Branding to Community*
Do your profile in Hyves.nl (the Dutch look alike of MySpace and extremely popular among – mainly – teens with around 5 million users). Fill in all questions including the one about your favorite brands. When done, a universe of new friends unfolds. For instance, if you are into Vespa, you will find that over 12.000 other Hyves users share your passion. You can pick your choice to share your brand passion with those you choose. That’s nice!It is also nice for Vespa, the company. Vespa can target its dedicated followers to present them a suitable proposition and anchor the brand in the lives of teens.What more can a brand whish for than such a loyal community of fans? Hyves, as a prime brand, in this case facilitates the relationship between a brand and the brand user(s). And exactly that seems to be an emerging role certain brands appropriate; facilitation of relationships between brands and brand users in social media. Such a facilitating brand must bear certain requirements in mind, specifically those of trust and transparency. The Hyves user knows that personal data appear in the public domain of the social network. So, Hyves must create a framework of trust. Hyves does so by offering a package of options and services that limit the level of publicity of personal data. Only by allowing others (friends) specific rights, one may read personal data at different levels.A propos, the true power of a facilitating brand like Hyves does not necessarily lie in the relative trust of the site but more in the role of social brand. A social brand facilitates contacts between people in text, audio and video, both directly (synchronic, with one push of the button) or per tiding (posting, email, voice mail; a-synchronic). A brand is social if it promotes the dialogue, the participation and the relevance of usage for its users. Many of these facilitating social brands have a crossmedial strategy because they, for instance, incorporate chat, instant messaging and email, thus turning these media into social (sharing) media.Social media marketing, when done the right way, has an enormous impact on brand awareness and popularity. This impact can be brought about by inserting dialogue and participation promotional tools and by offering tailor made and therefore relevant propositions to the users. Not many brands make use of this relatively cheap method of marketing. If we analyze social media and compare the results with mainstream (traditional) media, we can convert the brands that make use of social media. With this type of research we can also conclude the effectiveness of social media. This effectiveness is called ‘share of voice’ (SOV).In SOV research we measure how many times brands are mentioned by users of social media and how they are mentioned (sentiment; negative, neutral, positive). Apart from this, we also measure the success rate with which the brands have incorporated different social media and vice versa (users making use of the facilitating social brand in social media.The parameters that are used in such research are dividend in different categories, i.e.:
· The blogosphere with YouTube as latitude for online video
· Popularity of social network site with MySpace and Bebo as latitudes for photo sites
· Popularity of social bookmarking, user generated content and other content with Digg, Magnolia and Delicious as latitudesContent is the key word. It is, when talking about social media as a communication tool for users, generated by those users (user generated content). On the other side, social media techniques (and technologies) become a communication tool from brands as well. So we can say that brands that provide content create social media. Some nice examples are Dell’s http://direct2dell.com/, the Disney-related blog http://blog.mousekingdom.com/ and Starbuck’s http://www.itsredagain.com/. Social media do have a considerable impact on brand awareness and popularity. For the brand user, the emphasis is not on overall attribution of brand value as such, but more on the product itself, the applicability and the buzz environment. Also, most social media are niche products, primarily adapted by early adapters. Traditional media focus mainly on the final financial effect (brand equity) of the investments in the brand. Social brands understand that by being a ‘friend’ who is talked about, the value not only increases in terms of economic capital but also in terms of social capital.
* Harry van Vliet (Harry’s site) has invented the term “Branding to Community”. He first used the term in the text for his public lecture, upcoming January 10, 2008.
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