Twitter-esque summary of today's Randall Stross NYTimes article on brands and social networks: Facebook fail because Tide brand page can't make friends.
My read? Social media and large brands are like amorous naked blindfolded lovers, grabbing whatever parts they can and hoping it's pleasurable. That's not a scalable strategy, that's more like freshman year of college.
Most of my scorn here is reserved for the brand marketers because they have such a large number of tools available to them, but the lost opportunity is shared by the technical platforms, social networks and media sites which have clearly not yet found a way to make their advertisers (and potential advertisers) successful.
Some thoughts in reaction to the article:
1. P&G needs fewer concert sponsorships and more trust
Not every brand can be your party loving friend. Some should be an authoritative advisor or trusted confidant or learned teacher. Stross recounts how Crests FB brand page swelled to 14k users when they were pumping out free movie screenings and Def Jam concerts on college campuses but has lagged once those events stopped. Really? No kidding. Seems like Crest was the rich kid who has friends so long as they're buying the pizza and beer.
What if instead all these enduring CPG brands focused on the fact that they can make your life better - these are still emotional touchpoints and one's which matter more than a fleeting party. How about getting you the information you need, when you need it. Which leads me to......
2. Build strategies, not silos
It's awesome that I can SMS Tide to get info removing different types of stains but i had no idea this was even available. And the shortcode is Tide1 so even if i remember this, it's got no relevance to other P&G brands. Would there be a way to let individual brands have their identity but still pull more of the strategy into a single platform. i.e. Should P&G have a single shortcode where i can text stains, recipe requests, etc and just get back the right answer, rather than having to remember and interact with individual brands? Some interesting choices for brands (and brand managers) who want to keep their own identity and manage their own technology.
And how do you continue to migrate participants from one social media campaign to the next or across sites? Certainly centralized identity systems such as Friend Connect and Facebook Connect will help. But at it's core is a new form of Social Media CRM that smart brands will utilize. Yes, it's everyone's favorite canonical example these days but the Obama campaign did an excellent job of driving folks into a single database.
3. Brands - you gotta participate.
And the Tide 2x Ultra Tide campaign, well their brand page is pretty much dead. As best as i can tell no one from P&G ever really got involved in bringing the community to life. There's nothing sadder than social media ghost towns. If you don't care then i certainly don't.
The next few years will see more scalable and inexpensive social media departments within brands and their agencies to help maintain a presence in these environments. Brands will need to become comfortable that sometimes these take investment to payoff - not just rocketship out of the gate. Alternatively I think we'll see more and more ad sponsorship products aimed at bringing brands respectfully into existing communities since it's really hard for them to build their own.
4. Facebook search: Doesn't work for FB or the brands
"Tide F-ing Sucks. Hard" or at least that's what most of the results on the firstpage for a FB search of "tide detergent" told me when i was searching for Tide 2x Ultra's brand page. My issue here isn't that negative reviews are surfacing - in fact i think that's great - but how can Tide insert themselves into this conversation? I do see some sponsored site ads on the right-hand side of the page. Why isn't Tide there with an ad that says "No, we don't suck" or at least a way for the consumer (obviously interested in Tide) to get to the Tide site? And down the page i do see one Tide group which seems to be happy with the product but only has 20 members. Why isn't Tide helping that group get bigger?