for some brands, our example from Chevy shows how well that approach can work. By being relatable and relaxed in a way that sounds like normal, everyday conversation, Chevy’s initial tweet drew over 1,500 favorites and over 1,600 retweets, thus tremendously amplifying the reach of their owned piece of the conversation.

In the end, Chevy clearly didn’t plan on this situation, but they showed their ability to be flexible and to think and act quickly, and that was the difference between owning part of the rapidly growing brand conversation and being left in the dust. The conversation went viral through social channels and YouTube, and Chevy is reporting an estimated $5 million in free media exposure. All from handling the situation in a timely, human and conversational manner.

But the great news is that a Chevy-type incident doesn’t have to happen for your brand to join or own a conversation. The conversations about your brand are already happening, so make sure you are finding them and following them. And when the opportunity presents itself, be human and timely and you will be ready to contribute to the conversation in a way that adds value and connects you to your followers.

 

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