Social Media: How does it affect your brand?

by Holland-Mark | April 21, 2011

In the last two weeks, I’ve attended two panels discussing social media’s influence on a consumer’s brand experience. We expect social to drive change, whether with a personal outcome or a professional one. And we expect that a company will have a true and authentic voice in response to our demands on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. So what does that say about the role social media plays in traditional media today? How does our personal engagement with magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets shape and change the way news is created?

The interesting issue with social media is that it has made all kinds of companies nervous. For newspapers, there’s a realistic fear that people aren’t concerned with fact-checked news reporting anymore, but rather only with an ambient awareness of what’s going on in the world. But as Martin Baron, Joshua Benton, and Nasser Wedaddy pointed out at The Intersection of Journalism and Social Media (hosted by Boston World Partnerships), the true growth and change that social media affects has in fact created a culture that holds the news industry to an even higher standard. Large news organizations are still critical to our society, and they themselves are finding story leads from much more local sources. As Wedaddy pointed out, the revolution in Egypt was brought to the world by major news organizations, but their source for facts began in large part with social media.

And as social media has influenced news organizations, so has it changed the way companies interact with their consumers. How authentic do you expect a large company like Best Buy or Comcast to be in the social media space? How have you interacted with these brands at a social level, and what does that do to your perception of them? About two months ago, I wrote about my in-store interaction with Bank of America, and then followed up my interaction by attempting a dialog on Twitter. In both cases, Bank of America failed to adequately respond to my questions. In 2011, I expect a large organization to be immediately responsive to my needs, even if it means they can’t help me the way I want. At the very least, I hope that they will answer me in a timely manner and have compassion for my frustration.

Being an authentic voice in social media was the topic of the April Tweetup from AMA Boston, and the discussion between panel members and the audience was really eye opening. For several entrepreneurs, their take was that the time investment in social media was too daunting for someone who has to wear every hat in an organization, so outsourcing seems to be the easiest solution. But as we all discussed when talking about larger brands such as Fidelity or Chrysler, the social interaction of a brand really must come from within, no matter how overwhelming that feels at first. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to serious branding issues.

What’s your take? Has social media positively influenced the press at large and a company’s position in the marketplace? Or do you think that an authentic voice will never come from a talking avatar online, but rather from trusted news sources and standard corporate responses? We’d like to hear from you.