With most of the specialized press heralding the need to “do social media”, I can see through various discussions, most lately when presenting last week at the Media Tech 100 Invest, that marketers are still torn between two ways of managing a brand: broadcasting a message about product features and brand values in an environment they control or struggling to influence erratic conversations one cannot really control on social networks or forums.
Marketers should move to the next stage and actually purposely blend their official message with the informal conversations of their end-users or clients in what I would call Social Media Hubs. The reason is very simple: people now trust first “a person like me” above experts as highlighted in the Edelman Trust barometer. And with recommendations from these “people like me” (even though you may not know them) influencing more and more purchase decisions, getting your reputation right is paramount ... And reputation is not what you say about yourself on your site but what people say about you in their online conversations... And you are likely to be rewarded if you take this into account rather than hide it.
Too many companies are still creating facebook pages and twitter accounts to tick the “social media box” but they are missing the point if they don’t see these tools as a live giant feedback loop, which is what the internet has actually become from a marketing prospective. It is interesting that while twitter still presents its philosophy as answering the question “what are you doing ?”, their new homepage now says “See what people are saying about ...”. The real opportunity now is to indeed listen to what people are saying about you there, import it on your “official site” which needs to become an anchor for your community, run there a poll about some of the issues raised and then export the results back in a facebook group for example. As fellow co-founder Alberto Barreiro said in the Wow 2.0 conference last week, “Activity is the new Content” as conversations define reputations; the role of marketing today is less and less about controlling an agenda and more and more about fuelling these conversations.
As I said in a recent article about Climbing the social network ladder in Computer Business Review, “Companies need to make followers aware of the brand, not just the medium”. The issue is not to look cool by having a presence on the latest web2.0 sites but to show that you are actively listening and reacting. That won’t happen by keeping separate a “safe” official site and a few groups/feeds here and there. Both have to mingle and brands need to be comfortable with what they want to say about themselves sitting alongside what people say about them by :
We facilitate that process on Webjam by enabling our clients to create such Social Media Hub(s) so as to generate the activity levels required for the collective construction of their brand identities.