An answer to Jonas Söderström and 15 things to think of when getting into conversational brand marketing.

Blogger and planner Jonas Söderström a nice guy who’s running his own company – Planning STHLM posted a question the other day. I started to write an answer to Jonas in his commentators field but then felt I needed to elaborate a little bit more. On top of that I think my thoughts might be of value for you guys as well. Hopefully it’s caught up in Jonas trackbacks.
Jonas post is in Swedish but I’ve translated his main question (the best I can):

“What I don’t get is what all these companies and marketing directors should speak about. Could it be that their non differentiated products suddenly becomes interesting because their being broadcasted in a new medium? Or do the consumers fall in love with their products due to the fact that the companies open up a conversation with them and therefor run straight to the shops and buy everything they can get their hands on? Or is conversation all about listening to consumers in order to produce better stuff?”

Conversation as defined by wikipedia: A conversation is communication by two, three, or more people, or by one’s self. A conversations is the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group.
Herein lies the answer.

“since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other”

Most companies seems to think that social media enables yet another speech platform for them when in fact a conversation is about sharing different point of views, ideas, thoughts, praise and critique. Modern companies have understood this. They’re building their brands on conversation, becoming a part of the community, listening, learning, adapting and showing your brand fans that you listen to their thoughts.
Jonas also talks about blogs and microblogs and how companies talks about establishing these platforms to talk about their products. My personal opinion is that corporate blogs are good but first and foremost corporate sites should be the optimum platform for product showcasing and then the actual sharing should consist of mashing up the conversation from other platforms than your own. Just like in real life you should get into the hot clubs, cool events and beautiful places instead of trying to bring everything to your home turf.
So, to sum up. What should companies and marketing directions talk about? They should listen, learn and give answers. Talking is secondary – at least on other platforms than their own.

15 things to think of when getting into conversational brand marketing. (in no specific order)

  1. Listen, learn and adapt
  2. Involve your target group in your product development (Dell Ideastorm)
  3. Create dashboards to keep track of the entire social conversation and get involved in conversation that are relative to your brand
  4. Share competence not about your brand & products but how you actually develop and market your product
  5. Create at least one open presence online where you mashup all conversations you’ve been involved in online
  6. Let people from every department in the company get involved in conversations but make sure you establish a code of conduct first
  7. Establish a global conversation even if your company only sells product locally. If a conversation might be relevant in Portugal and you’re selling products in Sweden, get in there and talk.
  8. Steer media budget away from paid media to conversations. It’s free to talk but someone has to be good at it
  9. Establish your company early in every new social tool. Social profile napping is not that common but tomorrow you can be sure someone has stolen your brand nick if you’re not fast enough.
  10. Implement conversational tools in your own campaigns where possible (CNN & Facebook)
  11. Always link to blogs and microbloggers when referring to their input. It’s what builds the conversation.
  12. Don’t get caught in longer negative discussions. When you’re at a stand still, offer a phone call, personal meeting or at least an email.
  13. Broadcast everything you do. Video, photography, blogs and microblogs. When Obama was waiting for the final results in the Presidential election he published personal photos on Flickr. These gave a fantastic resonation all over the web due to their openness and honesty.
  14. It’s never to late to get started. Many companies seems to think that they’ve missed the train, but this train will go on for ever so come aboard and try what fits your company the best.
  15. Start now. Before the day is over. Start a profile on YouTube, Ustream, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Bambuser and GetSatisfaction. Launch and host your own WordPress blog. Set up an RSS based dashboard based on Twingly, Icerocket and Social Mention and track the 10 most common words associated with your brand. Then continue with one for each and every product you host.

So, what are you waiting for?