Brands are a foreign entity in the social space. They stick out like a sore thumb, consumers often actively avoid them and they just don’t quite fit into the picture. First and foremost, social media channels are where people connect with other people.
People don’t create Facebook profiles so they can receive more targeted advertising. And they don’t check-in on Foursquare to feed a database of location information. Consumers engage in the social space to make connections with other people, express themselves and share what they’re all about. Brands don’t easily fit into that equation.
So What Are We Doing Here Then?
Brands are wasting a lot of time and money if they don’t belong in the social space, but the good news is brands do have a place.
People connect around brands. Some brands offer a sense of self-expression. Others are resources consumers turn to for information. Brands play a role in the lives of their consumers. Sometimes that role is more apparent than the role of other brands, and every brand needs to determine the right story to tell to the right people in the right places.
The end goal isn’t necessarily to engage in a back-and-forth with customers. That’s a means to the ultimate end. The brand’s goal is to spark brand-related conversations between others. Brands should strive to be the inspiration behind brand conversation.
Conversations about brands have been taking place long before social media. Now, brands can play an active role in facilitating the conversation, keeping it going and making it happen more often.
Be the Spark, Not the Fire
Success is often measured by interactions with customers through branded social channels. A deeper level of success is how well the brand sparks conversation among others. A brand’s role is to be the fuel to the fire, not the fire itself.
Focus on driving interactions between consumers, not necessarily interactions between the brand and its customers. Recommendations from social connections carry far more weight than anything a brand can say or do.