Basis: This publication documents an ongoing (eight years to date) study of how increasing social contagion (information dispersal) is affecting vendors’ abilities to control market response during product/service release, announcement and introduction.
Background: Businesses were able to control product/service messaging throughout most of the history of commerce primarily due to consumer isolation. Consumer social networks were relatively small compared to the reach of all but local businesses. The introduction and proliferation of social media and widespread social networks have given consumers reach equal to if not greater than businesses, resulting in an inability to control product/service messaging. The proliferation of “social” is causing businesses to become increasingly reactive tactically while working to become proactive strategically.
Objective: To determine if Brands should control socially propagated messages or become another voice in the conversation.
Method: Fifty brands were studied, ten brands with marketing going back to 1900, ten starting in 1925 and so on to 2000. Historical financial records were analyzed to determine relative success rates of messaging strategies through time and compared to public discourse (newspaper Letters to the Editors, OpEd pieces, editorial, various interview formats, social commentary, personal files and indicia of employees at all levels of business, etc.) of those same strategies to determine “social success rates”.
- The only successful reactive strategies are those that function like Community Response Grids
- The response must be to a problem recognized by the brand community
- The response must be rapid and measured
- The response must recognize individual and corporate responsibility for the problem if the problem is on the business’ part
- The response must not recognize individual or group responsibility for the problem if the problem is on the community’s part unless the individual or group self-identifies as an authority in the market space
- The response must be cooperative in nature
- Businesses must recognize that there will always be more consumers with voices than there are business-endorsed voices going forward
- Businesses need to be forthright but not transparent
- The best strategy is tactical in nature
- Businesses need to become another voice unless they own the social channel
- Businesses will be recognized as authoritative partners by first recognizing other voices as having authority (being knowledgeable) regarding their brand
The majority of consumers
- are more interested in rapid, forthright response than transparency
- transparency is evaluated as a need to monitor businesses for errors, hence is internalized as a non-actionable time-requirement in all but a few consumer psyches
- recognize social media as another marketing vector and are becoming socially immune
- grant more credibility to messages in existing networks over introduced networks
- will use branded networks as launching pads for their own social efforts