Meritocracy is merciless, and hardest of all on those it would first seem to favor. And who would be more favored in the game of creating content than a big brand with a big budget?
A big budget that, according to AdAge, is only getting bigger:
So often, at least in the social media sphere, the big brands fall flat on their face, engaging when consumers don’t want their engagement and playing in a media sphere that they have nothing to add to. This is partly due to the fact that brands are inherently boring and partly due to the fact that social media unleashes the more meritocratic of all meritocracies: the internet.
Brands that put out blogs or connect on social media sites or host consumer generated content sites are uniquely ill-suited to succeed on the internet.
The command-and-control structure of most marketing teams, the layers of approval, the waterd-down content that passes for blog posts just can’t compete in terms of quality and content with what is out there for free from consumers. And consumers are always more trustworthy than brands.
Social networking isn’t a place that brands are welcome – as Tangerine Toad says, your brand is not my friend. People like brands when they give people value or utility. A Facebook page is not either. Nor is an application that demands an arduous registration process and automatically invites my friends and then doesn’t do much. That is a sneaky way to get consumers in your database. And consumers don’t like that.
Every once in a while there is an idea that succeeds because it is unique. CGC was that idea, and it was done well by Doritos particularly. But there are only so many consumers with the time and inclination to create for your brand and, once they create something, it becomes only part of the vast sea of content on the internet. How will other consumers find it? It’s not unique or new anymore…it’s just a tired tactic that lazy brands turn to when they don’t know what to do about this internet thing but feel like they have to do something.
None of this means that brands shouldn’t play in the social media space, just that they should play in it differently.
Social media is primarily about trust. The personalization of blogs, social networking sites and the rest show other internet denizens who may be viewing said content that there is a real person creating all of this. That this person, complete with real personality and idiosyncracies and things they feel passionate about, has no side agenda to sell something…it’s not about content as much as it is about content that a real person is behind.
It’s easy to trust a real person, even a real person you’ve never actually met in real life.
A person with an audience – and it is becoming harder and harder with the proliferation of blogs, Twitter and other social media to find an audience – is much more than a consumer. They are much more than an influencer. They have taken it to the next level by combining the elements of trust, immediacy, and un-edited personal reactions into opinions that are broadcast to their (niche and targeted it can be assumed) audience.
But how do you reach these people a Brand Manager might ask?
Ask politely, give utility and make sure that your product lives up to what you promise. The rest is out of your hands.