“What is a brand?” I’ve heard lots of excellent answers to that question, but the one I remember the most is: “something that you have an opinion about.”
It’s plain, simple and succinct. And for me, it also captures an essential challenge many brands face when exploring how to engage with audiences online. Opinion provokes expression; expression creates content and content generates conversation. From Facebook status updates and Tweets to forum discussions and blog posts – social media offer the perfect venue for that self-expression and conversation to take place.
The challenge lies in how the brand can harness that conversation, give value back to the audience and encourage a sustainable relationship. Whether that means the sale of products, a change in behaviour, greater customer insight to guide product development, an increase in trust, or all of the above.
Most often, meeting this challenge means exploring ways of encouraging people to make the journey from a social media platform to the brand’s own website where that initial engagement can be transformed into that deeper, more sustainable relationship. But encouraging people to take that step can be difficult.
I think the answer lies in a combination of creativity and technology. First, a creative idea and content compelling enough to inspire people to engage. And second, a technology platform that can recreate the immersive experience of the social environment they’ve just left behind, in order to keep them engaged and participating on the website they’ve just arrived at.
A number of vendors are offering platforms to address the second part of the answer, like Livefyre, Lithium and Acquia. Forrester defines the area as Social Depth and has recently published a Social Depth Wave report on the platforms currently available.
As to the creative part of the solution – that’s a bit like finding the definition of brand, there are lots of excellent examples out there, but each one unique. I’ll explore this further in another post.