The Social Media Problem
By Tom Dougherty
It’s not a new thing to talk about the incoming impact of social media branding. As a matter of fact, it seems down right behind the times to pretend it is a new and timely topic.
But it still needs to be examined because so few understand it. Most of the news and activity surrounding it is quite simply hype. News about what companies are doing in social media has become a much bigger story than how the new media venues are actually working. In the words of the late great John Wooden, ”Never confuse activity with accomplishment.”
Here is a perfect example of just that. A while back news over the Old Spice branding campaign on social media was the big marketing news of the week. You could not read a marketing story or listen to NPR without hearing about the “brilliant” campaign by Wieden + Kennedy.
Why Does So Much Marketing Fail?
But it is also an example of why so much marketing fails. The campaign itself was the big news, not the campaign’s impact on sales. Why? Because no one has figured social media out and everyone hopes that someone will.
Because of the news reports, Old Spice did enter my consciousness but it did not enter my shopping basket. And, I doubt the campaign will actually help with that task in the long run. But was it a great example of Old Spice Branding?
Social media as a medium isn’t the problem, but the campaign itself is. It is not persuasive even though it was pervasive. Once again the problem with social media is in utilizing it for the correct strategic reasons.
To use social media and the social media brands like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or any other marketing tool, you must ask yourself, “What problem are you trying to solve?” Is it simply trying to reach a young and increasingly fickle demographic with name recognition? If that’s your only problem, social media of the viral type may be a terrific answer for you.
Beyond awareness, however, persuasion and loyalty is a much more difficult and tough nut to crack.
The reason for this difficulty is the nature of viral media. It must be outrageous and embarrassing (of the Jackass type) for it to make the rounds virally. More often as not, it is very difficult melding that with a brand message that promises something a bit more lasting and important.
The problem with trying to be trendy and fashionable is that it is a slippery slope. The very nature of a trend is a changing dynamic and what brought your brand into vogue will most assuredly carry you soon to passé. In today’s “net years,” this road trip can be measured in days rather than months or years.
Fundamentally, it is important to embark on the right social media strategy because this venue can offer a solution to your most important problem if approached strategically.
We have been asked to make recommendations on social media strategy from trucking companies to banks. However, for many of these brands, social media is a perfect exercise in futility. While it is very true that traditional media has become less effective in the last decade, the new media is quite illusive and is not a substitute for a failed traditional strategy.
Just because what you have always done in the past has become less effective, don’t expect something to work because it is new or, worse yet, because it seems everyone is doing it.
What your social media needs to do
Great social media has a few core pre-requisites. What your brand satisfies needs to be a central life theme of those it serves. For example, if you are a guitar manufacturer like Fender or Taylor, social media can be a place to transform a yearning for that brand association and cultivate it into a purchase.
However, if you are selling hamburgers, that extreme value of life importance and identification is not there and no Facebook page, YouTube video or Twitter feed with create it.
Still, banks and credit unions, for example, try to create a social media strategy that, in the end, will only be populated and viewed by the most extreme loyalists. For these brands, social media will not build a drop of market share and opens no doors that were closed without it.
When it comes to growing business designed to move a more fickle and hard to reach target audience, Stealing Share fixes the strategic problem. If it is harder to reach your intended target audience, you must make sure your message and brand identification for that target is stated with clarity and focus.
Your Brand in Social Media
What your brand promises must be so important and so personally meaningful that those you wish to influence are moved to action and retained with as few as one impression. Work on that before worrying about social media. Counting on multiple impressions to build preference and awareness is simply wasteful. Maybe P&G and Old Spice can afford such waste, but the rest of us live in a real world where we need to win with tighter budgets.
This about this: You and others are currently reading this article and all that was spent to get you to read it was the human capital of making sure the message was important and that we understood what it was that you really need.
We are not saying to forget social media. It’s like any other medium. Using the medium itself is not the answer. It’s the strategy behind it.
Email, the web, blogs, Twitter and a Google search are all forms of social media. Worry about the strategy and let it drive the media tactics rather than the other way around.