Do brands need social media?

Brands feel obligated to run Twitter accounts, update their Facebook pages, and live blog their breakfast sandwiches in the pursuit of a more intimate relationship with their clients.

But at what point do they cash in on these exercises? Is there innate value in preaching the social media gospel if the pews are empty?

Back in 2012, Adam Bain, Twitter’s CRO said “Marketers want to spend their money on our social media platform, but they still don’t know what to say.” Today the same holds true. How do brands develop a voice?
I am a firm believer in strategic communications. Brands need to really understand who they are trying reach and or influence first. Once they know “who” they can chose the “what” (message) and the “where” (vehicle or medium.
But doesn’t medium come first? In the world of a great Canadian, McLuhan. Now with many more avenues for brands to reach the public (with the crumbling/evolving empires of advertiser-sponsored newspapers, magazines, and television.)
Marshall McLuhan (too often quoted) talks about how the medium embeds itself in the message influencing how the message is perceived. I do think this is true for social media. Would you agree that the where (medium) is the first brand decision?
The audience is still prime.You need to know who you are talking to. The revolution is that now we can have true dialogue. For many leaders, the idea of letting the networks work for you and through you is revolutionary. But, if the US military can do it so can the rest of us.
So then is it about establishing the most authentic dialogue between the brand the audience, and the MEDIUM is simply the channel?
Understanding who you want to engage with, determines your focus. The less you know about your audience, the more diluted your media will be. That dilution can cost you money, time and effort. The concept is to have an ROI on your communications investment.
Great strategy is driven from superior customer knowledge. It’s also an iterative process - as costumers engage with the brand, the brand learns more about them. Consider this article from Fast Company.
I love that insight. It is a very human insight. Brands become active participants in a relationship which is onward going. But the challenge is that this is the art of courtship and commitment, not marketing. Not many brands (or humans for that matter) have that skill set.
If you can describe your ideal customer, you can use a variety of research methods and data sources to find them. This is where big data, consumer research, consumer conversations and intuition intersect. Rich data + deep insights = better engagement & greater purchase intent.
So big data helps with the profiling and targeting. This I get - it is a science. The “conversations and intuition” is where the messy human part comes in. Is this where it comes down to your human capital as a brand? Does it depend on your ability to hire the right social team?
You don’t talk to your kids the way you talk to your parents. Red Bull and Pampers speak to different audiences. To achieve a consistent brand personality, communicators develop style guides. The trick is to get the human brand reps embracing and channeling the guide!
So it is key to move the brand voice from a megaphone to an iterative and authentic dialogue.
In conclusion, what one learning do you take away from your 20 years at P&G that a brand should heed as they develop their brand social strategy and social voice?
People engage with personalities (human and brands). Knowing who you want to engage (customers) and developing a brand personality they like, you can generate a loyal and engaged following. The key is to be true to the brand’s personality in everything you do - no surprises.
The tools that helped brands define themselves in traditional media are as relevant in social media. The difference is that its consumer now speaks back. The brand is an active participants in a relationship which is onward going.
@jacqui_deon , Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights on brands and social media.