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Official 2011 Second Guest Blogging Contest Post #9
Contest Article

Many brands or businesses today are wanting to be ‘social’. They hit the “sign-up” button on popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, followed all the design tips they can find to put together an excellent profile and tadaaa, they are now social… or are they not?

How do you differentiate a brand that is social from another? What are the things to have for a social brand?

Here are 10 signs to look out for.

#1. Look at your internal processes.

Coming from a branding background, I can safely say that most companies have a rigid control over their brands. While I agree with the need of maintaining a consistent brand image, your company must make allowances for the brand to be mentioned and referred to without being tied to an overly controlling rule.

Social brands on the other hand are happy to put aside rigid control of their brand to involve people – which is the heartbeat of being social. Social brands are real, compelling, human, and relates well to the emotions of the people.

What can you do? Set boundaries, not rules. Provide examples of what is within the boundary and what’s not. Encourage a flatter control over your brand.

#2. Look at your content.

Content is queen on social media and content is not to be mistaken for messages. Brand sends messages (like a corporate objective) but social brands go beyond that – they create value for people. Brands think sales and ROI, social brands think information, entertainment, rewards, incentives and everything else that focuses on the people – both emotional and physical needs.

What can you do? If you’re intending to sell before starting off, don’t. Focus on how you can benefit your audience first. Give and you shall receive. Give value and you’ll receive value in return. Give rubbish and… you’ll know what you’ll be getting in return.

#3. Look at your updates and posts.

Which attracts you more? A corporate welcome or a personalized (human) one? Not only the latter is attractive, it is better in many other ways! One great example is the Four Seasons Hotel where they took the ‘social’ aspect of social media to offline interaction – simply amazing!

Social brands are often more human than corporate. They tend to do away with formality and corporate tones, replacing them with passion, purpose and at times, empathy – LIVING what the brand is actually like.

What can you do? Live your brand! Nobody likes a consumer brand that is all corporate and stiff. If your brand supposed to spell fun, be fun! If it spells expert, give professional yet human advice and solutions. Nobody likes talking to robots.

#4. Look at how fast you respond.

When snail mail ruled the world, people expect a response in a couple of days.

With emails, people expect a response in 24 – 48 hours.

With social networks, people expect a response within minutes.

Looking at how timely your response is also determines a social brand. Social brands are often responsive and actively listening, taking every opportunity to engage.

What can you do? Do not wait to reply. Reply to messages or posts as soon as you see them! Use tools such as to help you listen to conversations on Twitter. Search for specific keywords related to your industry and see what are people talking about it. Share your thoughts, comments, insights and get the conversation going.

#5. Look at the medium in which you engage and connect.

Being on 20 different social networks does not make your brand more special. It is how your brand is utilizing them and whether it is relevant for your target audience. Selling fashion apparels at a car enthusiast site is a waste of resources and time (unless you’ve got them). Remember, social media is NOT like a game of monopoly where all you need is to get as many titles as possible – it is about being relevant.

What can you do? Identify where your target audience are at and how you can reach out to them effectively. If they are only found on Twitter, then Twitter it is.

#6. Look at how you handle and acknowledge rejections

You’re bound to receive negative response or rejections in the course of your conversations on social media. A social brand is upfront and transparent and they acknowledge their flaws and mistakes without blowing their own horns. This can be difficult as the most ‘rational’ thing to do is to defend your stand / decision.

What can you do? Think before responding to a negative comment especially when you’re all fired up. How can you address the issue appropriately? Should it be in private or public? What else can you offer?

#7. Look at how your followers respond to you.

In other words, their response towards your approach. Are they actively participating or sharing? Social brands have the tendency to meet the expectations of their followers (and go beyond that) simply because they know how to generate response and to keep their community active. This is a tough one for many – it takes patience to test out different methods as different people and communities have different expectations.

What can you do? Take some time off to explore and to figure out what your audience are looking for. Make room for conversations and create opportunities that they can participate in.

#8. Look at your intent.

If you’re intending to simply make sales out of your social media networks, it is no wonder that is reflected in your messages and content sent to your audience – no matter how you’re trying to disguise it. I’m not saying that making sales is wrong, but the intention has to be to provide value, first. A simple search will reveal that the biggest value givers are have the biggest sales figures. How so? It is as simple as people seeing the value in you.

What you can do? Make your intent known! Your intent has to be received, understood and believed by those that represent your brand on social media.

What’s Next?

The 8 signs above may just be a very surface indication of a social brand. There can be a whole lot of other factors but I would think that these are the most noticeable.

What about you? Is your brand social? What do you think defines a social brand? I would love to hear your thoughts 🙂


My name is Jan Wong, 23, an online strategist, youth advocate and entrepreneur with a master's degree in technology management. I am also a consultant specializing in online marketing, writes at, and the founder and director of 3 growing businesses from 2006 that has spent zero on advertising since their inception.

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