Fundamentally, this is a conversation about putting the human being first or putting the brand/idea first.
Are you designing an experience that is inherently social? Or are you taking a creative concept, one that could even be totally cool, and spreading that into social media?
The difference in not just in execution, although that has a role.
It's in the very fabric of how the experience is conceived and developed -- who participates, why they do it, what motivates them, how it is sustainable over the long run and where it goes or moves to as it changes when influenced by the connections with other ideas and through interactions with people.
Think iterative process that starts from a core purpose and follows a direction and prepares the ground for behavioral action.
This conversation is about connecting ideas and people to make something happen -- informed by social behavior. By putting people first, and understanding what are the ideas that are relevant to them, right now, you co-create meaning.
Which cannot possibly be brand-centered, although the process can be brand-driven. When we talked about a good social media execution being your best PR, we talked about turning the pitch concept on its head. It had nothing to do with sells through, and even less to do with relationships.
“Going viral is diametrically opposed to building that trust and relationship between a media property and an audience. Brands spend all this time thinking about how to make something go viral when they ought to think about how to create a meaningful relationship.” – Jim Louderback in the New York Times [hat tip Dave Knox]
Customer or brand. Pick one?
Beth Harte said it well in a recent post, dear marketing & PR pros: you're still pushing. Being people/customer-centered is still a challenge for many organizations. In fact, many think that marketing in 2010 means, well, doing something viral.
You could always use the "bored at work" network -- millions of bored office workers [who] blog, Tweet, Facebook and IM all day, according to Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed and co-founder of The Huffington Post. Timing is everything in life, isn't it? People do enjoy watching a train wreck as well.
You may notice there was a conversation about targeting in the comments to Beth's post. The valid point is to remember that getting to know who equals getting a clue -- or a series of clues. You start with an idea of who that person/those people are, and learn more about them as you interact and experience the relationship.
Branding. It's not what you think
You probably learned mathematics in the same way I did -- with the symbols, and not the quantities. If you can't tell the difference, let's run a little test. Twelve, what do you see? Maybe you do see the number 12, maybe you see twelve flowers (do send white roses).
How about two hundred and thirty four? What do you see now? That's what I thought. A curtain comes down in your mind and it has the number painted on it.
It happens the same when I say branding. A curtain comes down and all you see is logos and colors, and spiffs, you know, that stuff imprinted with the logo, choice of fonts -- all those things that dress up company xyz. The term has been so misused that some would rather not use it at all.
Branding defines what you stand for -- that core purpose, the ethos, which shares a root with ethics. It can drive preference, why we call parts of marketing demand generation, and it creates culture.
Ask not what your brand can do for you...
But what makes what you do a meaningful social experience. True, not all customers are looking to have a relationship with you to buy from you. All customers are social creatures and behave that way. Guess what customers expect of a brand?
I've been researching many examples of social interactions, online and off line. Whether they want a relationship with you or not to buy, what customers expect from your organization and brand in social is that you are listening and responding. A behavior. Look at that, markets are indeed conversations.
Mark Earls clarifies what are social networks for? Social networks are not channels for advertisers or for the
adverts/memes you, your clients or any of your so-called "influentials"
create, social networks are for all of the people who participate in the network.
BTW, if you want to see the difference in what the mindsets look like, do glance at the comments to Mark's post. Even bots need to make sense to fit in a conversation.
If you think this is interesting but of no commercial value, think again.
This is a post packed with information about social. Hopefully it connects some dots for you. Think about it, ask questions, test and examine it. It's part of a master conversation we will have at SxSW next year (yes, my solo proposal was accepted on September 20).
Other resources on this site about Cluetrain: