Fast Company

Reverb: The Real Secret to Marketing With Social Media

reverberationA reverb (or reverberation) is typically used to describe sound--or more specifically the instance where a sound continues despite the original source of the sound being removed. If you apply the same idea to social media, a reverb describes the unique fact that every action in social media is not just done, but is also broadcast across a particular individual's social graph online.

The newsfeed on Facebook is an example of this, as it not only announces life changes and hourly moods, but also whether someone is going to an event or not and what groups or causes someone supports. On Twitter, who you follow and retweeting posts are further examples of this concept. There are even tools like MyBlogLog that you can join in order to broadcast and share each time you visit and read a particular blog.

About six months ago in The New York Times, Clive Thompson brilliantly described every piece of social information online as "little snippets coalesce[ing] into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends' and family members' lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting." He called the social phenomenon this was giving rise to "ambient awareness" and described a world where we are connected with our social graphs in an unspoken way.

This unspoken reverb is why social media works. As we talk about our likes and dislikes, share our emotions in the moment and upload content from our lives--each of us influences one another. Put these multiple influences together and you have the social graph that influences every purchase behavior or belief any of us engages in. Our activities are the fusion of our own free will and the social ambiance around us.

What does this mean for brands? In social media, marketers are often tempted to think in terms of absolutes ... either a blogger writes about your campaign or cause--or they don't. What the social media reverb should teach you is that every action, from declining an event invite on Facebook (but still broadcasting it to your friends) to just visiting and reading your blog (without leaving a comment) has value. In a world where we are enjoying ambient awareness of one another's lives, the ultimate reason for any brand to engage with social media is that by doing so you become part of the framework from which people make decisions on whether to buy from you or not.

Read more of Rohit Bhargava's Influential Marketing blog on Fast Company.

rohit-bhargavaRohit Bhargava is SVP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy PR and author of the award-winning book Personality Not Included, a guide for brands to be more authentic. He writes the popular non-obvious marketing blog Influential Marketing and speaks frequently around the world on social media, marketing and the power of personality. Follow him on Twitter at @rohitbhargava or become a fan on Facebook before July 31 to be among the first to get a free download of his new ebook on August 1.

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7 Comments

  • Gregory Martin

    Love the "reverb" analogy and your take on how "each of us influences one another" through social media. This phenomenon is exciting for both consumers and marketers if they are part of the social media framework. TipTop is a unique search engine that is harnessing the mass of content published on Twitter in meaningful ways and subsequently displaying search results in terms (likes, dislikes, emotions, awareness, influence) you describe in your article. Check out the results for your online persona at http://www.feeltiptop.com/rohi....

  • Rohit Bhargava

    @Freddy - One one level, I agree with you that a brand is the sum of its parts. The interesting thing about the reverb in this context is that often it results in an unintended transmission of action - but yet it spreads anyway. There is this moment beyond anyone's control when information that is openly shared and accessed reaches an an accidental eyeball. This is both the power and frustration inherent in social media.

    @Aaron - Thanks for sharing Jake's work, I love the title of Ambient Witness as a name and observation of all of our places in the social media landscape. I'll have to check out his book.

    @Rupa - I definitely agree that social media can never be a replacement for having something relevant to say - all it can do is amplify a good message. Brands do need to go beyond trying to "flood" their customers lives, as you so nicely put it, and the ones that do are the ones that actually end up fostering more brand loyalty and turning their customers into advocates. Your post shared the interesting observation that I have often talked about as well ... which is that social media can't save crap, so you do indeed need to have something good to sell.

    --
    Rohit Bhargava
    www.aboutrohit.com
    www.influentialmarketingblog.c...
    www.personalitynotincluded.com

  • Rupa Chaturvedi

    Agreed but more and more companies seem to be getting preoccupied with flooding our internet lives with their presence - relevant or not. Shouldn't ambassadors like you not focus on propagating relevance of social media content and brand experiences? At the end of the day its what you do, how you treat your customers that influences buyers to buy - right? Just put a brief blog post on the same subject and look forward to your views - http://www.fastcompany.com/blo...

  • Rupa Chaturvedi

    Agreed but more and more companies seem to be getting preoccupied with flooding our internet lives with their presence - relevant or not. Shouldn't ambassadors like you not focus on propagating relevance of social media content and brand experiences? At the end of the day its what you do, how you treat your customers that influences buyers to buy - right? Just put a brief blog post on the same subject and look forward to your views - http://www.fastcompany.com/blo...

  • Aaron Templer

    Rohit, if you gain insight and inspiration from disciplines outside of business (as I do), you might be interested in a brilliant poet, Jake Adam York, and his blog Ambient Witness. Particularly this post which seems to resonate with your blog post:

    http://www.jakeadamyork.com/20...

  • Freddy Nager

    Isn't this just the basic premise of branding applied to social media? A company's brand, after all, is the sum result of its every action, policy, product, communication, etc., positive or negative, proactive or reactionary.

    If we're talking overall image management, then Hollywood publicists have been masters of it for decades, regardless of the medium. (Some being more successful than others.) They turned image paranoia and manipulation into an art form. Perhaps the immediacy of social media is awakening the rest of the world to the importance of managing personal brands.

    Of course, there's still a lot of bumbling going on, from Sarah Palin to Pringles potato (or not-potato) chips...
    http://coolrulespronto.wordpre...

  • Rupa Chaturvedi

    Agreed but more and more companies seem to be getting preoccupied with flooding our internet lives with their presence - relevant or not. Shouldn't ambassadors like you not focus on propagating relevance of social media content and brand experiences? At the end of the day its what you do, how you treat your customers that influences buyers to buy - right? Just put a brief blog post on the same subject and look forward to your views - http://www.fastcompany.com/blo...