November 6, 2006

Brands Dip Their Feet in Social Strategy, Superfans

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DSC02751.jpgAfter some much needed coffee and the delegate lunch that left a bit to be desired, I meandered my way through the sea of logos, flyers, and marketers to the "Why You Should Create a Corporate Social Media Platform - Incorporating Community, Blogs, Podcasts and WIKIs into Your Customer Interaction" session. Admittedly a bit skeptical about the term corporate, the session provided insight to how brands are viewing social strategy, for better or worse.

Stressing the 3 P's - Participate, Provide, Portable - the panelists offered up their song and dance of case studies. While many of the case studies presented the usual blogs, widgets, and RSS feeds, a few proved that the brands were willing to go the extra mile. Betsey Weber, from TechSmith Corporation stressed the importance of net-meets in order to allow their online strategy to radiate offline engagement as well.

Scott Wilder, an Group Manager at Intuit, a fellow VML client, spoke to the importance of product developers being the public-facing team on discussion boards. In a time where some brands are wanting to jump on the social band wagon, they often begin with a front of marketers and PR people, which more often than not creates friction in online communities. By engaging a brand's product development team in online communities, insight and change become expedited and consumers know that their words are not just heard - they're actionable.

Another major discussion in the session room circled around audience, outside of the mediums. Do brands approach specific mediums because they know there's an existing audience, or because it's right for their audience? The panel gave the impression that brands are still frightened by blogs. While social strategy is progressing at a rapid speed, brands are just dipping their feet into portable content, and other "safe havens" in the blogosphere.

I couldn't help but ask the panel, "Do you think these social strategies are engaging people who aren't already actively seeking out your brand? Or is it just for the superfans?" Wilder and Martin Green, a VP at CNet, explained that brands are starting with their core audience and planning to reach beyond just the superfans. While it's important to be comfortable in the social space as a brand, it seems that many need to go beyond and gain comfort in the quickly and constantly changing social ecosystem.

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