Marketwired Blog

Should Brands Use Social Media to be Useful?

usefulIs your brand useful?

Does it do anything other than try to convince people to do buy its products? After all, business is about driving revenue and profits by getting people to buy stuff.

So where does being useful fit into the scheme of things if, in fact, it does have a place at the table?

At the meshmarketing conference last week in Toronto, I got the opportunity to see Jay Baer talk about thinking behind his best-selling book, Youtility.

Without giving too much away, the theory behind Jay’s book is brands should be connect with consumers by offering value and being good corporate citizens.

He sums things up by suggesting Youtility is about marketing so useful that consumers would pay for it.

Being useful is interesting because it goes against the traditional grain. Brands have used marketing to convince consumers their products not only have merit but they’re better than the competitive alternatives. A key part of this approach has been one-way broadcasting.

Of course, social media has changed the rules of engagement because consumers can not talk back to brands and among themselves.

It has forced many brands to take a new approach to marketing because blasting away isn’t as effective any more.

Being useful is a concept that some brands have embraced. When you think about it, however, it’s not a new concept: it used to be known as the soft sell in which a brand didn’t come across as pushy.

Jay suggests that Youtility is taking the soft sell to a new level. More than ever, brands are looking for new ways to drive brand awareness, goodwill and, ultimately, sales.

At an extreme level, there is Hilton Hotels, which is using Twitter (@hiltonsuggests) to help consumers, even about services that have nothing to do with Hilton products. For example, Jay writes that Hilton helped someone looking to eat near a hotel in Dallas that wasn’t a Hilton property.

What started out as an experiment has turned into a full-blown part of Hilton’s social media presence. It’s a great success story but it probably involves a lot of resources and commitment to make it work effectively.

For brands that don’t have Hilton’s manpower, it is still possible to be useful by adopting some simple “rules”.

1. Meet the needs of potential and existing consumers, even if it doesn’t involve talking about your product.

2. Listen to what people are saying, and then decide when it makes sense to engage.

3. Accept that being useful doesn’t mean overnight sales. Instead, see it as a long-term proposition.

In many ways, Youtility is the new black when it comes to social marketing. With so much noise and competition, brands need to be agile and creative to outflank the competition. Being useful – however it is defined – is a new way to win over consumers by being a helpful brand.

What do you think? Can brands be useful on social media or is it just the new flavour of the month?

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