Lately I’ve been researching on how brands are using social media to improve their business.
While doing a bit of thinking on social branding, I recalled a conversation I had with a friend that just launched a web2.0 startup business.
The one advice I gave was to launch it as soon as possible without worrying too much on branding.
The idea is to deploy your initial idea and allow your users to tell you how to evolve the product.
That’s how majority of the new web startups utilize crowdsourcing with an emphasis on the power users then really listen to what they have to say.
The brand development aspect of a startup isn’t as important as the initial user experience.
It got me thinking about business models and how more and more companies are finding it necessary to transform their business model due to the economic crisis.
In addition, the shift in consumer behavior will cause brands to adjust to a fundamentally altered playing field.
In most cases brands will find it hard to transform themselves unless they’ve already got a flexible, dynamic long-term strategy that embraces change.
This means dismantling silo culture within the organization while fostering cross-functional collaboration to spark fresh thinking.
Brands that have this fluid approach are more likely to adapt to change through uncertainty.
Brand Fluidity Creates Advantage
In my previous article “The Emerging Trend of Hybrid Marketing Model,” I pointed out that hypercompetition is no longer allowing businesses to have a sustained competitive advantage, so the idea approach for brands is to have an agile business model.
This happens consistently in the tech industry where every 3-5 years technology evolves and often improves (1.0 to 2.0) leading to a need for adoption.
The key is to stay flexible and scalable because products, services, and business models will evolve over time as knowledge becomes ubiquitous which leads to the path of commoditization altogether.
Just look at the costs of electronics, web hosting, printing, or even internet bandwidth have dropped in price in the past 10 years. In fact, not only are they cheaper, you get more for less even with inflation.
By having an nimble business model, it’s possible to build brand momentum that has relevance in addressing consumer needs.
And relevance is a good predictor of short and long-term success.
However, more focus should be put on proven short-term tactics that aligns with long-term goals.
Short-Termism Is Not Sustainable
The eruption of social media has forced brands to incorporate this new tactical tool as part of the overall brand strategy playbook.
In a structured brand ecosystem, social media is an unproven short-term scheme because it will continue to evolve as an ongoing, living tool that facilitates real time dynamic conversations.
I’m not denying the success that some brands are having in social media but in general most brands are still trying to figure out the arc of its trajectory in pursing the adequate usage of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even blogs.
Brands that quickly jump on the bandwagon without defining the desire outcome are focusing on short-term solutions that are simply band-aids not cures.
Coupled with a lack of attention to the overall strategy, fundamentals, and conventional approaches to long-term value, it’s simply not a sustainable model.
What’s important is to create an unambiguous structure for brand fluidity while maintaining energy and involvement throughout the organization.
The transformation extends well beyond tactics. Brands must become more engaging by being more social, this means building meaningful relationships that resonates with their audience.
Social Media Accelerates Upstream Reciprocity
Every relationship has a purpose especially on the increasing social web. What social media demands is trust and authenticity.
I see it as doing what you promise and be consistent especially in transactional business. In a recent article “Altruism Repays the Best-Connected Individuals” from Technology Review published by MIT, stated that:
Unselfish behavior spreads through society in a way that most benefits the “hubs” in the network.
The article basically illustrated how being unselfish will benefit you at the end because those who have been helped will likely to go on to help others, then spreads through a group creating the upstream reciprocity phenomenon.
There is actually an entire study done with formulas to support the phenomenon and you can go read the “Upstream reciprocity and the evolution of gratitude” analysis from U.S. National Library of Medicine if you like.
Apply this concept to social media and you’ll realize that you’re the red dot A and everyone else is dots B and C. Imagine altruism can be any form of your direct or indirect influence in social media.
It could be the content on your blog, tweets you’ve answered, or even products and services you’ve sold (ebooks, videos, webinars, web design, copywriting, consulting, etc).
The takeaway is social media accelerates both upstream and downstream reciprocity especially for reputable individuals.
In business, the act of unselfishness is another form of the Freemium business model. And this immediately hit home with me on how social media is transforming the way companies are doing business.
You can no longer neglect your reputation online because that’s where the conversation about you is taking place.
Social media has evolved to be the hub for instant and viral reciprocation for any organization’s internal structure and external engagement.
The power of its reach and the openness of its platform commands the kind of transparency that challenges your core value proposition.
It really doesn’t depend on the wisdom of gurus or experts for its dynamism.
That’s the primary reason it will almost certainly withstand the “it’s a fed” challenge.
Social media is transforming businesses and it matters.
From Twitter to Facebook and every web2.0 tool in between, consumers are more and more concerned with the integrity and intent of the brands they interact with, while employees are less afraid to expose how companies work internally.
The challenge for marketers is not to merely appear engaged, but to actually be engaged – to live up to the promise and deliver.
I hope this is helpful in uncovering the implications of social media in business, it’s important to identify the fundamentals and rethink the overall picture.
I know I haven’t analyze any of the specific social media tools in detail, but you can simply conduct a Twitter or LinkedIn search to find every possible tactic and how-to’s out there by the so-called “experts.”