Social, oh Social. Where for Art Thou?

There are so many conferences, webinars, white papers, etc. about Social Media and how to use it for Marketing, Sales Leads, PR, Identity “Control” and many more things.  The beautiful thing is that it can be for all of those.  What seems to be missing – even from some companies or brands that have a dedicated Social Media teams – is the execution on the true core… community.

If it wasn’t clear before, it was made a little clearer at the DIGITAL FAN MARKETING SUMMIT yesterday in Marina Del Rey. It was pretty well put together with a nice array of speakers and presenters. But, when the subject kept skewing heavily to social, even the title was somewhat of a misnomer when the keynote speaker, Christopher Erb of EA Sports kicking things off in nice fashion. Funny thing is, as VP of Brand Marketing, he does not directly oversee Social.  EA has a completely different team working on it.  From my understanding, the Social team works closely with Marketing and they worked with PR, but their true success – and what is so promising – is that EA recognizes the importance of community and Social works with every part of the company.  They don’t look at the community as just a group of people to send marketing messages or release tidbits to, but people to communicate with and engage with across the board.  They have social networking in-game, call on members of the social community to make suggestions on everything ranging from game features to the cover of Madden 2011.  None of this is a shock to anyone as their campaigns like the recent one with ESPN naming a Cleveland Brown (Huh?) player as the cover athlete.  From the teases that Chris brought up, it seems like executives there have their head on straight and the foresight to have recognized the importance of social as a conversation and not as a soap box.

Another key element supporting that strong choice is compelling content for the communities that already exist.  Susan Bonds, of 42 Entertainment, showed a case study on their Year Zero campaign for Trent Reznor and NINE INCH NAILS.  You can check out a version of the study at their link –  http://www.42entertainment.com/yearzero/.  They have done a number of these amazing campaigns (like the Dark Knight Joker) that are smart and extremely savvy in working toward existing communites and providing the means for authentic communication. It is a testament to how cool the Year Zero program was and how strong the NIN community is that they 42 Entertainment did not have to manipulate or plant posts to get the concept rolling.  I had a LOT of disbelief, but Susan swears by it – and I believe her.

When it came to some other speakers, the use of social was a little more nebulous, but that could be due to the fact that clients and brand executives are looking more for an immediate and short-sighted ROI on any Social spend.  It takes a gifted executive, brand or company to appreciate the need to truly work with or start a community with solid content, authentic communication and without a timid entry – believing that if there aren’t enough Likes, then move on… I have made the argument that even short-flight programs don’t need to sell themselves short by not developing an overall narrative encompassing multiple products or releases.

No matter what the product or brand is, the story can be formed that can connect with people – not just on the biggest social platforms that were brought up on one of the panels (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter), but others as simple as the comments on Amazon, Yelp, and existing digital and real-life forums – that are already engaged with elements of the story you want to tell.

Some major brands have “seen the light” including Gatorade (and all of Pepsico), Nike, Apple, and many more – but those who “see the light” need not be confined to the multi-million-plus, multi-national corporations and brands.  Authentic communities and storytelling is equal-opportunity in all shapes and sizes.

When the battles change from which department is in charge of social to the realization that social (or community) is a key and central part of business that relates to every bit of the environment from marketing to production to employee development and beyond…

AND,  when there is not a call from someone saying “we need a Facebook and a Twitter account” without including the call for a clear communication or conversation to be part of that equation…

Then you’re talking.

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