Monday, May 17, 2010

Social Media for Businesses - Create an Online Persona

Creating a useful and powerful way to utilize social media for businesses and corporations can be tricky. Social media is not conducive to "in-your-face" advertising. In fact, if a company is not careful using social media such as Twitter or Mixi to sell product, it can completely backfire and be a total turn-off. A good way to get many people to stop following your, say, Twitter account or blog is to consistently bombard them with information that says, "Buy Me!" or "Sale!" Not cool. Think about it... Would you look forward to, or like to read, blogs or tweets like that?

American icon Betty Crocker sold millions... 
She never existed except on boxes and TV

For your websites and social media to be effective, they need to give and not to take. The killer blog and/or Twitter will be giving away great content for free and doing it consistently. Then the receivers pass the information on for you.

Just as your website should not be a one-way sales brochure, so should your social media usage be geared towards giving away something for free to the receivers so that they actually look forward to your tweets and updates.

I am about to start helping some friends of mine with their online sales of adult beverages. Sure, they have a great line-up of the usual suspects; e-mail magazine, easy to look at web page, etc., but they need something different. They need that extra "Umph!" to push them over the edge. They need something that sets them apart from the competition. While all the other online beverage retail sites say basically the same thing, my friend's site needs to take it one level higher.

As Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap fame would say, "These go to eleven."

Yep. Go to eleven. With all the millions of sites on the Internet doing something near or similar to what you are doing, how do you go to eleven?

I'll tell you; give away great content.

Many companies start up their own business blogs or order their staff to write Twitter pushing company product. These never go well... For one, the people asked to do the blogging or the tweets are not the kind of people who should be, or are good at, blogging... Or they might even think, "This sucks. I hate doing this Twitter, but my boss makes me do it." Resentful staff do not make good bloggers...

Think about that for a minute. If the person that you've ordered to blog is not very motivated to do a good job, do you think they will be able to write great material? And everyone knows, in this day and age, if the material on the Internet is not great, then it doesn't cut it.

If the person writing the Twitter or blogs doesn't like it, then why in the world would the "outside" people want to read it? I don't think they would. In fact, if the blog or Twitter is poor, or is not gaining traction or popularity, I'd suggest stopping it until you do find a formula that "works."

Here's a tip: Instead of forcing one of your staff members to do the blogging or Twittering, why don't you have a brainstorming session at the office (maybe after work with a few drinks?) and come up with a virtual person? An online persona? How about a sort of "Internet Milli-Vanilli" to represent your company (for you younger people in the crowd who do not know who Milli Vanilli is, please ask your parents....) Make the character fun. This way, you create a fun atmosphere around this person and it also allows the online persona to have more personality and state more likes and dislikes online.

Make your own Colonel Sanders; or, even better, make your own Bart Simpson as your sales rep. Why not? Who wouldn't want Bart Simpson to be their sales rep? Sometimes he says it like it is. What great promotion!

Everyone loves a character who is sassy, talks back, has an opinion, and not kissing ass and telling us how wonderful the world is all the time.

Volkswagen did this and the results were fantastic. They created an online persona whose name was Helga. The staff of Volkswagen got together and created Helga. Who she is; how old she is; her hobbies; likes; dislikes, even where she was born. She was an immediate Internet hit... And she doesn't even really exist.

(1) Helga on Myspace:
Her catch copy says, "Don't be sucking." 
 Hilarious! I love it! 

Now, don't think that this sort of thing is so easy to do. If you realize that a character like, say, Homer Simpson was a creation that has a consistent personality, then you'd realize that this same "creation of a persona" process took place in the birth of Homer. The staff of the Simpson's got together and worked on the characters for a long time before they came to fruition. Homer is funny because he is who he is...

This didn't happen on a whim. It was planned; the creators of Homer Simpson, or Helga, or even Betty Crocker got together and decided everything about this persona... Everything! Every conceivable detail about who they are and what they like...Probably even up to who their parents  were.

This sort of persona creation can be fun and it should allow your company employees to have fun with the tweets and blogs for the virtual character.  It also takes the extreme pressure off that one staff member (who could be slightly resentful) who is supposed to write the blogs and Twits.

You can ask the staff to blog or tweet when they have a good idea... (Like I said, if your staff hates blogging, then you have the wrong people doing it)... If your own staff just won't budge, then there are hundreds of thousands of good people all around who'd love the opportunity to work and write for you as "piece-work." Or, heck, like I said, if the character is fun, you might even find that you like doing the blogging. It's always fun to write behind a mask, if you are so inclined to writing.

Or why not even hold an online contest on your web page or forum whereby your e-mail magazine members (new and old) can join a contest where they can win some great prizes by either writing some great text for you or even creating your character? There are a million and one ways of doing this and the ceiling is your imagination.

So don't forget, the point of the Internet and the blogs and Twitter: Do Not Take! Do not do "in-your-face" sales! Give great content free and create a buzz...

When you create a buzz, they will come... Even if your buzz creator doesn't really exist.

(1) Helga from The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott.  Page 179


Keywords: Helga, David Meerman Scott, New Rules of Marketing & PR, Twitter, Internet, blogs, free content, buzz, Internet Milli Vanilli, Mike Rogers, Marketing Japan, Mike in Tokyo Rogers, Betty Crocker


David Meerman Scott said...

Oooh - Helga always makes me feel special. Good luck with the blog.

RYO said...

I will look for your book in TOKYO MARUZEN!! sir!!

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