Brand First. Tweet Second.
I’m guilty. But I’m not the only one. Most every marketer I know is guilty of taking his eye off the ball these days. Guilty of falling off our ADD meds. Guilty of the bird-like behavior (tweet tweet) that causes us to be immediately attracted to each shiny, glimmery, sparkly new social media gadget that enters our field of vision. And who can blame us? Social media is intoxicating, addictive and promises to make me irresistible to the opposite sex. Hence my admission that I am as guilty as they come. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still think social media is the bomb. I’m not entering a 12-step program just yet. (For the record, though, I rarely imbibe in Facebook anymore and my taste for Twitter is waning, too.) You see, it’s not that I don’t value all these opportunities to dispense our messages to the masses, to communicate quickly, succinctly and loudly. The problem is that developing a brand, a personality, a tone, a voice must still supercede our innate, immediate desire to send messages to our minions in 140 characters or less. My point – here it comes – is that, while it’s great to have such easy access to people who are anxious to hear what we have to say, we still need to develop that consistent voice, that authentic attitude, that brand. I know Brand seems like an old idea, but the brand development process is still valid. And absolutely necessary. In fact, it may be more necessary than ever. Why? Because in the old days, what I call Marketing Departments 1.0 controlled all the outgoing messages. They ensured the consistency of the voice and the message because they were the ones who disseminated it. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Today, companies are giving folks in every department the opportunity to twitter on company letterhead. Which is very cool. But that means that now, more than ever, it’s essential that they all have the company playbook, or brand manual (or social media manifesto!), and that there is harmony amongst all the corporate communicators. Yes, just because we’re replacing our radio buys with minimum wage twitters, viral video producers and PR pros who are presently populating our Facebook pages, doesn’t mean that we can relinquish old school brand development work. These forms of communication, just like their predecessors (remember magazine ads, 30 second television spots and outdoor boards?) need to have some grounding in an established and agreed upon brand platform. So join me in taking a twitter timeout while we take care of the basics. Join me in breathing just a bit before uploading our newest YouTube creation. Branding is step one. Let’s ensure that all our players are heading toward the same goal line. Let’s make sure they’re all running the same play. And then, then we can all get back to tweeting our “can’t be missed” messages 140 characters at a time.