No, I Don’t Want to Be Friends With My Butter by sapientnitro


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									          POINT OF view

No, I Don’t Want to Be Friends With
My Butter:
Brand Relationships for the Social Media Era
By Nathaniel Perez, strategy director

While brands still try hard to “crack the Social Media code,” most seem to understand consumers no
longer find the prospect of being friends with a brand more engaging than the single click it took to fan
the brand page on Facebook. After all, what’s so novel about the thought of a friendship with my butter?
Precisely, nothing.

The impact of social media at the heart of new media is shaking up how brands think of experience
design and what consumers expect from brand experiences.
Let’s talk digital sociology. I’ll quote three impactful points of view from Michael Wesch, Assistant
Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. In his series called “The machine is
(Changing) Us: YouTube and the politics of Authenticity,” he describes the following (which I’ve roughly

   • “Media defines us while we define media.”

   • “We’ve shifted from media to mediated relationships.”

   • “Connections were the constraint, we now have connections without constraint.”

How can these statements help us understand how to be better at building brand through social media
and digital experiences in general? Here’s a set of guiding principles to help you get beyond tactical
earned media generation and enable you to create richer and more successful “social movements”
around brands.

   • You can shape the outcome, but can’t prescribe it. Leave predictable outcomes behind.
     Successful social experiences all have one thing in common: They relinquish control. Bring
     your consumers closer to action and let them take over. When insights are scarce, leverage the
     good old reward method to get them to play, then watch them play. If your brand has risk and
     readiness constraints, consumer control is not a pipe dream. Make it a priority.

                      © Sapient Corporation, 2010
         POINT OF view

  • From Communication to Connectivity. Your brand should no longer think of itself as an
    authority (even if it is one), but rather a facilitator or enabler. Its role is no longer to broadcast,
    but to connect. Understanding brand connectivity requires more than just digital listening and
    influence identification. Moving beyond single degree measures is crucial. Examining passions
    and motives within dynamic behavioral contexts is essential. Digital discovery (or anthropology)
    can help uncover motive “in action”. Social media is an unbound source of insights, allowing
    limitless exploration of digital personas and their behavior. Your brand can engage and build
    connectivity through behavioral contexts it can associate with.

  • Create mediated experiences. Focus on understanding the potential impact of various media
    interactions against consumer motives and apply that understanding to your experience
    strategy. Leverage YouTube as more than an outlet for brand video and search traffic. Instead,
    study how video sharing can promote the quality of the engagement and motives you seek to
    trigger. As you plan your experience, don’t limit yourself… Define the media while giving it the
    opportunity to define you. Create experiences that are engaging but unconfined. Experiences
    that impose less constraint (or more connection) lead to a greater ability to mine insights from
    engagement. Branded widgets and social network applications can surely help amplify brand
    messaging but are really little more than evolved direct media. UGC campaigns with very
    prescriptive requests cannot allow you to measure much more than response rates.

  • Listen to your experiences. Leverage digital listening to clearly understand how the media has
    shaped you. Extend your discovery efforts against your conversation to understand patterns of
    behavior, motives of engagement, audiences and other measures of how your brand is or can be
    more connective. Measure impact beyond response and conversion by putting your data to work
    across all sources to truly understand consumer behavior against key business metrics, both
    offline and online.

  • Keep Shaping & Being Shaped. Whether looking to sustain successful initiatives or creating
    new ones, brands need to understand how to play in a fully dynamic context. Focus too much on
    the media itself and your efforts won’t scale. Instead, focus on measuring and extending your
    “connectivity” step by step, creating a well balanced insights & experience machine.

While butter brands of the world now have their work cut out for them, I’m hoping they’ll leverage
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or their own media as mere interaction vehicles while devoting their
attention to understanding the essence of consumer engagement within the media. Only then can they
design experiences that shape conversation, to then understand how those conversations have shaped
their brand.

                         Nathaniel is head of Community Intelligence at Sapient Nitro. Part of
                         a world class group of digital strategists, he works on groundbreaking
                         social marketing approaches, platforms and offerings. Community
                         Intelligence is all about creating marketing experiences that are
                         focused on influence, harnessing its power across channels to trigger
                         measurable digital engagement, action and communication. He’s also a
                         co-chair of the ARF Social Media Council.
                         Follow him on Twitter: @mahumbaba.

 This article was originally published in Fast Company, December 23, 2009.

                       © Sapient Corporation, 2010

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