Monday, March 9, 2009

Social Media - What are the rules?

Image Credit: Fred Cavazza

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On March 1 2009, Skittles gave up their corporate website and replaced it with user-generated content from social websites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and You Tube. The result: more than 600,000 fans on facebook, zillions of blog posts and in short, a frenzy amongst netizens or as I call them, "the web-connected". People who are constantly in touch with the virtual world. Just type in skittles social media on Google and you will be bombarded with information on the campaign. The approach is detailed out with screen shots and charts, the pros and cons are discussed in excruciating details and the campaign is praised and shot down in equal measure.

The Result:

Brand Presence - Unprecedented. Check out any of the blogs that come up on your google search. The world "skittles" have more mention than the financial crisis, says one post.

Numbers - Short term sales are likely to be impacted but like in all fads, long-term gains are debatable.

Drawback - Lack of monitoring has resulted in brand abuse in some cases and irrelevant references to the brand in others.

The last point is not very desirable, right? Social Media when used randomly can prove to be fatal for a brand because you don't pay for it so you can't monitor it. It is unearned brand talk and like most things "unearned", quite "uncontrollable" as well.

Television channels seem to have a somewhat handle on the problem. For e.g., when you watch a news program on CNN, they give you the opportunity to blog, email, twitter or facebook it. Then they screen the comments in real-time and only the relevant ones show up on your TV. I prefer the lack of abusive or inane content. Also, if you want the audiences' point of view on a particular subject, opinion polling is a cakewalk. No phone calls, no jammed lines. Just the touch of a button on the screen of your phone or computer.

As with all emerging media, there are no set rules yet and the applications are mind-boggling but instead of dumping the conventional media altogether, it makes sense to use both. Every brand has its unique personality. After all, it wouldn't be very nice if all your facebook page had was comments from other people. You want to say stuff about yourself too!

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