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Social media shifts

Mandi MankvitzMandi Mankvitz
The role of social media Hasn't changed much over time but the tools of how we achieve the same results have as a result of technology. Writing to a pen pal or talking on a party line was a form of social media in the 1960s or 1970s. The advent of call waiting or three-way calling elevated our ability to engage in social media, as did the birth of the dial up Internet and our first access to the World Wide Web. These are all forms of communication, social in nature, and a way to spread the word about our lives, products we love (or didn't) and problems we need to solve.
     If you visit an elementary classroom today and see children using iPads to do class work or wander the halls of a high school watching teens updating their Facebook statuses, chances are they aren't calling that social media, because it's just how they exist in today's world. Understanding that social media isn't a new marketing tactic, but simply communication using different technology makes it easier for brands and consumers alike to engage on a more frequent basis.
     There are three key components to understanding and using social media that relate back to these roots, our basic human need for storytelling and communication. The first critical element to embrace is the idea of convergence, or the mash up of all of the tools we have been using and layering on the new tools that seem to be introduced daily. Understanding the need for a brand or retailer to be present in many channels and to make it easy for the consumer to connect in the way or ways they prefer is a key for success. In the past we might have kept our channels separate, shopping in one place, emailing in another and connecting to friends somewhere else. Today, thanks to technology, we consider this a singular channel where we might receive a coupon in our email, share that deal or discount code with friends on Facebook prior to buying, buy online or in store and immediately share that purchase on Twitter; all the while checking into the store we are at on Foursquare to let everyone know that we scored that great deal.Communication
     The second component is the shift from building brand awareness to building brand societies. It is assumed that companies, retailers and brands have spent the first decade of the millennium building their brand awareness, getting subscribers, likes, fans and followers.
     What they choose to do now with these consumers who are sitting there awaiting interaction from their chosen brands will be the turning point. We are moving from creating context - the blog posts, the tweets and so forth - to building contextual relationships - meaningful one on-one connections with brand society members. We have seen this happen in bold, splashy campaigns such as the Old Spicy Guy's YouTube video responses, but it can happen simply through creatively answering a tweet from a dissatisfied customer or sending someone a personalized can of soup, as Heinz in the UK demonstrated over the past fl u season via a special promotional campaign. Creating context moves individuals in the brand society to connect and deepen their relationship with the product or company.
     Finally, it's time to talk about monitoring and measuring of responses and engagement. This can be about answering the big "Return on Investment" (ROI) question that will inevitably be asked, but before you can wander down the road of getting a return on investment you have to have the interactions to measure. Think about having a stack of business cards on your desk - until you have called, emailed or sent information to the name on that card, it is not generating any data you can monitor or measure for a return on your time to obtain those cards. The same scenario goes for the "stacks" of friends, follows, subscribers and fans you may have sitting in the cloud thanks to brand awareness campaigns. Until you have reached out to them, asked or answered a question, gotten feedback or even shared a contextual story with them, how can you measure the ROI of their presence in your brand society?
     My advice - start small. Listen to the chatter about your product, or even your competition's product and be helpful. Answer a question, point consumers in the right direction for assistance and watch what happens as your online presence becomes the expert presence in the channel. From there, ask your own questions, start a creative campaign that engages your audience and foster the growth as it builds.

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