Branding in the Social Stream

When was the last time you hopped online thinking, “Time to engage with some of my favorite brands”?

If you’re human, the answer is likely “never.”

You never log-on to your favorite social media sites to interact specifically with brands.  The brands “just happen to be there,” as you read the news, peruse celebrity gossip, check Gmail, stalk old high-school flames, etc.

When we create content, we’re aiming for a level of attention that very few people want to give us.  When we aim for earned media hits, we’re hoping for a level of credibility that very few people are willing to ascribe.

78058499We aim for crashing waves when we should aspire to never-ending ripples.  The crashing wave makes a lot of noise; the never-ending ripple carves out canyons.

That’s why you’ve heard me say, over and over (like a never-ending ripple, even): “campaigns don’t create relationships, but relationships can make campaigns exponentially more powerful.”

What is the takeaway?  Be ever-present. Be a resource.  By all means, create branded content, and shoot for the moon when it comes to earned media.  But in all cases know that your best-case scenario is to be a part of the social stream.  Throw a rock in a raging river and watch how quickly those ripples are subsumed by the greater powers of the current: that’s what you’re up against. 

The point of marketing in this environment is to create the types of jetsam and driftwood that our users can grab on to; find purchase on; point-to in passing … and move on.  Don’t worry, you get credit along the way.  It builds up.  Eventually you’ll have built an indomitable ledge of stone.  This is branding.

If you buy this premise, you start to think differently. 

You may find yourself willing to move more quickly, on more stuff, often more cheaply, and with more stomach for failure (because they’ll at least be “fast failures”).  You won’t be stupid or inappropriate –  but you will find yourself further towards the edges. 

It’s more fun there, by the way.

All aboard!



Posted on: March 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm By Todd Defren
19 Responses to “Branding in the Social Stream”

 

Comments
  • Mario says:

    I love your saying of “campaigns don’t create relationships, but relationships can make campaigns exponentially more powerful.” This quote is representing IMC companies in all over the world, as IMC business is about relationship business where more opportunities emerge when we have more relationship with other people.

  • Thao Bui says:

    It is interesting to see how brands build their image in social media. Digital is not a new platform, but until now many brands are still struggling to find a voice on the Internet. And I think that to find a voice of one brand, the company needs to build relationship with its customers just as you said, “relationships can make campaigns exponentially more powerful.”

  • This post made a really good point about the way we approach social media in PR:
    “We aim for crashing waves when we should aspire to never-ending ripples. The crashing wave makes a lot of noise; the never-ending ripple carves out canyons.”
    It’s valuable to shift your perspective: the best case scenario for social media is to build up a lot of little victories until eventually people are turning to you as a resource. We often think big in PR but when it comes to social media, large, expensive campaigns aren’t practical and don’t usually pay off.
    If we shift our understanding of social media we can maximize its potential. As this post says, creating branded content is important. However, it is more important to connect with your audience consistently and on a level that can solve their problems and answer their questions. A great thing for students like me to remember as we go out into a social media-obsessed market.

  • Kate Clarkson says:

    This is a fantastic reminder that building a solid long lasting relationship with customers does not come from one big event or campaign but through the time spent developing those relationships from the bottom up. By entering the social space quietly and engaging your customers on their terms, they are much more likely to come back again and again.

  • Katie Kallam says:

    What a great article! It was such a great reminder about branding strategy.

    I once had a professor who compared proper social media presence to being at a cocktail party. First you must blend in and make friends, and then you can try to sell them on something. This is very true. Brands should focus more on being a constant presence instead of shoving their message down their audience’s throats.

    Katie Kallam
    Writer/Editor
    Platform Online Magazine
    platformmagazine.org

  • JIng Xu says:

    It might be true there are so many brands using social media to promote themselves. I personally have no time to scroll down one by one. However, I do will keep logging on some brands’ webs that make me obsessed with. The best PR is invisible. No company can predict the number of future fans, but they do can research their target audience in order to attract them.

