The Government of Canada’s shift to theme-based branding of its social media properties continues to be a dominant theme in my conversations this week. Through them all, some ideas have stood out.

Here are five of the many critical brand takeaways digital public affairs practitioners need to note.

People connect with entities

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms are about connecting with other entities. Entities are people, organizations and possibly events. People go to the coffee shop, not the “pour, consume and awaken yourself.”

Digital culture has its norms. Trying to reinvent social media and how relationships are formed is an invitation for criticism.

Be memorable

Despite the many times I’ve talked about Environment Canada’s (and its theme-based consortium partners’) newly renamed Facebook page, I can never remember the name. I always have to look it up. And, everyone who has spoken to me about it — including Government of Canada communicators — similarly can’t remember the name. That’s because the name is long and muddy.

Nike is known for “Just do it.” Apple is known for “Think different.” The New York Times is known for “All the news that’s fit to print.” Simple. Clear. Uncomplicated. Short.

Similar is not the same

Mulling the situation this week with Dennis van Staalduinen, we imagined the Government of Canada’s branding shift in the context of a consumer products company.

Our scenario went like this: suppose Coca-Cola decided to market Coke, Minute Maid and Dasani as the “refresh, hydrate and sustain with liquids” theme rather than as distinct products: Coke being a beverage often associated with the music scene and refreshing thirst; Minute Maid, a juice often associated with breakfast and lunch, particularly for children; and, Dasani, which is often associated with healthy lifesyle and running.

Mixing in this manner devalues each individual brand along with the overall brand of the company. And that means you’ll be hearing from your shareholders.

Social media communities should not to be taken lightly

There are still many people who don’t understand social media and online community dynamics, even if they insist they do. Just because you can stand up a Facebook page and manage it as you see fit, doesn’t mean you should. Among other things, people don’t like change sprung on them and they definitely don’t like being told how things will be.

It’s important to learn about digital culture and the vibe of your community before participating in it.

Be part of the solution

When you experience a blowback, as the Government of Canada has this week, a quick solution that involves the public is the best remedy. Your brand value will recover (even a bit) if you give the public a win, particularly if the public has a hand in making that come about. Staying silent and deflecting will only validate the criticism and further devalue your brand.

Stay tuned…

Unless the Government of Canada does something to fix this problem, or to change their course, they can expect online blowback and embarrassing media coverage with each newly rebranded property.

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