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How to win new brand friends on the social web

How to win new brand friends on the social web

By Will Beresford, Strategy Director, Beyond Analysis

Targeted advertising and clever widgets are missing the point when it comes to brands working with sites like Facebook and MySpace. Like the new kid on the block, we have to earn the trust of our new friends before we’re allowed to play.

The hot debate this year amongst brands is what to make of the social web and how to use it as a channel to market for their brands.  Already there have been various attempts to do clever stuff on sites like Facebook.

Well, maybe clever is over egging things: some brands have advertised in the traditional banner ad sense, others have gone one step further and built an application. By and large I believe these all miss the point.

This year is the year for the start of the final death throes of traditional marketing.  The world moved on last year when you and I went online and decided that the web was our space for catching up with old friends and making new friends.

Meanwhile the big brands still think it is THEIR channel for US to listen to THEM telling us about what they have to offer.  Wrong - why did they call Myspace My Space?  The double u double u double u is ours now and woe betide anyone, especially a big brand, that doesn't behave itself.

So how should brands behave on the web?  Is the web primarily a channel to market, or is it much more than that now?

We believe businesses need to recognise that they are now effectively a guest at the table that is the world wide web, which is now a social web, where all networks - personal, private, public and business - can interact.

The real value from this new social web is gained from listening to your customers and getting to know them a bit better.  Doing this and acting upon what you learn, be that improving your customer service, or changing your proposition to better suit their needs, is what will drive your business forward.

This means that brands need to rethink how they view the web and how they interact with us.  We sat around and though about this for a while and came to the conclusion that it was no different to some of our experiences at school.

It strikes us that there are a lot of similarities between being the new boy at school on his first day at school in the playground, and being a brand trying to find its feet in the new world of the social web.

So what's the right playground etiquette for the new kid on the block?  We've come up with a few pointers that we think are just as relevant for brands as the start their foray into the social web:

1. Be Yourself

To start with, have a little confidence and self-belief in yourself.  Know who you are and what you stand for.  Take a little time to think about the kind of people you like to spend time with and what you want to get out of any new friendships.

2. Know what you like in people

As you start to wander around and check out all the other kids in the playground think about other friends you have and what characteristics they have that might help you spot like-minded people

3. Look for things that you have in common with other people

Before you dive in and introduce yourself to anybody, have a quick walk around the yard: check out what the different groups of kids look like.  What are they doing?  What are they talking about?  Is there anything you can see or hear that might mean you have something in common with them?

4. Wait for the right moment to introduce yourself

Once you've had a look around, rather than diving in and interrupting a group that looks like they're busy in the middle of something, see if there are some people who look interesting and like they might be up for a chat.  Approach them first.

5. Be prepared with what to say

Go up and introduce yourself and have a few interesting things up your sleeve to have as conversation starters.  Remember not everyone will want to hear just about you!  Think of some questions to ask them which shows that you are interested in them too.

6. Be a good listener

Be sensitive to what they are like: they might be a bit shy or may not be as open as you.  Be careful not to scare them off by being too friendly or enthusiastic.  Take some time to get to know them.  You might be really keen to make new friends and share out the contents of your lunchbox, but don't expect everyone to like you the first time they meet you

7. Be honest about who you are

Whilst it's always a bit of a temptation to big things up, if you start telling tall stories about how big daddy’s car is or get found out for being less than you say, your new friends might stop taking you seriously.

8. Value any new friendships

Remember that trust and respect are really important foundations for any long-term relationship.  Don't go telling people things about your new friends that they might not want other people to know.

9. Respect people’s space

Don't expect your new friends to introduce you to all their friends straight away.  They will have lots of different friends and may want to keep some of these friendships separate - be careful not to invade these other friendships.

10. Know when to stop

You'll know after the first conversation if there is any chemistry between the two of you.  If there isn't don't push things and move on.

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