  • Kaitlin says:

    “But in all cases know that your best-case scenario is to be a part of the social stream.” I think this is a great point but one of the things that will cause a big struggle when branding a product—you want your product to stick out from the rest and set your brand apart, right? I think that idea will be harder to accept than it sounds, but brands will overall benefit from it.

  • Janelle says:

    Building relationships in the industry is key, there is no doubt in that. I do find it ironic that we now have to build virtual relationships. We build relationships with someone we have never seen in person.

    Brands need to take advantage of this. It is a cheap way for them to interact with their customers. It a great way to build relationships and a quick and easy way to respond to customers complaints or concerns.

    I couldn’t agree more with this article!

  • Tim dobyns says:

    What an outstanding analogy. However, as Anthony said, direct brand-consumer interaction on social media to solve individual problems can be beneficial as well. Campaigns create temporary brand awareness, customer service creates brand loyalty. It may take more time and resources, but is well worth the effort. Also, in some cases, the ripple effect referenced in the article in can be manufactured by the brand through repeating earlier messages after they have already been swept away. This can be dangerous if done incorrectly or too often, but gentle reminders of prior successes can be effective as well.

  • Megan bauer says:

    It is interesting that brands are becoming a part of a platform that wasn’t built for them. Social media was created to be a point of interaction between people, but brands have now entered the atmosphere and are there to stay. I agree that, “campaigns don’t create relationships, but relationships can make campaigns exponentially more powerful.” A brand cannot create relationships out of a single campaign; a relationship is something that is built over time between a brand and consumer.

  • Tom Church says:

    Absolutely! Developing a groundwork of high value relationships with bloggers and other social media profiles can really help. Communication is the key to starting them off, and as you say, it’s about always being there, an ever-present, always-ready position.

  • Kneale Mann says:

    I often smirt and shake when a business owner or manager laments that he or she spent money with a company that promised them online rock star status through a well populated Facebook wall and follow-ups on the Twitter. This is not just a story told by small business, this is large brands, global brands, enterprise wide entities.

    Can we please stop promising what no one can deliver?

    Todd, you nailed it when you said “The point of marketing in this environment is to create the types of jetsam and driftwood that our users can grab on to; find purchase on; point-to in passing … and move on. Don’t worry, you get credit along the way. It builds up. Eventually you’ll have built an indomitable ledge of stone. This is branding.” Perfect!

    But my suspicion is that many will continue to promise results beyond wildest dreams. It’s worked for the cosmetics industry for a century.

  • Michael girard says:

    “In all cases know that your best-case scenario is to be a part of the social stream.” – This is tough love but accurate and in the social world as it should be.

    Content marketing via social media shouldn’t be heavy handed. It should be targeted and crafted well but it should add value to people. Join the conversation and contribute to it but don’t be that company that spams their sales and products mindlessly.

    Michael Girard
    Community Engagement, Radian6

  • Dave Fleet says:

    For all the times I’ve thought about the analogy of the stream and the speed at which it moves, I actually think that’s the first time I’ve considered the idea of throwing a stone into it and watching the ripples. Love it!

  • Good points throughout the article but I’m not so sure I agree with everything. There have been times where I have gone on my computer and on my twitter account just to talk to a specific brand company on their and ask them a question. Maybe I am a rare case? Either way, i agree a lot with what you say because that is one time in how many different occasions. So yes, I do think brand names really have to be wise in how they market their products.

  • Yes! I want to email this to every past, present and future client of mine. It’s not too far from how we used to advise clients in the old days. Don’t expect to be on the front page of the Globe & Mail your first time out. Build up valuable content and trusted relationships and it will come. It’s the same with social media except for some reason, many brands believe, that like Ashton Kutcher, they can become an overnight sensation on Twitter. Well, we all know how that ended up. Great post Todd. As always, you manage to take the ramblings that are rattling around in my head and present them in an articulate and persuasive way.



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