Social media is now attracting 10% of internet traffic. This is a significant chunk of an already popular medium. Adopted initially by inquisitive early technology adopters who will look to more established users for inspiration, like the cool kid in school, people will follow and become fans of those who aspire to or feel they will get something in return.
When first joining Facebook, admittedly not first in class in my final year of university, I embarked upon gaining as many friends as possible to fit in. Remember the school days, the cool kid on the playground was always the idol. Sociological patterns apply on the web too. To find all my school friends with no email addresses, I embarked upon seeking out the class of 2001 as fast as possible. After a week of trying I managed to seek out a couple of classmates and a few fellow "year bookers" who were barely even acquaints, until 3 weeks in.
Perceived "coolness" has always attracted others to follow, so upon finding the so called "cool kid" of 2001 I proceeded to find another 25 classmates, and so my friends list began to grow. So it made me think, is the key to driving your brand perception in social media and web 2.0 coolness, or can you win any other way?
Big brands all tend to play on their positive perceptions and rightly so. So how can the blue chips address this in social media?
Cool – I'm a mac
Everybody has their own definition of "cool", though our internally programmed herd mentality and still relatively centralized media industry mean cool creates a major following.
Take Apple as an example. Their offline campaign attracted much acclaim and such was replicated online in the form of online only flash, unaired exclusives and video ads. Across campaigns Apple received millions of views internationally and drve the brand perception to an audience which may not previously have engaged. It's attack on the techie Microsoft audience was one which Microsoft took particular liability and so produced it's own celeb laden counter, but it's success in terms of reach is undeniable with features on Apples website, YouTube, Facebook and Wiki amongstst others. More importantly it showed Apple as a reliable rival and so the enviable first blood was drawn.
Trust and Reputation – Dell online Community
As recession hits and consumer confidence is shot to pieces, brand trust and reputation is core to some of the larger names and has become increasingly predominant in the online scene, where a lack of confidence can be exacerbated. Display ads for Thomas cook reassuring customers of their ABTA protection and banks such as Nationwide exhibiting their trusted qualities both on and offline.
Some firms are using social media to ensure that consumers feel safe in their purchases through the use of multiple social forms to promote transparency and trust in the eCommerce purchase cycle. This is particularly visible in the US with companies such as Dell, using communities and forums [such as http://en.community.dell.com/forums/ ] as an integral part of their aftersales service to the customer.
Area of Competence – Dyson affirm there innovative and quality positioning at www.dyson.co.uk/insidedyson
Competence is something you will struggle to buy. Emphasizing and marketing that expertise in a particular field is a priceless tool and the perception of being "best in class" brand is a powerful one.
Core competency is something which is highlighted in Dyson's latest online campaign. Famous for innovation and forward thinking quality household products and in typical fashion Dyson backup their image on the web with "Inside Dyson", featuring articles on James Dyson's tribulations as his innovations took him through over 5,127 prototypes. The feel of the site is one of cleanliness and the online game "the ball game" is yet another way in which Dyson engages the consumer with the new ranges and the Dyson story.
Tradition and Heritage – Guinness 1759 society
Tradition has traditionally never been the webs best friend. So many traditional products have kindly been passed by the digital revolution, but tradition can be replicated online.
Diageo have worked this angle cleverly with the Guinness brand. Using it's 250 year heritage to full effect, they have knocked up an inviting little online community labeled the 1759 society. The word "Society" as opposed to club or similar. On the face of it, it pushes all the right buttons, with the offering of free vintage Guinness labels from over the years. A winner for any stout enthusiast. Upon entrance you are welcomed with a petition to make St. Louis. Patricks day a public holiday, a friendly Irish chap "Guinness Masterbrewer" named Fergus. The downside appears to be the final post for nearly a year, unsurprising when given the title "Get Your Freak On! Create Your Own Party Mixes" seemingly out of context with rest of the site. A good tool if well managed, regularly updated and with a consistent message, this is a lesson for any brands thinking of recreating something similar
Exclusivity – Rue LaLa creating a social buzz
Forget a walk through the leafy suburbs of Chelsea and shopping in Knightsbridge, that is way to costly. Rue La La have hit upon a unique niche selling high-end clothing at internet prices. The secret for their success, both supplier buy in and an exclusive proposition.
The model works through an invitation only basis, so promoting this exclusivity within social media, looks like the perfect way to create a viral buzz. Small talk, fashion advice and discount prices on clothes. A girl's dream.
Using Social and Web 2.0 for your brand
The first question you should ask yourself is, "why would anyone follow me"? At first a difficult question, but usually if people want to do business with you, they see something in your offering that they do not see in others. Look to exploit your brand USP, your unique quality to win business over your biggest opponents.
In recession period especially, people look to core values, so you should make this central to your strategy or at least discount it after some careful consideration.