Every now and then, there’s a brand that achieves social media nirvana. Recent viral sensations such as Denny’s Tumblr or Wendy’s Twitter have used bold strategies that paid off in big ways. Customers have responded positively to their fresh and unexpected content, and the public reaction has been covered by everyone from Buzzfeed to Forbes.
What users seem to respond to is these companies’ willingness to embrace strategies that most brands would avoid at all costs. While conventional wisdom would encourage a restaurant to post content that is relatable and friendly, Denny’s posts tend to skew more toward the bizarre. And while any amount of customer service knowledge would tell you to NEVER, EVER be sarcastic or insulting toward a customer, social media users seem to be absolutely loving Wendy’s good-natured “roasting” of its followers. So what is it that’s attracting followers to these accounts?
It’s the brand voice.
“The intent of the social media team is to represent the brand’s voice as best as they can,” says Wendy’s VP of Advertising, Brandon Rhoten. They call their social media voice a “challenger with charm.” Banter and smart comments are fully encouraged. What makes this so great, according to Mashable, is that “they don’t sound robotic.” Wendy’s social media team, led by Amy Brown, employs a strategy in which responses are personalized and witty with a touch of sass — like you’re talking to one of your friends, and not a national fast food joint.
Denny’s, on the other hand, appears to be in its own world — a strategy which seems to be working for them. While Denny’s has been on YouTube and Facebook for many years, and in 2011 was voted Facebook’s “most engaged restaurant,” they’ve recently seen the most success using the blogging site Tumblr. “I think Denny’s has the best brand Tumblr I’ve ever seen,” said Digg’s social media editor, Veronica de Souza. “It’s not desperate or fake or trying too hard. It’s just simple, great content that gets people thinking about their brand.”
Their content bounces between custom breakfast-themed GIFs, clever random thoughts, and the occasional witty reply to a follower. While it’s not what you’d expect from a diner chain that’s over 60 years old, it somehow works. “That’s our strategy, having that diner feel,” says Denny’s social media manager Amber Gordon. “You’re just happy to be there. We’re trying to show that we’re the same thing, but on social [media]. It’s not supposed to be advertising in your face.”
Both of these brands have pinpointed their unique social media voice in a way that’s been very successful. But what if “snarky” or “spacey” just doesn’t fit your brand? If Wendy’s is a sass-talking girlfriend and Denny’s is a 2am diner patron, then who is your agency? What is your brand voice?
What Defines Your Agency?
If the social media accounts we’ve discussed teach us anything, it’s that customers respond when a company sounds like a person instead of a business: when the brand voice is human. When you’re at a party, you don’t go up to people and immediately try to sell them something. You ask questions, share fun stories, and try to get a good conversation going. That’s exactly what your brand should be doing on social media — and it’s exactly the strategy successful brand profiles are implementing. You just have to figure out who your party-goer is. This means establishing your brand voice.
There are three important things to consider when finding the voice of your brand: Culture, community, and conversation.
What makes your company unique? What do you stand for? How do you stand out from other agencies that offer the same product? Find what’s special about your business, whether it’s the charity work you do, a compelling origin story, or your office’s annual chili cookoff. If users are about to experience your brand, help them get to know what makes you tick.
Your business functions because of the community. If you represent them, then your voice should, too. What are their concerns? How do they want to be represented? Listen, speak their language, and become a voice they can talk to.
You don’t want to talk AT your followers; you want to talk WITH them. Ask them their opinions, give them a chance to participate, and share your brand personality — as if your company was a guest at their party.
Take these ingredients and use them to learn: If your agency were a person, what kind of person would it be? What adjectives would you use to describe them? Get together with your team and make a list of those words. You could even have fun with this activity and have everyone draw what they think your brand-person would look like. Figure out what kind of language your person would use, and how they might use a social media account if they had one. Once you’ve figured out these details, be prepared to step into that brand voice every time you log onto your social media and interact with followers.
Getting insurance into the social media game
With list upon list out there of companies who have gained plenty of social media notoriety, we notice that insurance companies are consistently absent from the rankings. We hope that by using these strategies, insurance agencies (maybe YOUR agency!) will be in the next wave of Facebook and Twitter sensations sparking viral headlines.