This is the second part of my interview with Robin Frank, who leads social media efforts for Gap Outlet, Banana Republic Factory Store and other well-known brands. The first part is here.
After being in the social media trenches for some time, what organizational or cultural changes need to be made at a company to succeed with the new channel?

In the world of improv comedy, there is a concept called invisible rules – the rules you play by, but have never really questioned and aren’t explicitly stated. Traditional brands have a few invisible rules that social media pushes them to articulate, explore, and eventually move past, and each company has their own set.

One such rule is that large brands historically use any opportunity for customer interaction to push their product and promotions. Engaging their brand advocates in conversations, rewarding their customers with special deals and promotions, and encouraging word-of mouth on a daily basis is new territory. The real fun begins when they branch out and offer relevant and useful content for their social media audiences. Sometimes this is an easy leap and just a matter of giving them a few creative ideas that are aligned with their brand.

For Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Store, we created a series of tweets (and soon Facebook posts) that run several times a week called “Fab without a Fortune” – these are tips that speak to their social media audiences and show them the brand “gets” what they want and is there to help them shop smarter, stretch their dollars, and still be fashionable. We’ve had a great response with these.

The other invisible rule I sometimes come up against is the “email is king” mentality – brands want to use social media to drive people to their email lists because then they’ve GOT them. I see many companies with big budgets for email marketing, and they need some help understanding that social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook can be less intrusive, more direct, and offer better results.

Customers are more likely to follow you or fan you than give you an email address. And, it is mega opt-in – customers want to hear from you more than say, once a week – they want to hear from you several times a day. I have seen double digit click through rates on Twitter and Facebook that put email marketing to shame. These companies need some guidance to transfer resources and rethink their approach so they can ask their loyal customers to join them on Twitter and Facebook.

As every brand competes for the consumer’s attentions, the emerging social media channel is becoming noisy and crowded. Is consumer overloading a real risk for you?Sure, there are a lot of brands and noise out there, but there will always be loyal followers who want to HEAR from your brand and want to be HEARD. Going forward, consumers will actually demand higher engagement from brands – more useful content, more useful promotions, more entertaining links, more conversations.
Smart brands will give consumers the ability to CHOOSE how they want to interact – email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any other channel. Just remember that social media followers are finicky – the will unfollow you in a click, or simply not participate if you do something they don’t like. My advice is to stay focused, stay engaged, and make it as easy as possible for consumers to do business with you.

Tomorrow: Robin’s six social media strategies for YOU!

Robin consults with a wide range of companies – retail, banking, clean/greentech, and B2B – helping them establish cost-effective Social Media programs that increase marketing ROI and foster broader and deeper customer engagement and education. You can reach her at @robeen, robeenf@gmail.com, or linkedin.com/in/robinfrank.
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