What does remain the same is the sheer communication power social networking sites lend to both brand and consumer. When one door of communication opens, so do unlimited windows into the thoughts, opinions, and trends forming among loyal consumers.
There is much to be gained from capitalizing on the social networking trend of the moment, and it may take time to unveil the nuances of each platform. Yet there are three simple principles we can learn and reuse despite the ever-changing landscape of social media.
Though the platforms that will drive the most teen consumer activity in the future cannot be predicted, brands will be part of the conversation. Teens have already proven to be receptive towards brands that have entered the world of social networking.
According to a study released by Fuse and the University of Massachusetts, 29% of teens have by now added a brand to their selective online network. Follow the three basic rules outlined here and you can expect your online audience to welcome your brand on whatever social network is to come:
• Consistency is Key: At any given point in time there will be several social networking platforms that draw your attention and prove valuable for your brand. Take for example the simultaneous attraction of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. All three platforms offer distinct communication approaches: the fan group, the visual statement, and the (almost) haiku.
What is important to remember is that the format will vary; it is the message that must remain the same. There are several ways in which a brand can assure their message is delivered intact. First, create a staple visual that can be carried throughout each platform. Use similar colors, logos, and reinforce tag lines or slogans. Simply create an environment reflective of your brand and that will stimulate free conversation among users.
• Keep It Real: The quickest way to lose teen trust and participation is to pretend to be something you are not. For some brands the quickest, easiest approach to social networking may be to create pages or accounts under the false pretense that they have been established by fans of the brand, rather than office-occupying employees.
The best rule of thumb is this: Teens will always spot a fake. Instead of risking a trashed reputation, take a look at the already existing fan groups and pages out there. If your brand has attracted the attention of one or more online supporters, support them back by offering them interesting information, product goodies, or by simply saying "hello." Such consumers are the most legitimate voices on the web.
• Listen Up: One of the simplest rules of communication all too often is the most overlooked. Social networking feeds off the fires of good, honest, and interesting conversation. If teens are taking the time to blog, post, tweet, or upload anything about your brand, positive or negative, it means they hope someone out there is listening.
Make it your business to establish a two-way conversation with visitors to your social networking sites. Once teens realize that your brand takes a legitimate interest in their emotions and opinions, they have good reason to return.