Expanding Your Online Voice Without Turning Fans Away
Imagine you’ve had a long day. You’re stressed out and exhausted; mentally, physically, and emotionally. You’re ready to go home, jump on the couch and enjoy a glass of milk with your favorite chocolate chip cookies. Imagine opening up your package of chewy chocolate Chips Ahoy cookies, but instead of those delicious cookies inside, you find the most aromatic, mouth-watering lasagna you have ever laid your senses on. Mmmm Lasagna! Not quite.
You’re now disappointed, you wanted cookies! Your favorite cookies, the cookies that you always look forward to after a long day! Instead you get something not sweet at all, something totally different, something savory. While that lasagna would be great on another day, because it’s not what you were looking for inside that Chips Ahoy package, a part of you has lost your loyalty and you now have a sour taste in your mouth.
This is what happens when you establish your brand’s online voice and your fans are accustomed to it. They are now subscribing to that voice, to that personality. A fan’s loyalty is conditional. Those conditions are based on the personality they signed on with, not the personality you would like it to evolve into. Why is it important to know this?
Because when brands attempt to evolve, consumer backlash is a very realistic risk. It happens all the time, in many forms. For example, with the recent Instagram controversy: when Instagram’s updated terms of service were released, fans were now realizing that Instagram could potentially sell user’s photos for advertising. Fans were upset; they downloaded Instagram for a fun and creative way to share their pictures, not to have them sold to businesses against their will. The latter is a different mindset, a different feeling and comes from a different personality. After the consumer backlash, Instagram issued an apology and quickly appealed those specific terms.
This change in brand perception is not unique. Even in music this happens. Consider a favorite band or rapper that “blew up” and suddenly changed their song formula or style to have a larger appeal. Once the evolved songs and image contrast with someone’s initial view, feelings about that artist change. That once independent or under the radar group is now a mainstream brand doing mainstream things and suddenly a fan feels betrayed. This is because the current music/image is different than what they initially were attracted to. That once-fan now has a change in loyalty and in-turn is now open to becoming a fan of someone else.
So what to do with your brand or your own online voice? There are a few options.
Keep your voice, and expand on it.
Outside of social media I function as a comedic writer and stand-up performer. My Facebook page has slowly garnered friends and fans based off my comedic posts. When I post an article or status about something I believe in politically or altruistically it will rarely get the same level of likes. It may also skew people away. So what did I do? I realized that I had developed a specific comedic voice and that my fans were subscribing to that tonality. I kept that comedic voice. And upon realizing that niche, I expanded upon it. Once you know your voice you can enlarge it. Now I can target and gain fans at a quicker rate and retain them, because I know exactly what appeals to them.
Gradually, and I mean gradually, evolve.
A drastic change in your voice will yield a drastic reaction from your user base (see the Instagram controversy above). If you want to change the tone of your brand a sudden jerky change in content may not yield particularly good responses. You can micro-test new types of content, and then pull back to see how your fans are reacting. More importantly is to find a way to keep your fans in the loop, so they know what is going on, and than slowly introduce the newer personality to them. If your company is taking an initiative to go green, let your fan’s know in a shareable way similar to your current voice. Can you frame it to fit your existing narrative? If so than perfect, now your narrative has the same through-line, and can be seen as an addition to your message, not a change. The idea is to add to the message your fans know you for rather than change it.
The most important thing above and all is to know who your consumers are and why they are fans of your brand. Being able to identify who they are, what are their concerns and how they are thinking will serve you best in helping you evolve and expand. Essentially, knowing your brand’s voice is knowing your consumer’s voice. I will take a little elbow grease and research. You will have to explore what other brand’s they associate with, and it may take some time, but for good cause. Once you can think and feel like your beloved fans, growing your brand’s identity will be that much easier.
Do you remember a time when you saw a brand changing? Or wait! Maybe even your own brand? What happened? How important was it to you that the brand stayed consistent?
Gibran Saleem is a content strategist at Likeable Media with an MA in Consumer Psychology from NYU. His fascination for how brands utilize social platforms and how digital trends emerge stem from a variety of experience including social psychology, marketing and stand-up comedy. Whether it's writing comedy for the stage or for audiences online, he is commited to building the relationshiop ...
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