What do golden arches, apples, targets, and deer have in common? Its marketing 101 – crafting a strong brand image can be the difference between an organization’s success and failure. From Fortune 500, to your local coffee shop, establishing a brand that embodies and organization’s mission and that customers can quickly identify with is essential.
In social media, establishing a strong, trusted brand is of particular importance – and has been a key growth factor for success for organizations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. In many cases these organizations encourage users to attach their platform’s brand image to their websites, blogs, and other online services in an effort to build awareness and encourage further participation. This strategy has fueled the Web 2.0 revolution, and is one of the key factors in the surge in growth of social media networks such as Facebook.
While these techniques have created the ability for social media platforms to establish themselves as industry leaders, it has had an unintended result for the social media industry as a whole. Today, when people hear the words “social media” the first words that often come to mind will be, “Facebook,” “Twitter,” “Foursquare,” or the like. Usually secondary are words such as, “Social network,” “Micro-blog”, or “Location-based network.”
Big Brands vs. Niche Competitors
The fact is Facebook, Twitter and all of the large social media platforms pioneered many new social media tools and technologies, and in some cases even developed new forms of electronic connection altogether – and we have thanked them for this. As consumers we have recognized these industry leaders for their achievements, and attribute our thoughts surrounding social media to them because of it.
However, emerging brands that fill more specific niches may be more appropriate for some organizations. An example of this would be comparing Facebook to a newer organization known as Yammer. Yammer touts itself as providing a private social network for companies. This may be appealing to an organization that finds the idea of creating a social network for their employees appealing, but also has concerns about maintaining privacy.
What’s the point? The major brands of tools and platforms in social media are often the best choice for an organization to use. However, as the industry progresses a transition in social media brand sourcing will need to take place in order for organizations to better align their goals to a potential tool.
Shift thinking from “tools” to “tool-sets”
Organizations who would like to utilize social media will often take on a tool solely due to the fact that they consider a particular brand to be “social media.” For the purposes of this article, let’s take a step back for a moment. Don’t think of tools in terms of brands. Instead think of them as tool-sets or platform categories. To put that into perspective, here are examples of the different tool-sets of social media:
Generally a blog can be described as a website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Examples: WordPress, TypePad, Tumblr
Differs from traditional blogging because the content is delivered in short bursts of information. Example: Twitter
- Social Networks
Focuses on building relationships among people with similar interests and activities. Example: Facebook, Google+
- Professional Networks
This type of social media site enables business professionals to recommend one another, share information about industry-related events, post resumes, and other features. Example: Linkedin, Yammer
- Social News
Users submit and vote on news stories. Example: Digg, Reddit
- Social Bookmarking
Allows users to share, organize, search bookmarks of web resources. Example: Del.icio.us
- Social Q&A
Users can submit or answer questions. Example: Quora
- Video-sharing communities
Users can upload and comment on videos. Example: YouTube, Vimeo
- Photo-sharing communities
Users can upload and comment on photos. Some photo-sharing sites offer a user license agreement that allows bloggers and website owners to use images. Example: Flicker, Instagram
- Document-sharing communities
Allows users to upload, download, share, and comment on documents. Example: Scribd, Google Docs
- Pod-casting communities
Pod-casting communities are social networks that help connect pod-casters, advertisers, and listeners. Example: Pod-O-Matic
- Presentation-sharing communities
Sharing presentations online to promote thought leadership on a particular topic. Examples: SlideShare
- Content-driven communities
Also known as “Wikis,” this type of social media relies upon user-generated content from a multitude of contributors. Example: Wikipedia
Think of these as the utility belt of social media – depending upon the job at hand, some will be more effective than others. By understanding the general capabilities, pros and cons of each of these tool-sets, and how well those capabilities align to your organization’s resources and goals, you will be more easily able to understand which will yield the best potential for return on investment.
Once the tool-set is chosen, you can begin the brand sourcing process. In many cases the large brands may be the most effective tool. However, by first considering the job at hand, the goal to be accomplished, and going through the process of determining which social media tool-set will be most effective in reaching that goal, there will be a greater understanding of the “why” behind your tool selection – and will lead you to the most effective tool or platform for your needs.
What do you put on your social media utility belt?