Brand chatter: the three principles of ‘always on’ communications

Brand chatter will happen whether you like it or not. But it is much, much better with your brand’s involvement, writes Kathy Benson, who explains the opportunity is much bigger than simply ‘social listening’.

 

Silence. You’ve heard nothing. No word, no updates, no new information. It can be annoying, it can be frustrating, it can be devastating. Communication is the absolute pillar stone of our society. A world without communication would be soul-destroying. The cruellest form of punishment in our prison system is solitary confinement. So why, why, do our favourite brands go silent on us?

There are many reasons why brands go silent and some of those reasons are very valid.  Brands often stay silent when facing controversy so as to not snowball a negative conversation. At other times, brands just don’t feel like they have anything to say – no new products, no sales activity, no new reasons for communicating.

Sometimes brands go silent because they just can’t afford to spend the media dollars required to keep up a continuous public presence. However, in this day and age, this excuse just does not bear out. We all know that brands are using social listening tools to find out what their customers are saying about them, but which brands are using them to chat with their customers?

Let me elaborate. The digital revolution is on us right now. I think we all get that. We know that we should be using social and digital media tools to incite conversations, elicit engagement, and advance our brand profile. In particular, we are all getting very excited about the possibility of cheap or even free research – that is, by simply listening to what our customers are saying online, we can obtain the business improvement insights that we previously had to spend quite a significant budget to capture.

But my point is – regardless of all these benefits – are we using these tools, properties and assets as well as we could? The idea of using social media for ‘brand listening’, as a form of research, is not new, but what about using them to develop stronger, continuous and one on one communication with the customer?

 

What is brand chatter?

‘Brand chatter’ refers to the conversations people are having about products, services or prices in the online and offline channels. It can be with or without the brand’s involvement. But it is much better if it is with the brand’s involvement.

We are all well versed in the use of big, impactful, emotional TVCs which can communicate a brand life story, a compelling brand essence or initiate a powerful connection between a brand and its consumer base, but we also know that we can’t maintain this level of advertising for sustained periods due to the exorbitant costs this would entail.

But nowadays we can engage in ongoing communication through a variety of emerging ‘one on one’, or ‘many to many’ channels that are at our disposal. So rather than go silent in-between the big ad spend let’s keep the communication going so that we can reinforce our key messages and really enable our customers to get to know our brands properly.

The concept of ‘always on’ is slowly replacing the traditional campaign-based method of communicating with customers. ‘Always on’ communication is where brand chatter plays a significant role. ‘Always on’ communication should meet three principles:

  • Be entertaining,
  • be educational, and
  • be engaging.

 

Starbucks on Twitter

Starbucks Coffee is a great example of a brand that uses the concept of brand chatter. Rated as one of the top twitter brands with over six million twitter followers, Starbucks communicates with its customers several times a day about interesting events, ideas, products, promotions and thoughts.

 

Samsung Mobile on Twitter

Samsung Mobile is the most highly rated brand on Twitter with a huge following of over eight million people. Samsung engages its followers with interesting and humorous snippets which prompt hundreds of responses and retweets. Not all the responses are positive about Samsung, but that is not the point. The point is that the Samsung brand is exposed to more than eight million people multiple times a day at no cost.

 

Brand chatter is like banter between friends. It can be light and entertaining, it can also be cryptic and intelligent, and it can be cheeky. What a wonderful way to demonstrate brand personality, to be authentic, and to engage with your audience.

A word of warning though, if you do start, don’t stop, because just like real life, your brand friends and family will wonder why you are sulking and what they have done wrong.

 

Kathy Benson
BY Kathy Benson ON 25 June 2014
Kathy Benson is the national strategy director for Colmar Brunton, one of Australia’s largest market research agencies. Kathy has 22 years of experience working in market research and holds the professional accreditation of Qualified Practicing Market Researcher (QPMR). 
Kathy leads a team of researchers and co-authors the Colmar Brunton Millennium Monitor, a social commentary on the current consumer psyche and sentiment in Australia.