In this essay I will explore how we as communication designers can use social media as a part of building a positive brand image. I will look into marketing strategies, examples of campaigns and user generated content as well as analyses from professionals.
Oxford Dictionaries defines a brand as:
- “A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name”. Which could for example be a brand of soap powder or a brand of whiskey (Oxford Dictionaries 2014).
- “A particular identity or image regarded as an asset”. As an example you can be your own brand and invent your own career (Oxford Dictionaries 2014).
Social media is from the same source defined as:
- “Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” (Oxford Dictionaries 2014).
In the book Brand Anarchy by Waddington and Earl (2012) they wrote that there is a shift amongst the brand audience from conventional mainstream media to social media. Due to this alteration the strategy for building a positive brand image will and may have changed in the means of maintaining, building or reviving a brands reputation and overall perception. In the book they wrote “According to David Cushman, managing director and co-founder of international open business consultancy, 90:10 Group, there are two possible reactions: some organisations view social media as a bolt-on channel to traditional methods of communicating with an audience, while others see it as a strategic platform for customer engagement.” (Waddington and Earl 2012).
In a journal written by Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal, & Hughes (2013) they identified that social media is altering the business landscape and redefining how communication is distributed across the channels between businesses and customers. A survey of 399 random European and US firms conducted by Insites Consulting indicated that the amount of firms that have begun to engage in social media initiatives is up to 88.2%, and almost half of these firms (42.1%) have fully integrated the use of social media in their business strategies (Insites Consulting 2011, cited in Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal, & Hughes 2013). From 2009 to 2010 related research demonstrated that consumers have gone from using 15% of their Internet time on social networking sites to 25% during the course of the research (Nielsen 2010, cited in Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal, & Hughes 2013). As they are explaining in the journal, Understanding social media effects across seller, retailer, and consumer interactions that consumers mainly use social media to interact with friends, view photos and videos, and to find businesses and brands relating to their interests. Retailers and brands have been earning remarkable sums and have gained substantial knowledge from social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter due to the fact that more than half of online shoppers interact with a retailer through these sites (Rapp, Beitelspacher, Grewal, & Hughes 2013).
“Companies are losing control of their customers and their employees. But are they really?”
The statistics I brought up will raise questions about how social media could play a part in the continuous process of building a positive brand image. In Tim Leberecht’s (2012) TED-talk he elaborates on the uncertainties and the lack of control a company faces due to social media. By putting what Leberecht presented into a perspective he mentioned that what happens on Wall Street no longer stays on Wall Street. What happens in Vegas ends up on YouTube. Reputations are volatile and loyalties are fickle. He shared an observation of a study where 27% of bosses believed their firms inspired their employees, while in the same survey only 4% of employees agreed. Leberecht rhetorically asked the audience; “Companies are losing control of their customers and their employees. But are they really?” (Leberecht 2012).
Tim Leberecht (2012) works as a marketer and he said in his TED-talk that companies have never been in control. Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room. Companies can because of social media be in that room 24/7, they are able to listen to and join in on the conversations online. They can design to have more control over the loss of control compared to what they could do before (Leberecht 2012).
Carmen Nobel, a senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge wrote an article called A Brand Manager’s Guide to Losing Control. The content of the article is about how the consumers in the modern world have the control over brands, they can take charge of a discussion by typing a tweet, creating a Facebook post or making a video which ends up on YouTube (Nobel 2014).
In the introduction Nobel wrote ”Social media platforms have taken some of the marketing power away from companies and given it to consumers. Jill Avery discusses the landscape of ‘open source branding,’ wherein consumers not only discuss and disseminate branded content, they also create it.” (Nobel 2014).
”Social media platforms have taken some of the marketing power away from companies and given it to consumers.”
Jill Avery is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, she has spent a big part of her life managing brands for AT&T, Braun, Gillette and Samuel Adams. Nobel used the paper The Uninvited Brand as a reference in her article, which was published in the journal, Business Horizons in 2011. According to Nobel’s article Avery and co-author Susan Fournier viewed the best and the worst strategies that have been used by brand managers to deal with the situations at hand in order to map out the social media landscape. Avery shared their findings with HBS Working Knowledge and presented four concurrent Web-based eras which the consumers were operating: The Age of the Social Collective, The Age of Transparency, The Age of Criticism and The Age of Parody (Nobel 2014).
