Posted on October 17th, 2011 by Simon. Filed under Uncategorized.
Social media are redefining brand identities in a profound way. These media are another important step in the democratization of the media business. An October article in The Economist described “the sale and analysis of real-time social-media data” with the development of such “outsource” firms as DataSift and Gnip.
No doubt the volume of social media to analyze is skyrocketing. According to The Economist article, “the number of tweets per day now exceeds 230m, up more than 100% from the beginning of the year.” DataSift, for example, has the filters to track down “all tweets by men who . . . live in London” and are keen about a particular new product.
The brand stampede to social media has been thunderous. Findings in an October BizReport roundup on brand respondents noted the following:
• “81% of brands want to measure social brand advocacy” and
• “96% use social media for advertising/promotions.”
What started as product placement on scoreboards and films has become part of the digital narrative of everyday life. The rush for a social media presence increasingly shows us how ephemeral that presence can be. When social media endorsements can be bought, they degenerate to the same level as celebrity endorsements in conventional advertising. Also social media offer an addictive rush – the illusions of forceful, immediate impact and the often misleading impression that one is actually doing something meaningful.
The temptation is all too easy to shift brand presence to social media . . . and, then to make an equally great mistake: the assumption that social media has the neat, manageable predictability of conventional advertising.
In June, Janet Meiners Thaeler posted a noteworthy list of “The 6 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Brands Make.” One error really merits attention, and that’s getting “involved in social media without actually getting involved. It’s like getting a phone but ignoring every call that comes in.” You can’t establish a channel of social dialogue and then run it at will as though you’re turning on a faucet.
Large brands, accustomed to their marketing heft, are susceptible to this sort of arrogance. It’s all too easy for a brand to shrug off negative comments or appeals for help. Brands might risk being so cavalier in a one-way communication world. Today conflicts are very much played out in public, and the popular voice is naturally inclined to back consumer Davids locking horns with Goliath-sized brands.
People have a strong, natural drive for balance. It’s no surprise, for example that, as social media become so pervasive; the appetite for privacy has never been stronger. Manufacturers need to be especially wary of the distraction posed by chatter as psychological warfare. It’s not mastery of new forms of hype that will guarantee brand health.
As with any business proposition, skill in asking the right questions wins out in the end. Some timely considerations worth asking about social media include:
- Do we really understand the rules and protocols of social media?
- Are we attempting to overwhelm messages with our style and preconceptions?
- And, instead, are we actively listening to the consumers we are trying to engage?
- Lastly, are we alert to trouble-spots, criticisms and complaints in a way that rises above defensive jargon?
It’s a dedication to inherent product quality and perpetually innovative design that determine intrinsic, reliable brand worth. That’s what gives firms like Apple, Brooks Bros., Harley-Davidson and Patagonia such dramatic advantages. Stick to your knitting has never been more prudent advice, especially when technology reconfigures the art of the stitch every day.
Could social media devalue brands? Ineptly used, the answer is certainly yes. Quantitative analysis of social media can surely be useful. The risk will come if firms attempt to engineer old-style communications solutions. Social media are giving brands a real-life identity . . . and a larger than life accountability as well.