Some of the ways that people interact with the world online are mind boggling to me. Literally, the boggle my mind. I don’t think I’m particularly “judgey” but other people’s kids, you know? Recently I had the chance to pick a fellow social media guy’s brain on a variety of topics that included unicorns, school, shoes and revenge. But at one point we got on the topics of companies and how they use social networks. In particular we talked about our own personal experiences with brands and how they had failed us, from a social network perspective. I’m not going to go into too much detail on the particulars because he and I have scolded these particular shoe companies enough. The point isn’t what these companies did SPECIFICALLY but rather what they THINK about social media.

“We don’t use Twitter as an incoming stream.” THIS is the opinion of several large brands who have ACTIVE Twitter accounts with THOUSANDS of followers. I’ll repeat. “We don’t use Twitter as an incoming stream.” It still, to this exact moment, is, as I said before, mind boggling. Now you will note that I use the word “brand” rather than “company” because it is incredibly important to this idea. The brand, depending on who you talk to, is everything. For some people when you mention “brand” they just think brand name. They simply think that you’re talking about Kleenex or Nike. But your brand is SO much more. It’s not a symbol, although your logo can be an important part of your brand. It’s not a slogan, although you can use a slogan to help establish and explain your brand. But it’s not just one of those individual pieces. It’s so much more.

Your brand is the all-encompassing universe that is your product, your employees and your customers. It is your attitude, your vision an your purpose. There is no single sentence that defines it. There is no mission statement that embodies it. There is no metric that can accurately measure it. Your brand is, at the core, you.

You are your brand and while people often recognize brands by their slogan or logo or their products, they will define you by your actions. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. True. Actions speak louder than words. These are sayings that people have made up. I feel like they’re both true. I’m not sure how they are connected. They each make a lot of sense though.

So what does this idea of branding have to do with this issue of incoming streams? It’s easy. When you as a company state that you are not listening to your customers in whatever medium they are most comfortable using, you are not stating that through policy or procedure or resources or something else you are unable to engage with your customers. You are stating that you are not interested. That may not be your intention but as a business you have to understand that your intentions and your results are not always going to be a perfect match. In fact, they’re probably not going to be a close match all the time…or most of the time…or some of the time. You can have the perfect product with a great slogan and a killer logo. Fail to engage with your customers and you’re done.

I’m actually not saying that you HAVE to have a Twitter account. I think you do. But you don’t have to. But if you’re going to have a Twitter account, you need to use it. You HAVE to. Imagine this scenario. On your website, you have listed a phone number. It’s not listed as sales or customer service or technical support. It’s just a phone number. Now image that every time that phone rang, you picked it up, said “This is Brand X” and then just hun up the phone again. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is not entirely the case. You’re thinking that in actuality, it’s more like just not answering the phone. But you’re wrong. If you didn’t answer the phone, the customer might think that they have the wrong number or that the line is disconnected. No. When you don’t respond one Twitter you’re saying “We’re here…and we’re not paying attention to you. Shuffle along.”

I happen to think that Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool. But I’ve said time and time again that Twitter cannot be your own personal megaphone. You can shout into the void all you want. But when someone answers your call, engages, make an effort to connect with you, put down the megaphone and hold out your hand.

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