In the TED-talk by Tim Leberecht he presents how a brand can gain the feeling of control, as in contrast to Nobel’s article in which she wrote about the theory of how the consumer already operates and controls a brand.
The power of the consumer
In the September/October 2014 edition of Adbusters they revealed that according to SINTEF, a Scandinavian research centre, that 90% of the entire data produced by the human race has been generated in the past two years. The reason for the amount of generated content is as Adbusters wrote; “That explosion is due to the rise of the web, smartphones, social media and the ‘big data’ projects in which businesses, governments and scientists are involved.” (Lasn 2014).
Figure 1: McInnis 2014. No title [illustration for Adbusters].
The estimate from SINTEF paints a picture of the rapid pace of generated content made by consumers and brands and how it affects the daily lives of everyone involved. Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, a social news website, presented in his TED-talk in 2009 an example of how social media could affect a company’s decision and how quickly generated content could escalate. Ohanian elaborates on his example of a campaign started by Greenpeace, an environmental organisation, they wanted to stop a humpback whaling campaign initiated by the Japanese government. Greenpeace put a tracking chip inside one of the humpback whales and wanted to further personify the movement by giving the whale a name. Ohanian explained how it was done; “So, in true web fashion they put together a poll where they had a bunch of very erudite, very thoughtful, cultured names. Anahi. I believe this is a Farsi word for ‘immortal’. Kaimana, I think this means ‘divine power of the ocean’ in a Polynesian language. And then there was this: Mister Splashy Pants.” (Ohanian 2014).
Figure 2. Schmelzer 2014. Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian on Tech, Epic Fails, and Social Change. [temporary logo, original logo].
Ohanian drew attention to how significant a part social media had played in the final decision of naming the whale. Mister Splashy Pants was very popular on the Internet and got voted up on Reddit, there was a huge response from Redditors and many people supported it. Reddit changed their logo from being an alien to a whale in order to show their support for the campaign. Ohanian mentioned that sites like Fark, Boing Boing and other parts of the Internet loved the name Mister Splashy Pants (Ohanian 2009).
The score of the poll before the meme was created for Mister Splashy Pants went from being around 5% to about 70% by the end of the voting. Greenpeace did not agree with the final decision and opened the poll for another week of voting. As Ohanian explains in his TED-talk; “Well, that got us a little angry. So, we changed it to Fightin’ Splashy. (Laughter) And the Reddit community, really and the rest of the Internet, rather, really got behind this. Facebook groups were getting created. Facebook applications were getting created. The idea was, ‘Vote your conscience’, vote for Mister Splashy Pants. And people were putting up signs in the real world — (Laughter) — about this whale. And this was the final vote. When all was cleared … 78% of the votes, and to give you an idea of the landslide, the next highest name pulled in three. Okay?” (Ohanian 2009).
“…the Japanese government called off their whale expedition…”
Even if it did not go as planned for Greenpeace they reached their final goal, the Japanese government called off their whale expedition and the whales would live on. Ohanian concluded that it is okay to lose control, as in the case of Greenpeace where they reached their final goal, despite their original wish, took themselves less seriously and learned a great lesson (Ohanian 2009).
On the 20th of April 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon (drilling rig) killed 11 workers and caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which had a devastating effect on the natural environment. This tragedy turned out to have a dramatic and ever-lasting effect on BP’s worldwide reputation. Businesspundit described BP’s attempt at conducting a viable communication on social media after the tragedy like this; “BP’s social media team mastered self-centred, socially irrelevant communication. Rather than a fail based on a single action, like many of the others on the list, the BP fail has to do with an overarching error in perception. While offering us a play-by-play of how BP was approaching the spill, the company took little to no input from anyone in it’s audience, the same way some people turn group conversations into monologues about their own lies.” (Knufken 2011).
“the company took little to no input from anyone in it’s audience”
Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO at the time, made matters worse by his insincere TV appearances. Due to incidents like Hayward’s presence on TV telling the journalist “I would like my life back” (Today Show 2010) and an episode right after where he appeared on a yacht race off the Isle of Wight (Associated Press 2010). As a result of BP’s media blunders it gave the public various reasons to dislike them. BP gained negative exposure from several perspectives due to social media and it became a struggle to gain the trust and popularity they had before.
