Thu, December 15 2011

What social branding does for your brand, community and cause

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Branding •

Today’s post is by Simon Mainwaring, New York Times bestselling author of We First: How Brands and Consumers use Social Media to Build a Better World, which was named the Best Marketing Book for 2011 by strategy+business.  He is an award-winning branding expert for Nike, Motorola and Toyota, and Forbes, Mashable and Fast Company blogger.  He recently announced the We First Social Branding Seminar to be held on February 1st-2nd at the beachside Marina del Rey Marriott in California.  Simon is generously giving each paid attendee at the seminar a free ticket to share with a nonprofit.  For more information, visit here.  Find a corporate sponsor to take you or get a ticket a take a fellow nonprofit for free.

Social branding is transforming non-profit marketing, and yet it’s little understood. At its heart, social branding is the marriage of traditional brand storytelling with emerging social technology to reach customers where they are. It’s the shift from a long-standing monologue approach to marketing to a real-time dialog with your community. It’s a re-framing of your brand from being the celebrity of your community to its chief celebrant. Each of these changes has serious implications on leadership, organizational structure and marketing for non-profits, and they demand even more from limited time, resources and staff. Yet those that ignore these challenges run the risk of becoming invisible or obsolete in today’s social business marketplace. While those that adapt to new social technology and the customer behavior it inspires, are positioned to become the non-profit success stories of 2012. Here’s how:

1. CAPTIVATE: Too often, non-profits make the mistake of rushing to social technology because it is relatively inexpensive and community-focused. Yet they overlook the storytelling component of their brand that is essential if there is to be an emotional connection between the brand and its donors that can then be amplified using social media.

Only when a non-profit has defined what it stands for, what its purpose is, what its core values are (not just in relation to the cause itself but also as compared to its competitors) can it hope to tell its story in an emotional way that inspires sustained community support. Understandably too many assume that the cause is the story they must tell, causing them to overlook the self-inquiry that ensures social media works most effectively for them. And when this occurs, non-profits are left to execute a series of ad hoc tactics or strategies that never ladder up to a clear, consistent and compelling brand story that inspires a sustainable donor community.

2. COLLABORATE: By shifting the focus from a monologue to a dialog approach, social branding allows your brand to connect more deeply with its donor community by aligning around shared values and interacting through social media channels. Through this dynamic donors can be inspired to collaborate more actively with your non-profit because they are more deeply invested in its success. A simple way of putting this is that the donors are no longer working to ensure you succeed, but rather collaborating to ensure that the community fulfils its purpose.

3. CONVERSION: Having defined your story and expressed it in a way that builds a community of donors, social branding is then critical in converting newcomers, donors and volunteers into more active participants. It does this by tapping into the emotional power of the brand story and using the various social media platforms to amplify the message, provide a wider variety of engagement options, and empower the donors or volunteers to become the custodians of the brand story.

Such engagement can take many forms, from simply sharing a blog-post, event announcement, or fund-drive, through to crowdsourcing new means of outreach or community activism. But it is the connection between the power of brand story telling and social technology to amplify it that is critical to non-profit success in the future. Only then will the relatively low barrier to entry for social media reward you with bottom line benefits. Only then will the powerful emotions that inform your own commitment to a cause connect with those of your community and inspire them to work harder with you. Only then will this new era of social technology deliver on its promise of enabling people to connect around shared values to build a world they want to live in.

If you are interested in leveraging social branding to ensure your success in 2012, I invite you to the We First Social Branding Seminar to be held on February 1st and 2nd at the Marina Del Rey Marriott in Los Angeles. The event is unique for several reasons. Rather that theory, this is a two-day, deep-dive into brand storytelling and social technology specific to your non-profit so that you walk out with a Social Branding Blueprint that you can act on. Secondly, you will be supported by three world-class experts including Carol Cone, the Global SVP of Business + Social Purpose at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, Robert Tercek, Chairman of the Creative Visions Foundation and former President of Digital Media at OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, and finally myself, Simon Mainwaring.

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