For those of you who have been reading these blog excerpts from my book, Brand Rituals™: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life, this is one myth I have had to modify a bit from the original publication. It is still not the key to building brands – even though the space has evolved significantly over the past two years.

It still comes down to having a clearly defined social media strategy. Before we commit valuable resources to social media tactics, the strategy needs to help us understand the challenges we have to address and the operating models we have to examine so we’re seeing social media’s potential as not just another marketing channel but a way to address real business imperatives. Otherwise, we’re doing the same thing that those well intentioned marketers did in focusing on Super Bowl ads for brands that had no business advertising, let alone on the big game.

But there’s also a waggish saying sometimes referred to as the First Rule of Technology: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Yes, you can make a mechanical bass that hangs on the wall and sings an obnoxious song at anyone who trips its motion detector. But why? Marketers would be well-advised to keep this principle in mind as they evaluate what role social media should play in their brand marketing activities and which new social media channel makes sense. The promise of social media can indeed be valid: providing a broader and deeper brand experience. The temptation is to jump in with both feet and commit all hands to getting social media efforts up and running, whatever their nature or business justification. The blind spot is, once again, whether this is something the customer wants and values. For all its sudden rise to prominence, social media is one more channel for communicating brand messages and interacting with customers. And a growing number of researchers and commentators are noticing some pushback as users begin to add up the sheer amount of time they’re spending with these tools. Remember all that discussion about time starvation? Anything that eats time in our busy world without commensurate value has the potential to hinder as well as help.

What is significantly different about social media as a channel is that, much like a retail store setting, it allows a business to interact with its customers in meaningful ways. That’s potentially terrific in the sense that we can open up a channel that provides on-point, unfiltered information into the relationship between customer attitudes and customer behaviors, and valuable new information flows among the customers and employees and stakeholders of the business. But it’s also potentially dangerous in the sense that having opened up this channel, it now becomes incumbent on us to manage what’s going on in it promptly and effectively. When you invite customers to tell you something about your brands, you have to accept and react to what they tell you. And, given that we’re talking real time here, you have to do so right away, regardless of how well your systems and people are prepared to do that.

For more on this myth and how to build brand bonds in today’s complex business and marketing environment, read the book. You can find it on Amazon and other leading booksellers.

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