This AdAge story caught my attention this morning – its as simple as it could be. A brand needs to be useful for its target audiences in social media. Is it so difficult to comprehend? The brand/ product offers a promise in the real world – it should do exactly the same thing in the social media world too…not use it as a platform for broadcasting sales talk. That leads me to the Paul Miser part…

Paul’s latest blog post is on social media fail…of a social communication experiment. This is a fabulous post and has a meaning that is multi-layered.

  1. Just because you are friends with gazillion people on assorted social networking platforms, would they do what you ask them to do? In Paul’s case, the people he invited were actually his friends with whom he had some sort of regular communication. So, even more valid question!
  2. That very critical call-to-action…how could brands make it happen? You put up something out there and expect people to respond in some way…and they don’t. Have you answered the ‘what’s in it for me’ question from your target audience point of view?
  3. The social media world itself…why would someone who has a few friends in the real world make tons of friends online? Is it because they are all (friends) just there, waiting to be befriended? Or is it because of sheer convenience? Would that convenience extend to real world interaction? If yes, what are the pre-conditions that lead you to that real world action? Do you expect something in return to make that transition?

My take? The social media world is exactly same as the real world, only more convenient! While it does allow conversation between friends, unless you have a strong need to be fulfilled, you are unlikely to make that transition from online to offline, because its not as convenient. Its one thing to say that you’ll chat with XYZ on Facebook at 8 pm and its completely another thing to say that you’ll meet him at Cafe Coffee Day at 8 pm. To make the latter happen, there are quite a few pre-conditions which arise out of real world inconveniences. Is the meeting important enough for you to overcome minor quibbles like getting your butt off, dress up, get your vehicle, manage the traffic…and so on. I know, it can be a pain.

Its a similar case with a simple call-to-action expected out of a social media engagement – you’re expected to respond on something, what will make you respond? It sure is convenient, but will you do it just for that sake? Chances are that you’d need something in return – its the sole reason why any brand-related social media enagagement needs to first think of how to be useful. Think like a user – not as a brand. Create a real world activity that is useful to your target audience and see them react. Create a fan page with nothing particularly useful…better pray that you work for a legendary brand (Apple?) or at least one that induces a strong emotion (nostalgia?…like this one!).