The blunders gave life to a South Park parody of Tony Hayward (South Park Studios 2010) where they made fun of his apology on TV, Facebook groups like Boycott BP and a parody twitter account called BP Public Relations which by 16th of October 2014 still had more followers than the real account, even though the anti-BP groups and accounts have a lot less activity than the official ones. BP will, due to their failed attempts on social media struggle a lot to gain the social acceptance they had before the accident, only the consumers can decide what will be successful in a consumer society. As in this case the society will not forget what happened because the information on BP’s blunders will never die in the online world.
Fig. 3: Desmond Perkins. ca. 2014. Facebook group page.
Fig. 4: BP. ca. 2014. Facebook group page.
Fig. 5: Streetgiant.bigcartel. ca. 2014. Twitter profile page.
Fig. 6: BP. ca. 2014. Twitter profile page.
Fig. 7: BP. ca. 2014. Twitter profile page.
How to build a social media content strategy
BP failed on several levels when conducting their communication on social media. They taught many communication designers how not to interact with the public. Arnie Kuenn wrote six tips on how to craft a social media content strategy in an article in Communication World. In the intro Kuenn wrote; “Random tweets and posts don’t build the brand. Stay on message with all your communication” (Kuenn 2013), which BP did not do before or during the tragedy on Deepwater Horizon. Social media is a tool that can be used to help maximize success, for it to be used properly it is vital to have a strategy and a plan.
- Kuenn’s first tip is to have goals. These goals will help you define your strategy (Kuenn 2013).
- Tip number two is to stay on brand. Branding guidelines will help shape style and tone requirements, this could be adapted to written content and extended to social media. Kuenn wrote “Staying on brand is important; having conflicting messaging across platforms can be confusing for both loyal and prospective customers.” (Kuenn 2013).
- It is important for a brand to know who their audience is. Not knowing the habits, language and whereabouts of their audience will jeopardize a brand’s ability to communicate with them on a personal level (Kuenn 2013).
- Mix it up with different media. As Kuenn explains in his text; “As mentioned previously, find out what types of media your audience reacts to. Posting a link on Facebook and Twitter with the article title doesn’t cut it anymore. Consider telling a story with your social media content. Explore podcasts, videos, images and more.” (Kuenn 2013). The fourth tip is summed up by saying that social media is about having a two-way communication and interaction with your customers in order to keep you connected.
- Manage your content calendar. “Having a calendar keeps you on track and allows you to plan your messaging in advance. Although thinking of social messaging on the fly may work for some brands, having well-planned communications, with no spelling or grammatical errors, can aid in building your social media presence.” (Kuenn 2013). As an extension to Kuenn’s tip one should also consider the frequency of their post.
- Measure your results. “Measuring your results cannot be overlooked. If you don’t measure your success (or failure), it is impossible to improve.” (Kuenn 2013).
The conclusion of the article tells us that since social media is increasingly popular it is an essential for a brand and their overall marketing strategy to craft a social media content strategy.
Controlling the uncontrollable
The example of Greenpeace’s Mister Splashy Pants and BP’s blunder shows us that social media is a consumer platform which acts like an electronic word-of-mouth, which means the arena of communication is user generated. Due to the uncontrollable widths of social media it is difficult to control the information posted onto the medium. Brands can on the other hand adjust to the situation they find themselves in, Tim Leberecht depicts in his TED-talk the three ways a brand can control the uncontrollable; ”First of all, they can give employees and customers more control.” (Leberecht 2012). By that he means that a brand could collaborate with them when developing ideas, knowledge, content, designs and product. The band Radiohead gave the customer the power to determine the price of their online release of its album ‘In Rainbows’ with their pay-as-you-like solution. It was an exclusive offer and stood only for a limited time period. The band sold more copies than releases of their previous albums.
A Danish chocolate company called Anthon Berg turned transactions into interactions by opening a ‘generosity store’ in Copenhagen where they used generosity as a currency. They asked customers to purchase chocolate with the promise of good deeds towards loved ones.
Microsoft Kinect, a motion-controlled add-on to its X-box gaming console drew the attention of hackers. After first trying to fight off the hacks, Microsoft realized that actively supporting the community came with benefits so they gave the hackers more control. “The sense of co-ownership, the free publicity, the added value, all helped drive sales.” (Leberecht 2012).
