Wednesday, 31 March 2010

open and closed social networks - where should a brand manager focus?

Social networks mirror the real world. The real world is large an indifferent place with people running a race to better their lives and given the opportunity will 'free load'- i.e attempt to gain goods and services without having to pay for them.

The real world is mostly leisure and pleasure seeking.

Its true, for every 1 hard working 'i want to change the planet and am ready to lose my last dollar for this', you have a 1000 that want to save the planet but not really switch off the bathroom lights when they are finished.

We like gossip. Social networks mirror this.
We like to be part of the 'cool crowd'. Social networks mirror this.

The one reason marketers have been trying to embrace social networks is that they believe (as do we) that social networks are a good way of engaging consumers. Is this really true?

Yes and No.

'Engagement' is a two way street. It requires action, reaction, action.

Most consumers really just want to read, hear and be informed. Only 1 in a 1000 will react. So why try to reach the other 999? you're really trying to reach the 1 that writes what the other 999 read.

Why advertise on Youtube? Why have your brand twitter? Why create a facebook page for your brand?

Rather than reach out to networks, we advocate that companies and brands create networks and invite selectively 'engag-able' consumers. Then allow these consumers to inform their own networks. But these are the 'brand or category advocates' that interact with the brand.

These advocates must be allowed to touch, feel and influence the brand. What's tricky is how do we filter the engaged user versus the non engaged (who will invariably come to the community if it becomes cool to be part of it).

But the bigger question is, does the brand manager have the maturity to distinguish between these two groups and focus on the quality of the engagement rather than the quantity.

That's what should decide online advertising budgets. The possibility of creating interactive and engaged communities. It takes time and effort. Like a 'frequent flier program' that over time separates the truly loyal from the others. A brand website that tracks user participation will eventually pick out the true loyalists.

Ritu and Venkat.

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