Let Go of Control in Social Media

Before social media, the conversation around a brand was mostly unidirectional. Brands could more or less control the flow of commentary and information around their companies. And then Yelp and Twitter came along and changed all of that.

It can be frustrating to people who come from the old school. What do you do when people say or upload things that would be embarrassing if mistaken for your brand message? The temptation to lock down, sanitize, censor, or control can be overpowering. And yet, except for blatant abuse, it’s usually not the right tactic.

There’s No Such Thing as “My Page”.

To understand this, we have to let go of a fiction in social media. That’s the notion of “your page” and “my page”. There’s not really such a thing. By creating a page on a social network, we’re giving up a certain amount of control. What we post shows up in the personal timelines of other people or pages that like or follow us. And when they respond, they’re usually responding to there, in their own timelines. They’re not even on our page at the time.

Remix is the Norm in Social.

Our page is not our actually our page in the same sense as a website we own. In a social network, we’re automatically joining an equal conversation. If we take our brands there, we’re participating in a co-equal dialogue, even around our core message and identity. The moment we’re posting something, we’re letting go of it, and allowing other people to comment, contribute, and collaborate. People get to remix, reinterpret, or recontextualize what we post. Once we post something in social, we’re officially inviting people to put their spin on it.

Our Brands are Collaboratively Defined – Between Other People.

If that seems risky, that’s because risk is always present where opportunities are indicated. There’s so much potential to interact with an audience, but only when we treat social networks as neutral space, where the audience is valued. In that sense, if we choose to succeed in modern marketing, we’re accepting a more open, less traditional, definition of our brand. Scott Cook at Intuit said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it’s what consumers tell each other it is.” That’s huge.

Reward the Action Regardless of the Content.

So what’s the best way to deal with content we don’t like? Say “thank you”. After all, WHAT they posted is only part of it. The key thing is they POSTED something. They made the attempt to interact with us. That’s an incredible compliment. We want to respond with YES/AND not NO/BUT. This Christmas, we’ll probably get a gift that doesn’t thrill us. But we’ll reward the action, not just the content. We’ll appreciate it. So don’t just say thank you but, if you can, look at the fact that they engaged you and say ‘that’s great!’

Everyone Gets the Boundaries

Don’t worry. No one’s going to confuse others’ contributions with our own brand message. If we’re worried about that, it probably comes from our own confusion over where the boundaries are. Other people will usually see the difference quite easily. We can always explain how social works to that one family member who is confused, but anyone using it to build an impression of a brand is going to already know the difference between official output and audience response.

These ideas aren’t random. They’re part of what MadPipe helps clients achieve through marketing leadership and strategy.

Every company, brand, or organization needs a strategic guide, leader, or ally. Reach out to MadPipe, so you always have someone to reach out to.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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