As Leberecht outlined on the examples of giving employees and customers more control, he specifies the peak of empowering the customers, simply ask them not to buy. An outdoor outfitter called Patagonia encouraged consumers to check out eBay for used products and to resole their shoes before purchasing a new pair. By advertising themselves as anti-consumers it builds a lasting, long-term loyalty based on shared values, even if this threatens short-term sales. A more extreme example of jeopardizing short-term sales is Patagonia’s campaign were they placed a “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertisement during the peak of their shopping season (Leberecht 2012).
Figure 8. Nudd 2011. Ad of the day: Patagonia. [Patagonia advertising].
Leberecht explains further that research has shown that employees becomes more productive and happier when they have more control over their work. He gives us two more examples in his TED-talk “The Brazilian company Semco Group famously lets employees set their own work schedules and even their salaries. Hulu and Netflix, among other companies, have open vacation policies.” (Leberecht 2012).
As Leberecht easily explained, you can achieve a great result by having a great communication idea, which is designed to help interacting with a preferred audience and therefore build the brand loyalty. There is more to design than meets the eye, according to Oxford dictionaries one of the definitions of design is
Method number two involves giving people less control. “Traditional business wisdom holds that trust is earned by predictable behaviour, but when everything is consistent and standardized, how do you create meaningful experiences?” (Leberecht 2012). By giving consumers less control it might make them happier due to the reason that they might not have to get lost in the abundance of choice. A travel service called Nextpedition turns the trip into a game, implementing twists and turns along the journey that might surprise the traveller. The travel service doesn’t tell you where you are going until the very last minute, and the information is provided just in time. In his TED-talk he brings up two more examples “Dutch airline KLM launched a surprise campaign, seemingly randomly handing out small gifts to travellers en route to their destination. U.K.-based Interflora monitored Twitter for users who were having a bad day, and then sent them a free bouquet of flowers.” (Leberecht 2012).
“…how do you create meaningful experiences?”
By giving people less control as shown in the most recent examples, it can breathe new life into an old relationship and make it feel new and exciting. At the end of Leberecht’s talk he discuss that by obligating a company’s employees to help others it cause them feel less pressed for time. “A recent study suggests that having employees complete occasional altruistic tasks throughout the day increases their sense of overall productivity. At Frog, the company I work for, we hold internal speed meet sessions that connect old and new employees, helping them get to know each other fast. By applying a strict process, we give them less control, less choice, but we enable more and richer social interactions.” (Leberecht 2012).
“staying true to their true selves is the only sustainable value proposition.”
Companies strive to create a human feel within the communication, Leberecht summarizes this by drawing his talk into the conclusion that companies are the makers of their own fortune. Companies and brands are exposed to serendipity, which make them more vulnerable and humble like a human. Due to hyper connectivity and transparency companies become exposed in broad daylight. As Leberecht say and quotes, “staying true to their true selves is the only sustainable value proposition. Or as the ballet dancer Alonzo King said, ‘What’s interesting about you is you.’ For the true selves of companies to come through, openness is paramount, but radical openness is not a solution, because when everything is open, nothing is open. ‘A smile is a door that is half open and half closed’, the author Jennifer Egan wrote.” (Leberecht 2012). Brands and companies can either give employees and customers more or less control. They can consider how much openness is good for them. Or they can remain open to all possibilities with a smile on their face.
The web-based eras
Carmen Nobel starts of in her article about the theory of how consumers operate and control a brand by explaining The Age of the Social Collective, which refers to the virtual communities of like-minded people, which creates a sense of camaraderie. As written in the article; “Sometimes the like-mindedness centres on a brand; think Facebook fan pages or Twitter rants. ‘Consumers have always had the ability to boycott brands—or to ‘buy-cott’ brands they like by buying and promoting them,’ Avery says.” (Nobel 2014). They could come singlehanded or together in collectives, compared to a non-virtual world it is much easier to gather masses in the virtual world.
“Ceding some control of the brand can be the best way for brand managers to deal with social collectives” (Nobel 2014). Actual fans created the Facebook page for both Nutella and Coca-Cola, this is a method that is proven to be effective for garnering more fans. Both companies encouraged these users to continue managing the pages because loyal fans of a brand comes across as authentic, simply because they are. Nutella has 23 million likes on its Facebook page, while Coca-Colas fan page have over 80 million likes. One of the reasons they let fans create and run their sites is that when a fan feels supported by their brand, the probability for a fan to actually defend their brand when someone is attacking it is higher. As Nobel mentions article “Your best defence against the haters is to have a connected group of very passionate supporters who will defend you.” (Nobel 2014). This is very helpful when the people who work for the brand go home for the day the passionate supporters could step in for free when someone start bashing their beloved brand outside working hours.
