Static Vs. Social Brands 10


Is your brand on the road to social engagement?

Many corporations and organizations still don’t really get social media, perhaps because they are operating in a former mode that denies social media realities. Many organizations, on the other hand, are using new media to connect in a with the public in a positive manner. Mostly, however, this doesn’t go beyond having a profile on Twitter and a Facebook fan page, perhaps a blog in rare cases–perhaps tweeting now and then about your organizational events, or when your CEO or founder is in the news.  This is, in the end, not where the promise of social media engagement lies, but its inevitable white noise.

True engagement is ultimately about connecting with people (customers, prospects, partners, and the public at large) respectfully on a personal (or at least personable) level, in  a way that they care about. When it comes to this, even some famous social media social media companies even fall far short. And while, arguably, social media may not help you if your company is built on “suckiness” (as opposed to awesomeness), and while a company may not be any more capable of connecting personally with every individual than the average social media guru, every organization can monitor brand reputation and engage with prospects and fans in an appropriate way, even respond to them visibily in front of onllookers, as time and manpower allows.

Being part of a community just feels better, and thus it makes us better at whatever we do. To fail to see that is to miss the central point of, not just building a brand, but of everything. Building a community may not seem to be what business is all about, but if you stop and think…it ultimately is: a community of allies, a community of people who understand what value you bring to the community-at-large.

For your brand evengelists to feel good about promoting your company to the world, you’re simply going to need that “awesomeness factor”. For B2C companies, the value of being popular is obvious. For B2B companies, it can be harder to envision. But in the post-bailout economy, entrepreneurs are the most touted source of innovation AND job-creation in the US by virtually every talking head from every think-tank around the country. Why? Because they are open to change, because they care about the product more, because they’re leaner and because this strength, like with B2C offerings, carries over to the end users, especially with entrepreneurs and small companies where people all know each other and talk about the product they produce. These end-users and their immediate clans experience the quality of the product first-hand. They become evangelists for the brand, too, just like in B2C, because they talk to their friends, to their business partners, and they find reinforcement in their beliefs about the brand by talking to–and reading–each other.

Now carry this over to social media in relation to PR communications. If brand evangelists are using social media, either as proud customers or even as company reps, won’t the company benefit? So then, when a company ignores this new rule of brand management, how do you think it affects their brand out in the virtual water coolers where people gather today after their lunch breaks? Do your company a favor? Think on it.


About Mark Brimm

Mark Brimm is President of 123interface.com, the Founder of Marcana.com, and runs a personal blog on social media, marketing and entrepreneurship at MarkBrimm.com. He also runs a blog on SEO & SEM at SEMinsider.com.

  • Zappos gets it. Most corporations just aren't structured for the relentless customer service that the web requires.

    For example, the Nestle brand has so much baggage that its promotion efforts have been undermined by activists (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=379731…).

    Many big companies are overlooking a lot of the experience of older companies in the web space. The old AOL, for example, had a huge customer service staff, many volunteers, and aggressive brand representatives on their managed chat rooms.

    Every major online gaming company has run extensive social media operations since the mid-late 90s – before “social media” was a buzzword. So really, there's no reason to reinvent everything when there's almost 20 years of experience in dealing with the realities of the web. It's not impossible. It's not even really new. It's just entering maturity.

  • Marcana

    Definitely Zappos gets engagement. And also just as true that not every company is poised to gain from social media engagement. I'd put forward that those who are not may find it less hospitable an environment as the social media grid heats up, however. I'm of the opinion that social media engagement, however controlled and posed, may become more of a necessity for any B2C or B2B going forward. BP could have gauged a lot of the backlash that is just getting started by checking the temperature on youtube and looking at how public perception affects opportunities. If countries' netizens become vocal enough, they can easily block contracts and root a hated brand out of their neck of the woods.

  • Mark, great read as always. I agree wholeheartedly. In the past, a “brand” was a product that a team conceived, designed, produced and then released. Today brands are increasingly co-created with customers and potential customers. Markets as conversations is supposedly a cliche by now, but in fact, business culture–and I include all of us in this–is just beginning to transform in response.

    Not only is this not a very businesslike idea–ceding at least partial control of our “business” to others–it's not really a very Western idea. It will be interesting to see if other-centric cultures like those in Asia are able to adapt better as a result.

    The technology involved is still rudimentary. Language barriers are huge. Systems for absorbing social feedback are still crude. It's going to be amazing to see what happens as these systems evolve.

    Thanks again–always thought-provoking!

  • Sorry-one more thing. This reminds me of an article about the “Trojan horse” of social media: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2009/05/riding_social_m…. It's about brands not being ready for what's inside.

  • Marcana

    Excellent point, Will. Co-creation, I agree, will be (already is?) how a brand evolves. The free feedback should in most cases be available in ample supply, just a matter of finetuning the controls as you say. As JC pointed out, though, lots of companies like (today) Zappos and (as far back as in the 90's) AOL have excellent experience with engaging/polling the customer and shaping the future of the brand. Engagement will be the biggest challenge. Excellent link BTW, it really drives the engagement point home.

  • Social media is putting many through the “brand blender” and what's left is something lumpy and unattractive. The company brand is nice and neat, but once it gets dropped in the brand blender and the customers, evangelists, and even pundits start pressing the buttons on the blender, few hold up to the pour test. On the other hand, the ones that do, are getting extra kudos for being aware and present.

    Great considerations Mark.

  • Mark, once again you have made some excellent points that make me want to jump on a chair and yell “YES!”, “Social media” or the term I'm enjoying, “Interaction media” is growing out of an interesting combination of younger folks, who used it purely for social communication, and businesses who, without social media, adapted to the press release and mailer world of PR. Social media REQUIRES a merging and purging of both mind sets. Some people and groups seem to understand this innately, yet for others, it is totally foreign to their way of thinking, and the “Trojan Horse” that Will mentioned, comes as a total surprise to them!

    As social media evolves, and as 'new blood' enters the arena, I believe that this issue will more or less take care of itself. Either companies will 'get it' or they will find someone who does. The alternative is the 'suckiness' you mentioned (love that word!), or another line of work. Social media is not going away – it is in its infancy, and look out! It will grow up – and businesses will be challenged in ways never before anticipated. It's going to be a fun ride!

    Thanks again, Mark, for great food for thought!

  • Marcana

    Awesome insights, Diana.

    I love how this blog incarnation of Marcana is already provoking such clearly stated focus on what (we need a new word, don't we?) ” #socialmedia ” really represents–a tool for evolving open-source solutions to old problems we haven't yet managed to solve.

  • Marcana

    Thanks for the comment, Justin. Reasonable point.

    I'd be interested to know just how many companies are really failing in brand integrity and why that *really* is. An inherent “suckiness”? I suspect so. Brands don't improve in a vacuum. That is the equivalent to not engaging today, I think. Denying that a brand's need for improvement makes it vulnerable to the “damage” in the blender. Social engagement seems to be the underlying trend with the big SM. Engagement is an evolutionary Hegelian dialectic in reality.

    Thanks again, Justin!

  • Marcana

    I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this blog post just pressed (it's from my SEMinsider blog). It addresses the static brand approach by examining a classic just-breaking example:

    BP Buys Top Search Result for “Oil Spill”: http://wp.me/pJ9Hg-2V