When it comes to branding and the ever-changing social media phenomenon, you’re not a mushroom. In other words, you shouldn’t be kept in the dark and fed a pile of...well, you get the idea.
Every once in while, a certain business mania surfaces. As you saw in the video above, history is filled with these blips: The telephone. Radio. TV. The fax machine. The Internet. And now social media. Within social media, it splinters further—it seems like there’s always a shiny new network. Before Pinterest, there was Google Plus. Before Google Plus, well, you know the drill. And on and on.
Yet all of these breakthroughs have one thing in common: They’re all channels of communication. And only channels of communication.
Channels won’t make your message or content better. They won’t save your brand if you have nothing to honestly say. They won’t be the silver bullet that restores brand value. They won’t "connect you with your audience" if you’ve got nothing to connect with. It’s like a blind date: Yes, it helps if you arrive and sit at the dinner table, but without something worthwhile to communicate, you'll both be anxious to get the bill and exit through the nearest door at the first opportunity.
You’re Only a Stepping Stone
So while all of these "shiny new toy" channels and options seem wonderful and sexy, the vital missing factor that’s vital to remember is that a true, valuable, passionate message is more important than the media channel it is transmitted across. Once you’ve got that nailed, then choose your channels to share it, as long as you focus is on who you’re helping and what they’re getting out of it.
In other words, if you have nothing more than empty, stupid, self-serving drivel to share that’s transparently doing nothing more than serving your needs, social media only opens the door to telling more of the world faster than ever before how shallow you and your brand really are. A real thrill.
When comparing notes with cartoonist Tom Fishburne on this trend, Tom captured this point with great precision here:
The Great Disconnect
Some brands, based on their actions and deliverables, stand for certain qualities. I wouldn’t go to Ferragamo for discount shoes. That would inconsistent with their brand. I wouldn’t go to a certain chocolatier for friendly, local items if all they made were fine European truffles served with an air of snooty servitude. Nor would I go to certain big box electronics stores in search of the same aesthetic customer-centric service I would receive at an Apple store.
Yet businesses compromise their brands with inconsistent signals and messages just to acquire the almighty "follower," choosing shotgun approaches that try to be everything to everyone. Only to end up standing for nothing to nobody (bad English, but more to the point). The important factor is not the "follower" or the "fan" or the "like." It’s having an experience worth sharing that is consistent with your brand in the first place.
You're Not More Important Than Your Audience
Your brand is a means to an end. Otherwise, your brand is expendable. Fail to be that bridge and you fail to be relevant.
What this means in social media is sharing what is valuable to your audience, not what is merely valuable to you (unless that value that you champion is shared by your audience, something we see displayed very well with master chefs and their loyal patrons of their restaurants. In the tech side, this was one of Steve Jobs’ brilliant abilities. He never became a geek at the expense of the customer’s views.). Adding another social media channel to your network will not make an anti-social brand more social. It will simply increase your efficiency in alienating more people with greater speed.
The Lesson Social Media Gurus Forgot to Mention
Your brand is a means to an end. Your brand exists to fulfill a purpose that others value.
The moment you fail to connect those points is the moment you should stop any social media correspondence until you sort out WHY you’re doing what you're doing, who it is helping, and why anyone should care.
A well-rounded brand has sorted out all of that before they engaged in mass communication of any sort—and not just via social media channels.
Thanks to Tom Fishburne, founder and CEO of Marketoonist, a content marketing agency that develops cartoon campaigns for businesses such as Unilever, O2, Kronos, and the Wall Street Journal. He was previously a VP at Method, the innovative home care brand, and led brands at Nestle and General Mills. He learned how to draw cartoons at Harvard Business School. Sign up for his weekly marketoons at Marketoonist.com.
—This is the fifth in a series of posts on HELL
and escaping its grasp. Stay tuned for upcoming installments
including, How to Escape Innovation Hell, How to Escape Social Media
Hell, and How to Escape Logo Hell.
David Brier is a brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm's work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David's series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. Subscribe to his YouTube channel which routinely provides inspired and thought-provoking videos such as: What do consumers have to say about false advertising? and The Harry Potter video on branding. Request your own free copy of David's eBook, "The Lucky Brand" here.