“Your best defence against the haters is to have a connected group of very passionate supporters who will defend you.”
The second era is The Age of Transparency. Brands are being looked at from several perspectives, the easy accessible information turned millions of consumers into amateur journalists who expose the brands and send their information to a vast amount of networks. When a brand says one thing and does another consumers tend to recognize the hypocrisy very fast. Using the Dove campaign for Real Beauty as an example, which is Unilever’s marketing effort focused on women to embrace their own bodies and curves. This campaign won two Cannes Lions Grand Prix awards. Some consumers noted that Unilever markets skin-lightening cream (Fair & Lovely) and diet aids (Slim Fast), this observation quickly spread across the web. In the process a company employee acknowledged that the images in the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign had been Photoshopped — this information spread like wildfire online and made the total damage of the fire even worse (Nobel 2014).
The third of the eras is The Age of Criticism, due to the ability to ‘like’ everything on Facebook and forums like Yelp.com consumers are able to criticise whatever they like. Nobel explained in her article that; “The immediacy of today’s consumer complaints represents a power shift between companies and consumers. The former are more pressured than ever to address the concerns of the latter. In the past, customers with an individual beef could write a letter or call customer service. Now they can tweet and reach an audience of thousands in seconds.” (Nobel 2014).
“In the past, customers with an individual beef could write a letter or call customer service. Now they can tweet and reach an audience of thousands in seconds.”
Due to this shift the design of a social media strategy should be well thought out as pointed out in Kuenn’s six tips on how to craft a social media content strategy. As in the following example when someone is posting a complaint on Twitter brands should think how quickly they have to intervene to rectify the problem, how they can reach the person before the problem becomes amplified, as Nobel brings up in her article about Comcast. They employ social media managers to monitor Twitter for complaints about their cable service and reach out to the customer who is affected. They also have a Twitter feed called @ComcastCares, which updates regularly about issues and apologies for widespread service glitches. As written in the article “Sorry goes a long way” (Nobel 2014). Nobel quoted Avery; “The feeling that nobody’s listening or responding is very frustrating” (Nobel 2014). A brand’s reputation can improve negative events into positive ones if social media managers can cut down a company’s response time.
In the fourth and final, The Age of Parody, anyone with a camera can create satirical spoofs of advertisements and post it on Facebook or YouTube. For brand managers this could be a challenge, in the real world brands are merely a toy for consumers. In the social media culture humour plays a big part of the communication language. Brands are often used as a vehicle to carry that humour. Nobel wrote; “Results can be calamitous for companies that don’t anticipate mockery. Fournier and Avery write of a widely publicized contest in which H.J. Heinz Company earnestly invited fans to create advertisements about its ketchup. Inevitably, the contest generated hundreds of videos deriding the contest; at least one of them involved a hot tub full of watered-down ketchup.” (Nobel 2014).
It is unavoidable that consumers will make fun of marketer’s advertisements; it does not all have to be bad since parody videos continue to remind consumers of the brand unless it is a very negative loaded video. The article brings up some examples; “YouTube hosts oodles of videos spoofing MasterCard’s ‘Priceless’ campaign, for instance. And while the spoofs rarely mention MasterCard, the tagline ‘priceless’ reminds viewers of the original ads. Infomercials for Snuggie (‘the blanket with sleeves’) were purposefully silly, inspiring parody videos from thousands of consumers which amplified the brand’s message to create awareness.” (Nobel 2014).
“It means other people are setting the brand’s agenda.”
Nobel referred to Avery’s statement where she recommends brand managers to consider working more closely with public relations managers. In the article Nobel wrote that the broad lesson of The Uninvited Brand may be that brand management and control are not synonymous, due to that reason they could learn from those who in real time are more involved in reacting to situations outside of their control. Even if it seems scary to loose control, working more closely with public relations managers, brand managers could learn how to cope with situations that fall outside of their comfort zone. As Avery said to Nobel “It means other people are setting the brand’s agenda. I don’t think the role of the brand manager will become obsolete, but it has to change. It’s not enough just to live in brand strategy land. Brand managers have to get more tactical and understand living and responding in the now.” (Nobel 2014).
