Brands, big businesses, small businesses that are planning to move into the social media space have one small problem – they are already there!
Customers, arbitrators, critics, detractors and others talk about brands, products, services and their experiences – the way they see it.
Companies (not people) that suddenly step into this environment look out of place and out of pace – think about content, its frequency, context, intent, outcome, is it in line with that of the social media group members? No.
Jack Welch, the former long-time chairman and CEO of General Electric once said, ‘When the rate of change outside your organisation outpaces the rate of change inside your organisation, the end is near’.
Out of pace has a new cousin in social media now – out of place. In today’s setting when companies are consistently out of place, the end is near.
In a social media set-up when people are interacting with people, you suddenly have a situation of a brand (which is not a person) interacting with people. Again in a social media ecosystem where people and communities share, co-create, exchange ideas and modify user-generated content, brands tend to insert their own content, it looks out of place and out of pace.
If we go back in time to when the web was born, companies had to put their web-pages of products, services – content was still in their control and with a bit of initial struggle they managed to draw upon the lessons learnt in other mediums and execute their web strategy. With social media, brands do not and will not have complete control on content, so old rules of control or lessons learnt from other mediums (web, TV, radio) are not going to be relevant.
To address issues around being out-of-place, out-of-pace and brand to person interactions, here are 3 steps that brands, big businesses, small businesses could consider
Create an ecosystem of local brand ambassadors:
From the rise of brand managers in the mid 1950s to the rise of brand ambassadors in the 1990s, there has been a gradual movement (Inside-Out) towards the market. Building an ecosystem of local brand ambassadors in the social media age will only increase the ‘net’ positive engagement and branding. Of course sometimes there will have PR issues when there are personal, professional problems with the local brand ambassadors but the ecosystem will evolve.
Companies being passive will not stop self-appointed local brand ambassadors from taking the role, they will take it anyways, but being active will help enable them move in the right direction in a balanced way. Imagine something similar to the impact of Nike + (from 2 min onwards in the video) local brand ambassadors in their respective social communities.
Encourage employees to be the eyes, ears, voice:
In the age of pace and relevance, building an enterprise-wide culture of ‘Self-awareness’ is crucial. Customer engagement is not a front line issue alone; it should be an enterprise wide philosophy. Lead users can have corporate social media accounts/pages embedded with their personal identity to build a corporate/person fusion to make it more acceptable whereas other employees can use their personal id’s to interact.
Insights from lead users and other employees can then be shared within the organisation using collaboration tools such as yammer, chatter. Such insights gained makes change management easier when the company adopts a new strategy – else change resistance puts the hand brakes on.
Create a platform for crowd-sourcing:
We now have social shopping companies such as mylovebasket.com, enabling companies such as Kiosked, where users can tag products/price details to their photographs, share them on social media and get a commission when their followers make a purchase from the shared content. Similarly imagine the millennials and others with a particular fashion, product, service inclination creating and sharing photos and videos about their favourite brands.
From the days of 2007 Super Bowl where Doritos aired fan-made NFL ads, they’ve come a long way in creating a solid model – See 5 finalists for Doritos’ Crowsourced super bowl ads, other companies are embracing it. Companies like American Express has Open Forum – to build user generated content, its more authentic, relevant and most importantly ‘social’. If brands don’t enable it, people will do it anyways, just like blogs.
Social media is not one more new medium like web, radio etc, it’s a way of life similar to one’s local community – parachuting-in with the only intention of business progress won’t work. Businesses cannot benefit from a social media strategy; it’s not an isolated path, businesses need a strategy that is social – driven by the social members and enabled by the business.