Do real people really want to have a relationship with a brand? Here are some of the many questions that brands are asking of Social Media...
Is Social Media the best place for all brands?
Much like any other media channel (TV, print radio, out of home, etc...), your mileage may vary. There is no "best place" for all brands. Each brand must define their strategy first, and from there figure out the tactics and channels that will best help them to reach their business goals. The better question is: can Social Media help a brand reach their business objectives? Whether it's B2C, B2B, a small impulse buy or a product/service that is sold over a long period of time with a hefty price tag, I have rarely not seen an opportunity to use Social Media - in one form or another - as one of the many cogs in the Marketing machine.
What are brands to do in a future where the old media rules won't apply?
When I talk about the concept behind "burn the ships" or "CTRL-ALT-DEL" many people confuse this with a present/future where the old rules do not apply. This is not the case. Personally, I'm a big fan of the saying, "everything is 'with' not 'instead of'." Brands will have to leverage whatever media that is available to them to reach their audience, consumers and community. The point of "CTRL-ALT-DEL" is to rethink using a traditional media model in a new media channel that is so fundamentally different from the other channels. It's like putting a square peg in a round hole. All too often, this is what Marketers do: they take whatever they have done in the past and they try to make it work in a new channel rather than doing the hard work of defining what advertising and marketing means within the new media.
Do individuals want a "relationship" with a brand?
Some people do and some people don't. But, that's not really the whole benefit of Social Media and what it can do for brands. Having any semblance of a relationship with a brand is not the same as someone following a brand on Twitter. Building a relationship takes times and it's well beyond a Facebook campaign to get there. That being said, you can do many different things with Social Media like sharing content, responding to inquiries, being helpful in general, and even by publishing content (in text, images, audio and video). Now, if you do all of those things - and if you're interesting and engaging at it - you may be able to build some semblance of community. If you can turn those community members into a long-term relationship, that's an admirable and impressive endgame, but it's not the only reason to engage with Social Media.
Some brands have had a negative experience with Social Media, should that be a concern?
Most of the negative experiences that brands have had with Social Media happen because they are trying to broadcast and/or advertise in the channel. They are, essentially, trying to spam the network, lie to it, or pull a fast one over it. Those games won't work on this playing field. Social Media is about real interactions between real human beings, and most brands do not have the Marketing culture and organization to transcend, so they use their old tactics in this new channel with failed efforts. This is where the fundamental struggle lies. Brands that are helpful, transparent and active do thrive in Social Media and - much like humans - are more than fine with the occasional mistake, foible and fumble (we all make them).
The number of people active in Social Media still seems small/insignificant, do I really need to care and pay attention to this?
Social Media is not about "how many" people you are connected to, but rather "who" you are connected to. Instead of focusing on how many people are now following you on Twitter, why not start by digging into who is currently following you, why they are doing so and what you can do to help them out? In terms of the raw numbers, ask yourself this: who do you know who is not online? The numbers, demographics and psychographics speak for themselves. Beyond the philosophy of focusing on "who," it's still wise to keep in mind that Facebook alone is closing in on 500 million users. That doesn't feel insignificant at all.
Is Social Media just another way for consumers to get something for nothing from brands?
Don't let a few rotten apples spoil the whole experience. Yes, Social Media will highlight those looking for everything (and more) for free. We all know what these types of folks look like (and what they sound like), and the average consumer has become sophisticated enough to filter out the kooks and weirdoes screaming for freebies or demanding a brand's blood. Social Media is only a huge Marketing time suck if you focus on advertising and promotions that lure out those types of consumers. For those that are trying to ethically build community and engagement, they do wind up spending much more time with their consumers, and that time does lead to a very powerful (and scalable) form of testimony and trust. Don't forget that you don't build a community when you have something to say. You start building a community long before that moment in time, so that when you do have something valuable and relevant to say that there is a community there to nurture it and support it.
Social Media does not have to be about getting people to have a relationship with a brand.
Social Media can also be a channel and platform to share and connect. If that leads to a relationship, then it must mean your brand really does have something to say, and that people really care about hearing that message and sharing it with those that matter to them.
Now it's your turn, what do you think?