Matrix: How To Choose Social Media Programs by Brand, Lifestyle, Product or Location

Brands confused by choices on how to deploy social media programs
I recently spoke to the global marketing team at a large technology company, and one of the questions being wrestled with was deciding if social media efforts should be setup by brand, vs product teams wanting to create their own unique pages and experiences.  A specific question emerged “Should we setup our efforts by product type or by brand?” There are drawbacks and upsides to each of these, and I wanted to layout the ramifications.

[Whether companies setup their social programs by ‘Brand, Lifestyle, Product, or Location’ they must choose wisely. Each deployment has a different benefit and drawback –the savvy will use in combination.]

Brands who choose poorly risk community backlash -those that do not choose risk worse
Companies that choose poorly will have wasted internal efforts and resources, set up false expectations for customers and may struggle with trying to redact a program in public where customers are already assembling. In particular, social failures like Wal-Mart’s branded community ‘The Hub’ have now become a case study of doing it wrong. Yet having no strategy means that product teams, regional teams, and individual regions will do whatever they want –causing clean up for corporate late.

Matrix: How To Choose Social Media Programs by Brand, Lifestyle, Product or Location

What it is: Benefits: Drawbacks: What no one tells you:
Brand Companies often created their own Facebook/Twitter/Blog site focused on the company logo, brand, and corporate news.  See early pioneer Direct2Dell, Sony Electronics Twitter, GM’s Fastlane Blog On brand. One stop shop for all things related to the brand.  Easy place to find company news, product announcements.  Often, corporate teams can support an ongoing program Less trusted. Will often lack engagement, personality, and as a result decreased trust.  If brand doesn’t allow customers to talk to each other or self-express, it’s odd talking to a logo. It’s important to set expectations on the type of communications that will happen, be sure to have a community policy in order to enforce. See Nestle’ case example
Lifestyle Brands created lifestyle communities such as communities for Wells Fargo’s teen, Amex’s small business owners, or even by cultures like Asian Avenue or BlackPlanet Staying power. By joining customers in the way they already self-organize you’re matching their existing needs –beyond your product push Off message. Less control over the conversation which may extend beyond your brand and products and talk about what matters in their life.  Product focused teams may not have right mindset ‘customer-first’ mindset. First, find where they may already exist and consider joining. Create your own lifestyle deployment only to meet an unmet need.  Often this is at the mouth of the marketing funnel.
Product Building a Facebook, Blog or Twitter feed for a specific product or product line.  See the Playstation blog, Doritos Facebook page, Specific info. Meets the needs of the Product Marketing Manager to give tight information about a product Granular and insular. Lack of customer focus and risk of investing in a community that could become irrelevant if the product reaches end of life. Lack of solution sell to lifestyle as consumer may want to purchase several products. If your product has staying power and a thriving community around it (like Xbox, PS3) with sub products around it it may make sense.  Consider this towards the bottom of the marketing funnel, or even customer support.
Location Restaurants, hotels, and retail stores may want to create their own Facebook, MySpace, Yelp experience. Or specific regions may have different product sets and create their own communities to meet a unique culture.  See Four Seasons Twitter index Hyper targeted. Local markets may benefit from geo location marketing as location based social networks like GoWalla, FourSquare, MyTown, and Yelp grow.  Provide unique local experience. Lack of control. These individual pages may be setup by the managers daughter and lack true long term resources or ability to fend of sophisticated situations. Danger in these sites becoming abandoned over time, with no clear way to retire them without community backlash. Likely, this is already happening. Get ahead of it and provide the right training, processes, and hotlines for these disparate groups to have autonomy –but within clear set of guardrails protecting your brand.

How to Choose The Right Mix:

  • First, be customer focused. Companies should first identify the social graphics of their customer base to understand where they are online.  Secondly, they should understand their social behaviors, who influences them, and how they influence others.  In most cases, customers have already assembled their own communities and analysis should be done on how to join them where they already are.
  • For best results, use in combinations. Rarely is the world an ‘or’ but an ‘and’.  Companies should know when to use these in an orchestrated combinations.  Sophisticated social strategists are mapping all of their programs against marketing funnels to know which tool should be used during what customer phase.
  • Think long term –not just by campaign. Don’t launch short term social efforts unless it’s just around a single event and the expectations are clearly set up front.  Grown fans, followers, or subscribers is an investment that will cost you, so plan on doing this for the long term –not a short one-off campaign.  Remember, in most cases, customer communities have been here before your brand was on the social web, and likely they will be here after your brand.