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Making Face Time. And Making It Again.

March 30, 2010

Often clients are hesitant to associate a face — and name — with their brand. Especially someone whom they’ve recently hired solely to work on building their brand socially. Why can’t I just use my logo? What if this person decides to leave the position? Both are good questions and the latter one of valid concern.

Let me tackle the logo question first. Logos are, well, boring. If anyone wants to fan or follow your brand, I can bet they are already familiar with your logo. Give them an interesting icon that re-indentifies your brand with something they want to be a part of.

Here’s where a real person can make an impact. When the right person is enlisted, they can connect the brand with causes, personality, passion and captivating content.

Here are three companies that have embraced people as their brand’s voice:
1. Ford was smart when they picked Scott Monty. He’s helped build their social presence and allowed them to continue to introduce new ways to connect that are person-agnostic.

2. Zappos‘ CEO Tony Hsieh has done a tremendous job at giving followers an insight to what both he and the company are up to. A good mix of real life and interestingness.

3. Kodak enlisted blogger and design aficionado Jennifer Cisney to interact on Twitter. Too bad they didn’t do the same for their Facebook Fan page.

If you must forgo the real person, here are some examples of brands using their product to identify themselves:
1. Mad Men. I love that they’ve used a picture of Don Draper. I would take it even farther by rotating pictures of the cast and lose the “Mad Men” type. It’s not crisp and  doesn’t look polished.

2. Vitamin Water. They embrace what’s current. The NCAA basketball tells me they support the tournament in some way and I get it right away.

3. Seventeen (and on Twitter), Elle, Glamour. All (and I’m sure other magazines are doing this as well) tell me what I can find inside the most current issue. In a round about way, this is connecting the brand with a person.

4. Panera Bread. Yum. Yum. Need I say more?

So back to the question about letting your social community bond with your brand evangelist only to have the ambassador give you two weeks notice down the road. The key is to maintain your community and be transparent with them. Here’s how:

1. If there’s time, allow the brand evangelist to inform the community of the change about to happen. This should be done with a plan in mind.
2. If someone new will be taking over, allow the current evangelist to introduce the new person.
3. If 1 and 2 are not options, a brand representative should engage with the community and identify themselves as such.
4. If sentiment and metrics show that the community is healthy with a brand evangelist, it’s best to maintain that humanistic approach.
5. Consider your biggest advocates inside the community as possible candidates. But note their (in)experience in actual community management.

Remember, it takes time for fans and followers to connect with a real person. While you’ll want your brand evangelists to evoke the same passion for the brand, they shouldn’t be doppelgangers. Therefore, your community dynamic may evolve. And that’s just part of real community.

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Threeminds.

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