As we know, marketing over the years has dramatically changed and continues to evolve. It’s odd to think that the phrase social media was one of those terms that were unheard of in marketing 20 years ago, now it’s unthinkable not to consider and use social media as part of your marketing strategy.

TV used to rule the airways, brands told you and you believed in them, no questioning. However with the evolution of social media and the benefit it brings, you now have the platform to form your own opinion, share your thoughts, start the debate, disagree with what brands have to say and gain insight into another side. These debates happen all over the world through the power of social.

A great opportunity for brands to join in right? Engage with their customers, be open with their audience, join in on the conversation. Unfortunately for many brands, this is simply not the case.

Brand building and joining in on the conversation on social media for many brands has become vexing. Efforts have been made from viral videos, memes, hashtags, but such efforts haven’t paid off.

Branding in the era of social

The rise in social media allowed things like branded content to thrive. It gave marketers the platform to promote their content. It was considered that the use of social media would allow brands to forge relationships directly with the customer, you told them great stories and connected in real time and bingo! Your brand would become a community of consumers.

However few brands have generated consumer interest online, in fact, it might be said that social media, although heavily invested in by many businesses, have made brands less significant.

What’s gone wrong?

Brands need to be relevant. Brands need to be human in the way the way they talk to their customers. Brands can often be caught up in using glamorous phrases and marketing jargon to try and impress and sell to their consumer.

Keep it simple people, talk to your consumers (I mean people) the way you would if you were speaking with them in the local pub. Don’t be afraid to join in on the relevant conversations happening on Twitter, offer an opinion, be different, reply to the negative feedback – often scary, but better to be answered than not. Be relevant and break through the boundaries.

The rise in crowd culture

Brands succeed when they break through culture. When it comes to branding, content is designed to generate cultural relevance and give insight into the latest trends and talking points. Social media has altered the way in which culture works. Combine all these three points and you have the phenomenon which is known as ‘crowdculture’.

Crowdculture has changed the rules when it comes to branding. Online crowds have become effective innovators and drivers of this new culture. Once brands understand the power of crowdculture, they can learn to find alternative ways of branding and speaking with their consumers.

Some brands have done it well

Dropbox and Hotmail (do you remember that?) are just some of the brands who have embraced these alternative ways of achieving growth –

  • Dropbox’s referral campaign. 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in 15 months, Dropbox sent 2.8 million direct referral invites to their consumers. Along with a clever PayPal incentive, it allowed Dropbox to double their turnover and avoid all traditional ad spend.
  • PS: I Love You. Hotmail campaign. The creators of Hotmail came up with a fantastic and alternative way of getting their brand out there and noticed. How? By putting a simple message at the bottom of everyone’s screen – PS: I Love You. Get Your Free Email at Hotmail. Within six months Hotmail were up to 1 million registered users. How’s that for alternative brand building.

Be it brand building through social or web advertising, the possibilities for building your brand in a unique and relevant way are endless. Don’t be afraid of joining in on the conversation, share your thoughts in a unique and insightful way, start discussion and create engagement. Before you know it you’ll be leading the way in crowd culture and online conversations.

First published on the IDM Blog