Why Do Social Media?

I was approached last week by someone working for a large brand that has yet to jump on the social media bandwagon.

The brand, which operates in a regulated business, believes it needs to explore its social media options as a way to stay digitally relevant.

social mediaOne of the key questions I asked after getting a mini-brief was “Why does the brand want to do social media?”

It sounds like a straightforward question, right? But the answer can be complicated and multi-faceted.

For some brands – e.g. Starbucks, Oreo, Einstein Bros. Bagels – social media is a no-brainer. It’s a way to engage with an audience of people who consist of evangelists, fans and loyal customers. These brands use social media to amplify the overall experience by offering different ways to have conversations about their products. In a competition market, social media can be a vibrant and valuable marketing platform driven by consumers.

For other brands (banks, pharmaceuticals, pension funds), social media is a completely different proposition. The rules of engagement are different, the regulatory landscape can be restrictive, and conversations with consumers can be challenging.

For many reasons, it’s easier to stay out of the social media fray. No fuss, no muss, no social media.

But here’s a question these brands probably need to ask themselves: how long can this approach last? The reality is social media isn’t going anywhere, so every brands need to explore how to participate in one way, shape or form. Even it means having a “lite” presence, social media will likely need to be part of their digital portfolios.

For these brands, making their way onto the social media dance floor takes strategic assessment and a nuanced tactical approach. Social media isn’t something they can simply decide to do; it needs to be addressed in a more measured, pragmatic way.

At first, it could simply mean establishing social media policies to set the stage for their eventual leap into a new opportunity.

The next step could be establishing a presence on the social media platforms that make the most sense.

Then, these brands have to decide how they are going to participate. Will they simply share content, or will there be opportunities to engage with other people.

In other words, there will be a lot of steps along the way, and the embrace of social media could be a long process.

That said, it’s probably a better scenario than avoiding social media, which is too big, too ubiquitous and too powerful.