Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Earlier I wrote about how important it is to be honest in the way that you present yourself and your business on-line. The benefits are obvious, but the simple fact of the matter is that by being fake you can do irreparable harm to your brand.

At its base level, you can narrow down most companies on-line into three simple categories -- and the simple math shows two will tend to succeed, whilst the third -- although often the most aggressive -- is never going to be pleased with its results.

Essentially, companies fall into one of three on-line and social networking presences:

  • The Comfortable in Its Cyber-Skin;
  • The Wholeheartedly Embracing Change; and the
  • Everyone Else is Doing It, I Guess I Should Too

Let’s look at all three quickly. The companies in the first category are what they are. Love it or leave it, these companies effectively represent themselves on-line because they’re honest about who they are. Whether it’s outgoing or reserved, fun-loving or authoritative, customers believe in their interactions because the interactions in and of themselves are honest. They cover a broad spectrum: from the legacy company posting a simple Web page, to the local used bookstore extending its in-store banter on-line, to the up-and-comer on every platform and using every trick in the book.

Next up, we have the companies who are no longer content to live by the adage, “this is how we’ve always done it.” They’re ready to wholeheartedly embrace either a rebranding or a committment to doing things on-line the right way -- and they're willing to empower those in whom they’ve entrusted the brand. They’re successful because they believe in the value of interacting with their clientele and are committed to regularly producing good content.

Finally, there are those who are only in the game because the C-suite feels -- or it has been told by some social media guru -- that they’re going to be left behind by their competition. More often than not, they pay lip service to the ideals upheld by the aforementioned two, but there’s no foundational support. Social media is an add-on to some overworked marketer’s life; all content has to run the gamut of a serpentine approval process that's sole purpose is to neuter the life out of any and all copy (not to mention absolutely kill the idea of instant response); and they often put on a mask to present a newer, cooler image to their customers, but that’s completely disconnected from the company’s actual voice.

These reluctant adopters are often the ones that will chase and embrace each and every new gadget, gizmo, and functionality, hoping style will make up for a lack of substance. They try to game the system and end up frustrated when the results aren’t what they want.

People are smart. They can smell a fake on-line a mile away. Not every company is going to have a million followers; not every company is going to have the must-share viral content; but every company can be itself.

Part of any good on-line content strategy has to include an assessment of your content strategy, with a look at both on and off-line properties. Instead of merely assuming you need a dynamic Facebook page or snazzy new on-line application, why not do yourself a favour and ask the really tough question: “Why do I need this?” Sometimes, you’ll find that less is more.

Take a moment to think of the brands you follow or the Web sites that have stuck with you. Ask yourself why? Feel free to share examples in the comments section below about companies that walk their talk!

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