Connecting the dots
A communication designer’s job is to interact with the consumers in the present and in the absent over a short or a long time period. Sometimes we have a controlled environment and other times we do not, by using Kuenn’s tips we can be more calculated when we design, that will give us more control and we will be more likely to find and reach the final goal. When we use the brand guidelines we are able to have a sense of control of the brand with the added interest of getting the audience to know what to expect from a brand, it is important that the consumer gains a sense of trust when dealing with the brand. We can draw parallels and examples of trust from the social life in the non-virtual world, most people would not trust someone that they had just met, due to the reason that they do not know what to expect from them. Someone’s appearance may alter the first impression and will therefor affect the outcome of the interaction.
“The consumers reacted to Unilever’s hypocrisy in their campaign…”
Social media could be used as an active tool to optimize success, when creating a campaign, establishing a voice or developing a containment strategy of damage or loss for a brand, the design should and would already be planned. All of the previously mentioned aspects could reinforce the feeling of trust and increase the loyalty to a brand. If a brand’s structure has any components that are poorly designed, they are at greater risk of having consumers that may rip the brand apart in social media as they did with Unilever. Unilever did not pay enough attention to the Age of Transparency, in this case they failed to follow Kuenn’s second tip; stay on brand. The consumers reacted to Unilever’s hypocrisy in their campaign, which was about encouraging women to embrace their own bodies, when they at the same time were marketing a skin-lightening cream and a slimming aid. As designers we should make companies aware of certain pitfalls that may hinder their brands and fall foul of Kuenn’s tips leaving them open to humiliation and ridicule through one of the four existing Web-based eras that the consumer is operating in.
BP is a good example of what can go wrong when you are becoming exposed through all of the Web-based eras; the South Park parody of Tony Hayward was a result of the Age of Parody, the anti-BP group on Facebook was a result of the Age of Criticism and the Age of the Social Collective while the Twitter account BP Public Relation is a result of the Age of Transparency and the Age of Parody. The Twitter account was in a parodic way exposing BP’s hypocrisy and the falseness of their actions and statements.
The role as a designer is evolving in relation to the globalisation we are experiencing because of social media and the Internet. We have to act as the therapist between the brand and the consumer as if it was couples therapy. By bringing back Oxfords Dictionaries definition of design from earlier in the text it will help you to understand how the designers role is evolving.
- Design; the purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact or object (Oxford Dictionaries 2014).
Social media will for a communication designer act like a platform where you can gain relevant information about an area that needs more focus before creating a brief. A potentially exposed area may create briefs and jobs for prospective, midlevel and experienced communication designers. Designers will attack the area of interest with relevant design solutions that may help improve the weak spot. When we design, we can use treatment strategies like the one Leberecht mentioned earlier in the text about giving the consumer more or less control. This will increase the average delight and then by consulting these into a format, which can be understood by the intended target group and hopefully increase the level of trust and delight in the relationship between the consumer and the brand and turn the cheating relationship into a good one. As designers our job consists of maintaining, analysing and fixing a problem or developing ideas in order to gain trust as in the example where Patagonia created the “Don’t buy this jacket” advertisement; this tactic is designed to deliberately gain trust and stability in a potential long-term relationship.
“Don’t buy this jacket”
A designer can pitch an idea similar to the Patagonia advertisement to a brand when they have gathered enough relevant information and established the problem that a designer can work with. This process of establishing problems is speeded up because of the conveniences social media gives because of the web-based eras the consumer is operating in. A consumer can sometimes create briefs for a designer without being aware of it after writing an angry tweet. Constructive feedback is the best feedback to work with, while negative feedback points to what areas that is in a need for attention. A communication designer should know that every individual can act like an advertiser, by keeping the employees happy with e.g. Leberecht example when a company gives the employee more control and freedom in their work, it will increase the chances of gaining a positive reputation through social media, in a best case scenario they could create a fan page on Facebook as in Nobel’s example of Coca-Cola and Nutella.
Communication designers become increasingly more involved with people’s personal lives, exponentially rising with the amount of users on social media. The main task for many communication designers, even if they realize it or not is to breathe new life into a brand in order to spark the flame in their relationship with the consumer. Communication designers know what ingredients are needed in the therapy between a brand and a consumer, several designers have realized the advantage of having this knowledge and that has given birth to companies like Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Behance and YouTube to mention a few. Those brands rule a big part of what we today know as social media (Yeezy 2014). They are a big part of the social routine consumers have with the web and is increasingly utilized by brands in order to interact with prospective talent and customers which may develop into employment or a loyal customer relationship.
