You Can’t Control Social Media
Marketers and advertisers alike are largely aligned when it comes to their views on social media. We all know how to use it, and why it can be so valuable to brands. But there is one area which is most often the area of heated debate,
and that is this:
Can we really control the output of our social media?
It’s clear what big brands want – A single voice to represent the brand personality. On the surface this sounds reasonable, even rational, but the more I think about it I really believe it goes against what it is all about and here’s why:
The voice of a brand is the collective actions of all of its representatives.
Not the CEO, the Marketing Director or the advertising they put in the market. Just ask anyone about their opinion of banks in Australia. It has nothing to do with the voice banks project, and more to do with the customer interactions. The voice is what the people hear and experience on a personal level, not what the brand stewards say. Social media can’t be controlled. So why try? There is nothing worse than limiting the voice of your people. They will talk anyway. They’ll share links, write about your brand and talk about it on line and off. They will have real interactions with customers, and if what the authorised voice says (brand marketers and advertisers) doesn’t match the reality of the brand in action, then it all sounds contrived and is useless anyway. It’s more likely to have meaning and be authentic if it is the word of the people, not the King. So let your people participate. All brand managers should run twitter accounts for their brand, giving updates on what they are planning and doing, a sub-communications strategy of sorts.
Create culture, don’t control output.
It’s an errant assumption to believe we know better than our front line employees do. It’s just not the case. What we need to do is educate our people in various levels of the business on what we want to be as a brand, the persona. We need to give them some guidance boundaries within which they can play, and some no go zones, and then let them represent us, make mistakes and be human. People love dealing with companies who have a human voice and mistakes are part of the human experience.
Trust creates value.
I find it curious that companies trust their employees with the keys to the building and the cash register and not their voices. It’s best to approach it like a parent does with a teenager. Give a bit, let them prove themselves and then loosen the lead a bit more. Trusted people usually over deliver to expectations. People who are shut out and mistrusted often act in the opposite way to what we desire. In a social media context we need to trust the average human outcome, rather than block all for fear of a single bad outcome. But again, this is where the boundaries come into play. There needs to be augmented boundaries with clear repercussions for those who step outside of them.
The key point for brand marketers and entrepreneurs is this: if you want a controlled voice, then social media isn’t the right vehicle for a brand. More traditional media would be more suitable. The word social is the giveaway here, because social implies conversation, not lecturing or monologue. If we really want to create social brand value then all voices in the social value chain need to be heard.
This article was written for the Eye on Australia research program.
Yesterday I was sent links to two movies which were both entrepreneurial in nature / marketing related. Both revolve around the idea of paid brand ambassadors. One is a documentary on how clever ‘cool hunters’ are, and the other was a Hollywood fabrication of brand evangalists are infiltrating our circle of trust.
The Documentary trailer: The Influencers
The Hollywood trailer: The Joneses
The question it leaves in my mind is whether social media facilitates more authentic or inauthentic ‘hidden’ brand evangelists.
I often wonder whether or not advertising on work cars is a good idea. Especially given it is in many ways one of the negative sides of business – distribution, busy road, pullution. It might remind consumers that the brand is part of a large corporate monolith. You get the picture. But I’m starting to think this is different for startups.
Firstly, we’re only likely to have one or two vehicles out on the road. Secondly, it’s a good way to create brand awareness cheaply. A colleague of mine who has started a beverage company Jarritos Mexican soda has done just this. At a cost of $2000, he’s invented $50,000 worth of advertising. Which is what branded cars cost via media agencies. See below.
The key element to doing this successfully is making sure the vehicle and advertising matches the brand. For example, an environmentally friendly business should really only partake in such branding if it’s prepared to invest in hybrid / electric vehicles.
Would you advertise your startup on your car? In addition is there an opportunity to start a business branding civilian cars and in doing so helping the general population pay for their transport?
I read a great quote today which I thought was worth sharing:
“There is a recognition dawning that the repetitive linear system which controls work and the worker is no longer profitable. Consequently, the presence of the soul is now welcome in the workplace. The soul is welcome because it is the place where the imagination lives.”
What I like about this is the reference to profit, and that linear systematic work isn’t profitable. If I think about every startup I’ve ever been involved with the real profit has come from the excitement and variety of the work. Internal profit rather than financial. And so my soul has been enriched.
I once worked in a consumer goods company which went from Individual offices to open plan.
I now work in an advertising agency where we have moved from individual offices to open desks.
What happened at these two firms is interesting. The first office (consumer goods marketing) sent out a mass email banning iPods (and any other brand of personal music device – this is seriously what the email said). Claiming that the idea of open plan was to encourage open communications, and it was rude to listen to music while working. That we couldn’t do our jobs while listening to music as it was distracting. While at the same time the directors had offices with doors.
The second office (advertising) did something much different. Firstly, all the directors have the same size desk and space as every employee. On our first day in the new office we all had a gift on our desk wrapped beautifully with a ribbon. Inside the pack was free coffee vouchers (for the cafe across the road) and a brand new iPod nano. And it had a note which said the following:
“The iPod nano – this is good for a few things. Moving to open will at times be challenging. If you feel it is getting on top of you, then feel free to bung in your iPod and listen to your favourite tunes. We’re also into the idea that we can all play part in creating our new vibe. So we’ll be asking you to supply the music each day. We’ll place a sign at the reception that says “Today’s music thanks to Ant Shannon.” Please make your playlist and get it on the dock. The iPods you’ve received also take video – get in the habit of recording the stuff you like or think about. Keep it, play it, share it.”
A massive difference in attitude, culture and resulting creative output. The culture we create in our startup or any business is a result of what we do, and we can change it at any time with a bit of effort and humanity.
Our brain is programmed to collate, categorise, and organise all it sees and hears. It does it without us even realising it. If you’re finding it hard to generate new thoughts then try this:
Clean out your living and work space
Make your physical space minimalist
Allow things around you to be as bare as possible.
When our brain has less stuff to organise and work on, it can wander and imagine. When it has space, it can invent concepts and cool ideas simply because it has the RAM (unsued processing capacity) available to do it.
We all want to build a web and or brand community. But we forget the most important fact. We need individuals first.
Only we please one individual can we please two. Only when we please two, can we please three….
There will never be a community unless we love our orginal individuals unconditionally. It’s the love we give someone that makes what we do worth talking about. There is never a community unless love is shared at the most personal level. One to one. It’s something we should remember in startup land.
It’s not a boring category, industry, startup or company. You’re a boring brand run by boring people.
Exciting is a state of mind, if we have the courage to create, upset or even offend, then we can change our brand or industry forever. In fact, it might even be worth going broke or getting fired for.