Building Brand Relationships on Social Media

Greg Lowe

May 14, 2013

When it comes to weddings, I have the worst luck. I generally arrive late to find that Larry, the bride’s uncle, has eaten all of the food and that his kids have fondled most of the remaining éclairs. With no chairs left at the tables, I resign to waiting in the receiving line (a Utah thing?) in order to greet the happy couple, neither of whom I really know. As fate would have it, Uncle Larry has taken a break from the buffet just long enough to join me in line.

As we inch forward at a snail’s pace, Larry proceeds to tell me, through a mouthful of meatball, all about the wonderful world of himself. Inevitably, the wedding line screeches to a halt just as I arrive at the feet of the groom’s father. We talk about the weather, then the band, then the weather again. Frequently, the awkward conversation is followed by a measurably more awkward hug with the groom’s mother. Depressed, I lower my standards and reach for the éclair with the fewest fingerprints before heading home to watch the evening news.

At one recent wedding, however, my luck changed when I ended up in line with a gentleman about my age. I offered some small talk in order to pass the time it would take for Chatty Cathy to finish telling the bride her life’s story and move on to marital advice. As we talked about business, technology, and our families, I quickly learned that we shared a number of interests. It was clear that we were similar in many ways. By the time I had arrived at the bride and groom, I was ready to jump out of line and enjoy a white powdered cookie at a crowded table with my new friend. He had saved me from my usual feeling of wedding despair.

As powerful as good conversation can be at weddings, it’s even more powerful for your marketing. Specifically, good conversation can do two things when integrated into your social media marketing efforts.

# 1: Conversation has the power to build brand relationships

Savvy marketers have learned the limits of traditional broadcast mediums for building relationships. While these mediums continue to have a place in a company’s marketing plan, they only allow for a one-way conversation. As most of us have discovered, one-way conversations have limited power to foster fruitful relationships. New mediums, on the other hand, naturally facilitate two-way conversations and help companies to build more genuine relationships with customers.

# 2: Aligned interests and shared values create affinity

The smartest brands have figured out that aligned interests and shared values create affinity. For this reason, they don’t spend all of their time talking about themselves and their products. Instead, wise marketers pay attention to what their customers like and proceed to talk about those things. While this can be done through traditional mediums, new mediums are more effective for this purpose. In fact, the primary purpose of most companies on social mediums should be to empathize and align with customers. Companies should share their corporate interests and values while showcasing their company culture.

Car manufacturer Subaru does a wonderful job of procuring both of these benefits from conversation. Subaru knows that its customers enjoy outdoor activity, own dogs, and value the environment. Instead of talking about crankshafts and carburetors on its social assets, the company discusses the values which it shares with customers. Consider several recent posts on the company’s Facebook page:

  • Anyone get outdoors and enjoy some family time this weekend? (484 Likes, 23 Comments, 3 Shares)
  • It’s Saturday. Time to feel the wind in your hair. [Accompanied by a photo of a Subaru driving along a coastline with a surfboard on its rack.] (3,287 Likes, 78 Comments, 140 Shares)
  • Which would you rather be doing? Share your passions. [Accompanied by a photo of a man strapping gear to the top of his Subaru.] (1,806 Likes, 197  Comments, 216 Shares)
  • We believe in clean water, for you, your kids and your kids’ kids. That’s why we’re partnering with United By Blue to keep our nation’s waterways trash free. (1,640 Likes, 19 Comments, 92 Shares)

Even more impressive, Subaru is also skilled at using its broadcast marketing to align with customer interests. The company’s most recent television campaign features very little product display or discussion, but instead features dogs engaged in outdoor activities.

So, as you communicate with customers on social media platforms, don’t be like Uncle Larry. Take a breather from talking about your company and its products. Instead, be like Subaru. Talk about the things that matter to your customer and let them talk back. Believe me, you’ll find the two-way conversations insightful and refreshing. Who knows, they may even lead to many happy marriages between your company and your customer.