Social Media – Should Companies Adopt Avatars?

December 1, 2010

For Some Brands, A Social Media Avatar Could Work Perfectly

I had a great meeting this week with a bright project manager who thinks that corporate social media works best if the company adopts a character, a sort of avatar, unique to the company. So rather than setting up a Twitter account in the name of a company, it’s even better to use a robot, a games character, or some other type of identifiable personality. The theory is that this makes the company more approachable and more interesting.

Here are some ideas for social media avatars:

  • A robot to represent a technology brand
  • A cartoon musician to represent a music company
  • A young girl to represent a fashion label

Here are the pros and cons of this approach as I see it.

Benefits of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It’s good way to manifest your brand values. Really it’s no different to finding a good and memorable actor to represent your brand in ongoing TV advertising, for example Nanette Newman for Fairy, Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury.

2. It removes complexity around using real people. Real people come and go and may say that wrong thing. A social media avatar is completely controllable by the marketing or PR operation.

3. It can be more entertaining. You can take more risks with a social media avatar but keep it fully in the scope of the brand.

Negatives of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It can feel a bit trite. Especially in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and PR, clients often expect a more mature approach explanation of messages.

2. It has to work with your company branding. If you represent a fun, perhaps technology driven brand, this could work really well.

3. It may work better with the younger demographic. Younger clients might find it more entertaining and interesting. Older clients might find it a distaction.

4. The copywriting needs to be good. If you start something like this, you cannot adopt a classic corporate copywriting style. The style needs to sound like the avatar speaking to its audience.

So in conclusion, the success of social media avatars depends very much on the brand and audience. I hope you’ve found this thought-provoking. I’m off to find my robot costume and get my picture taken. Anyone joining me?

10 Tips for Good B2B PR

October 6, 2010

PR is About Connections, through Every Channel including Social Media

PR should form a central element of any good business to business marketing plan. Here are ten tips for building a good PR strategy for your business.

  1. Not all PR is worth the time or trouble. Think about who you are trying to reach and be dogged in screening your target publications and websites. It might give you a boost to see your company name in the Isleworth Gazette, but if your target market is Germans in the manufacturing industry, frankly, what are you doing?
  2. PR has changed. You’re not just dealing with seasoned, or even unseasoned journalists these days, you also need to work with bloggers. Put together a target list of publications, websites and blogs that you are trying to reach, together with  contact details for the publications and websites, and website addresses for the blogs.
  3. Assemble your collateral. Ideally, your press kit should include some good photographs of your products or people at work and photographs of your key personnel. If possible, you should also produce video assets but these need to be produced closely in line with your PR strategy and also in close association with forthcoming features on trade websites.
  4. Put together a press plan for the next few months. Work with the company executives and colleagues to understand which stories can be covered and to find interesting pieces. There are going to be changes as events unfold, but make sure that you have a plan of activity as a starting point. Assemble a list of hot topics of the day. Work with your senior management to agree company views on these issues. Make sure thathey are in agreement with your press plan and understand the importance of the PR strategy. Ask them to be available for interviews and quotes when required.
  5. Create well written press releases, written in the third person, that accurately reflect the company in an unbiased style. Journalists hate salesy press releases.
  6. Send your press release individually to journalists and also release it via a PR newswire service. Follow up with the journalists to make sure they have received your release.
  7. Consider optimising your press release for the search engines and publishing it online on article sites. This can be tricky if the exact wording is critical but is beneficial for SEO.
  8. Interact with bloggers by posting comments against their articles. Make sure that these comments are interesting and make a real contribution to the debate.
  9. Engage in Social Media. Use Twitter as part of your PR activity. Post on a regular basis – about three times a day is ideal. See my article on Twitter for more guidance. Use LinkedIn (for B2B companies) or possibly Facebook in certain cases to establish your company identity and interact with your customers. Many of you are trailblazing in this area, but you may find something useful in my next post on maximising the effectiveness of LinkedIn as a PR tool.
  10. Measure your results after each campaign and measure social media at least once a month. Look at relationships generated with journalists, stories published and coverage in social media. With Twitter, be more concerned with the profile of your followers than the number of followers – it’s not a haggis throwing contest.

It is hard to sum up the entire discipline of business to business PR in one post, but I hope that these tips are a useful starting point. It would be great to hear any experiences from readers in this area.

Why Blog?

August 18, 2010
Easy Blogging for Business

Easy Blogging for Business

There’s so much blogging taking place these days that it’s got to be worth asking why it’s suddenly so popular.

There are many reasons for a corporate blog post and the following is a brief explanation which will hopefully shed light on the reasons that so many of us are now involved in this activity.

Why We Blog

Apart from the admittedly enjoyable aspect of blogging, here are the more practical reasons for writing digestible sized posts on a regular basis.

  • Blogging is a great way to tell customers more about your views and services. I write this blog as it is another way to explain marketing issues in more detail to clients and people I meet. It’s great to be able to send links to people on subjects we might have only had time to half-discuss in real life.
  • Search engines are becoming increasingly fond of new content. Even if you use a separate blog engine, the content should also appear on your company website, thereby helping your website in its crawl up the search engine rankings.
  • Believe it or not, writing will help to get your thoughts in order. It will help you focus on what is of interest to your clients and the wider business community and awill help you answer questions in a straightforward way.

How to Blog

  • Decide on the days of the week that you’re going to blog and then stick to your plan. You cannot expect people to follow your posts if you are not consistent with your publication dates.
  • Create a blog strategy where you work out what you are going to cover in each post. This will make your posts read in a coherent style, from one to the next, and will also enable you to reference future, as well as past, content.
  • Don’t feel that your posts always need to be long but keep them in line with your readers’ expectations  – you are trying to build a following, after all!
  • Write from the heart. OK, you might be blogging about oil pipelines or yeast allergies, but care about your subject and the words really will flow.
  • Even if you have the budget to integrate your own software into your website content management system, use a blog site – it’s much better for search engine optimisation and you can always reskin your blog to match your corporate branding.
  • Be sure to make use of the categories and tags in the blog software to help your SEO.

I hope that these tips on blogging have been useful. It would be great to hear your comments.