The “Brand” of Social Media

There’s a lot of hype – some of it, I’ll affectionately call “geek hype” – about social media applications. Frankly, I think a good bit of it is warranted. It’s not top-down-generated hype about some product, but it’s bottom-up enthusiasm and utilization of approaches that are changing the way we express ourselves and connect with others.

Many words and brand names have been bandied about in the past few years as this train has rushed down the tracks. MySpace. LinkedIn. Twitter. Facebook. Ning. UGM. Blogs, vlogs, podcasts. Even for the initiated, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the pace. It’s communication on steroids, with little or no barrier to entry!

But I can’t help thinking about those that are the “uninitiated.” The majority of people – many of them incredibly bright, motivated, creative, and personable – are not yet on this train. Why? Well, very likely, they simply don’t feel the need. They haven’t heard the story. And I can only conclude that, as in all marketing and pre-sales, we have a job to do.

When you peel beneath the frothy foam that sometimes obscures the view – what is it that we’re actually promoting here? Is there a main message, a key point, a striking metaphor, that sums up the social media phenomenon in all its parts? Or, as I always like to begin with my clients: What’s the point?

At the root, it’s a branding challenge. We have a veritable Babel of messages out there, from a (delightfully rich) explosion of blogs and platforms, yet I don’t know that we’re communicating all the effectively outside of our own echo chamber.

I don’t have an answer. But the question does keep coming back to me, and perhaps we can wrestle with it together. If you had to pick one message, one metaphor, one image, one story, that would nicely sum up a key point of this social media movement, what would it be? Feel free to share in the comments, or write your own post, or Twitter some ideas. It’s a discussion we need to have as a community.

(Also, check out Lewis Green’s post on a similar topic)

(Image credit)

About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

4 Responses to The “Brand” of Social Media

  1. Mario Vellandi says:

    ‘Breaking Through’

    To brand social media effectively to the uninitiated, I think it’s time to revisit Made to Stick principles. Remember that your audience has a limited attention span, so before delivering your passionate and detailed presentation/article/communication-delivery-object (that we’ll assume is already written appropriately from an audience perspective), think about busting out the pruning shears and do some final editing with MTS in mind.

  2. Steve,

    This is a conversation with meaning. You and I have a client base which probably exhibits a very similar profile.

    In the midst of a client conversation with a very hip, European, 40-ish manager, a question arose that prompted me to suggest she visit a particular blog post on my site.

    She had never read a blog and was surprised that I had one. Her impression (2008): Blogs are telltale journals.

    After clicking through and showing her the content, she was surprised and is now a subscriber along with others in her office. But here’s the thing that relates to your post:

    Even though she and her staff enjoy checking in and reading the articles, they don’t see a need to become involved in the various media themselves. (The sole exception is LinkedIn). What may be more fascinating about this group is that they are marketing people for a global corporation. They understand the media, the technology, and the possibilities, but still haven’t arrived at the right benefit vs. effort calculation for them.

    When we offer advice to new bloggers and others hopping on board social media, we inevitably suggest that they ask themselves, “What Is My Purpose?” and “Is this the best way to achieve it?”

    For many, the answer to the second question at this moment is an honest “No.”

    In the case of evangelizing corporations, a few things come to mind:

    1. The need for evidence-based stories related directly to profitability/cost savings/revenue generation

    2. The ability to get in front of senior decision makers with a presentation that uses the language “business media” more than “social media”

    3. Since it is new and foreign to these folks, there should probably be a “try-it-before-you-buy-it” element offered. What that would be would depend on what might be most useful to the company’s current strategy.

    Hope this gets hundreds of comments. It’s a topic that needs to be worked through as opposed to the initiated just mocking the unclean.

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