Building brands in a changing society

Why Isn’t Every Brand Already a Social Brand?

It’s clear that the benefits of social media to marketers are many. Marketers can open a two-way dialogue with consumers, influence powerful word-of-mouth advocacy, and build rich stores of data about their target audience. Yet, if social media is so attractive, why isn’t every brand already a social brand?

First, marketers need to make tough choices about how to manage a message across the established platforms—and how to deal with new platforms that emerge with regularity. An app or social network could be a novelty one day but mandatory the next, depending on mainstream uptake. Take Pinterest, for example; unique visitors to the site grew by almost 800% from 2011 to 2012, according to comScore.

And what role will each network play in the marketing mix? Will one of the leading sites—Facebook, YouTube, Twitter—be a primary platform and the others act as traffic drivers? Or will they be given equal attention and resources? Every decision has implications for marketing department priorities, budgets and staffing.

Once the platform is chosen, marketers need to exercise caution when “muscling into” the semi-private, semi-public space of social networks, the TNS Digital Life report warns; 57 percent of people in developed markets do not want to engage directly with brands via social media.

Once inside, brands face intense competition from other voices: millions of consumers, armies of bloggers, rival brands, established media, institutions, nonprofit organizations—the list goes on. A single brand must work hard to ensure its message lands with its audience.

Finally, as consumers interact with each other and brands, great streams of quantitative and qualitative data are generated. Unfortunately, marketers still lack standardized tools and measures; the analytics industry around social media seems to be growing as fast as the platforms themselves. In the end, marketers are only generating a fuzzy picture of the value that social media offers to a brand.

“What is a Facebook ‘like’ worth to a brand? How do you quantify that?” asked Ingrid Bernstein, director of experience at JWT New York. “Actually building an ROI model is actually quite elusive for most brands.” Instead of bottom-line numbers, how many CMOs will instead be satisfied with intermediary outcomes such as the amount of comments, likes and sharing?

In my next post, I’ll look at the new role that brands need to play if they are to succeed in social media.


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