After participating in frog's first Digital Brand Think Tank in Munich a couple of weeks ago (a lively discussion with 20 marketing executives from Audi, BMW, Google, Continental, and other top-tier brands), I must admit that I’m a bit tired of having to evangelize (or even justify) the value of brands using social media. It is astonishing to me that companies still ask for evidence when the tweet is on the wall. The event showed that there is a new Digital Divide that cuts straight through the ranks of the marketing industry – some executives get the Social Web, some don’t. No one has figured it out yet. Most would admit that they need to catch up and keep learning.
Social media strategist Shannon Paul, who works with the NHL Detroit Red Wings, said many good things on a SXSW panel this Sunday, but the one thing that stuck with me most was her assertion that brands need to become more “human” in order to connect with their audiences. She wasn’t referring to personifying a brand through a human face (be it an average employee or a charismatic leader), but rather to exhibiting ‘branded’ behavior that is truly human. What does that mean? What is the most human trait of all human traits? Shannon Paul posits it’s vulnerability.
The question which brands are the best at “socializing” with their audiences is often asked, but rarely answered. Now Vitrue, a social media advertising solutions company, has attempted to capture a snapshot by releasing a Top Social Brands of 2008 list. The ranking is based on the Social Media Index (SMI), a measurement system the company launched to help track brands' share of voice on the social web.
"The Mayo Clinic wasn't sure what to expect from social media when it gave it a test run four years ago. Mayo started with a podcast, largely unsure of what it was doing. There was no staff dedicated to new media, so a few of the public affairs employees hastily podcasted a 60-second broadcast radio feed normally provided to radio stations. Then they watched as a few listeners grew to some 76,000 in one month. They knew they were on to something."
While not a member of the Net Generation (the 88 million Millennials for whom social networking is a birthright) myself, I have many friends and co-workers who qualify, and I am constantly baffled by their ease and eagerness to narrow- and broadcast their lives through digital media and with post-privacy transparency. The audience size doesn't matter, it can be narrow or broad, but cast it must be, even if it is often mundane. And yet, it is one of the ironies of such "ego-casting" that the status updates, which become critical life signs, the activity metrics of one's public life, do not begin with "I" but mostly appear in third person on Facebook and Twitter and the likes. This is because all these outlets treat the amateur publisher as a dramatic person per se: "Anthony is happy." – "Tim is working on an economic stimulus plan." – "Sarah loves Tea Leaf Green." When the Net Geners aggregate their social media publishing output into one FriendFeed, the effect becomes fully obvious: here we have the constant flux, the permanent Now as manifest and yet as fragmented as it can be. "It ain't why, why, why, it just is," Van Morrison sang, and another famous Irish artist, James Joyce, based on the concluding free-flow monologue of his Ulysses, would likely agree with the inevitability of "the river of life" as a never-ending "stream of consciousness" that affirms nothing but the fact that one is alive: "Yes."
When Twitter made its first big appearance (at SXSW Interactive in 2007), it was a relatively small community of techies and web 2.0 geeks. Now it's mainstream and keeps growing at an explosive rate. HubSpot, the developer of Twitter Grader, just released its "State of the Twittersphere" report. The report reveals that an estimated 5,000-10,000 new Twitter accounts are opened every day.
In these days of the Distributed Internet you don’t need to launch portal sites that vie for new audiences, you’re better served leveraging existing applications to provide new functionality for venues that already attract a fair share of eyeballs (or even cultivate their own communities).