branding in the social stream

When was the last time you hopped online thinking, “Time to engage with some of my favorite brands”?

If you’re human, the answer is likely “never.”

You never log-on to your favorite social media sites to interact specifically with brands.  The brands “just happen to be there,” as you read the news, peruse celebrity gossip, check Gmail, stalk old high-school flames, etc.

When we create content, we’re aiming for a level of attention that very few people want to give us.  When we aim for earned media hits, we’re hoping for a level of credibility that very few people are willing to ascribe.

We aim for crashing waves when we should aspire to never-ending ripples.  The crashing wave makes a lot of noise; the never-ending ripple carves out canyons.

That’s why you’ve heard me say, over and over (like a never-ending ripple, even): “campaigns don’t create relationships, but relationships can make campaigns exponentially more powerful.”

What is the takeaway?  Be ever-present. Be a resource.  By all means, create branded content, and shoot for the moon when it comes to earned media.  But in all cases know that your best-case scenario is to be a part of the social stream.  Throw a rock in a raging river and watch how quickly those ripples are subsumed by the greater powers of the current: that’s what you’re up against.

The point of marketing in this environment is to create the types of jetsam and driftwood that our users can grab on to; find purchase on; point-to in passing … and move on.  Don’t worry, you get credit along the way.  It builds up.  Eventually you’ll have built an indomitable ledge of stone.  This is branding.

If you buy this premise, you start to think differently.

You may find yourself willing to move more quickly, on more stuff, often more cheaply, and with more stomach for failure (because they’ll at least be “fast failures”).  You won’t be stupid or inappropriate –  but you will find yourself further towards the edges.

It’s more fun there, by the way.

Todd Defren


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