Thursday, December 13, 2012

Forrester Study Shows How Social Media Is Changing Brand Building

A 2012 study by Forrester offers agency management a new tool to consider when advising your clients on when, where and how to use social media.  Their conclusion: social engagement is a necessary ingredient to brand building in today’s digital world, but does not have the power to build a brand alone.

That should make agency management happy because it reinforces the need to continue to take an integrated marketing approach to building a brand.  But no agency can dismiss social media as unnecessary to brand building -- it has fundamentally changed how consumers interact with each other and with brands.

As a result, 93% of their study respondents agree with the statement that “Marketers need to reinvent their brand building strategies as a result of digital innovations”.
The challenge then becomes how to how to use social media and determine its relative importance for your individual corporate or brand situation.

Many businesses have erred on the farthest extremes on the opposite sides of this issue – some are using social engagement strategies as their sole basis for brand building, while others have ignored its value altogether.  The truth lies somewhere in between, and the Forrester study, How Social Media Is Changing Brand Building (, offers some good insight into how social marketing can advance your brand building.

The Forrester study offer some positive advantages for social media's value as a channel, but at the same time lists these limitations for brand building:
1.     Social is not as scalable as mass media.  Social media does a good job of reaching a defined audience of platform users, but cannot reach critical mass in the same way that paid media can.
2.    Social is too fragmented to provide a consistent brand voice.  The unique power of social media is through the many voices of the consumer, and that naturally leads toward a fragmentation of essential messages.  According to digital experts, you need to invite consumers to join the party, but if you are too collaborative, you aren’t able to clearly establish a strong foundation for your brand.
3.    Social can offer a distorted vision of who the brand is and what it stands for.  Without a firm brand identity to start from, the social strategy can be artificially influenced and distorted unwittingly by passionate fans and detractors.

The Forrester study, on the other hand, points out that social can contribute to building trust and bring a number of key benefits to your brand building efforts.
1.    Social can put a human face on a corporation and provide a deeper meaning to its relationship to customers.
2.    Social can be used to “test the waters” for alternate promotional concepts.
3.    Social can create a groundswell of support for risky decisions or changes in your marketing strategy.
3.    Social can use its two-way communication basis to correct a negative image regarding controversial topics.
4.    Social can bring the emotional benefit(s) of your brand to life through peer to peer input.
5.    Social can create bond with customers by rallying consumers around a shared cause or ideal.
6.    Social can segment communications to a group of  fans and emphasize an understanding and support for their passions.
7.    Social can generate brand advocates though access to brand-supported communities.
8.    Social can promote better, more responsive customer service.

Many of these points are expanded on in the Forrester study so you should check it out.

Despite the fact that social media can be a valuable asset to your branding strategy, It is important to remember that the fundamentals of brand building have not changed.  You must still generate a consistent brand identity and communicate it across all consumer touchpoints to create a consistent brand experience.

But as this study points out, an effective social marketing strategy can leverage a number of emotional and persuasive elements that are difficult to deliver through traditional media and marketing efforts.