Representin’ (Your Brand) on Social Media
I drew the line at David Hasselhoff.
When I managed social media for the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), one of my followers tweeted that she was moving to Germany. My first impulse, of course, was to tweet that I expected her to conquer the country much like “The Hoff” had. But, for some reason, I didn’t post this tweet. Instead, I sent her the handles of some fellow alumni living in Germany and then moved on to something else.
Upon reflection, I didn’t reference the greatest lifeguard of all time because of who the follower in question was. This follower, who I’ll call “Kim,” tweeted often about academic life and the highs and lows of her undergraduate hoops team. By all accounts, she was a “good” follower; she responded to questions we posed and, on occasion, would retweet us. She was—and this is by no means a criticism—fairly “serious” on social media.
Contrast “Kim,” with the tweeter below, “Gary,” who I follow as social media manager for the Harvard University Business School’s alumni office.
This is a fairly typical tweet from Gary. When he’s not tweeting about business-related matters, he shares amusing photos and/or posts. With a follower like this, I can display more levity in my follow-up interactions , as conveyed below.
Yes, I sent this follower a link to a “Looney Tunes” segment starring “Wile E. Coyote” and “The Road Runner” and “Gary” responded with a tweet about “South Park’s” very controversial Canadian duo, Terrance and Phillip.
The reason I bring up these two very different followers is to illustrate how I approach–specifically through Twitter– “talking” about the brand I represent on social media.
When it comes to brand communication, I take an “inside-out” approach. I begin with the followers I’m tracking (those who are, figuratively, on the “inside) and react to what they are discussing. For those like “Kim,” the tone of my tweets are fairly serious, but for someone like “Gary” I feel much more freedom to let my personality come through and position the brand as one that has a “sense of humor.”
This approach, ultimately, is predicated on “knowing” your followers as much as possible, understanding not only what their interests are, but also what kind of personality they present on Twitter. The tweets I direct at “Kim” or “Gary,” therefore, continue a narrative that began with these tweeters and I simply respond in kind.
Of course, there are proactive steps I take to represent the brand I manage. For example, my social media work at HBS (most notably through Twitter) is, at its heart, about customer service. Through direct tweets (i.e., those that include the handles of particular followers) about regional events and those promoting alumni achievements, I can position our social media brand as one where service to our target audience is of the utmost importance. Some example of this customer-centric approach are below.
In each case, though, I did follow an “inside-out” approach. I found the link to Zeynep’s talk after reviewing her Twitter feed and Carol contacted me at @HBSalumni directly about the issue she was dealing with.
While there’s no right or wrong approach to brand communication, I have found the “inside-out” approach useful in engaging followers and providing them with useful (I hope!) customer service.
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Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.
Follow Robert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertBoc.