Social media is the latest stampede for marketers, but what overheats is never sustainable, and what rockets up crashes down (a lesson we too often learn the hard way).
And while social media may not be heading for a hard landing anytime soon, it's possible to see signs of a looming crisis ahead. A crisis of losing "what makes a brand a brand" amidst the ever-burgeoning volume of Tweets, posts, streams and feeds in the mad dash for digital gold. A brand's most precious asset: it's identity.
The emerging crisis of brand identity could very well be the first syndrome of its kind for the new social media age. And it's not just the result of brands opening themselves up to more consumer control, a fact of doing business today. The rapid rise in use of blogs, branded social network sites and video syndication has created a far more fragmented and inconsistent online presence and voice for many brands now engaged in social media. So what was once a clearly defined identity gets easily lost in the race to create another Twitter account here, or Facebook fan page there.
A brand's social media engagement is typically piecemealed by different functions within a company as well as by different agencies. While social media can add value across marketing disciplines, it is problematic without coordinated planning and execution (or at the very least visibility across teams).
For brand managers this is an important issue to take on given changing behaviors. "Social" is increasingly how we consume and create media, most dramatically online. Recent studies cite that 33% of all online content is user generated and six out of the top 10 websites in the world are social. Social is how we are increasingly learning about brands: 25% of search results for the world's top 20 largest brands are now links to user generated content.
So a pressing need is emerging: to communicate who you are as a brand and what you stand for through social media in a far more consistent, strategic and global way.
This requires a different kind of plan, more comprehensive and cohesive. It demands something we call Social/ID to coordinate communications across the breadth and depth of a brand's social media engagement, no matter how fledgling or far-flung.
What does a strong Social/ID take? Just as we invested in brand architecture systems, guidelines and standards for visual identities and logos, we now need to put in place a social architecture—not just visual but also conversational and experiential.
It's a complex but necessary task. A social architecture design includes multiple layers impacting seemingly infinite touch points: social network design, content, campaigns, and customer interaction for starters. Ideally, more integrated communications across platforms and media campaigns.
Brand identity is something marketers can ill afford to lose in such a competitive and demanding marketplace.
To avoid getting lost in the clouds, we have to think beyond social media as a collection of tools. Social is embedded in all media and central to brand-building today, both online and off. Now more than ever we have to think social by design.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
As president of digital communications at Weber Shandwick, Chris Perry leads the firm's digital practice and works closely with agency team members and clients to understand the changing media landscape and apply new methods that take advantage of these changes in measurable ways for clients including HP, Verizon, American Airlines, Standup2Cancer and CKE Restaurants. You can follow him on Twitter.