“…designers know what ingredients are needed in the therapy between a brand and a consumer”
Leberecht’s talked about Interflora who monitored Twitter for users who were having a bad day with the purpose of sending a free bouquet of flowers to brighten their day, Radiohead who gave the consumer the option to decide the price of their album, or Nobel’s example were both Nutella’s and Coca-Cola’s fan page on Facebook were managed by loyal fans. These three examples are good cases of well thought out treatment strategies, which interacts with a consumer down to an intimate level. The Interflora example will give you a positive lift, the Radiohead example will give you the sense of freedom and the fan driven pages on Facebook gives the consumer a sense of importance. Every example has the goal to increase a brands image.
There have been instances when a brand believes one thing and the consumer another, on several occasions this has resulted in a David vs. Goliath showdown in which the consumers show their true power, as in the example of BP. In the eyes of the public they seemed to be self-centred and evil even though BP thought they were doing the right thing in their strategy, which by the response from the public proved that they were not. The anti-BP propaganda came to surface because of the misconception. The rapid development can sometimes surprise a brand for the better and for the worse, the engagement and amount of free publicity shown when Greenpeace tried to force their name wish for the whale to be either Anahi or Kaimana instead of Mister Splashy Pants was overwhelming, the consumers came together and forced through their wish, and eventually due to all of the free publicity and focus on the problem Greenpeace reached their goal. They reached it in a true Web-fashion where humour is a big part of the language. This raw unified power is a part of what Nobel called the Age of the Social Collective, and we as designers play a big part of the communication that interacts with the broader audience. As shown in the recent example it was all a part of a simple communication design disguised as a public poll, it escalated and the user-generated content came to touch several of the Web-based eras which people operate in. If you do not tend to this collective before the brand comes into a time of crisis the consumer could turn against the brand like in the case of BP which by 16th October 2014 still has a parody account on Twitter with more followers than themselves.
(Oxford Dictionaries 2014).
The opportunities to how we as communication designers can use social media as a part of building a positive brand image is endless as shown in the definition above, we have the packaging the information is wrapped in and we have the arenas we can approach. We have to be aware of how we approach and interact with the consumers, communication designers have to imagine all of the possible scenarios their strategy can attain. By being aware and using the knowledge from Leberecht and Nobel we can use creative design thinking and apply it to the brand personality which again will be shown through interactions on social media, by quoting Alonzo Kind “What is interesting about you is you” (Leberecht 2012). We can make the consumers feel like they interact with a person rather than a company due to the brand personality expressed onto social media.
At the start of this essay I cited from Brand Anarchy that some organisations view social media as a bolt-on channel to use alongside of traditional communication methods, while others see it as a platform where they strategically engage with the customer (Waddington and Earl 2012). After bringing up several examples like the one about BP’s failure, Nobel’s web-based eras and Kuenn’s six tips to build a social media content strategy I see social media as a platform where a communication designer can strategically engage with the customer, however I believe social media works best as a supportive tool. If you take the example of Interflora where they monitored Twitter for consumers who were having a bad day, Coca Cola’s and Nutella’s fan-made Facebook groups and Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaign, social media worked as a outlet for information to reach the wider public. If you use social media as an outlet for your information you are able to get a more realistic sense of how you could interact and establish a personal relationship with the consumer you are targeting, because of that you are able to measure the impact more easily than before and therefore build further on the success.
“You should not be afraid to loose control”
To use Leberecht’s talk as a reference of how you could control the lack of control and make people say good things about your brand when you have left the room, you will need wider support than just social media in order to build a positive brand image. The evidence I have discussed shows that social media is not suitable to be the lead channel for building a good image. You will need supportive physical elements for your brand, which will make sure that it does not fall through in any of the web-based eras. By involving the physical elements into your social media strategy it may encourage a two-way communication with the consumer, which then will help build a positive brand image. You should not be afraid to loose control, which Leberecht points out because you never had full control in the first place, as shown in Ohanian’s talk about Greenpeace and the case of Mister Splashy Pants. A brand image is what people say about you when you have left the room, and social media is the tool that is used to monitor that room and from there optimize one’s success.
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