What Is Your Company Branded On?
Over at ClickZ today, Dave Evans talks about Twitter and how they’ve used failing as a brand strategy. He comments that despite the massive downtime, their penchant for taking away our most loved site features (How do you get rid of replies? Srsly?), and as competitors arise around them (Plurk, what?), Twitter has continued to grow in users, traffic, and loyalty. Dave notes that the conversation on Twitter still seems to be “we’re with you”.
I agree with Dave on that. Though the conversation on Twitter is often about how unreliable Twitter is, people are still flocking to the service. They’re still trusting it with their messages and turning to it when the site is amazingly up and functional. But I don’t think they’re doing that because Twitter has brand itself as a failure. As Dave notes later on, people have stuck by Twitter because it respected its users enough to be transparent with them. Sure, we mock the fail whale, but the fail whale lets us know they’re working on things and will be back soon. Even if when they say “ten minutes” they really mean twenty.
After taking away our replies (and killing conversation) last week, on Sunday Twitter used its blog to let us know that replies were back. Even more, they let us know that they, too, read blogs and are aware of the conversation regarding their brand. They know users are frustrated and they want to make things right.
That’s why users have stuck by Twitter. Because they trust enough to be honest so we trust them right back. As Evan points out, Twitter’s commitment to making things better for its users make us ask “how can I help” instead of “Geez, this sucks. What other free service can I jump to instead?” It was that same feeling that had me sticking by Ask.com for so long even when all they did was disappoint. They acted like they cared about their users, and in turn, their users once cared about them.
But I digress. Back to Twitter.
“For marketers, the takeaway is that being open and honest about what’s going on is increasingly rewarded in an important marketing context — the social Web. The social Web values individual contribution and empowerment. It makes people feel valued, connected, part of the game. In business, this means they’re invited to become part of the brand, product, or service. By sharing details — the good, bad, or ugly — your customers develop a relationship with your brand based on ownership rather than subservience.”
I agree, though I think trust and honesty have always been cornerstones to a good company. Perhaps today’s social Web just gives companies a more public forum to address their customers all at once.
But I think it’s more than that. Companies need to aware of what their brand is based on. Is it how open you are, how great your product is, how well you treat your customers, how innovative your company is? Regardless of what you do, you’re known for something in your space. It would do you well to figure out what that is. And then, either embrace is or, if it’s not something you want to be branded for, figure out a way to change it. All of the great brands have figured out how to capitalize on the strong emotional connection users have with them. Your company needs to do the same. For better or worse, you are what your customers say you are. Figure out what that is and go from there. Even if you are known for your fail whale.