Social media culture: No such thing as “one size fits all”

The following¬†story may¬†sound familiar: someone from management¬†in your company insists on setting up a social media campaign, because “it is the thing to do these days” and “we cannot keep on lagging behind”. A meeting is called, and everybody¬†around¬†the¬†table agrees: “a¬†social media campaign¬†is exactly what we need!” Right. But¬†beware ! As Sun Tzu, an¬†ancient Chinese military general and philosopher, already said centuries ago:¬†‚ÄúStrategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

If you would look at similar stories in the advertising arena, marketeers would immediately say it is quite obvious there needs to be a brand fit between the message and identity of the company. This is known territory, been there, done that for ages. In essence, social media is not different. If you embark on a social media adventure with your company, you will need a brand fit too.  The first thing to do, is start from your company culture and keep that company culture in mind with whatever step you take. The conversation culture should fit into the DNA structure of your company.

Many of the larger¬†companies create social media policies these days. And that is often¬†the¬†main thing they have in common. There are companies with¬†the policy¬†to restrict the use of social media, and there others with a policy to¬†motivate the use of social media. The former indicate what one¬†should or shouldn’t do, whereas¬†the latter encourage¬†employees to use their common sense, and engage and collaborate with¬†the customers, and learn while they go.

Who’s right? It all depends on the DNA of your company.

What makes your company the company it is today?
Every company is unique by definition, but some companies are lacking awareness about what makes them unique. It is key to be aware of your unique proposition in order to reflect this in your social media strategy, and it needs to be part of your company culture as every employee is contributing in some way to your virtual company. The DNA of your company is based on a complex composition of different elements like your employees, management style, ¬†company history, location, success rate,… For example, companies leading¬†in the field of¬†“Operational Excellence” have another DNA than companies leading in “Product Leadership” or “Customer Intimacy”.
Use social media the way you are, with in mind what you really want to be, without trying to imitate companies you adore… because they may have a different strategy than yours. ¬†It will be to the benefit of the authenticity of your company. So, when you go social media, it is important to select a mode that is in line with your company DNA.

Some examples of different social media modes:

The company is all about product performance and being first. Product leadership is the way they differentiate. They often target early adopters, and word-of-mouth has been an important marketing tool, long before social media ever existed. Typically, these companies are the first to integrate social media in their media campaigns and into their products.
This audience of early adopters, is often familiar with the latest and the greatest, they are not afraid to experiment with new and immature technologies. These experiments will reflect on the brand and contribute to their product leadership perception. Often heroic brands get away with applying push strategies in social media, and their brand ambassadors keep the conversation going. Probably this approach is only acceptable for true heroic brands, with a lot of brand ambassadors.

“Operational monitoring”¬†mode¬†
In case your proposition to the customers is focussing on low price and hassle-free service, this is probably the social mode you prefer. Operational excellence is driving all decicions.¬†Companies like this are monitoring and will only start using social media from the moment their customers do. Basically, they will¬†immediately¬†implement¬†customer support via social media from the moment they are sure this will reduce the number of tickets in their call centers.¬†Their customers love them for their hassle-free service, so that’s the way they expect these companies to behave online as well. They start interacting via social media with customers, partners and prospects in case there is a mutual benefit.

These companies specialize in building tailor-made relationships and satisfying unique needs, knowing the customer is their reason for being, hence their core business. Customer intimacy is in their DNA. Social media is kind of natural to them.
This social mode is probably the closest to the way humans use social media and closest to how a lot of business is done in real life. Typically, businesses where relationships are very important, ranging from local stores owners knowing customers by name and habits, to larger B2B companies with long sales cycles.
The challenge is to be perceived as a nice person, and in general it helps to be a nice person in order to be perceived that way. It’s all about respect, being authentic, building trust, avoid self promotion and understanding your customer needs. Chances are great that all this is already nicely captured in your mission statement; now is the time to implement.

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” as said by¬†Oscar Wilde
A social media strategy starts with a reflection on your company culture, as this culture makes your company unique, and it will translate in your social presence. In case you want to change your social presence, you probably have to start changing your company culture.¬†So don’t expect anybody to tell you how to behave in the social media arena, but just be yourself. We are really convinced this is the only way to proceed, because with every new user on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,… it becomes virtually impossible to shout you are the best in class or the greatest ever if you don’t own the place. In other words, the “brand-building” days are over, today, the essence is¬†“brand-being”.

Join the Learning Network Marketing (VOKA)

Like last year, Dominique Demeulemeester and Ann Galland will be chairing the marketing network of VOKA West-Vlaanderen.
In case your are interested in sharing your marketing knowledge and learning from peers, feel free to join us at the info session on Monday 19 September (Sessions in Dutch)

For more information




Be yourself…

Today, we are all managing a large part of our networks and personal reputation online, mainly through social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the likes. For many, Social Media thus becomes more or less synonymous with personal branding.

But is it?¬†¬†To put it bluntly, Social Media is a means and not an end. The¬†word media, which happens to be the plural of¬† “medium”,¬†tells us that we are looking¬†at tools; tools to help us in reaching¬†our goals.

So then, what is Personal Branding about?

