“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Intuit’s co-founder, Scott Cook, said that. Over the past several years, this philosophy has only become more apparent in the business environment. In the years leading up to today, “marketing centered around control – of brand, user experience, messaging, and conversations,” writes Patrick Salyer in a recent Forbes piece. Marketers were warned that with social media came the end of control. “You were told that no longer would your users linger on your carefully manicured website, absorbing your delicately crafted messaging as they click on products and articles,” says Salyer.
In this grim future, the consumer would have all the power making is extremely difficult for businesses to control their brand. Well, in some ways this is true. Today, consumers do have a lot more power, yet this scenario of doom and gloom for businesses never came to pass. Why? Social business evolved. Today’s marketers are not only able to take back their brands, but also “are reaching, understanding and influencing their customers like never before.”
The majority of brands have made the transition to the various social media channels. Yet, businesses continue to grapple with measuring the hard business benefit of placing resources towards social media. They must walk a fine line between pursuing business objectives while not coming across as too “corporate-y”. It’s because of this balancing act that organizations are asking the question: If consumers are deeply rooted in being social on the Web, how can a company respond in a way that provides both a positive social experience to their consumers while exercising brand control?
According to Slayer the answer lies in social infrastructure. Just what is social infrastructure you may be asking. Think of it this way, “Anytime a user registers or logs into a website with his social ID, leaves a comment with his social ID, shares content from the site to his social network(s) or participates in a site’s gamification elements while leveraging his social profile” –that’s the social infrastructure at work. What’s interesting about social infrastructure is that it actually gives marketers the one thing they’ve been desperately searching for: control.
By implementing a social infrastructure and allowing users to be social on your site, marketers have the ability to control what their audience sees – including messaging, content and even ads points out Slayer. The other equally important aspect is that by incorporating these technologies, marketers have access to extremely valuable data. Slayer best illustrates this by the following example: “When a customer comes to your site and signs in via social login, for example, a cordial exchange occurs. He [the customer] is able to register and login to your site quickly without needing to create a new set of credentials and is able to seamlessly share and comment on and otherwise interact with your site’s content using his social profile. In return, you, the marketer, gain permission-based access to his social profile information, building a lasting relationship with the user.” The point here is that social technologies have actually helped organizations take back control while at the same time, giving customers more of a voice.
There is no question that social has changed the way organizations conduct business. Companies can no longer get away with poor products or unresponsive customer service. Customers now have a voice and as we’ve seen over the past several years, they are not afraid to use it. But instead of being afraid at the new uninhibited consumer when there are technologies you can embrace that help you take control of your brand and understand your customers like never before.