It is about being YOURSELF. Look at the witty phrase by Oscar Wilde,¬†‚ÄúBe yourself, everyone else is already taken.‚Ä̬† Frankly speaking, isn’t that¬†the essence?

Therefore, our Personal Branding workshop takes you on¬†a journey that helps you discover how¬†to really¬†“be yourself”¬†while¬†concentrating on¬†all the assets you have. It is by understanding¬†your true¬†aspirations,¬†that your¬†dreams¬†can gradually and systematically be translated into realistic goals and¬†deadlines.

In other words,  the workshop is not about how great the tools are, but about what attitude and what content you need to position yourself in a believable authentic way. It is about how to build your own personal story, with the different tools you have at hand.

Other workshops offered by

Measuring is knowing, and knowing often doesn’t change a thing

We’re all convinced, measuring is knowing. But far too often, we fail to implement.
We are looking at the results of research, and suddenly we feel the fear of change, and stick to existing conventions, conventions we sometimes ignore the origins from.
We see questions but no answers.

We are afraid to change things although we invest a lot in research. In this way, it took traditional newspaper publishers ages to shift towards the user-friendly tabloid version we all adore. Why? Because for centuries they thought newspapers should always stay the way they were, because that was how quality newspapers ought to be, period. They were convinced their readers would reject tabloid format. We did not, quite on the contrary. We welcomed it.

So, high time to close the the knowing-doing gap, and turn research into an actionable strategy.

11 factors for success in 2011

  1. Make your strategy straightforward and believable
    You know what your brand stands for from your company’s point of view, but can your brand deliver what you promise? Do not only say what you do, just do it in a believable way.
  2. Stand out from the crowd
    Don’t copy any other brand you may be looking up to. There are already too many brands that are pretty similar. Know and truly understand your competitive advantage and adhere to it. Make it the corner stone of your strategy. Aim to be unique in what you are offering, by doing the same, but differently.
  3. Be authentic
    Tell an authentic story about your brand and close the gap between company fiction and customer reality. Don’t think in terms of a 30 seconds commercial or ad, but tell a credible and compelling story of all times. Your brand deserves its own story that builds on its past strengths,  its present value  and its meaningfulness for the future
  4. Be where your audience is
    Be present in public and private places where chances are high to get noticed by your target audiences. Be not only in the predictable shops and collateral,  but be in places, building and venues where people meet and convene, both for pleasure and work. Also, go beyond two-dimensional marketing. Think of different ways to bring your story to life in a three-dimensional way.
  5. Put customer centricity at the heart of your strategy
    Listen to your customers. Understand what your customers think about you and trust what they really value and appreciate in a relationship with you. Reward them for doing so.
  6. Personalize your approach
    Customers are unique and they want to be treated as such. Forget old school push and mass marketing as main drivers for success.  Treat customers in a respectful way, by showing them you really care about their wishes and needs. Consider their problems as yours and solve them. Communicate the right individual message to the right customer at the right time in the right format. And walk your talk at every customer touchpoint you can imagine.
  7. Deliver an unforgettable experience
    Think of generating additional demand for an existing offering.  The experience itself may be quite different from your core service, but it is the start of a relationship and a potential opening for future transactions. Make your product or service visible and tangible so that it turns into a real experience. Powerful brands connect emotionally with all five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
  8. Be collaborative and engage with your customers
    Customers know your brand because they use it‚Ķ Therefore, they can tell you a lot about their experiences. Maybe a scary idea for lots of companies, but better participate than ignoring the reality. Your brand is being discussed over the internet anyway, so why not participate? Let customers exchange ideas and experiences about your brand. Allow them to share ideas, discuss and rate your products. Use social media for listening. Listen to what your customers are saying they are interested in. ¬†Interact only when you have something interesting to say about issues they are looking for. ¬†Don‚Äôt sell your company vision, just be real… assist and help.
  9. Embrace the principle of managing your virtual company
    Make your website bring more business to you. The internet no longer is a linear experience. The era of the online business card or brochure is over. The internet is exponential in its reach. Make your website become an experience that is about your visitors. Build in many call to actions and turn web visitors into customers and advocates of your brand. Your website should be owned by them.
  10. Use co-branding to widen your scope
    Team up with brands that have values identical to yours, that appeal to the same target groups as yours.  Through co-marketing you can broaden your own scope and expertise.
  11. Do have fun in 2011 !



Wishing you a great, inspiring and successful 2011

Ann & Co

How customer-intimate is your organization?

Talking the language of your customers on your website shows you care about what they are searching for. And it also helps you to be found more easily.
Imagine what it would be like not to be found on Google…
Online searching and the use of Google in particular have changed the way we all look for information. The way we search the internet has also changed the way we interact. By changing the way we interact, our expectations about what to find, have changed as well.
How customer intimate is your organization? Do the test

Create your own story with the Google search stories video creator

How to make sure there is no substitute for your brand?

Face the market with a customer-intimate marketing strategy
Today’s consumers are much more demanding and well informed

1. Like to connect and share their beliefs and interests
2. Feel special, want to be treated in a unique way
3. Make their own choices based on their own criteria

Today the market is global and highly competitive Companiesthat want to outsmart competition understand the differentiation game

1. Are collaborative
2. Highly personalize their actions
3. Set up dialogue and engage with the customer

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Ann Galland
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